Rating a sports movie is an inexact science at best. Some people only want to tune in for the comedy of a golf movie such as Happy Gilmore. That is certainly fine since everybody should get to watch what they want. However, in trying to rate a cinematic flick, there have to be some criteria for the acting, content, and whether it holds a viewer’s interest. Thus narrowing a body of work over the last 70 years is a difficult if not impossible task. Without further ado, here is a list of the top five sports movies of all time.
This one had it all, a great cast of young actors who were virtually unknown at the time – Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, and Carl Weathers, along with a grizzled veteran Burgess Meredith who teamed up to make a low budget masterpiece. It told the story of an underdog white boxer who gets a shot at the world’s reigning champion who underestimated Rocky’s heart and desire while waging a 15 round war in the ring. The move also has romance between the boxer (Stallone) and a pet shop clerk (Shire) thrown in for good measure. She may be the inspiration for his remarkable performance in the ring. All in all, an inspiring story. Honorable mention: Raging Bull with Robert De Niro.
Field of Dreams
The tale of an Iowa farmer (Kevin Costner) plowed under his cash crop to build a baseball field because he heard voices out of the sky. Along the way, he alienates his brother in law (Timothy Busfield), allows a country doctor to play one more time (Burt Lancaster), allows a sordid author to see once again the goodness of people (James Earl Jones), and gets to play catch with his dad who died when he was young. While being a bit farfetched, the movie is nonetheless inspiring in its story of hope and baseball in America. Honorable mention: Major League with Charlie Sheen.
A small town in Indiana is in need of a Boys high school basketball coach since theirs had died suddenly. The principal call in an old friend (Gene Hackman) who previously coached in college but left after striking a player. He arrives and manages to alienate the whole town with his methods. At one point, they actually remove him from the job, but the star player steps in to save the day, and the team takes off, making it to the state finals to face a school that is not only the defending champion but also with twenty times the enrollment of little Hickory. Hackman as Norman Dale gives an outstanding performance while showing it is not star players that win, but teamwork with all five acting as one. Honorable mention: Blue Chips with Nick Nolte.
Chariots of Fire
The story of two lads training for the Olympics from the British Isles both initially run the same event, but one has to pull out due to religious beliefs. Ben Cross is excellent in the starring role of this slow-moving but enchanting tale of running and faithful adherence to the cause.
Robert Redford plays Roy Hobbs, an “old” rookie with a magic bat who has been away from baseball after being shot by a black widow. He was once a pitcher with great talent but got a second chance as an outfield playing for the New York Knights. Robert Duvall is cast as a sportswriter who knew Hobbs as a pitcher but can’t remember this fact until late in the film. The climax shows Roy as a hero, almost a prelude to Kirk Gibson’s magic moment with the L.A. Dodgers in the World Series at a later date. Strong performances by Redford, Duvall, Wilfred Brimley, and Darren McGavin. Honorable Mention: Bull Durham with Kevin Costner.