The Olympics, the biggest sporting event in the world, has just finished and to celebrate this, and Team GB’s incredible second place in the medal table, this weeks Top 5 tackles Sport films. I am joined by my friend, and F1 and Newcastle United fanatic, William Ingram (his previous Top 5 Animated Films can be found here and he is on twitter here). There are so many great films about a wide array of sports (I could, and may do, an entire list just about boxing films) so some big ones have had to miss out. Things like Raging Bull, Warrior, Escape To Victory, Moneyball, Dodgeball, The Fighter, Cool Runnings, or Goal are amongst my favourites, but couldn’t quite be fitted into this list. So here are our Top 5 Sport Films.
- Shuggie: Caddyshack – Golf is easily my least favourite sport in existence, both to watch and to play. However, Caddyshack is a comedy sports film rather than a straightforward sport film, and the fact that it nails the comedy side means it still makes it into my Top 5. With some brilliant jokes and some great performances from Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, and of course the incomparable Bill Murray. Whilst the golf story is funny and entertaining the best aspect of the film is easily Bill Murray’s character Carl Spackler trying to deal with the course’s gopher infestation. As this rapidly escalates throughout the film it gets funnier and funnier, helped by Murray’s brilliant performance, until it ends with him rigging most of the course up with plastic explosives. And how can you not love a film that ends with the line “Hey everybody, we’re all gonna get laid!”?
- Will: Horse Feathers – A Marx Brothers classic from 1932 which focusses on how the four brothers cause mayhem at the local college after they enlist to join the American Football team. Groucho, Chico and Harpo deliver all the terrible puns and slapstick comedy anyone could want. And Zeppo is there too. The film ultimately boils down to its hilarious conclusion which the Brothers win the game with clever tactics, banana skins and a car. Anything further, father? Or is it anything father, further?
- Shuggie: Eddie the Eagle – The groundwork for this 2016 film about British ski jumper Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards was really laid in the 1993 film Cool Runnings, which both tell fairly similar underdog stories about the 1988 Winter Olympics. It was actually a hard choice between the two, but I’ve plumped for this more recent effort in large part thanks to a wonderful transformative performance from Taron Egerton. Eddie the Eagle is a bit of a cult hero in British sport, and whilst this film may not have been a completely factual retelling of his life story it is still a really touching and uplifting film. The dynamic between Egerton’s Eddie and Hugh Jackman’s gruff coach Bronson Perry is one of my favourite character dynamics this year. Eddie the Eagle was a great little film that many people may have missed, but offered humour, heart, and a great time to those who did see it.
- Will: Goal! – Telling the tale of Mexican footballer Santiago Muñez, Goal is the heart warming story of Muñez as he battles against adversity to succeed in chasing his dream to become a professional footballer. Featuring cameos from many Premier League stars (including Alan Shearer amongst others) and a packed St James’ Park, Goal is a convincing story which ultimately delivers what all football fans want to see – Liverpool losing to a last minute screamer. The fact Santiago turns out for Newcastle United is just an added bonus in what is genuinely a very good sports film which manages to feel sincere despite hitting most underdog story clichés.
- Shuggie: Rush – Surely a film about Formula 1 couldn’t work. Well no one told Ron Howard, as he managed to make a really compelling and exciting film. Telling the story of James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) as they battled it out for the 1976 F1 championship, Rush encompasses a great personal rivalry between these two men, who could not have been more different, but still had a huge respect for one another. It also has a brilliant focus on the sport, as this was one of the most remarkable stories in F1 history, with a championship battle that went right to end, despite a horrible injury to Lauda. A brilliant sports film, a great human drama, and a performance from Hemsworth that lifted him above just being the beefy guy from Thor.
- Will: Chariots of Fire – It’s Olympic season and Chariots of Fire must surely be the most iconic film depicting these incredible games. Although most famous for an incredible soundtrack and the scene on the beach, this film offers plenty more. Telling the fact-based story of two British athletes as they prepare for the 1924 Paris Olympics, Chariots of Fire showcases what the Olympic spirit was originally intended, with amateurs competing at the highest level. Abrahams and Liddell are the two stars and both have compelling stories behind the running, ultimately culminating in the devout Christian Liddell refusing to run the 100m final as it’s held on a Sunday. As inspiring as its memorable theme, it’s no surprise it was so heavily referenced in the build up to London 2012.
- Shuggie: The Damned United – Sometimes a film comes along that is about one of your personal heroes, such was the case with the Damed United and the greatest football manager ever, Brian Clough. Based on the book of the same name by David Peace, the film tells the story of his 44 days in charge of Leeds United and his hugely successful if tumultuous time at Derby County. What really helps this film stand out is the incredible central performance by Michael Sheen as Brian Clough and Ralf Spall as his assistant manager, everywhere but Leeds, Peter Taylor. The film is really about the relationship between the two as much as it is Clough’s story. And it is a lovely and heartfelt story about one of my favourite men in the history of sport.
- Will: Senna – Senna is a documentary which outlines the career of Ayrton Senna, a man considered by many the greatest F1 driver of all time. This documentary blends together well famous TV footage and commentary with much previously unseen footage, including behind-the-scenes at the FIA and Senna family footage. The film paces itself well, spending plenty of time on the key controversies of Senna’s life, but also manages to appeal to a larger audience, much like Senna himself, through discussion of the man under the helmet and his impact on his native Brazil. You know the inevitable ending is coming though and Senna gives perfect weight to Senna’s passing. Having so personally explored his life, Senna’s death continues to strike a poignant chord.
- Shuggie: Rocky – There are other great boxing films, Raging Bull, Million Dollar Baby, and The Fighter, but these are arguably more looking at the characters than the sport. As for Rocky, it is the greatest sports movie ever made, and holds the sport of boxing up as much as it does the characters of Rocky, Adrian, and Paulie. Many people probably forget that this was not just a film starring Sylvester Stallone, but also written by him. It won Best Picture and Best Director at the 1977 Academy Awards. It is still Stallone’s greatest performance, at least until Creed, and possibly ever. And it remains to this day the definitive film about ‘the underdog’ and is still referenced whenever a new film tackles a similar underdog story.
- Will: Rush – It has to be number one. The 1976 Formula One World Championship has long been considered one of the sport’s most memorable and this dramatic retelling shows us why. Although Chris Hemsworth does a fine job as playboy James Hunt, it’s Daniel Brühl who’s the real star as ruthless Niki Lauda. Going into the film I was worried it would portray Hunt as the heroic, charismatic, English driver facing off against the dour, unsympathetic, Austrian Niki Lauda. Instead the film seemingly lets the audience decide who to root for, with both Hunt and Lauda worthy candidates for the championship. The racing is obviously spectacular, but the reaction to Lauda’s horrific crash/fireball explosion at the Nurburgring is also very well done. I also have to mention how awesome the scene is when Lauda decides to become a little more James Hunt-y and shows off to his future wife and some cheering fans to prove he is an F1 driver.
So that is our Top 5 sport films. Let me know what you think of our choices, and if there are any great sport films you would have included.