Written by: Kyley Warren
Compiled by: Kyley Warren, Jose Castaneda and Okechi Apakama
Welcome to the Phoenix Film Festival’s daily, “Top 5.’ This week, we decided to tackle the topic of sports films, and of what we believe are the five greatest sports movies of all time. Sports flicks are often tales of harrowing bravery, with plots of teammates finding comradery despite complicated circumstances or labeled underdogs overcoming adversity and daunting challenges simply to be regarded as champions. These movies can be heartbreaking and heartwarming – sometimes all at the same time. One common theme among all of them though, is that they are unforgettable for audiences and their authentic plots are able to transcend generations.
While there are dozens of unforgettable sports films that did not make our list, there are a handful that we believe still deserve honorable mentions. These films were: “Karate Kid,” “He Got Game,” “The Fighter,” and “Cool Runnings.” Now, onto the good stuff. Here are our picks for the top five, greatest sports films of all time.
5. White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) is a hustler who has found his niche playing on pickup teams throughout various basketball courts in Los Angeles, scamming presumptuous streetballers who are doubtful of Billy’s athletic capabilities because he is white. Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes) wants a better life for himself and his family, and he dreams of buying a home for his family outside the Baldwin Village, which is known for being one of the rougher neighborhoods in town. Frustrated by Billy’s basketball abilities after being beaten by him twice, Sidney proposes a business partnership where the two trick local players into deliberating pairing the two of them together. Their competitors assume they are handicapping Sidney by teaming him up with Billy, but they soon discover that his capabilities are unmatched. The film follows the two as they hustle their way through the courts of Los Angeles and navigate the triumphs and pitfalls of their developing relationship. At the conclusion of the film, the two reunite on the basketball court they first met at and are enthralled into yet another argument about basketball. Billy and Sidney begin playing each one-on-one – this time though, as friends.
4. Field of Dreams (1989)
“Field of Dreams” emphasizes the idea that oftentimes, our lifelong purpose is rarely what we anticipate it will be. This is true of the main protagonist within the film, Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), an Iowa farmer, who has quite literally spent his life in an endless pursuit of his dreams – despite not always knowing fully what they were. One day, Ray unexpectedly hears a voice in his corn field that faintly informs him, “If you build it, he will come.” Through his interpretation of the message, Ray begins building a baseball field on his farm. Suddenly, he begins seeing the ghosts of eight ex-Chicago White Sox players who were accused of intentionally losing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati in exchange for money. Throughout the rest of the picture, Ray finds himself on a spiritual journey of self-discovery and understanding as he attempts to cope with the other-worldly encounters that are taking place at his farm. Though Ray debates selling the farm, an unexpected encounter with someone from his past, assures his gut-instinct to keep the lot. As his daughter Karin had promised, “people will come” to simply watch baseball. This film is unique, daring and yet somehow, still manages to capture the authentically heartfelt essence of every great sports film.
3. Moneyball (2011)
This feature film offers audiences a closer look at the sports world and of how one man used statistical data to change the dynamics of baseball forever. Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is struggling to find his footing in sports as he’s at a disadvantage with the lowest salary constraint in baseball and a team that’s less than ready to compete against some of the league’s most gnarly competitors. Motivated by the dream of winning a world series, Billy begins introducing statistical data and computer-generated information to analyze the value on players – many who wouldn’t typically be regarded as top draft picks – to acquire new players and develop a remarkable team. With the help of Ivy League graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), Billy develops a team built on true, game-winning potential.
2. Remember the Titans (2000)
“Remember the Titans” is arguably one of the greatest sports movies of all time – hence, why it scored the number two spot on our list. The stage for this film is set in a suburban town in Virginia, where an unparalleled love for the game of football among the towns’ residents makes the return of high school football season seem like a national holiday each year. Though the sport carries great weight within this quaint suburbia, the town is tested when two formerly segregated schools (one black and one white) are forced to integrate under federal mandate. The picture is depicted through the high school football team – a shining emblem of the town that now finds itself forced to reckon with the backlash of hiring the coach of the black school above that of the white coach. While the team and its players shared a fair number of tense scenarios and heated exchanges with one another, the film exhibits the power of comradery – particularly in the realm of sports – and how foundations and barriers built on outdated societal standards are meant to be broken and challenged.
1. Rocky (Series)
The “Rocky” series felt like something of a no-brainer for the number one choice on our list. This sports drama depicts the heartwarming and triumphant tale of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), an uneducated working-class Italian-American boxer. When Rocky is chosen to take on the reigning world heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) he is suddenly jolted into a rags-to-riches story that tests Rocky’s humanity and measures the true content of his character. While the first “Rocky” film is by far the best, we believe that it’s also fair to argue that the other films within the “Rocky” series are worth mentioning, as well. Each film analyzes different stages of Rocky’s development as a man. The “Creed” series – which is a more modern follow-up to the Rocky series – with Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) returning to Rocky Balboa’s side as he seeks his guidance as his trainer, is also a phenomenal film series that continues to prove that the “Rocky” film series is truly a classic.