By DIG Sports Staff
One of the time honored traditions of the American public is indulging in summer movies. During the hottest months of the year, crowds flock to local movie theatres to catch the latest blockbuster tent pole superhero/zombie/vampire/robot/explosive action flicks. And every so often, a timeless sports film graces the theatres with its presence.
Although there is a dearth of sports movies hitting the silver screen this summer, the DIG sports staff compiled a list of some of our favorite sports films. Kick back, relax, and go enjoy one of these timeless sports classics on a lazy summer afternoon.
The Mighty Ducks Trilogy – Andrew Alexander, DIG Sports Editor
In 1992, the Ducks skated their way off the silver screen and into our hearts. With the help of former hot-shot attorney (and notorious drunk driver) Gordon Bombay, Charlie Conway, Adam Banks, Jessie Hall, Fulton Reed, that fat kid from Heavy Weights and many more Ducks made us laugh, buy hockey sticks and taught us to quack for most of the 1990s.
With the Junior Goodwill Games at stake, the addition of wisecracking Russ Tyler to the roster and that hilarious Rodeo Drive boutique scene, D2 will always be my favorite movie of the trilogy. As a child who spent countless hours trying to perfect the knuckle-puck in street hockey, Russ Tyler’s battle cry, “It’s knuckle-puck time!” will always be one of my favorite sports movie quotes.
Whether it was Conway learning the “Triple Deke,” Luis Mendoza becoming proficient at stopping on the ice or Ken Wu mastering the art of trash talking, the Ducks always taught us to never give up and to always strive for improvement. As a kid born and raised in the South, with no prior hockey allegiances, the Mighty Ducks will always be the only hockey team I root to victory. Through three movies, the Ducks overcame the Hawks, Iceland and the Varsity Warriors, and always reminded us that DUCKS FLY TOGETHER!
But seriously, why wasn’t Jessie Hall in the third movie?
Friday Night Lights – James Bewers
I haven’t read Buzz Bissinger’s book, which this movie was based on, so it’s possible that I don’t have the full appreciation of the film. Even still, the film-adaption, which led to a television show by the same name, is one of best football movies ever made.
It’s a story of a football-obsessed town with expectations of a high school perennial power winning the state championship. But a state championship isn’t enough. The players, coaching staff and citizens want perfection. When the team’s best player goes out with injury and perfection becomes a lost cause, the story turns to tale of fortitude against the tremendous odds and pressure. If you’ve ever lived or been to a town where high school football means more than just a game, the story is relatable. Solid performances from Billy Bob Thornton, Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund and Derek Luke give the realistic feel of coach-player relationships. Ultimately, the film reveals success is not measured by perfection.
Field of Dreams – Tommy Romanach
I could name 20 different sports movies that inspire someone through a team overcoming insurmountable odds, but there’s only one that hits that inner child sensibility. Simply put, there’s nothing like Field of Dreams.
First, let’s assess how ridiculous the plot is at first glance — ghosts of baseball players come to Iowa as a former hippie uproots his farmland to make a baseball field for them. It’s not based on a true story, it’s not a sequel and it’s not about an underdog team, so I highly doubt this movie ever gets green-lit by modern Hollywood. However, the distinct nature of the film is part of what makes it special.
The movie sucks you in from the start and makes you believe Ray Kinsella is making the right decision, even when all common sense says otherwise. Dreams brings you back to an age when sports weren’t about commercialism, but the love of the game. This weird nostalgic feeling keeps you entrenched in the film until the final scene, a moment that has brought tears to adult males worldwide. For me though, the best moment comes right before the final scene, when Terrence Mann, played by James Earl Jones, delivers a speech that perfectly encapsulates what makes baseball special.
People will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.
Seabiscuit – Morgan Prewitt
Rarely, sports have the opportunity to transcend the mundane and represent something greater. In Seabiscuit, director Gary Ross perfectly captures how a small, quirky racehorse personified the never-give-up spirit of America during one of its darkest hours.
It’s November 1, 1938, and the United States is on its knees in the midst of the Great Depression. But, the years of hardship are momentarily forgotten as the country shuts down for the Race of the Century between Seabiscuit the Champion of the West, and the 1937 Triple Crown Winner, War Admiral. The race itself was the result of a year’s worth of pestering of the Admiral’s owner Samuel Riddle by Seabiscuit’s owner Charles Howard and garnering of public opinion for a match race.
During a train tour with the Biscuit, Howard makes a short, but memorable speech to sway the crowd gathered around a train car, “I don’t know what they are so worried about. Look at us. Our horse is too small. Our jockey’s too big. Our trainer’s too old. And I’m too dumb to know the difference. You think they’d want to race us instead of running away.”
Seabiscuit’s triumph that November day gave hope to a country that if a too-small, overlooked racehorse could beat the odds so could they.
Remember the Titans – Felix Cunningham
“We are at Gettysburg, 50,000 men died here fighting the same fight that we are still fighting today.”
This probably made Coach Herman Boone the most hated man in America at the time, especially at a most crucial point in U.S. history, but it didn’t mean those boys did not respect him.
In Remember the Titans, Denzel Washington was chosen to play an African-American coach in 1971 in Virginia during desegregation. One prestigious white school and another prestigious black school were combined to form T.C. Williams High School. Of course since Virginia is considered a Southern state and the origination of Southern pride, it made sense for the people in the area to despise a law that made blacks and white integrate in schools and on the football field.
As Coach Boone, Washington dug deep into his character and became the disciplinary figure that not only helped his boys become men but also made sure they became brothers on the field. Titans was meant to inspire a colorblind society where one isn’t black or white but simply a human being.
Of course, a road to colorblindness is not easy in the South, but Coach Boone showed the team that it didn’t matter what skin tone you inherit but how to become Titans.
Rudy – Casey Gisclair
Every sports fan loves an underdog. This particular sports fan is a huge fan of Notre Dame football. Yup, that pretty much makes Rudy one of the best sports movies of all-time. Everything about it was so well done. The struggle that Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger faces in his quest to play for the Fighting Irish is shown in such great detail and it tugs at the heartstrings of any sports fan and football lover around the world.
Rudy is a slice of Americana in a 116-minute motion picture portion. He’s the common man David who faces every obstacle known to man to make his dreams come true to slay the mighty machine that is Goliath.
It’s a part of sports that we take for granted too much in the modern-day landscape that focuses far too much on multi-year, multi-million-dollar contracts. There still are people within the country who love to compete in athletics just for the sheer love of completion. Ruettiger was one of those people, and anytime this classic is played in syndication, it has my immediate, undivided attention. I think I can speak for millions of sports fans around the globe in saying that it’s the same for them, as well.
And besides, how can anyone dislike a movie where a young and not-yet famous Vince Vaughn depicts a star receiver for the Fighting Irish? Betcha didn’t know that was Vaughn, but watch the final scene again. It’s totally him. That, among many other things is why ‘Rudy’ is now and will forever be a classic.