Sports are a deeply-woven part of America's fabric and oftentimes seem to produce moments that are too good to be true. How many times have you watched something unfold on a field or court and thought, "Wow, you couldn't script that!"
Perhaps that's why sports and movies are so intertwined. Whether based on real events or totally fictitious, sports movies have inspired and entertained millions of viewers over the last several decades.
Here at College Spun, we decided to put together a list of the 12 top sports movies of all time. Some of these flicks made you laugh. Others made you cry. Some of them did both and more. Either way, each of these dozen films has had an indelible impact since being released.
Let's get the countdown started:
No. 12 ??? >>>
12. Any Given Sunday (1999)
The first thing you notice about OIiver Stone's fictitious football drama is the star-studded cast. There's Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, LL Cool J, Charlton Heston, Lauren Holly, James Woods, Matthew Modine, Lawrence Taylor, Jim Brown and others. Most famously, there is Al Pacino as Tony D'Amato, the head coach of the struggling Miami Sharks.
Pacino and Foxx's characters -- Foxx plays the talented but temperamental quarterback Willie Beamen -- are legendary. The famous "Inches" pre-game speech Pacino delivers in the film has become more recognizable and frequently quoted than speeches by actual football coaches.
In terms of football movies, the drama and character development of Any Given Sunday assures it has a place on this list.
Next: No. 11 - Blue Chips >>>
11. Blue Chips (1994)
We frequently hear college basketball fans accuse rival programs of cheating in real life. The standard for illegal recruiting was set in this film by Pete Bell (played by Nick Nolte), the unscrupulous and desperate head coach of the fictitious Western University Dolphins.
Nolte lavishes three "blue-chip" recruits -- Neon Boudeaux (played by Shaq), Butch McRae (played by Penny Hardaway) and Ricky Roe (played by Indiana forward Matt Nover) -- with gifts, free lodging for their families and more.
Like most instances of NCAA cheating, the moves pay off immediately but prove crushing in the long-term. Nolte eventually quits his job during a stunning press conference.
Premiering in 1994, just a few years after major scandals rocked SMU football and UNLV and Kentucky basketball but before recruiting coverage became a cottage industry, Blue Chips came out at the perfect time. Also, you can't beat the cameos in this movie. Prominent college basketball figures Bobby Knight, Jerry Tarkanian, Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim and Dick Vitale all make appearances, as do then-collegiate players Bobby Hurley, Calbert Cheaney, Allan Houston, George Lynch and others.
Next: No. 10 - Miracle >>>
10. Miracle (2004)
Our first entry that is based on a true story, Miracle tells the story of "The Miracle on Ice" at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid. Kurt Russell plays the role of United States hockey coach Herb Brooks, who led his group of amateurs past the favored Soviets and Finns to capture the gold medal.
When you take the ever-popular underdog story line, add in a healthy dose of patriotism and sprinkle in an underrated soundtrack and well-done portrayal of real-life events, you get Miracle, which managed to authentically tell the story of what happened without being overly hokey.
If you don't get goosebumps at least once while watching this move, check your pulse.
Next: No. 9 - Caddyshack >>>
9. Caddyshack (1980)
The first comedy on our list, Caddyshack is an immortal film. One look at the cast -- Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Ted Knight and Michael O'Keefe -- and you can tell you're going to be laughing throughout the movie. Sure, there may be better golf movies out there, but none with the lasting impression or quotability of Caddyshack.
In fact, the quotability of Caddyshack ("It's in the hole!", "What a Cinderella story", "You'll get nothing and like it!", "Come on, bark like a dog") is really what has endured the most. Even if you've never seen the movie, you've probably heard those phrases used before in conversation or in pop cutlure.
Without question, this is one movie that you could argue we ranked too low.
Next: No. 8 - Bull Durham >>>
8. Bull Durham (1988)
Like Caddyshack, Bull Durham is an iconic sports comedy. The movie seems to exist in a much simpler time, despite being set in the present.
The battery of catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), a middle-aged minor league lifer, and Nuke Laloosh (Tim Robbins), an young, unbridled colt of a pitcher lacking control and common sense, makes for a memorable pairing. Susan Sarandon is brilliant and convincing in her role as Annie, the baseball groupie who becomes Laloosh's lover and spiritual adviser, only to ultimately end up with Crash when the young flamethrower finally reaches the majors.
All in all, Bull Durham is a fun, airy rom-com set against the backdrop of America's pastime.Some serious issues relating to love and baseball are brought up, butthings end on a neat and tidy note. Just a really entertaining movie.
Next: No. 7 - Rudy >>>
7. Rudy (1993)
Based on the true story of Notre Dame walk-on Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, we'll admit this film takes some liberties with the truth. No, no players ever handed in their jerseys for Rudy, we're not sure if the stadium security guard played by Charles S. Dutton really existed and we doubt Dan Devine was THAT much of a jerk as a head coach. Still, this movie deserves to be this high for a number of reasons.
First of all, there's the underdog story line we've mentioned before. Ruettiger is the ultimate underdog. Second of all,the soundtrack in here is really, really good. Third, it involves Notre Dame football, which means it is impossible for the film to generate limited buzz. People are either going to love it or hate it, and even some anti-Domers dig Rudy. Lastly, and perhaps most underrated, the cast (Sean Astin, Ned Beatty, Lili Taylor, Jon Favreau (!), Vince Vaughn (!!)) is pretty damn good.
We have Rudy at 7, and we're pretty confident we will receive negative feedback from people who can't believe we ranked it this high or this low.
Next: No. 6 - Field of Dreams >>>
6. Field of Dreams (1989)
In Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner is back, appearing as Ray Kinsella, an Iowa farmer inspired by an unknown voice to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield.
The premise may seem insane, as Kinsella has his back to the wall financially. But, as Shoeless Joe says so eloquently says: "If you build it, he will come."
The final scene of this movie is a tearjerker for anybody who ever played catch with their dad, and anybody who wishes they could just one more time.
Next: No. 5 - Remember the Titans >>>
5. Remember the Titans (2000)
Another movie based on a true story, Remember the Titans features Denzel Washington as Herman Boone, the head coach of T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va. The plot of the film tackles the real-life racial tensions that existed as the team struggled to find unity on and off the field.
Eventually, Washington's squad overcomes internal strife and external derision, becoming one beautifully harmonious unit. Literally.
Next: No. 4 - Hoop Dreams >>>
4. Hoop Dreams (1994)
The only documentary in our top 12, Hoop Dreams chronicles a pair of Chicago teenagers, William Gates and Arthur Agee, as they attempt to navigate their way through the challenges of the inner city and earn Division I scholarships and professional careers.
The action is enthralling, on and off the court. Ultimately, neither player's journey turns out as planned, and while they do both end up playing at the collegiate level, pro success evades them. Perhaps though, the rawness of what Gates and Agee must overcome, in basketball and outside of the game, makes this film have an even more profound impact than if they had achieved NBA stardom.
If you're a hoops-obsessed person, and haven't watched this flick yet, do so as soon as possible.
Next: No. 3 - North Dallas Forty >>>
3. North Dallas Forty (1979)
Based on the novel of the same name written by former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Peter Gent, North Dallas Forty is loosely based on the Cowboys and fully immersed in the darker side of professional football.
In the film, directed by Ted Kotcheff, players abuse drugs, their bodies and women, among other things. Nick Nolte (hey, he's back) is terrific as Phil Elliott, the aging wide receiver who serves as the main character.
Considered by many to be the most realistic portrayal of some of the hard realities of pro football, North Dallas Forty is dark, haunting and exceptionally done. It's an all-time sports movie, and deserves its lofty standing on this list.
Next: No. 2 - Hoosiers >>>
2. Hoosiers (1986)
No state is more basketball-obsessed than Indiana, which is partly why Hoosiers has reached larger-than-life status. Loosely based on the true story of tiny Milan High School's run to the Indiana state title in 1954, the film stars Gene Hackman leading a group of small-town Indiana high-schoolers to an upset victory in the championship game.
Sure, Hoosiers is over the top with how much of a feel-good, David slays Goliath story it is. The movie overdoes it. But from a sheer entertainment factor, it's the ultimate underdog tale, and Hackman plays his character expertly.
Besides, who hasn't pretended to be Jimmy Chitwood running "The Picket Fence" when they were shooting around before?
Next: No. 1 - ??? >>>
1. Rocky (1976)
The original Rocky, which turns 40 this year, was loosely based on heavyweight Chuck Wepner's 15-round fight with Muhammad Ali. Wepner was a massive underdog, and his performance inspired Sylvester Stallone to become Rocky Balboa, the hardscrabble fighter from Philadelphia who earns a chance to fight Apollo Creed for the heavyweight crown.
Rocky exploded at the box office, spawning an uber-successful series of sequels. Note: we're reluctantly including Creed (2015) in that, but as far as we're concerned, Rocky V and Rocky Balboa never existed.
As Balboa, Stallone represents the ultimate blue-collar success story, which explains the film's immense popularity and the fact that a fictional character has a real-life statue in Philadelphia.Overall, a quintessentially American film, and you don't even need to a be a fan of boxing or sports in general to feel its full impact.
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