The best sports movies should teach their audiences about more than the sport they are showcasing throughout the film. There may be a finite number of sports movies have been based off of, but there is an infinite number of lessons to be learned from watching said movies.
Sports movies can fall under any number of categories: a serious and intense drama depicting the adversity faced by the team and/or athlete and their eventual success (Rudy and Remember the Titans), a comedy based off oddball characters and their hilarious quarrels (Caddyshack), and a classical coming of age tale where a young athlete learns life lessons far more important than playing sports (Sandlot). Movies often overlap and fall under numerous categories.
Thus, it can be difficult to objectively compare and contrast movies across their respective genres.
Fret not for I have compiled a top five list for every sports genre known to man. Kicking things off will be the screwball comedies featuring goofy antagonists and protagonists with similar problems. This list should not be a definitive top five list to be filed in the annals of the sports and pop culture worlds, but it highlights what I believe the best part of watching sports movies and that’s humor.
5. Happy Gilmore (1996) – Adam Sandler in his comedic acting prime playing an ex-hockey player turned PGA Tour golfer who gets his ass kicked by Bob Barker? What more could you ask for in a sports comedy? Remember, “The price is wrong, bitch.”
Chock-full of memorable quotes, Happy Gilmore is just as funny now as it was almost twenty years ago when it was released. Throw a “Nice putt, ya jackass” into your golfing buddies back swing and see how they react. Also, the lovely Julie Bowen (Claire Dunphey on ABC’s Modern Family) plays Sandler’s love interest which may or may not have had something to do with this movie rounding out the top five.
4. Bad News Bears (1976) - Walter Mattau plays Morris Buttermaker, the down and out ex-minor league baseball player turned little league head coach who provides valuable lessons to his rag-tag team of ball players, like how to field a bunt. This group of misfits knows nothing about the game, though they’re quite a scrappy ball team. Tempers may flare in the Bears locker room from time to time, but as evidenced below, the Bears always have each other’s backs.
3. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004) – Technically speaking, dodgeball is not a professionally and internationally recognized sport, however we felt it would be an abomination leaving White Goodman (Ben Stiller) and the Globo Gym Purple Cobras off this list.
You have to love this films authenticity and creativeness. More often than not Hollywood will recycle similar motifs and plot structures across sports films, but Dodgeball just doesn’t have that feeling of repetition.
This movie features potentially the best fictional sports broadcasting pairing in sports movie history, with Pepper Brooks (Jason Bateman) and Cotton McKnight (Gary Cole) churning out gut busting lines for dodgeball fans everywhere.
2. Caddyshack (1980) – I am yet to experience the traumatizing event of swimming in a pool with a floating Baby Ruth chocolate bar that could be confused for something far more grotesque. With Chevy Chase, Ted Knight, Rodney Dangerfield and oh yeah, Bill Murray starring in this country club doozie, it is hard to imagine a more amusing movie based around the sport of golf and those who hit the links regularly. There’s also a relatively unimportant and pestering gopher throughout the film, despite Carl the groundskeeper’s (Murray) best efforts to squash him:
1. Major League (1989) – With ‘rookie sensation’ Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), a.k.a Wild Thing due to his erratic pitching nature and bad ass lifestyle, the aging veteran catcher Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger), the foreign and highly superstitious Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert) and the speedy and entertaining outfielder Willy Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes), the Cleveland Indians aren’t having the best of seasons. Each character is lost in their own respect: Vaughn has trouble with the law, Taylor is coping with his divorce, Cerrano struggles to hit a curve ball and Hayes’ “acting career” never really launched, and these differences brings them together as a unit by the end of the long season:
Side note, it was a close second, but I had to put Harry Doyle (Bob Uecker) as the Indians announcer just behind the aforementioned Pepper & Cotton of Dodgeball on the list of great fictional sports broadcasters with his patented “Juuust a bit outside.“
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