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THN’s Top 10 Sports Movies

This week sees the release of GOON, the story of deadbeat Doug (played by Seann William-Scott), a lost soul searching for his place in the world and finding it on the bloodied ice rink of Pro-Hockey. After a display of strength Doug is signed up, not to play but to fight as the team’s Goon. From the writer of SUPERBAD and PPINEAPPLE EXPRESS this is sure to be an entertaining and sharp movie.

GOON arrives in cinemas Friday 6th January and to honour its release we’ve been thinking of some of our favourite sporting films – so let’s get the ball (or in this case the puck) rolling.

10. A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN  (1992) Dir: Penny Marshall Cast: Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna

When the Yanks finally step up to pitch in with the war effort the country finds itself with a lack of Baseball players and starts a controversial women’s league. It’s easy for the hairy knuckled chauvinists out there to groan and shake their heads, dismissing  this fuzzy 1940s period drama as filmic feminism, but it’s the classic tale of a rising underdog, in this case less a specific team or athlete but women’s sports on the whole. Hanks is great as the surly ex-pro Jimmy Dugan whose initial disdain at having to coach a bunch of girlie girls is used to great comic effect (he’d give Frank Drebin a run for his money in a pissing contest too). An excellent sports movie that’s got the perfect blend of action on and off the field, and if the likes of Madonna, Geena Davis and Lori Petty in sexy 40s attire doesn’t float your boat then there’s always Rosie O’Donnell! A great slice of homespun Americana as warm and sweet as Momma’s apple pie, made all the more engaging and poignant by Davis & Petty’s onscreen sibling rivalry.

9. THE KARATE KID (1984) Dir: John G. Avildsen Cast: Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Elisabeth Shue

Heres one that got us all into trouble when we ‘accidently’ nailed our little brothers in face imitating the climactic crane scene.  The original (and still the best) Karate Kid is a fond staple of all children of the 80s and is a classic tale of the kind hearted underdog vs the evil institution. As Daniel ‘San’,  Macchio humbly learns the ancient art of Karate (whilst simultaneously doing a lazy old chinaman’s list of chores) with which he can defend himself against bullies. He also gets kick-ass car out of the deal too!

Quaint and honest there are none of the bells and whistles of the more recent re-make (starring Will Smith’s kid and Jackie Chan) but instead a simple and aspiring story that taught that wisdom and righteousness is essential in kicking-ass.

 8. CADDYSHACK (1980) Dir: Harold Ramis Cast: Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield,

 Okay so it’s not really a sports movie – more a comedy centred on a place where a sport takes place, however the comic pedigree involved and the fact that it ends with a high stakes golf match means we have no trouble shoe-horning it in. CADDYSHACK is a national lampoon style comedy based around the raucous antics of the caddies at Bush Wood and how the arrival of a crude potential buyer (Dangerfield) threatens the established traditions of snobbery at the elitist country club. Every scene with Dangerfield is a joy – he’s loud, obnoxious and as rude as hell but the sheer gall of the guy is fantastic. Meanwhile Chase plays a rather odd Golf Pro whilst Bill Murray’s turn as Carl, the retarded greens-keeper is up there with some of his best! Noteworthy scenes inculde a case of mistaken identity in a swimming pool and Chases visit to Murray’s ‘house’.  A silly, sexy and very funny film about slackers, golf ball whack-ers and a pesky Gopher.

 7. SENNA (2011) Dir: Asif Kapadia Cast: Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost

The mark of a great sports movie is one that can engross the attention of a viewer disinterested in the subject matter to begin with. This year’s docu-flick SENNA is a perfect example of a film that does just that! Compiled entirely from stock footage of races, TV appearances and home videos, SENNA charts the career of legendary F1 rogue Ayrton Senna.  Kapdia has done an astounding job here pulling together a cohesive narrative that captures Senna’s charisma, skill and determination and makes great use of his rivalry with McLaren teammate Alain Prost. SENNA paints a picture of a tortured genius whose natural talent makes him an outsider and put him at odds with the politics of the sport. Throughout the film has an underlying sense of foreboding and tragedy as the demi-god race car driver is always pushing the barriers in his attempt to be the best.  The grainy and dated appearance of the footage serves to give this movie an infallible sense of authenticity. Intense, compelling and a surprise hit of 2011.

 6.  BASEKET BALL (1998) Dir: David Zucker Cast: Matt Stone, Trey Parker

Is it okay to include a film about a made-up sport in a top ten of sports movie? When it’s this funny – YES! And if you wish to take umbrage with that please consult BASEKET BALL’s stars & savvy South Park satirists Matt Stone and Trey Parker – men whom have defined comedy over the past decade. If you have any further question please speak to Director David (Naked Gun)Zucker! This is comic royalty you peasants so bow down and worship. Set in a not too distant future and based on the valid social comment that money has destroyed the purity and integrity of sports,  life-long friends Coop and Remer (Stone and Parker) invent a sport half basketball, half baseball and an additional half H-O-R-S-E. Over 103mins your ribs are tickled down to nubs with puerile sight gags ( involving gigantic dongs), excellent put downs (mostly at the expense the teams weener Squeak Scolari) and genuine onscreen chemistry from the leads. And if those weren’t reason enough the film has a great moral of being true to yourself, your friends and not selling out – its got  tits in it too!

 5. ESCAPE TO VICTORY (1981) Dir: John Huston Cast: Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Pele, Bobby Moore

In a brash display of propaganda the Nazi’s arrange a football match between the Germans and a group of  Allied POWs. Perhaps one of the oddest ensemble casts in history as huge Hollywood stars grace the pitch alongside real-life footballing legends such as Pele, Bobby Moore and Osvaldo Ardiles. Unbeknown to the Nazi’s the Allies actually plan to use the match as a diversion for an  escape,  but would rather win the match then run away. A sports film that really stacks the odds against the good guys who triumph in the face of powerful, cheating bad guys led, of course, by Max Von Sydow.

 4. THE WATERBOY (1998) Dir: Frank Coraci Cast:Adam Sandler, Henry Winkler, Kathy Bates

Despite an audience’s marmite-esque reaction to Adam Sandler’s slew of low-brow,  formulaic comedies THN just can’t resist silly voices, sexy girls and Rob Schneider, and seeing how Caddyshack  fills the Golf hole (thusly excluding Happy Gilmore) we thought we’d have this one instead. Butt of all jokes and backwoods simpleton Bobby Boucher (Sandler) is satisfied with his lot in life as a high school football team’s water boy – one day after being pushed too far he pushes back displaying a talent for tackling that would make a bitch of the Juggernaut. Cue hilarious antics and life lessons as Bobby becomes the unlikeliest of heros. The Waterboy plays on the proven universal emotive of injustice to pack a punch, it’s hard not to get all giggley over a goofy turd pounding the hell out of ignorant assholes especially when he’s so good mannered.

3. STAT HUNGRY (1976) Dir: Bob Rafelson Cast: Jeff Bridges, Sally Field, Arnold Schwarzenegger

An eternal fan of both Jeff Bridges and Arnie why wouldn’t we put this movie in? STAY HUNGRY is a fascinatingly odd film where trust fund kid Craig Blake (Bridges) lives the life of a carefree playboy yet is unsatisfied  and finds comfort and friendship down at a local gym where strong man Joe Santo( Schwarzenegger) is training for a Mr Universe competition. AAnother film on our list that really isn’t much of a sports movie but it does end with a body building competition and a farcial chase of  scantily clad muscle men flexing their pecks in the city streets. A must watch for any fans on American movie making in the 1970s.

 

 2. SLAP SHOT (1977) Dir: George Roy Hill Cast: Paul Newman

The Chiefs are a failing hockey team led by aging has-been Reggie Dunlop (Newman). When the squad  finds out that the current season will be their last Reggie gets to work stirring up a host of PR,  generating rumours of buyers and starting a campaign of ‘goonism’ ; riling up other teams with psych-outs and punishing them with savage beatings –  leading the charge are  new signings the Hansen brothers (3 mop-topped  kids as thick as the lenses in their specs but born to skate and fight). It’s a sin that SLAP SHOT isn’t more widely recognised as a seminal sports movie. It has the easy wit and natural scripting synonymous with the new Hollywood generation of movie making. The characters are  three-dimensional and clever without ever seeming to try whilst Paul Newman manages to make being  an uber sleaze stylish and aspirational. A fresh and funny movie and blisteringly violent. A must see movie for any fan of hockey, sports, Paul Newman, film, breathing…you get the idea.

1. RAGING BULL (1980) Dir: Martin Scorsese Cast: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty

Right well obviously this is going to be in here – it’s cinematic history if only for the chubby fact that method man De Nero famously filled out some 30kg (approx) to add realism to the life story of boxer Jake La Motta. So great is the clout of this one that we daren’t tarnish it by including another more pop-culture boxing flick staring ‘can’t act so I’ll get drunk’ Stallone. Regardless of the weight issue RAGING BULL is a dark and intense story of La Motta’s determination to be the Champ and his fall from grace when his dream is finally realised. Moving and gritty Scorsese’s classic paints La Motta warts and all as  an astounding and unbeatable  athlete but also an appalling human being. The fight scenes are raw and visceral, literally steaming with energy that makes the punches all the more palpable – out of the ring the La Motta’s stunted emotions and thuggish behaviour makes for gripping if uncomfortable watching.

 

A BA in Media & an Art MA doesn’t get you much in today’s world – what it does give you however is a butt-load of time to watch a heck of a lot of movies and engage in extensive (if not pointless) cinematic chitter chatter. Movies and pop-culture have always been at the forefront of Joe’s interest who has been writing for THN since 2009. With self-aggrandised areas of expertise including 1970s New Hollywood, The Coen Brothers, Sci-Fi and Adam Sandler, Joe’s voyeuristic habits rebound between Cinematic Classics and Hollywood ephemera, a potent mix at once impressively comprehensive and shamelessly low-brow.