Five Sports Movies Our Staff Love

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The best movies tell unforgettable stories and introduce us to legendary characters and performances. So it is no surprise that in a culture obsessed with sports, some of the best films of all time are about them. Sports prove that truth is indeed better than fiction quite often–you will notice below and on any list of sports movies how many are based on or inspired by true stories. Movies, for their part, make us interested in sports we as Americans often are not obsessed with, like boxing, karate and hockey. The two together have given us exceptional entertainment.

Today our staff discusses five sports films that we love. This is not a Top Five list; just five selections that impacted us deeply…as sports fans (most of us), moviegoers and human beings that love to be inspired.

 

Chariots of Fire by Ben Plunkett

I can’t remember exactly when or where I first saw The Chariots of Fire. All I know for sure is that it was in the first half of the 80s. My best friend at the time later said he stopped watching immediately when the first shot was of a bunch of guys running down the beach in their underwear. But I went against the norm of kids in my age bracket and watched the whole thing. It remains one of the most inspirational movies I have ever seen. (Not the best, in my opinion, although it is excellent). I remember in the months afterward I would pretend to be Eric Liddel, running in one of the first races we see him in. He’s doing really well, but then another racer pushes him down to the side of the track. He falls with a crash and his race seems over. But then he gets up, runs like a chariot of fire, passes all the runners who are all way ahead of him, and runs like a beast to against all odds win the race. I’d put on our Chariots of Fire record and run in slow motion around the living room, dramatically falling and rising in strategic places. That particular Liddel story isn’t the only great and inspirational moment in the film, though, not by a long shot. All the details surrounding the 1924 Olympics are legendary. The movie inspired me to be a runner. Yeah, that didn’t really pan out.

Most inspirational of all to me as a Christian was Liddel’s Christian strength eximplified perfectly throughout the whole movie, especially at the Olympics. It is also inspirational to know that after the events of the movie he left his successful running career to be a missionary in China.

 

The Sandlot by Allen Pointer

My favorite film, not just favorite sports film, is Chariots of Fire. Eric Liddell is one of my heroes.
My sleeper sports film? Victory. I saw it when it was released during my high school years and it was epic.

Someone beat me to both of these films.

So that leaves me to write about another film that I have grown to love that I had never seen until last year.

The Sandlot.

Nostalgic. Great retro Los Angeles Angels cap, and a KC Monarchs Negro League cap as well. Playing ball all day long. All of the names for Babe Ruth. James Earl Jones. What is not to love?

But my favorite part by far is when Benny brings Smalls into the group. A shy, awkward young man is saved by the kindness of the star of the team. While everyone else is making fun, Benny allows a young man entrance into the most important team in the world, located at the local sandlot. Consumed by a love of baseball, he looks beyond that to do the decent thing, and through an extra ball glove and cap includes someone starving for belonging in the group that matters the most.

I am glad that I finally watched The Sandlot.

 

Field of Dreams by Phill Lytle

What do you get when you combine two of my favorite things – sports and fantasy? You get one of my favorite films – Field of Dreams. I love everything about this film. I love the premise – the out-of-his-depth farmer hearing voices in his corn field telling him to build a baseball field in their place. I love the performances – Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, Amy Madigan, and Burt Lancaster all create believable and interesting characters. The music is appropriately winsome when needed and epic when called for. While some baseball purists huff and puff about the accuracy of the players and if they are batting and throwing with the correct hand, those things are minor details in the grand picture. The film is about heart, inspiration, and grand gestures. It’s never meant to be a realistic portrayal of baseball or family dynamics. It’s a fantasy story built around a baseball diamond in a corn field. Where ghosts of great players come to play. And sons are reunited and reconciled with their long deceased fathers. It’s beautiful and life-affirming stuff and I enjoy it more every time I watch it.



Rudy by Gowdy Cannon

I played basketball in high school, but being 5’10 and 135 lbs, I realized by my 10th-grade year I had to abandon the dream of playing in the ACC. So you can see how a real life story-turned-movie like that of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger would captivate me.

Let there be no doubt that some of the supporting roles are memorable: a baby-faced Vince Vaughn, an endearing and relateable Jon Favreau and a heart-wrenching performance by Charles S. Dutton as Fortune. When he slow claps at the end before walking off, I want to stand up and clap for him. Every time.

But not many movies this good relied quite so heavily on the lead as Rudy. Sean Astin has had roles as glorious as Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings movies and as ridiculous as Bill the Speedo-wearing swim instructor in Adam Sandler’s Click. In Rudy, he gives a masterpiece that will be what I associate with his name the rest of his life.

There are the obvious emotional moments near the end of the movie that make it great–when the Notre Dame players one by one give up their jerseys in the coach’s office (which didn’t really happen but was an excellent touch of dramatic license), and when they start the famous “RU-DY!” chant near the end of the final game. But there are two moments that I cherish deep in my heart that are less famous but equally as meaningful: when he gets rejected by Notre Dame to be a student for the third time and he balls the letter up and bangs his head against the wall, and when he finally makes it onto Notre Dame’s practice squad and is getting his brains beat out and keeps getting up and challenging the offensive linemen: “I’m a defensive lineman from Purdue!” Those are what make Rudy special: perseverance despite failure, pain and every reason in the world to quit.

Rudy does not culminate in a magical moment of winning like in Miracle or an epic individual center stage performance as in Rocky. All Rudy did was make a meaningless sack after finally getting on the field. Yet it was way bigger than that. It was about real world inspiration from a man whose heart was too big to ever give up. That is why they carried him off the field in real life. And that is why this movie is on our list today.

 

Victory by Nathan Patton

Most of the people to whom I’ve mentioned the movie Victory (or Escape to Victory as it’s known across the pond) have never heard of it. Those who have didn’t like it. It’s a favorite in my house though.

It’s a war movie that I can actually show my kids. Of course it’s not completely realistic, but I’m also not having to send them to a therapist after it’s over.

The great Sir Michael Caine and Sylvester “Sly” Stallone aren’t really believable as world class soccer players, but they’re loveable and fun to watch, and the movie is full of some of the greatest soccer players of all time, including Pele and Bobby Moore.

The basic plot is that a German officer arranges for allied prisoners to play a friendly soccer match with some of the guards at a POW camp in France, just for fun. It gets caught up in the Nazi propaganda machine and becomes a match between the best of the Allied POW players from all over Nazi occupied territory (mostly famous soccer players before the war) and the German national team in Paris, intending to show that the Nazis are superior. Intermingled throughout are escape plots and attempts. It is loosely based on an actual match played between a Ukrainian team and the German team during World War II.

Yes, it does share some similarities to The Longest Yard, except, of course, that it’s about a sport that actually matters…

What is your favorite? Share with us below!

 

Gowdy Cannon

I am the pastor of the bilingual ministry of Northwest Community Church in Chicago. Our church is intentional in trying to bring English and Spanish speakers together in worship and community. My wife, Kayla, and I have been married two years. I teach ESL (English as a Second Language) classes to adult immigrants in my community. I am, at times, a student at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago. I love The USC (the real one in SC, not the other one in CA), Seinfeld, John 3:30, Chic-Fil-A, Dumb and Dumber, the book of Job, preaching and teaching, and arguing about sports.

20 thoughts on “Five Sports Movies Our Staff Love

  • September 8, 2017 at 1:14 pm
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    “What?? Where is ‘Raging Bull’??” –So many people every time we put out a 5 like this.

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  • September 8, 2017 at 2:25 pm
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    I’ll throw a few faves out there, in no particular order: The Rookie, Remember the Titans, Cool Runnings, 42, Hoosiers, Second String, Little Big League.

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    • September 8, 2017 at 3:35 pm
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      I meant to make an honorable mention of Cool Runnings. That movie makes me cry every time…

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      • September 8, 2017 at 10:47 pm
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        I’m on the Cool Runnings bandwagon. I cry too. Mainly at the very end when it says they returned 4 years later…as equals. And then it shows their picture being put up.

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  • September 8, 2017 at 9:16 pm
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    I’ve seen several of the movies you reviewed. Good choices. To them I’ s had “Hoosiers” and “Pride of the Yankees.” Someone mentioned “Remember the Titans,” which is very high on my list. I watched it on a flight back from France and cried during the last several minutes.

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  • September 10, 2017 at 9:54 pm
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    “victory” is my favorite. Pepe is like if Michael Jordan was in a movie playing basketball against Nazis.

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  • September 12, 2017 at 9:25 am
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    I didn’t want to get into the heated discussion on “The Facebook,” but I agree mostly with my brother, Jeff. Your list here really is embarrassing when considering the plethora of great sports movies that have been made. Maybe you guys were going for the click-bait, shock-factor method when writing this article, but methinks you went overboard just a little. The clause “movies our staff love” is where I can’t agree. Does anyone truly “love” sitting through 2 hours of Rudy? Or 2 hours of Kevin Costner walking around in the middle of corn fields? (It’s not even his best sports film. Give me Tin Cup or McFarland USA any day). I have never seen “Victory” so I can’t say anything against it. But my guess is that there’s about 7 billion other people on planet Earth that haven’t seen it either. My point…pick a movie most people have actually heard of. But where you really lose me is with “The Sandlot.” Was this article written by a bunch of 10 year old boys from Williamsport, PA? I understand the nostalgia of it, but the fact that a grown man would admit his “love” for that movie astounds me. Plus, you have 2 baseball movies, 1 hockey movie (not named “Miracle”) and one almost-football movie. No basketball, or real football, or boxing? I really am incredibly disappointed.

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    • September 12, 2017 at 9:41 am
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      David needs a nap.

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      • September 12, 2017 at 10:17 am
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        Ha! How did you know?

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    • September 12, 2017 at 9:44 am
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      And for my serious response:

      I can sit through 2 hours of Rudy and Field of Dream anytime. I love both of those movies, and so do many, many other people.

      BTW, we never write/publish articles as click-bait. Ever. Sometimes we deal with controversial stuff, but it is always because we are passionate about that topic, not because we think it would generate a lot of views. We have even not written about certain topics because we were afraid it would be viewed as click-bait.

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      • September 12, 2017 at 11:15 am
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        I have only watched Field of Dreams 1 time through from start to finish ever. I have tried multiple times since, but have fallen asleep each time. It is a horrible movie. Rudy I have seen about 3 times from start to finish, the last time was my first year out of college as a mindless 22 year old. Now some 12+ years later, I never intend to watch it again.

        As for the actual integrity of the REO staff, I know you guys don’t do click-bait stuff. That comment was meant as a joke. But your list here is still embarrassingly terrible.

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        • September 12, 2017 at 11:23 am
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          I’m going to watch both of them tonight. So there!

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  • September 12, 2017 at 10:09 am
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    My wife and I have been in So IL the last few days and we went to the local Wal-Mart. I went to be a supportive husband but when we walked in they had Rudy on TV. And Kayla looked at me as if to say, “Go ahead.” And while she did her usual time of shopping I stood glued to Rudy, completely unaware of my surroundings for probably 30 minutes. Like Rocky, Rudy tells a story. A poignant and inspirational story that is about the journey and not the destination (you know, since one guy loses and the other gets one tackle that didn’t matter to the game result). They are so perpendicular to the 4G internet/instant gratification/got to have it now generation. This will be a movie I show my children every football season (assuming I can find a version where Favreau doesn’t say GD several times).

    As far as the Sandlot, I guess Allen now joins Phill and me on the short list of candidates for the most vicious insult received on REO. LOL. The last few weeks people have brought the heat in the comments section!

    Also I echo Phill on the click bait nature of this website. Occasionally I will make the title something intriguing to help get attention but this title was literally, “Five Sports Movies Our Staff Love”. And that is exactly what the article is.

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    • September 12, 2017 at 11:38 am
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      Just the thought of Gowdy standing in Walmart glued to the TV for 30 minutes unaware of his surroundings is enough to get me to laugh. People were probably watching him watch Rudy for 30 minutes. That would have been extremely entertaining, infinitely more so than the actual movie Rudy.

      While I agree with you on the “inspiration” Rudy Ruettiger should give all of us, it really seems more like he wasted his time to me. Call me heartless, but he should’ve spent more of his time developing his skills where he could’ve actually used them. While I admire hard work and determination, the idea that “You can do anything you set your mind to” is completely false and selfish. At some point, you need to train for something you can make a difference in. Giving false hope to yourself and many other young people is not necessarily a good thing IMO. Just my take on it. So I never plan on showing my children Rudy.

      Again, my click-bait comment was meant as a joke. You guys are great. I really enjoy reading your stuff, no matter how vehemently I disagree with your take on sports-related matters.

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      • September 12, 2017 at 11:50 am
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        He got a degree from a very good school while he was “wasting” his time. I don’t see how that is a bad thing. Plus, he never thought he would be a star in college football. He just wanted to be on the team and get on the field at least once.

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        • September 12, 2017 at 12:07 pm
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          I once read after a wise man who said, “All is vanity and vexation of spirit.”

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          • September 12, 2017 at 4:10 pm
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            To believe that Rudy didn’t make a difference is to totally misundetstand the movie. His platform is much more huge than if he would’ve quit football and focused his college energies on majoring in accounting.

            People who don’t make a difference don’t get movies made about them.

            I get it’s foolish for everyone to try this. But the fact not everyone can do it is exactly why it’s special. I hope anyone can take away from it that perseverance in spite failure and pain is admirable.

            But not to get too far from the goal of this list, I hasten to add that even though it’s mostly a true story it’s still a movie in my mind and I won’t be showing it my kids as a documentary.

          • September 12, 2017 at 8:14 pm
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            I understand your point, Gowdy. I just think those types of against-all-odds stories are much more meaningful for a story about something more important than sports, especially when the person is just living in a dream world. If I want a story like that, I’ll read (or watch) “Unbroken” or “Hacksaw Ridge,” not “Rudy.”

  • September 12, 2017 at 10:11 am
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    Oh and I love the fact that Allen and Michael W above both echoed the greatness of Victory. I haven’t seen it but I respect their opinions.

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  • September 12, 2017 at 12:13 pm
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    We are going to do another one of these and my next movie I pick is going to be much more controversial than Field of Dreams (which is on almost any Top 25 list you can find). I wonder how some will react…

    Reply

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