The sports film. They either rivet – see most of the Rocky franchise, for example – or not; Driven, for example, sticking with the Sylvester Stallone connection. Either way, they do attract audiences and pack in multiplexes night after night. In 2019 alone we have basketball portrayed in Steven Soderbergh’s Netflix film High Flying Bird, football in the Cannes opener Diego Maradona, a documentary based on the Argentinian legend, and Stephen Merchant’s Fighting With My Family, which has just been released on the home formats. To celebrate the release of that movie, we take a look at 5 of the best sports movies to hit our screens in recent times.
Fighting With My Family
Seeing as if it was just released onto DVD and Blu-ray this past week, and considering the quality of its writing, direction, acting and sheer enjoyment factor, we’ll kick things off with Fighting With My Family, a comedy/drama based on a true story set in the world of wrestling. Produced by and starring (in a supporting/cameo role) Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Fighting With My Family came to be by the former WWE star catching a Channel 4 documentary special whilst in the UK filming one of the Fast & Furious movies. Many years later, after employing the tall talents of Stephen Merchant (The Office) to both write and direct, Fighting With My Family graces our screens. The action follows the Knight family and two young wrestlers from Norwich, Paige (Florence Pugh) and Zak (Jack Lowden) who sign up for an audition for the prestigious WWE in the U.S. Paige is instantly selected to hit a vigorous training camp in Florida, while Jack is sadly rejected due to not having the ‘X’ factor to make it in the ultra competitive game. The film charts Paige rise to become one of the biggest female WWE stars of all time, all to much hilarity along the way.
Who knew that there was still life left in the Rocky movies in the second decade of the 21st century? In 2015, a young Hollywood director named Ryan Coogler took a huge leap of faith with a new spin-off sequel and reinvention of a hugely successful franchise with Creed, a film which follows the rise of Apollo Creed’s son Adonis. Played superbly by Michael B. Jordan, Adonis seeks out the help of legendary ring-man Rocky Balboa, once again played by Sylvester Stallone, to train him to put him on the road to become one of the greats, just like his late father. Stallone bagged himself a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his work here, and rightly so. It is the best ‘Rocky’ movie for years, and easily one of the best films of that year. It even spawned an equally successful sequel, Creed II, which was released at the end of 2018.
Not one specifically about sports on the field, but more about the statistics involved in terms of strategy behind the scenes. Scripted by the legendary Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) and directed by Bennett Miller, Moneyball features one of the best casts seen on screen in the last ten years. Brad Pitt leads, ably supported by the likes of Robin Wright, the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Jonah Hill. The story revolves around Oakland A’s baseball manager Billy Beane, a tactician who, when presented with a very limited budget for players, employs the use of a computer assisted stats analysis system to bring in the best players with the small amount of cash that he has. Of course, these days, we can use computers for getting hold of stats – sites like maxbet for sports betting stats, etc, for example – it has been become more popular and widespread, but in 2002, when Moneyball is set, it wasn’t as commonplace. The film is excellent, and while the action takes place off the field, we still consider it one of the best sports movies of recent times.
We stick with boxing for another superb movie set in and out of the ring. The Fighter stars Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale and, once again, is based on a true story. Wahlberg plays the role of boxer Mickey Ward, while Bale plays his older half-brother and trainer Dicky Ekland, someone Micky still looks up to. The film charts Micky’s journey from suffering a series of defeats all of the way to becoming both the WBU Intercontinental Lightweight and the WBU Light Welterweight champion. Directed superbly by David O’Russell, The Fighter is one of the best boxing movies ever made – outside of the Rocky franchise, and features superb performances, from both Wahlberg and Bale, but also by Amy Adams and Melissa Leo who scored the Best Supporting Actress award at the following year’s Academy Awards.
We move on to another sport for our final entry on this list, to the world Formula 1 and another true story, this time from focussing on the bitter rivalry between the late Niki Lauda and James Hunt. In the film, Lauda is played expertly by Daniel Brühl while Brit Hunt is portrayed by Australian actor Chris Hemsworth. Specifically, Rush revolves around the 1976 F1 season when both Lauda and Hunt were in constant battle for the coveted world title. Rush was received with huge praise upon its release back in 2013, and rightly so. Expertly directed by Ron Howard, brilliant acted and staged, Rush is the best F1 movie to have graced the screen and definitely worth seeking out if you’ve not seen it.