Five Film Favorites: Sports Movies

There are plenty of movies about sports. Alas, although there are few gems, most of the movies in this category aren’t particularly good. Hard to say why there are so many bad pictures about sports. But there are a lot of bad films about monsters, gangsters and teenage angst, too.

As a guy who grew up playing sports, some of the worst efforts have made me cringe. Try watching Anthony Perkins shoot a basketball in “Tall Story” (1960) — oy vey! — see if you don’t cringe, too.

For this week’s list, it’s only team sports. That means no boxing, no skateboards, no tennis, no race cars, etc. That’s for another list.

Tim Robbins and Kevin Costner in BULL DURHAM.

“Bang the Drum Slowly” (1973): Directed by John Hancock; Cast: Michael Moriarty, Robert De Niro, Vincent Gardenia

“Bull Durham” (1988): Directed by Ron Shelton; Cast: Susan Sarandon, Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins

“Hoosiers” (1986): Directed by David Anspaugh; Cast: Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper, Barbara Hershey

“The Natural” (1984): Directed by Barry Levinson. Cast: Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger.

“Rollerball” (1975): Directed by Norman Jewison; Cast: James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams

Any of the five films above are good enough to be entertaining to viewers who aren’t sports fans.

In the past I didn’t used to put “The Natural” on my best sports movies list, because it’s one of my all-time favorite books and the movie is such a pale reflection of author Bernard Malamud’s dark story with the same title. But it’s been 26 years since the movie came out and I’ve slowly gotten over my disappointment. I’ve learned to enjoy it.

Since I don’t want to limit the list only to games I played as a kid, I’ve included “Rollerball.” Although I liked it better back when it came out, I’ve seen it recently and it’s still pretty good. The political message stands out more now.

Finally, Ken Burns’ PBS 1994 series, “Baseball,” is wonderful and I love it. But I can’t have an 18-hour series on the same list with feature films that stand alone. Still, I’m sure looking forward to the sequel, scheduled to air later this month.

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One Response to Five Film Favorites: Sports Movies

  1. Peter Schilling says:

    A sports movie made my top ten list last year: James Blagen’s animated short “Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No”. A classic. See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vUhSYLRw14

    Some of mine include: “Sugar”, a good movie about Latin American players; “Hoop Dreams”; “The Natural”; the baseball scenes in “Radio Days”; I think it’s team cycling in “Breaking Away” isn’t it?; “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra; and “Lagaan” a really delightful, three and a half hour Bollywood musical about cricket. Seriously.

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