In honor of “42,” the recently released Jackie Robinson biopic, 42 of my favorite sports movies, in no particular order, and certainly not comprehensive:
Breaking Away (released in 1979) — An overlooked gem featuring scenery familiar to anyone who has ever spent time in Bloomington.
The Wrestler (2008) — Terrific piece of acting by Mickey Rourke and the always-lovely Marisa Tomei.
The Big Year (2011) — A movie about bird watching starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. Box-office clunker, but it has its moments.
Major League (1989) — The most quotable baseball film ever made, with the possible exception of Bull Durham. I can still remember then-Greenfield-Central baseball coach Terry Fox yelling “Ole!” every time one of us booted a groundball during infield practice.
Other quotes: “I think someone’s been having some fun with you.”
“You trying to say Jesus Christ can’t hit a curve ball?”
“Well, you may run like Mays, but you hit like (expletive).”
Heaven Can Wait (1978) — Warren Beaty as an angel/millionaire/quarterback. The perfect role for Beaty, who also directed the film, and his alleged legendary ego.
The Last Boy Scout (1991) — The exact plot of this Bruce Willis/Damon Wayans action flick escapes me, but I recall Wayans riding a horse in the middle of a football field and throwing the ball so it intercepts a sniper’s bullet. Talk about hand-eye coordination.
Also, Halle Berry plays a stripper.
All The Right Moves (1983) — In back-to-back movies, Tom Cruise was intimate with Rebecca De Mornay on the subway (in Risky Business, released earlier in 1983), then shared a bed with pre-Howard the Duck Leah Thompson in ATRM.
Craig T. Nelson’s coach character in this high school football picture scared me to death as a 10-year-old. Maybe why I never played football.
Over the Top (1987) — If you ever find yourself in a professional arm wrestling tournament, wear a hat. Then, right before the big match, turn said hat backwards. You will not lose.
Quote: “I drive trucks, break arms, and arm wrestle. It’s what I love to do, it’s what I do best.”
Chariots of Fire (1981) — I believe this movie featured some possibly British marathoners in a build up to the Olympics. What we all remember, of course, is the musical score from the running-on-the-beach scene.
Personal Best (1982) — Mariel Hemingway in peak condition. Nextflix it.
Stir Crazy (1980) — Bull riding is central to the plot in which the characters played by Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder break out of prison. The scene featuring Pryor and Wilder sharing a tiny jail cell with Grossberger is worth the rent alone.
Stroker Ace (1983) — Burt Reynolds in a chicken suit. Also starring Jim Nabors.
Six Pack (1982) — Confession: As a boy, Kenny Rogers was my favorite singer. Enough time has passed that I can say, without bias, that this film featuring Rogers as a NASCAR drive with six tag-along kids isn’t all bad.
The movie featured footage from actual NASCAR races, which made for believable tension in the climax.
The Bad News Bears (1976) — Walter Matthau as a Grumpy Old Manager 17 years before he was part of Grumpy Old Men.
Hoosiers (1986) — I always wondered why the Gene Hackman and Barbara Hershey characters never completed what seemed to be a hint of flirtation. I learned later that scenes completing the romantic angle between the two were cut for time.
Space Jam (1995) — The first movie I ever attempted to take my daughter to. She was two-years-old. We lasted 10 minutes. Oh, to be a young foolish parent.
Semi-Pro (2008) — Will Ferrell’s take on the ABA.
Also, someone want to explain to me why Bobby “Slick” Leonard isn’t in the basketball hall of fame?
The Hurricane (1999) — Well done true story starring Denzel Washington as Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a promising boxer wrongly imprisoned for 20 years on a triple-homicide conviction.
Benji (2012) — Not a full-length feature film, but this ESPN 30 for 30 piece chronicles the tragic tale of Ben Wilson, the nation’s top high school basketball player who was shot dead in Chicago in 1984.
Kingpin (1996) — Bill Murray with wildly fantastic combover. A one-armed (and bowling) Woody Harrelson. The underrated Randy Quaid.
The Big Lebowski (1998) — Another epic bowling-related flick, Dude.
Rocky (1976) — One of several emotionally moving scenes, the kind of which are no longer associated with Sylvester Stallone movies: When Mickey (Burgess Meredith) offers to train Rocky (Stallone) for the fight against Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), and Rocky angrily turns him down.
Rocky II (1979) — Quote: “I feel like a Kentucky fried idiot.” — Rocky, after Mickey has him train by chasing chickens.
Rocky III (1982) — This movie has it all: Mr. T, Hulk Hogan, death, Rocky and Apollo in an extremely awkward man-hug on the beach.
Quote: “There is no tomorrow! THERE IS NO TOMORROW! THERE IS NO TOMORROW!”
Rocky IV (1985) — Of all of Apollo Creed’s nicknames — The Master of Disaster, The King of Sting, The Dancing Destroyer, The Prince of Punch, The One and Only — my favorite is The Count of Monte Fisto.
Raging Bull (1980) — At his best, there’s no better actor than Bobby De Niro. Of note, De Niro and Stallone are currently filming a movie together where they play — you guessed it — boxers. “Grudge Match” is scheduled for a 2014 release.
Every Which Way But Loose (1978) and Any Which Way You Can (1980) — Of all of the Clint Eastwood (as Philo Beddoe, one of the all-time great movie names), street brawling, cross-dressing orangutan movies ever made, these were certainly the best.
Quote: “Right turn, Clyde.”
Millior Dollar Baby (2004) — If your eyes don’t tear up at least a little at the end of this movie, you’re not human.
The Hammer (2007) — Adam Carolla as a 40-year-old carpenter who unexpectedly gets a chance to tryout for the U.S. Olympic Team. If you haven’t seen it (and chances are, you haven’t), it’s worth your time.
The Descent (2005) — We’ll count cave-exploring as a sport so that we can get a horror film on this list. The first time the white, creepy underground dweller popped into frame, I jumped a foot.
Debbie Does Dallas (1978) — Still not as obscene as Jerry Jones’ plastic surgery.
The Hustler (1961) — Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason and George C. Scott were nominated for Oscars in this pool-hall drama. Three acting titans at their zeniths.
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004) — Quote: “Dodgeball is a sport of violence, exclusion, and degradation.”
Victory (1981) — Stallone as the shortest goalkeeper in the history of competitive soccer.
Caddyshack (1980) — Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield kill it in this movie, but Ted Knight really puts it over the top as the stuffy Judge Smails.
Quote: “Check me if I’m wrong Sandy, but if I kill all the golfers, they’re gonna lock me up and throw away the key.”
Happy Gilmore (1996) — Before Adam Sandler had driven portraying mentally-challenged man-boys six feet into the ground, he gave us a Bob Barker fistfight.
Quote: “The price is wrong, (expletive)!”
American Anthem (1986) — In terms of quality storytelling, by far the worst movie on this list. (Internet Movie Database rating: A charitable 2.9, out of 10). But Janet Jones as a gymnast left a certain impression on this then-13-year-old.
Seabiscuit (2003) — Jeff Bridges never fails to deliver, and he and Tobey Maguire brought a Depression-era story to life.
Slap Shot (1977) — Best Quotes: None which are suitable for print. According to the IMBD, the swearing in the film, by 1977 standards, was considered so foul, advertisements contained an additional warning underneath the R rating: “Certain language may be too strong for children.”
PG quote: “That man traveled 15 hours by bus to say that?”
The Karate Kid (1984) — Pat Morita was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Mr. Miagi.
Quote: “This is a karate dojo, not a knitting class. You don’t come into my dojo, drop a challenge and leave, old man. Now you get your boy on the mat, or you and I will have a major problem.”
Summer Rental (1985) — John Candy enters a boat race and uses his pants as a sail. He was not nominated for an Oscar.
The Deep (1977) — A follow-up of sorts to Jaws, this flick, based on a Peter Benchley novel, stars Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset underwater divers in a dangerous conflict with treasure hunters.
I didn’t catch this movie featuring Bisset mostly in a bikini until several years after it was released. A large portion of my teenage movie commentary clearly weighed heavily the proportion of attractive females to total run time.
Brian Harmon is sports editor of The Daily Reporter. Contact him at (317) 477-3227 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.