Rocky is one of the best examples of a sports movie, but Sylvester Stallone has recently noted that it isn’t a sports movie at all. It’s hard to argue with the actor considering that he wrote the classic movie, but Rocky is a sports film in every sense of the genre, and it even essentially started the twist of the protagonist losing.
In the wake of Rocky, only a few movies have been brave enough to depict the heroic sportsman or team failure after two hours of their training and preparing for the biggest event of their lives. Whether it’s boxing, bowling, or bobsledding, these films subverted the sports cliché of the protagonists winning.
Kingpin is way overlooked when it comes to debating great sports movies, and that might be because it isn’t the typical melodrama that sports movies tend to be. Instead, the movie, which is about skilled bowler Roy Munson who gets his bowling hand crippled, is one of the funniest comedies of the 1990s.
However, Roy still manages to bowl years later with a rubber hand, and he enters a contest where he stands to win $1 million and beat his opponent, who happens to be the very person who damaged his hand. And, surprisingly, the film still packs a surprisingly emotional punch, as Roy loses the tournament by just one pin.
In 2009, actor Drew Barrymore tried her hand at directing, as she was in the director’s chair for the comedy sports drama Whip It. The movie follows teenager Bliss Cavendar who joins a roller derby team, and despite not having the support of her mother and going through the typical teenager hardships, she still follows her dream.
The result is one of the best movies from an actor-turned-director, which is mostly due to how Barrymore manages to turn what should be a crushing and heartbreaking moment into something more optimistic and heartfelt. Though Bliss’s team loses the championship match, they still bond as a team and even chant, “We’re number two!”
Being an upbeat and fun Disney sports movie, Cool Runnings is full of comedy and high spirits, but it doesn’t exactly follow the same formula as The Mighty Ducks or any other Disney sports movie where the protagonists breezily win. The 1993 movie is based on the real-life Jamaican bobsled team that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics against all odds.
But while they impressed and surprised millions, the bobsled upturned and they lost, but they still finished the race by carrying the sled over the finishing line. Cool Runnings is one of the best movies based on a true story, and while the team didn’t return home with any medals, they are still heroes to thousands of 90s kids.
Rocky is Sylvester Stallone’s best movie, as it proved that he was not just a great actor but a great writer too, and he single-handedly started a billion-dollar franchise. But there hasn’t been a movie in the series that comes close to recapturing the magic of the original Rocky.
The film is a sports movie unlike any other, as it follows the titular character as he trains and puts everything he has into his fight with Apollo Creed, only to end up not being remotely triumphant. The character’s struggle throughout the film was all for nothing, but it makes the movie that much more impactful. Not only that, but it made Rocky’s comeback in the sequel that much more spectacular.
The ending of the Clint Eastwood-directed Million Dollar Baby makes the end of Rocky look like the world’s greatest champion, as not only does Maggie lose her final fight, but her whole world comes crashing down around her. After being knocked out, she becomes a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic, and she then needs her leg amputated when it gets infected.
The film has a morbid and emotionally exhausting ending, as Maggie asks Frankie to kill her because she doesn’t think there’s any point in living if she can’t fight. Million Dollar Baby isn’t exactly a thrilling sports flick, but it’s a compelling and wonderful sports drama with a female lead.
On paper, a movie about Cheerleaders doesn’t exactly sound like it’d be an exciting sports movie, especially not when looking at how many poor-quality direct-to-video sequels have followed. But the very first Bring It On is such a fun teen comedy, and viewers surprisingly get caught up in the competitiveness of the sport.
The movie sees the movie heroes Toros compete against their rivals, the Clovers, in the championship contest and end up narrowly losing. And as is the cliche at the end of sports movies where the “villain” team has a newfound respect for the underdog winners, the same thing happens in Bring It On.
While it isn’t saying much, as it’s such a niche subgenre and not many of them are highly regarded, Tin Cup is the best movie about golf. The romantic sports flick is about a golf prodigy who makes it to the end of the U.S. Open, only to repeatedly fail the same shot several times over and lose the tournament.
While not always winning is the most realistic thing that can happen in a sports movie, almost everything else about Tin Cup is hilariously unrealistic. Roy makes a play for his therapist and the two end up dating, and that’s the worst possible thing a therapist could do, but it makes for a great romantic comedy.
1988 was a huge year for unprecedented events at the Olympic Games. Along with the Jamaican bobsled team, Michael Edwards was the first British skier to represent Great Britain in 60 years. And just like the Jamaican team, Edwards was a complete underdog. Eddie the Eagle depicts the way the skier struggled to fit in with other skiers, having been rejected by other skiing groups and officials for years, but with several English records under his belt he finally makes it to the Olympics.
However, after being warned to wait four years until the next games, so he can practice more, Eddie doesn’t listen, and he ends up coming last in the event. But the film is still inspiring, as Edwards said from the age of 10 that he was going to compete in the Olympics, and though he didn’t win, his dream still came true.
Moneyball isn’t about baseball players, and it hardly even dramatizes winning and losing games until the very end. Instead, it’s about the strategy of teams choosing which players to buy, which makes it stand out as original in a sea of dozens of run-of-the-mill baseball movies.
The film is the perfect example of a team going from zero to hero, as Billy Beane turns The Athletics into an incredible team by hiring great but unknown players with a tiny budget. However, The Athletics still lose to the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division, but it’s still a huge achievement for a team that was originally struggling so much.
Samuel L. Jackson always spits the best putdowns and hurls the best insults with his commanding voice. And in movies like Pulp Fiction and The Hateful Eight, he even gives epic speeches that simply humiliate people. But with such a command of the English language and incredible line deliveries, he can give just as empowering and uplifting speeches, audiences just don’t see them as often.
Coach Carter sees the titular character (Jackson) giving some of the greatest monologues to his high school basketball team and turns them from a group of adolescents into high achievers. The team loses their final game, but Carter and his boys still take comfort in the fact that they achieved their academic goals.
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