It’s cold outside. There isn’t any other way around it. Snow is beginning to fall and coat the ground, causing some drivers to panic making them forget how to properly drive. What better time would it be to sit on the couch, grab a throw pillow, blanket and stay warm with some sports movies. There are so many fantastic sports films out there, and quite a few stinkers from unneeded remakes, looking at you Adam Sandler. So here are my top five sports movies to stay warm with this winter. There will be no particular order to them.
Friday Night Lights made in 2004, is based on a true story and a book by the same name. Friday Night Lights follows a high school football team in Texas for a season. While the book is a must read, the movie does an okay job with some of the parts from the book and actual season that the Permian Panthers put together in 1988.
Our lead is Billy Bob Thornton who fits in well as a high school football coach in the most insane state for the sport. He plays coach Gary Gaines. Gaines feels the immense pressure from the town of Odessa to bring home a state championship. Gaines tries to navigate the season while his star player, James “Boobie” Miles, goes down with an ACL injury.
The movie takes quite a bit of the book out, due to time constraints, but the film manages to hold itself together. The football scenes themselves are well done, although there are quite a few clock/yard line inconsistencies from scene to scene. You can feel some of the hits from the film as you watch, but Friday Night Lights does a nice job of making you care about the athletes involved as well. This is probably one of my favorite football movies, if not the favorite for how raw it can feel at times.
Up next is a boxing film, and it’s probably not the one you’re going to expect. I know that everyone loves Rocky, its a great feel good story, and a fine movie in it’s own right. However, I like stories that can show the descent of a person, that shows us that even when they’re at the top of the world, they are a tortured soul and destroy their life around them. So, with that in mind, sports fans should check out the classic Raging Bull.
Raging Bull is also based on the true story of boxer Jake LaMotta. Robert DeNiro stars as LaMotta and does a fantastic job of portraying this man who is a great boxer, but just an awful human being. LaMotta is a paranoid husband to his second wife, Vikki, he finds himself in trouble after throwing a fight to gain favor with the mob, and makes about any wrong decision a man can.
When people speak about getting in your own way, LaMotta can come to mind. Despite his boxing ability, we’re shown that LaMotta could’ve been even better if he would’ve been able to keep his ahead on straight. The in-ring scenes are done beautiful as one would expect with a film directed by Martin Scorsese. The Sugar Ray Robinson series of fights are highlighted through the movie which serves as a progression point through LaMotta’s in-ring career.
This can be a difficult movie to sit and watch in one sitting. The journey is well worth seeing as it’s the best boxing movie ever made, sorry Rocky.
Warrior might not be a movie a lot of people have heard about. It’s a 2011 film starring Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte and Joel Edgarton. It focuses on the world of MMA, or mixed martial arts. Hardy and Edgarton play brothers who are both entering a tournament for $5 million for different reasons. Hardy’s character, Tommy, wants to give the money to a family of a man he was close with in the military, while Edgarton’s character, Brendan, needs the money to keep his own family afloat. Nolte plays their recovering alcoholic father.
The strength of the trio’s acting skills along with the actual training/fighting scenes takes it past your typical sports movies. We begin to feel for the two brothers who have been estranged for nearly 15 years or so due to their father’s past. The film uses actual fighters, and former Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle, as the best fighter in the tournament.
The fight scenes are well done making us believe that Hardy and Edgarton have done some actual MMA work in the past. The addition of real fighters and Angle adds to the legitimacy of the film instead of hiring other actors to play the role of the athletes.
The climax of the film is very emotional and usually leaves me tearing up. Maybe I’m just a sucker, but Warrior is an overlooked MMA film that touches on the sport along with the father/son relationship. I did an essay over this film in college, as a bit of a tangent here, and compared the story to Moby Dick a little bit. Maybe I was way off, but let me know if you can see the hunt for the white whale in this film too.
As I believe I’ve mentioned before, basketball is my favorite sport, and there are no shortage of classic basketball movies. From Hoosiers, White Men Can’t Jump, Blue Chips, and a host of others, it was tough to narrow down just one basketball film for this list. However, it’s always hard to argue against Hoosiers.
I think quite a few people know about Hoosiers. A small Indiana team defies the odds and wins the State Championship with an embattled head coach with a hidden history. Hoosiers, loosely based on a real story, is a story of redemption with the backdrop of basketball. Former Storm Lake native Gene Hackman plays head coach Norman Dale who is tasked with coaching a team in the basketball crazy state.
The team is a mismatched bunch who loathe Dale’s pass based offense where they make an obscene amount of passes before they can shoot the ball. All of this changes midway through the movie when the local basketball “God”, Jimmy Chitwood, decides he wants to play again. Dale’s squad catches fire with Chitwood at the helm and history is made.
What makes this story so great is how Dale is able to find his redemption along with quite a few other characters, including Dennis Hooper’s character of Shooter. Hooper was amazing in his supporting role in this film, and I believe it won him a few awards for it as well. Hoosiers is just one of those great underdog movies, and isn’t overhyped like a certain story about a Notre Dame player, but that’s neither here nor there.
So here we are, at the last one, the last sports movie that will make this list. There are still so many great choices out there. We’ve covered football, boxing, MMA and basketball, so what should hit the list next? Baseball has produced some good movies, but nothing I would personally consider great. Sorry to all you fans of The Natural. So, why shy away from more controversy? The last movie I’m going to list is the film that relaunched the career of Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler.
Yes, some will debate if pro wrestling is a sport, but you know what? They do more than poker players athletically. So we’ll roll with it. The Wrestler is a mirror image of what Rourke went through in a way. He plays a broken down professional wrestler, Randy “The Ram” Robinson, who is past his prime seeing his heyday back in the 1980s in what seemed to be a little bit of “Hulk-a-mania.”
He keeps wrestling, and we’re shown “The Ram” getting into the wrestling ring, for $20 in front of maybe 100-200 people on weekends where he can do what he loves. During the week he’s just another face in the crowd working at a supermarket. Robinson struggles to keep his home, to keep himself relevant, and is mirrored with a stripper who is also up there in age, Cassidy. Eventually, Randy takes a few too many steroids and suffers a health setback which forces him to hang up the spandex.
The story escalates from there with his personal life and ends with somewhat of a cliffhanger ending which is up to the viewer to decide what happened. The movie came out of left-field to be a success. It was filmed with actual professional wrestling companies using their talent during shows, and the movie was filmed around the shows. The in-ring portion of the film will vary depending on how you feel about professional wrestling, but take notice of Randy’s hardcore match against the “Necro Butcher.” It might make a squeamish viewer a little uncomfortable.
The Wrestler is a rollercoaster of emotion that leaves the viewer attached to Randy, feeling for a man who was at the top of the mountain only to see it all crumble at his feet.
So there are the five movies you should keep an eye out for. Some of them are available on Netflix, but most should be pretty cheap to rent or buy. These five films will be sure to keep you inside and toasty warm while still getting your sports fix in.