Guys love to watch movies. Guys love to watch sports even more. Unfortunately for the bigwig movie producers this love of sports represented competition against their product that was negatively impacting their bottom line. At some point in the distant past a lightbulb went on in some random Hollywood studio exec’s head when he suddenly came up with the shockingly simple solution to the problem. Why not make movies about sports? Men would be in their glory. Two of their major interests intersecting to produce the perfect form of entertainment. Throw in a few Hollywood hunks to get the women on board, and voila! A license to print money.
Unfortunately for Hollywood, the average guy is a little more discerning when it comes to sports entertainment than they were counting on. He wants factually accurate data, and while action-packed is good, it still has to stay true to the sport. Men take their sports very seriously and they don’t want to see them being made mock of. Over the years, Hollywood has tried to find the right balance to satisfy both the hardcore sports fan, as well as serving up good entertainment for the more casual fan. They’ve failed to find the correct recipe more often than not, but every now and then they get it just right. Here are some that they got right, my list of the top 10 sports movies of all time:
10 – White Men Can’t Jump
The world of 2 on 2 street basketball is the focus in this Wesley Snipes/Woody Harrelson collaboration about 2 hustlers who team up to win the big prize.
9 – The Longest Yard
A strangely ‘stachless Burt Reynolds plays the lead role in the 1974 original version of this film that pits prison inmates against guards in this classic football comedy.
8 – The Hustler
With two Oscar wins and numerous nominations, this pool hall drama starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason brings a little class to this list of the top 10 sports movies of all time.
7 – Brian’s Song
This movie has the unique distinction of being the only one on this top 10 list that was made for TV. Despite its small screen debut, this football movie packed some star power, boasting a young James Caan as leading man. Based on the true life relationship between Brian Picolo and Gale Sayers the movie holds up well against its higher-budget Hollywood brethren.
6 – Caddyshack
If you are going to make fun of their sports you had better make them laugh, and Caddyshack hits a hole in one as a laugh-out-loud comedy. Comic heavyweights Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Rodney Dangerfield had the audience laughing from tee to green with this one. Definitely one of the top 10 sports movies of all time.
5 – Bull Durham
How many baseball movies has Kevin Costner been in now, anyways? Regardless of the answer, this is certainly the best of them. Plenty of star power in this sports flick, with Oscar winners Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins lending their talent.
4 – Moneyball
Though most of this list consists of “lighter fare” this 2011 film delves deep into statistical analysis and the business side of baseball. Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman all starred in this near true-to-life look at how Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane built a contender using computer-generated statistics to find the best bang for the buck.
3 – Slap Shot
Being a huge hockey fan I was sorely tempted to place this movie at number one on my top 10 list, but the rational part of me took over, and realized that this screwball 70s comedy about the antics of a minor league hockey team just can’t compete with the top 2. Still, it has enough going for it, despite the strange casting of Paul Neumann in the lead role, to earn a spot. And has there ever been a better trio of minor supporting characters than the Hanson brothers?
2 – Hoosiers
Gene Hackman hit all the right notes as the coach of a high school basketball team in this incredibly true to life story. Fans of the sport have nothing to complain about here as painstaking research went into replicating the way small town high school basketball was 5 decades ago.
1 – Raging Bull
When I set out to write the list of the top 10 sports movies of all time, I knew one thing for sure: I had to have a boxing movie on the list. Many would argue that Rocky should have been in this spot. It did win the Oscar for best picture after all. But for me, Raging Bull was the better movie, and the pinnacle of Robert DeNiro’s fine career. Though the subject matter is brutally depressing at times, this film is too good to wind up anywhere but in the number one spot of the greatest sports movies of all time.