/Answers: Our Favorite Movie Teams

Chris Evangelista: The Seven Samurai from Seven Samurai

Anytime a film fails to successfully tell a tale about a team being assembled (I’m looking your way, Justice League), I can’t help but wonder why the filmmaker didn’t simply study Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and take notes. Everything you need to know about movie team-building is on display in Kurosawa’s 1954 epic, which takes its time to establish every single member of the team, bring them together, and send them on their mission.

A village of poor peasants who find themselves in danger of bandits hire a group of of samurai for protection. The seven men recruited are not exactly jumping at the chance to take on the mission, yet over time they grow into their roles as protectors, and they learn to work together as a team. Kurosawa uses the film’s lengthy running time to allow audiences to become comfortable with both the samurai and the villagers. It helps that each of the actors brings something unique to their parts, particularly Takashi Shimura as the weary, noble leader of the group, Seiji Miyaguchi as a mostly-quiet badass who gets one of the film’s most show-stopping moments, and frequent Kurosawa collaborator Toshiro Mifune as the hothead of the group; the one everyone thinks is out of his mind but who might prove to be the most valuable member of the team.

I not saying that Justice League would’ve been better if it had just ripped-off Seven Samurai. But I’m not not saying that, either…

Matt Donato: The Washington Sentinels in The Replacements

If you’re on my favorite movie team, you’re required to show one thing – heart. Miles and miles of heart. With today’s heightened era of money-hungry sports organizations and gun-for-hire contracts, this can sometimes be forgotten. Players lean heavily into celebrity culture and ignore the greatest aspect of team sports – an ACTUAL TEAM. Enter The Replacements, a film about just-good-enough scrubs meant to ride out a based-on-real-life NFL lockout. Heroes whose names will never be remembered…like that matters to them.

Led by (choke-happy college) Quarterback Shane Falco – played by fluffy-haired Keanu Reeves – these “new-and-improved” Washington Sentinels put their playoff dreams in the hands of fill-ins. A militant linebacker with anger issues (Danny Bateman, played by Jon Favreau), a deaf tight end (Brian Murphy, played by David Denman), a Welsh hooligan kicker with a gambling problem (Nigel Gruff, played by Rhys Ifans). These misfits and more comprise a team of stereotypical underdogs, but what they’re playing for is so much bigger sports infamy. Something greedy pros will never taste.

You see, this is a team with nothing to lose. No motivation to play spectacularly. With four games left in the season and three wins away from the playoffs, they could easily break under the tremendous pressure of bigtime lights (like some once did) and no one would flinch – but this is their second chance. Something athletes rarely get. Stockboys, convicts and sumos alike come together in slapstick fashion for one last hurrah, all behind Shane “Footsteps” Falco. From an “I Will Survive” dance number in prison to barroom brawls with protesting rivals, these Sentinels score their way into the playoffs and our hearts by giving 110% to prove something for themselves. No trophy, no bonus, no extension. Crazy to win just for pride, right?

Howard Deutch’s now-cult comedy features too many lines to quote and too much to love, but my biggest takeaway came during a one-on-one interview I conducted with Keanu Reeves during an Austin-based John Wick junket. I asked which of his lines people quote the most to him, and he replied something about “red pill/blue pill” – but then he circled back by asking which I’d say. “Pain heals, chicks dig scars, glory lasts forever,” I shot without hesitation. Reeves’ eyes lit up and a smile beamed, bringing him back to that Baltimore Ravens home field (where production filmed). After 10 more minutes passed and I went to leave, he started shufflin’ and steppin’ to himself after jumping out of his seat. After all these years, The Replacements spirit still lived within Keanu Reeves – like I needed another reason to love that Sentinel’s team any more.

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