In past articles, I listed my favorite sports movies of all time for baseball, football, and contact sports—like MMA and boxing. That leaves me to my next challenge—naming my 10 favorite movies that are not just about the sports listed. So when it comes to basketball, hockey, golf, etc… what are they?
There are plenty of basketball movies out there, of course. Yet, I haven’t seen too many of them. Those I have seen, however, are certainly popular. I’ve watched several golf movies. Heck, I’ve even seen a competitive bodybuilding documentary which centered on a future California governor. So let’s get to my favorite other sports Top 10, alright?
10. The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh (1979)
What would this list be without having a movie filmed in my hometown? I remember when this film came out. Though, I’m not sure I watched the entire flick. All I remember is that it was about a basketball team that was not very good. So, they adopted the idea of a young kid who said they should put together a roster of all players who shared the astrological sign of Pisces. They did just that and suddenly, the team’s success takes off. I’d watch it again for laughs, but it’s definitely not a movie that many will remember.
9. Kingpin (1996)
This next movie was also filmed in the ‘Burgh. The sport is bowling as Bill Murray shares the big screen with Woody Harrelson and Randy Quaid. Think “Groundhog Day” as it’s that type of comedy. This one is a little sillier perhaps, but it still promises plenty of laughs. Harrelson is the promising pro bowler who loses a thumb. His career fades as a result. Meanwhile, Murray is the “kingpin” of the pro bowlers. Used in the film is the exact venue where I used to go bowling as a youth. Fun movie.
8. Pumping Iron (1977)
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career began as a professional bodybuilder. Then he discovered acting and eventually entered the political arena where he incredibly became Governor of California. All the while, never losing that European accent. Where it all began is with this documentary—specifically about his bodybuilding competitions focusing mainly on his mental warfare with Lou Ferrigno. The movie can be dark in some scenes and it’s a bit on the seedy side too. But if you want to know what professional body-building is all about, here’s the movie for you. Once very popular and on regular television many weekends, bodybuilding is hardly heard about or spoken on these days.
7. Rollerball (1975)
This movie is one of many that had a remake done. But the original with James Caan has a plot based on the future. (Incredibly, it was supposed to be 2018—next year!) Just think roller derby because that is what is used for the playing field of the sport. Then it’s putting a metal ball in a hole and the other team trying to prevent that. It’s a violent movie that also involves rich corporations and their attempt to control many things—including the players. Equipment includes skates, motorcycles, spiked gloves and other body armor.
In the real world, this sport could never happen simply because so much focus is placed these days on player safety and this movie strays very far from that.
6. Breaking Away (1979)
When I reviewed baseball movies, I listed “Bad News Bears.” In it, actor Jackie Earle Haley played the badass baseball player Kelly Leak. In a close resemblance for this movie three years later, his character for this role was Moocher. It’s the outcast lower income boys from the ‘hood competing against the wealthier well-to-do boys from inside Bloomington, Indiana—focusing on competitive bicycling.
Actor Dennis Christopher is the best rider of the three other teenagers hanging around with Moocher. Christopher’s character Dave aspires to be like the Italian national team who comes to his town. The accolades for this film stretch far and wide, including the 1979 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. It also received four other nominations. Christopher won the 1979 BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer and the 1979 Young Artist Award for Best Juvenile Actor as well as a Golden Globe nomination as New Star of the Year.
The American Film Institute ranked Breaking Away eighth on their list of 100 Most Inspiring Movies.
5. White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
Time to hit the hardwoods, outdoor style. Basketball is the theme of this movie, but in the hustling sense. Woody Harrelson appears again, but this time as a hot-shot basketball player who doesn’t want to work for a living but rather hit neighborhood basketball courts in an effort to scam other players. Rosie Perez is along for the ride as the girlfriend who hates what Billy Hoyle (Harrison) does.
Wesley Snipes is a competitor-turned -teammate of Hoyle who tries to one-up Harrelson in hustling. A fun movie with laughs, crime and loads of money lost. The theme of the movie—taken from the title—is that because of his skin color, Harrelson uses it to his advantage to make competitors think he can’t play basketball worth a lick.
4. Victory (1981)
Sylvester Stallone could dominate the fight sports movies with all his Rocky chapters, but he makes an appearance here in a soccer movie. The original name of the movie was “Escape to Victory” but most know it by one word—Victory. Stallone and his buddies, prisoners of war during WWII, take on a German team. Unbeknownst to the prison where they were being held, an escape was being planned.
Starring with Stallone are Michael Caine, Max von Sydow and one of soccer’s greats—Pele. Other players that made an appearance in the film and they are: Bobby Moore, Osvaldo Ardiles, Kazimierz Deyna, Paul Van Himst, Mike Summerbee, Hallvar Thoresen and Werner Roth. John Houston directed. It was a really good war movie with a great ending.
3. Hoosiers (1986)
While White Men Can’t Jump is about scammers, Hoosiers is based partly on a true story about underdogs. And, inspired play by a high school basketball team. As the film failed to win any major awards, it did get selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the United States National Film Registry for its portrayal of being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Think of this movie as the “Remember the Titans” of basketball.
2. Caddyshack (1980)
One of the all-time funny sports movies—if not the best sports comedy ever—Caddyshack had several actors that stood out in a big way. You have Bill Murray as the groundsman, who spends the movie trying to kill a gopher. There’s Chevy Chase, who tries to be Mr. Cool. Ted Knight plays Mr. Innocence, and repeatedly gets offended by the biggest star of the movie—the late Rodney Dangerfield—who is downright hilarious. It’s an all-around slapstick comedy that has survived the test of time for 37 years.
1. Blue Chips (1994)
When you watch the movie Blue Chips, you get a fictional story that has truth to it in real college basketball. The movie involves cheating in college sports. And, boosters making sure players get perks in exchange for their talents on the court so the school can be a winner. It happens all the time and Blue Chips paints an excellent picture of how it works.
NBA stars Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway have starring roles with Nick Nolte playing the Head Coach. Making spot appearances in the film are those such as Bobby Knight, Rick Pitino, Nolan Richardson, Bob Cousy, Larry Bird, Jerry Tarkanian, Matt Painter, Allan Houston, Dick Vitale, Jim Boeheim and Bobby Hurley. While those men play themselves, Nolte’s team is fictional as the Western University Dolphins are based in Los Angeles. Excellent movie.
Now for the “consolation” movies.
Most people think this movie is extremely funny. But the funny thing is, I saw it so long ago that when I tried to watch it again, it wasn’t so humorous.
The Cutting Edge (1992)
A bit of a cheesy movie, The Cutting Edge is centered around a figure skating star (Kate Moseley in the movie played by Moira Kelly) vying for the Olympics but who has trouble keeping partners due to her being spoiled her entire life. The prima donna attitude doesn’t help, as you’ll soon find out.
Along comes pro hockey player Doug Dorsey (D.B. Sweeney) who is forced into retirement because of a head injury. The two make for an improbable pair, of course. But tough guy Sweeney must learn the ins and outs of dancing on ice after boarding other players in the game of hockey. It’s actually a bit of a funny movie, doing enough to keep you entertained.
So, what do you think? Are there any movies we missed? Sound off below! And for more from Harv Aronson, check out his website!