Our top 10 sporting movies

By Andrew Johnston

WELL done Victoria and NSW, we have made it to the first batch of restrictions being eased.

You can now have a couple of friends or family at your house, and that’s just great.

But, no getting together to watch the footy quite yet as we await the restart of the sports we love.

Until then, there is another way to get your sporting fix — movies.

So, here are ten films that I love.

Now, I’m no film critic or media studies student, so what you are about to read is not a brilliant breakdown, just why I enjoy these films, and why I think you will too.

1 — A League of their Own (1992)

A heavily fictionalised version of the forming of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during the second World War.

The story goes into detail about a number of challenges the players faced — people not willing to watch women’s sports, being portrayed in the media in a sexist way, and trying to live their lives with family serving overseas.

A brilliant ensemble cast — Geena Davis steals the show, while Lori Petty, Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna are all incredibly likeable.

Tom Hanks is typically brilliant as the washed up former big leaguer turned alcoholic manager of the team.

It’s a fun watch, packed with humour and the right amount of drama. Easily my favourite sport film.

2 — Miracle (2004)

The film is set around the 1980 Winter Olympics, and the USA’s battle to overcome the all-conquering Soviet hockey team as they hunt a gold medal.

The miracle on ice is legitimately one of the best underdog sports stories in history, and while there are a few issues with how the story is told at times, this is a great version of it.

Every character is played well, and Kurt Russell is excellent as the team’s coach Herb Brooks.

Be it your first viewing or millionth, this film well and truly stands up.

3 — Draft Day (2014)

Does anyone do sports films quite as well as Kevin Costner?

It’s a rare sports film where nothing takes place on the field, but instead looks at the behind the scenes challenges associated with the billion-dollar business of the NFL draft.

Costner is incredible as Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr., battling the death of his father (the Browns’ long-time coach who he fired), a pregnant girlfriend, and issues with pretty much every staff member within the Browns organisation.

On top of this, he has current players and potential future ones trying to influence his decisions on the night of the draft.

This is packed full of drama, it’s shot incredibly well, and has just enough football history in it to keep me excited (did you know the greatest player in NFL history, Tom Brady, was drafted with the 199th pick?)

4 — Field of Dreams (1989)

“If you build it, he will come.”

Another sports movie starring Kevin Costner, though this time we are on the baseball field, but also a corn field.

Ray Kinsella (Costner) starts hearing those famous words, which prompts him to build a baseball field, thinking it is for Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Chicago ‘Black Sox’ (members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox side who were banned from baseball for life for accepting bribes to lose the World Series.)

The film explores how sport has the power to bring people together, but also looks deeply at family, the relationships we have with each other, and how precious our time is together.

5 — Happy Gilmore (1996)

“I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast!” “You eat pieces of shit for breakfast?” “No!”

This is probably the best film Adam Sandler has made.

A man who dreams of playing hockey discovers he can drive a golf ball more than 400 yards, and accidentally becomes a golfing prodigy.

This film is laugh-out-loud funny for 92 minutes, with Happy’s temper tantrums, his fight with Bob Barker, his rivalry with the star of the professional tour Shooter McGavin, and every appearance from former professional player Chubbs Peterson, whose hand was bitten off by an alligator during a game.

This is the ultimate catch-up film because it’s just so damn funny.

6 — The Mighty Ducks (1992)

Ducks fly together.

Another one for the whole family, it’s a typical story about a group of kids who aren’t very good at something (in this case hockey) who get a coach who doesn’t want to be there (arguably Emilio Estevez’s best role), who learn to come together, work hard and be a team.

Naturally the adult learns a lesson, and (spoiler) they win the big game at the end.

It’s formulaic, cringey at times, but we still love it.

7 — Remember the Titans (2000)

Say what you will about Ryan Gosling, the man was an absolute liability at cornerback.

A movie where football is more the backdrop to social change, at a high school in Virginia during integration.

In a time where there is a lot of unease, football helps break down the barriers between white and African American students.

Denzel Washington does what Denzel does and is brilliant in this film.

There are more than a few historical inaccuracies, but the film flows really well and tells a great story of friendship and accepting people.

8 — Coach Carter (2005)

Rich-what? Rich-mond!

While not for the whole family, this is a sports movie that asks us whether we put too much importance on sport, while also showing us how important sport can be in molding people, so there is a lot going on here.

Samuel L. Jackson plays Ken Carter, a former high school and college basketball player who returns to coach his old high school team.

He puts an emphasis on making his players into the best people they can be, not just the best players, and puts emphasis on their academics and ethics.

This is heavily based on a true story, which puts extra emphasis on the more intense moments of the film.

A strong cast — Jackson is incredible — the film is always high drama with a few fun moments, and it also has a brilliant soundtrack.

The character arc of Timo Cruz is also one of the most fascinating in any movie.

9 — We Are Marshall (2006)

Another based on a true story, showing the challenges presented to Marshall University’s football program following the real-life plane crash in 1970 that killed 75 people, including players, coaches and trainers for the team.

It’s a typical sporting film about fighting to overcome adversity, but with the backdrop of a genuinely horrific real-life incident which adds even more drama to the film.

It includes the battles the school must go through to even field a team (such as getting an NCAA rule overturned to allow freshmen to play, which would be essential to get a team on the field.)

Matthew McConaughey is incredibly likeable as new coach Jack Lengyel, and everyone likes a good underdog story.

10 — Any Given Sunday (1999)

Be warned – this isn’t for the whole family.

An enjoyable American football film, the gameplay looks fantastic while the action off the field seems like it would be believable for a professional team.

A strong ensemble cast including Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, James Woods and LL Cool J, as well as NFL legend Lawrence Taylor.

All the characters are believable, they’re all heavily flawed, so outside of one or two (Diaz and Woods) you find yourself rooting for them.

And Pacino’s speeches as coach make you want to run through the walls of your living room.

And, for some extra opinions, the rest of the Riv sports department have given their top tens.

Andrew Mole (Riverine Herald editor)

1. Salute (2008)

2. Jim Thorpe — All American (1951)

3. Remember the Titans (2000)

4. Paris or the Bush (2016)

5. Tin Cup (1996)

6. A League of their Own (1992)

7. The Endless Summer (1966)

8. Major League (1989)

9. Phar Lap (1983)

10. Escape to Victory (1981)

Brayden May (Riverine Herald sports journalist)

1. Draft Day (2014)

2. Remember the Titans (2000)

3. Coach Carter (2005)

4. The Mighty Ducks (1992)

5. Happy Gilmore (1996)

6. The Blind Side (2009)

7. Moneyball (2011)

8. Like Mike (2002)

9. Cool Runnings (1993)

10. BASEketball (1998)