I’m excited to introduce a new feature on /Film called “/Answers” where the SlashFilm.com staff answers a question each week. In honor of the upcoming Super Bowl 51, we thought no better way to start this off with the questions of “What is your favorite sports movie?” I will say this much about the /Film team’s favorite sports movies: it isn’t as limited to football and baseball as you might expect. Six out of the ten picks are from other sports.
And of course, this isn’t just about us; it’s also about YOU. We want to hear your thoughts on our picks as well as your personal favorites in the comments below.
The movies below are presented in alphabetical title order:
Jack Giroux: The Bad News Bears
Michael Ritchie‘s ’76 classic has an edge, spirit, and beauty we rarely see in comedies, let alone ones starring kids. Coach Buttermaker is a deeply flawed man. He’s not a coach to look up to, and he’s not always sober enough to give a rousing speech, but he’s always real and, at times, moving, thanks to Walter Matthau beautiful performance. How he communicates Buttermaker’s transformation is understated and touching. We see he’s a better man by the end of the movie, and we learn that from watching Matthau in the dugout during the dramatic and rousing final game, not Buttermaker telling the kids how much they’ve taught him. Ritchie’s sports film isn’t one driven by cliches.
Angie Han: Creed
I’ve never been much of a sports person or even much of a sports movie person. I’ll be honest: there are a ton of classics I haven’t even gotten around to watching, simply because they don’t really appeal to me. True, Angel in the Outfield was my very first favorite movie as a kid, but it was and remains a rare exception, and my interest in that film had little to do with the sports-y aspects, anyway. But not long ago, I finally found a sports movie that I unabashedly love as an adult.
Creed is a direct descendant of Rocky, and it works for a lot of the same reasons that its predecessor did. Like Rocky, it’s less about the sport and more about the guy who loves it; like Rocky, it centers around a determined young lead you can’t help but love. But it also serves as an affectionate snapshot of a very particular time and place; a sensitive portrait of modern masculinity (especially black masculinity); a thoughtful examination of inheritance and legacy; an elegy for a fading superstar; and a monument to the irrational but irresistible passions that drive us. Oh, and it’s capped off with a boxing showdown so intense, it almost made me think I liked watching boxing. What else could I possibly ask for from a sports movie?
Ethan Anderton: D2: The Mighty Ducks
I don’t have a passion for sports as an adult, but as a kid, I was all about movies like The Sandlot, Space Jam, The Mighty Ducks, Rookie of the Year, Angels in the Outfield and Cool Runnings. As a kid who was obsessed with basketball (thanks to the proximity of the six-time champion Chicago Bulls and their star player Michael Jordan, I even loved movies that probably weren’t appropriate for my age like Blue Chips, and White Men Can’t Jump. But no movie has stuck with me as much as D2: The Mighty Ducks.
Sure, this is your standard goofy, Disney sports movie geared towards kids with easy lessons to be learned and saccharine inspiration to be doled out in troves. But this is still a great sports movie. You’ve got a coach (Emilio Estevez) who’s even more down on his luck than the first time he had to coach a group of scrappy, inexperienced hockey players. But this time his team has the talent to take on the world, literally, along with some promising newcomers, each with their own unique set of skills.
With one of the most triumphant scores ever in a sports movie (not to mention one of the best uses of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”), and an exciting climax that rivals any childhood sports favorite (even showing up some more mature titles in the sports genre), D2: The Mighty Ducks is a treasure. This is one that I’ve never gotten sick of and never will.
Blake J. Harris: Major League
As a teenager, especially during those gawky years, there was hardly a weekend when I didn’t watch Major League. To me and my circle of wannabe athlete friends, that movie was just perfect. Was there anything better than Rick Vaughn approach the mound with “Wild Thing” blasting? Or Willie “Mays” Hayes’ graceful larceny on the base paths? The funny thing is that growing up, watching it over and over, I thought that what I loved about that movie was all the exciting on the field action. But in retrospect–especially as someone who now writes behind-the-scenes business stories–I think it was the off-the-field intrigue and the fictional front office’s outside-the-box thinking that made it my everything. In fact, I can’t help but wonder if Moneyball was actually just a result of Billy Beane watching MAJOR LEAGUE one too many times…
Jeff Cannata: The Natural
So many great sport films to choose from, it’s difficult to pick just one. I love Rudy and Hoosiers and the original Rocky and really could have picked any one of those. But ultimately, I have to go with The Natural. Strangely, of the big three major sports, football, basketball, and baseball, I find myself least interested in watching baseball, but there is no doubt America’s Pastime makes for compelling subject matter for films. The singular one-on-one face off of a pitcher and a batter is inherently dramatic. And no baseball film makes the triumphant swing of a bat feel more magical than The Natural.
Also, as a comic book nerd and super hero junkie, I can’t ignore the fact that The Natural is structured more like a super hero film than a traditional sports film, complete with a supernatural origin story and iconic symbol. I remember watching The Natural with my parents as a young boy and crying my eyes out as Redford’s home run ball shattered all lights in the stadium, and the sparks came cascading down. It is a scene that still gets me today. It’s equal parts impossible magic and uplifting wish fulfillment, both aspirational and inspirational. With the state of the world these days, it might do me good to go watch it now.