5 Must-See Sports Movies: Jordan’s Take

Hoosiers

Dennis Hopper and Gene Hackman in Hoosiers

Whether they remain hard-hitting or slip into sentimentality and even predictability, there is a certain appeal with the sports movie that cannot be found anywhere else. Often inspiring, these films can get the heart racing and adrenaline pumping, and before you know it you’re barracking for a team you’ve never heard of in a sport you’d never previously cared about.

There is always an underdog, an impossible victory that just maybe is within grasp and a goal or maneuverer on the final siren. Originality may not always be at the forefront, but considering true stories are often used as the foundation this makes sense.

These five films represent some of the best this genre has to offer.

For Eddie’s 5 Must-See Sports movies click here.

Plot summaries from IMDb. Reviews by Jordan

5. The Wrestler (2008)

The Wrestler

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky. Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

A faded professional wrestler must retire, but finds his quest for a new life outside the ring a dispiriting struggle.

The Wrestler brought the singular acting talents of Mickey Rourke back to public consciousness, and is an intimate portrait of one man’s self-destructive obsession to retain what he sees as his identity. Strong support is offered from Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood in a heart-breaking film that paints sport as the hero and the villain.

4. Green Street Hooligans (2005)

Green Street Hooligans

Directed by: Lexi Alexander. Starring: Elijah Wood, Charlie Hunnam, Claire Forlani

A wrongfully expelled Harvard undergrad moves to London, where he is introduced to the violent underworld of football hooliganism.

More than likely uninteresting to those unfamiliar with it’s subject matter, and best watched when young enough for the needless violence to not yet seem unsettling, Lexi Alexander’s insight into London football firms is still a favourite film to many and made with an energy that announces itself through the celebrations and the brawls.

3. Goon (2011)

Goon

Directed by: Michael Dowse. Starring: Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill

Labeled an outcast by his brainy family, a bouncer overcomes long odds to lead a team of under performing misfits to semi-pro hockey glory, beating the crap out of everything that stands in his way.

What’s most surprising about Goon is that in between the bloody on-field brawls and rapid-fire ice hockey vlogging there is a beating heart tied to a relationship that offers a complete film experience. Sean William Scott has arguably his finest moment as Doug Glatt, a bouncer turned enforcer hoping to play his part for the Halifax Highlanders in it’s quest for relevance, even if he has no teeth by the time the qualifiers come around.

2. The Hustler (1961)

Hustler

Directed by: Robert Rossen Starring: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie           

An up-and-coming pool player plays a long-time champion in a single high-stakes match.

The Hustler is an immaculate, tense window into the high stakes world of competitive pool, in which much is risked for the ultimate prize of not only money, but bankable pride. Being filmed on location in New York City lends Robert Rossen’s classic a lasting atmosphere, and not until you see this can you realise how damaging broken thumbs can be.

1. Hoosiers (1986)

Hoosiers

Directed by: David Anspaugh. Starring: Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper, Barbara Hershey

A coach with a checkered past and a local drunk train a small town high school basketball team to become a top contender for the championship.

Hoosiers is the archetype sports movie: once great team, controversial new coach, mysterious star player, but what makes it great is its earnestness and authenticity, in both location and character. Gene Hackman stars in an underrated role of his, but it is Dennis Hopper who stands out, with his performance as the town drunk (to completely generalise the character) helping to lead the small-town Indiana high school basketball team to victory earning him his sole award nomination for acting at the Academy Awards.

This is also Ron Swanson’s favourite movie, so you better believe its good.

Honourable mentions: Miracle, Raging Bull, Remember the Titans, Warrior

What are your favourite sport themed movies? Are there some hidden gems you know about or classics you love to support? Let us know in the comments below!

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33 responses to “5 Must-See Sports Movies: Jordan’s Take

  1. I liked Any Given Sunday when I first saw it but not so much on reviewing and I certainly wouldn’t put it on any list of great sports films. Still, the sub-theme of increased African-American power in American Football, and the different style and ethos that comes with it, (that some, let’s call them ‘traditionalists’ [cough, racists, cough], have difficulty accepting) makes it ahead of its time, especially given the commentary over the two contrasting quarterbacks at this year’s Superbowl, some 17 years after the film’s release.

    • Very good thoughts there, definitely true. I know it’s slightly corny but I do really like remember the Titans too, it’s pretty much compulsory viewing in high schools here for how it shows the senselessness of race division.
      Jordan

  2. You’ve opened a can of worms here:
    The Natural
    Friday Night Lights
    Pride of the Yankees
    Rocky
    The Fighter
    Million Dollar Baby
    Jim Thorpe-All American
    Ali
    The Champ
    Champion
    Requiem for a Heavyweight
    Big Wednesday
    A League of Their Own
    The Stratton Story
    We Are Marshall
    Cinderella Man
    Raging Bull
    Whatcha think?

    • Certainly quite a few good ones you listed there! I love the Champ! The 5 I listed I’m not saying are the best of the best but rather ones that I think people interested should track down.
      Cheers, Jordan

  3. Superb shout-out for Goon – probably one of the most underrated (sports) movies of all time! Does BASEKetball count as a sports movie? If so, I’d put it up there.

  4. This Sporting Life………a classic! Probably the only mainstream film to be centred around Rugby League………”The Greatest Game of All!”
    Richard Harris and Rachel Roberts are just sensational!

  5. There is so much wrong with Green Street Hooligans including Charlie Hunnam’s accent but I kind of love it. I’d put Southpaw, Raging Bull, Coach Carter, Cinderella Man and The Wrestler on my list. Clearly I enjoy hitting.

  6. Good idea for a list – should be been a top 10 as there’s too many memorable sports movies for just 5!

    Haven’t seen your top 2 but really like the other 3 you picked so may have to check em out!

    Ps
    What about the mighty ducks?
    =P

    • Yeah these comments have made me realise 10 would’ve been way better! Ed has his coming though. Mighty ducks was considered.. briefly.. Miracle was next on the list! And I kinda regret not including The Champ …
      Jordan

  7. Please, tell me you have seen Slapshot. That’s my favourite sporting film ever.

    Close behind are Guy Ritchie’s Mean Machine (a English yob prison version of The Longest Yard), Warrior, and Rockys I, III, and IV.

    Speaking of The Longest Yard – I am well aware that it is a disgraceful film, as are all motion pictures that star Adam Sandler, but I have a real soft spot for it as I watched it at least twenty times as a thirteen year old boy. Terry Crews is just the best.

    • Mate slapshot was very close to being picked! Goon edged it out. Those others are solid picks as well. Ha I just admit that I’ve watched the longest yard a bit too..
      Jordan

  8. Good list. Goon is the new Slapshot. Surprisingly awesome. I totally agree with Hoosiers! It’s still the best… even if Blue Chips has Shaq and Above The Rim has Tupac. For me, Hoop Dreams (documentary) is still the best sports movie ever, but I gotta give love to White Men Can’t Jump as well.

    • Hoosiers really succeeds so much on the back of Hackman and Hopper, and so much more feels at stake in the basketball games than state championship. A special kind of film. Pretty sure eds a big fan of hoop dreams.
      Jordan

  9. Pingback: 5 Must-See Sports Movies: Eddie’s Take | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

  10. Is pro wrestling a sport? Yes, but….anyway no matter how you feel about it there are two movies that are well worth seeing that explain the industry warts and all.
    1998’s “Hitman Hart:Wrestling With Shadows” This one chronicles the infamous Montreal Screw Job.
    1999’s “Beyond The Mat” that explores the lives of three of the top performers.

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