There have been lots of incredible sports movies released in the last 30 or so years – Field Of Dreams, Bull Durham and Rudy all come to mind – but there wouldn’t have been a template for those if it were not for what came before.
We’ve already talked about 20 great movies from before our time. Now, it’s time for the ten best sports movies from before our time…
10.) Safe At Home! (1962) – We’re kicking things off with a bit of an obscure one, but this film – which revolves around a little leaguer who lies about knowing Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and then seeks to meet them – actually stars Mantle and Maris. As a die-hard Mets fan, this film is a tough one to include on the list, but the coolness of it can’t be denied. An added bonus? William Frawley (Fred from I Love Lucy) also stars. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a a good clip to do this one justice.
9.) Rocky II (1979) – Get used to the Rocky theme, because there’s more coming. The second installment, which features a rematch between Rocky and Apollo (and much better fighting scenes), more Burgess Meredith, and a tug-at-the-heartstrings family moment near the end, is incredible in its own right. And Rocky’s run through the streets of Philadelphia is amazing:
8.) All The Right Moves (1983) – Tom Cruise before he became a star – and before the madness of Scientology consumed him. Cruise stars as Stef Djordjevic, a high school senior who’s attempting to escape his western Pennsylvania steel-mill town on the strength of his football ability. A run-in with his coach (the appropriately prickly Craig T. Nelson) throws a wrench into those plans. The football scenes are raw and powerful, as is Cruise in his performance as Stef.
7.) Rocky III (1982) – As promised, more Rocky! Rocky III is the most off the wall of all the Rocky films, but it really does have everything. Hulk Hogan as Thunderlips (The Ultimate Male), Mr. T as the ferocious Clubber Lang, Rocky and Apollo becoming friends…This movie also features one of the best sports movie songs ever, Eye Of The Tiger.
Opening montage with Eye of the Tiger:
6.) The Pride Of The Yankees (1942) – Yup, another Yankees movie on the list of a die-hard Mets fan. It’s impossible to ignore this one, though. One of the best actors ever, Gary Cooper, starring as one of the best ballplayers ever, Lou Gehrig, whose career and life ended prematurely due to ALS.
The “Luckiest Man” speech:
5.) The Hustler (1961) – Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason at the height of their powers. Honestly, this blurb could end there. Newman stars as pool shark Fast Eddie Felson, with Gleason in the role of his adversary, Minnesota Fats. This film is dark, amazing and an absolute must-see.
Fast Eddie vs. Minnesota Fats:
4.) The Bad News Bears (1976) – Walter Matthau stars as a drunken former major league pitcher who begrudgingly takes the reigns of one of the worst little league teams ever. Featuring a star-making turn from young Tatum O’Neal, the film is hysterical, and has heart and an ending that most little leaguers grow up dreaming of emulating.
A motivational speech:
3.) Caddyshack (1980) – A young Chevy Chase at his most sarcastic, a young Billy Murray at his most weird, a little groundhog wreaking havoc, the legendary Rodney Dangerfield. And golf. Lots of golf. Caddyshack isn’t just one of the best sports movies ever, it’s one of the best comedies ever. So many classic scenes, so many classic lines.
Ty Webb (Chase) imparts his wisdom:
2.) Rocky (1976) – The film was an underdog story but so was the fact that it even got made. It was written by Sylvester Stallone and starred Stallone, who refused to sell his script unless he was allowed to play Rocky, the club fighter who is given a chance at the world title. Rocky transcended sports – turning Stallone into a star, winning best picture and spawning six sequels.
1.) Raging Bull (1980) – Like Caddyshack is one of the best comedies ever, Raging Bull is one of the best overall films ever. A true story, telling the tale of the troubled boxer Jake LaMotta, Raging Bull is directed by Martin Scorsese, stars Robert De Niro as Jake and Joe Pesci as his brother. The fight scenes here are the stuff of legend, as is each scene with De Niro, scarily channeling what LaMotta was like.
Jake vs. Sugar Ray: