“Nothing is real if you don’t believe in who you are!”
– Rocky III, 1982
Some say there’s no bigger drama than that in sports. Game 7s, championship games, or late-game heroics are just some of the moments in sports that bring even the most casual of fans to the edge of their seats. Inherently, movies can do the same thing. Same drama, same action, but what separates them from sports are the scripted endings. Naturally, sports are a great fit to be put on film. The only question lies in what part of sports would translate most effectively to the big screen.
Many of sports’ greatest moments have even been described as “too good for Hollywood.” Stories like that of Linsanity, Derek Jeter’s final home game, or even Michael Jordan’s last shot in a Chicago Bulls uniform seemed too good to be true.
Hollywood has made famous characters that pulled on our heartstrings because of the adversity they had to go through to achieve their goals. The struggle was not always worth it in the end for them, but the greatness of theatre is that it allows us to accompany these characters in their journey.
In reality, everyone in sports loves the underdog. Even in real life, no one wants to hear of the story of the big bully in the playground or anything of that nature. What makes sports great is that anyone can win, on any given day. People would rather see David beat Goliath, and not vice-versa.
Belief: That’s really what makes an underdog so lovable. An underdog is someone who no one really counts on, isn’t really given a chance, and shouldn’t emerge victorious. The only thing that keeps them going is their belief in themselves. With the words from one of sports’ most famous movie franchises, we learn that anything is truly possible when you believe. What made the Rocky franchise so popular is the general feeling of Rocky Balboa being an everyman. Each and every one of us could see ourselves in Rocky’s shoes. Sly Stallone’s character just repeated to viewers that no matter the odds stacked against them, they should never give up.
This general motif of never giving up can be seen in movies of the past all the way to today. Movies like Miracle, which is based on the improbable victory of the American hockey team over a heavily favored USSR team, and the Blind Side, which features an underprivileged boy taken in by a family before eventually getting drafted by the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, are examples of two films where the team or character everyone roots for gets the fairy tale. Through the magic of film, viewers witness the hardships they endured to reach their desired goals.
Other films based on true stories such as Coach Carter, which focused on a coach that prioritized grades more than play, don’t get the desired ending the audience wants. Another one is Moneyball, a relatively recent film that features the MLB’s Oakland Athletics beating all odds to reach the playoffs, only to eventually fall short there. In these movies, it is shown that underdogs do not always win but again as the cliché goes, it’s not about the destination, but the journey that got you there that counts in the end.
There are too many great sports films to name to fit into just one article. Truthfully, many of these deserve a feature of their dedicated story and review. With the stories they tell, these films have brought us many unforgettable characters such as the previously mentioned Rocky Balboa, He Got Game’s Jesus Shuttlesworth, and Jerry Maguire’s Rod Tidwell, whose famous line “Show me the money” is still uttered to this day. Aside from the aforementioned films, there are more that many consider the greatest sports films of all time such as Major League, Chariots of Fire, and Bull Durham.
At the end of the day, the next time you are picking a movie to watch, consider one about sports. Whether you want to laugh or cry, there’s a film for you. Nothing else that makes a grown man cry or smile like sports do. Add in the magic of a Hollywood directory and you’ll get anyone feeling emotional in an instant.