Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sports' Movies



My two favorite sports' films are both documentaries although there are many great ones in the fictional realm too.

What movies about sports or athletes did you enjoy most? Or books?

I have to admit, I have read a lot fewer although Bang the Drum Slowly, Ball Four and Friday Night Lights were favorites.

58 comments:

David Cranmer said...

This is not a sports film but I always think of Harpo and Chico Marx playing football in DUCK SOUP.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I haven't seen that movie in years. Have to remedy that.
Both of the docs on here are about a lot more than sports and is why I love them both.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Interesting.... I don't usually enjoy sports movies, but for very different reasons, I've always liked Slap Shot and Rocky.

Anonymous said...

Most guys will undoubtedly say FIELD OF DREAMS.

Also BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY and BULL DURHAM. Yes, there is a pattern here. EIGHT MEN OUT.

But I didn't care much for THE NATURAL.

HOOP DREAMS and HOOSIERS were good too.

The worst baseball movies I can remember are THE BABE RUTH STORY with William Bendix and SAFE AT HOME with Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris playing themselves...and not very well.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

Books? I liked FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS too. And THE BLIND SIDE.

I've read a lot of non fiction baseball stuff and can recommend Roger Angell's THE SUMMER GAME, Roger Kahn's THE BOYS OF SUMMER, Al Stump's TY COBB: A Biography, Leo Durocher & Ed Linn's NICE GUYS FINISH LAST and Doris Kearns Goodwin's wonderful memoir, WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, I read all the Angell and Kahn books too. THE BOYS OF SUMMER was a standout.
Yeah, THE NATURAL didn't work for me although I liked the book. Also read Wait Till Next Year. Supposely the new Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle one are good.
Hoosiers. Anything with Hackman is bound to be good.

Charlieopera said...

You HAVE to see Michigan vs. Ohio State (HBO). It's available ON Demand now here.

And, of course, Lombardi (my God). I literally wrote to my two sons (with a message for my daughter to see it too) today that they have to visit me (!!!) before it ends on January 17th. Seeing it would help explain my insanity over the years.

The Yale won was also very good, yes.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Does Michigan win? I can't take watching anymore losses.
Yes, I heard Dan Lauria was excellent.

Anonymous said...

I think the HBO show is about the rivalry rather than one particular game, Patti. But I haven't seen it yet so could be wrong.

Jeff M.

John McFetridge said...

A sports movie with a Detroit connection that's very good is Net Worth about the formation of the NHL's players' union by Ted Lindsay and other Red Wings.

It's almost always baseball movies, isn't it? I really liked A League of Their Own. Does it seem surprising that there's never been a movie about Jackie Robinson? Other than the one he was in himself and an HBO movie called The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson.

And recently some people have really liked the HBO show that followed the Penguins and Capitals around, but I haven't seen it yet.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Slapshot was kind of fun, thinking of hockey. Or maybe it was just I loved Paul Newman.
Bad News Bears was cute, not so much the remake.

Scott Parker said...

Bull Durham
A League of Their Own
Jerry Maguire

pattinase (abbott) said...

I never would have remembered Jerry.
How about Brian's Song?

Richard R. said...

MOVIES
I kinda like RHUBARB, and (he blushes) DAMN YANKEES. Of the not so darn old ones, FIELD OF DREAMS, THE NATURAL (which does work for me). Also BRIAN'S SONG. HOOSIERS was pretty good. I also liked CHARIOTS OF FIRE.

BOOKS
I liked SHOELESS JOE, BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY (really a great book), BOYS OF SUMMER.

Anders E said...

It's a toss-up between SLAP SHOT and THE HARDER THEY FALL. And maybe BREAKING AWAY, if that counts as a sports movie.

Since I'm European, any baseball is totally lost on me - it's just as incomprehensible as cricket. Nevertheless, I believe the baseball scene in THE NAKED GUN merits a mention.

MP said...

Movies: for me it's "Bull Durham" all the way, with "Hoop Dreams" as the documentary. This despite the fact that I have absolutely no interest in basketball.

Books: Robert Coover's "The Universal Baseball Association" has no equal. Peter Gent's "North Dallas Forty" would be a very distant second. Philip Roth's "The Great American Novel" has some wonderfully funny scenes, but it's way too long.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

Raging Bull is probably my favorite sports film. Also like Slap Shot and Tin Cup. Can I include The Big Lebowski(bowling)?Bang the Drum Slowly never worked for me because De Niro was not convincing as a ballplayer. And have always hated Rocky-just a rip off of Somebody Up There Likes.
Books-Shoeless Joe, The Natural and John Sayles Pride of the Bimbos.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Breaking Away does count. It was a terrific movie, wasn't it?
Chariots of Fire-was that the only one made about the Olympics other than that one about the US Hockey team. You can count the Big Lebowski in my book. Raging Bull is the best of the boxing movies probably.
Hoop Dreams is more about making it out of the slums than basketball. I just loved it.
And the Coover book is brilliant.
Jack Kerouac invented a similar system for a game he played.
North Dallas Forty and Semi-Tough.
I think sports' novels are really hard to pull off. It is so visual.

Mike Wilkerson said...

Movies is too hard to nail down for me. Bookwise, I would have to say A FLAME OF PURE FIRE: JACK DEMPSEY AND THE ROARING 20's by Roger Kahn. That book transported me.

NAMATH and PISTOL: THE LIFE OF PETE MARAVICH, both by Mark Kriegel, are fantastic as well.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have read some Kahn but don't remember that one. Sounds good.

Anonymous said...

Can't believe I forgot the Coover book, which is a classic. Years after seeing the movie of BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY I read the book and I'm glad I did.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Also liked Harris' THE SOUTPAW, which either came before of after. Probably before.

Kieran Shea said...

MOVIES: A few movies...SLAP SHOT, DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS, ENDLESS SUMMER, REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT, MURDERBALL...got to say Mr. Stella is right on LOMBARDI (I think I was bawling by the end) and HBO also kicked major butt with their recent CAPS-PENGUINS 24/7 ROAD TO THE WINTER CLASSIC. Books? Coover, Kinsella (sure)...does Exley count? There's a bunch of fishing and climbing books I like too. Oh, and THE DRIVER by Alexander Roy. (*SIGH*)This could take a while.

pattinase (abbott) said...

A FAN'S NOTES may be one of the best books I ever read. Does THE HUSTLER count. And how about BODY AND SOUL and THE SETUP.

Kieran Shea said...

THE HUSTLER and THE COLOR OF MONEY do count. Boxing?...we might want to throw in SNATCH.

Kent Morgan said...

I did an amazon list a few years ago about my ten favourite hockey books, but I can't even remember which one topped the list. As for hockey movies, I did a Forgotten Movies bit on my favourite, Paperback Hero, that few Americans have seen.

One book that shouldn't be missed is The Franchise by Michael MacCambridge about the glory years of Sports Illustrated. A baseball novel that's great, but seldom receives any mention is All the Stars Came Out That Night by Kevin King.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Okay. Looking up Snatch.
Been waiting for you, Kent.
Do we draw the line at horse racing. There must be a million movies set at racetracks. But most are more about gambling than sports.

Todd Mason said...

Well, glad that Kinsella and Walter Tevis have been remembered (I hope no one wants to nominate the film version of THE COLOR OF MONEY, with the most inept performance imaginable by Tom Cruise). Now, recall William Campbell Gault, the king of all sports fiction...even more for his adult pulp stories than his later YA novels. Paul Bishop is usually suggesting more sports fiction, when not doing "men's adventure"/spy-fiction series, for FFB. For boxing, I always mention Michael Shaara's THE BROKEN PLACE among more famous novels (and his FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME is perhaps his only only other book, a chapbook in that case, that isn't historical fiction of sf). Barry Malzberg's UNDERLAY for horse racing, ahead even of Dick Francis.

Films...well, lots. Documentary ROCKS WITH WINGS and the fictionalized version, EDGE OF AMERICA. The rather similar BELIEVE IN ME. PERSONAL BEST. HEART LIKE A WHEEL.

Todd Mason said...

I've managed to forget the Marxes playing football in DUCK SOUP (it's been decades)...but there is HORSE FEATHERS...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Do remember HEART LIKE A WHEEL.

Todd Mason said...

And BABE (the one about Babe Didrikson Zaharias, though the one about the piglet is also about sports of a sort).

Erik Donald France said...

I'm thinking 70s stuff like Semi-Tough and The Longest Yard. One of the most pitiful ones might have been Brian's Song, the Brian Piccolo story. Bull Durham was nifty, too.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Semi-Tough is on TV tonight, I think. I have it taped.
Brian's Song was certainly the weepiest.

Erik Donald France said...

Documentaries about boxers are usually interesting, too.

Anonymous said...

I keep meaning to do a Friday's Forgotten Books about A FAN'S NOTES, one of my all-time favorite books.

Yes, BABE was terrific. Of course Susan Clark married Alex (Mongo) Karras, who played her husband in that movie.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

I notice no one mentioned MYSTERY, ALASKA in the hockey list.

Jeff M.

Deb said...

BULL DURHAM: Best sports movie ever--both a great baseball movie and and a great movie about life in general. It also includes my favorite movie quote: "The world is made for people who are not cursed with self-awareness."

And I must admit, I still enjoy the original Burt Reynolds LONGEST YARD.

David Cranmer said...

Good lord, Todd. Yes, Horse Feathers.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I haven't heard Alex Karras' name in years. Please do one, Jeff. Just a great, great book.
Yes docs about boxers are good.
And what was that one about the basketball players in Brooklyn (?) years later. Just a year or two ago.

Chris said...

Wow, a bunch come to mind. For movies, ROCKY and ROCKY II for sure. One I haven't seen mentioned is VICTORY, with Sly Stallone, Michael Caine, Max Von Sydow and a bunch of famous international soccer players, including Pele. It is about a game where a bunch of POWs play the German National Team for charity. The captain of the Germans is played by Werner Roth, another famous international player who came to play in the USA.

Which takes me to my first documentary offering, ONCE IN A LIFETIME, which was about the New York Cosmos and soccer in the USA in the 70s. Even if you aren't a soccer fan it's a great documentary. Would 2nd Mr. Shea re: DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS and add RIDING GIANTS (about surfing). Can't forget MURDERBALL. And for boxing, just watched RING OF FIRE: THE EMILE GRIFFITH STORY. And no list of sports documentaries is complete without WHEN WE WERE KINGS.

pattinase (abbott) said...

When We Were Kings was great. And of course, Rocky. Goes without saying.
LIGHTS OUT looks to be good. No as many TV shows about sports as movies and books. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.

Todd Mason said...

I still have to take STRONG exception to WHEN WE WERE KINGS, if for no other reason the utter disrespect which it pays to Miriam Makeba.

Todd Mason said...

TV series that come to mind (leaving aside sports docs. where NFL Films and HBO alone have done hundreds of hours, the fanciful storylines of wrasslin', and TV movies such as many we've cited above):

PLAYMAKERS
THE WHITE SHADOW
BAY CITY BLUES
THE BAD NEWS BEARS (yup...Corey Feldman was one of the TV kids)
BREAKING AWAY (another spinoff)
SPORTS NIGHT
HARDBALL
ARLI$$
THE LEAGUE
THE GAME (won't stretch to FOOTBALLER'S WIVES or THE BOOK GROUP)
SEA HUNT
BLUE MOUNTAIN STATE (certainly these aren't all Good series)
GIDGET (a stretch I won't apply to SURFSIDE SIX)

...so, a bunch I've never seen probably await discovery...

Todd Mason said...

RIPCORD, another dramatic tv series that comes to mind.
Amd KUNG FU, of course.

It does seem odd that no surfing series comes immediately to mind more thoroughly engaged with that culture than the tv GIDGET.

Further interesting sports movies:
BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM
PAT AND MIKE
STICK IT
WHIP IT (much better than KANSAS CITY BOMBER)
...have you noted I've been keeping all my film listings Interesting by citing only those about female athletes...and haven't even cited any skating films...not that any good ones come to mind...if we include dance films, certainly THE COMPANY, even more than THE RED SHOES or other entries...

Todd Mason said...

Among tv series, how could I forget the WACKY RACES and SPEED RACER?

Anders Engwall said...

As for movies about the olympics, let's not forget MILLION DOLLAR LEGS.

Kieran Shea said...

Wow.

This is some amped discusssion.

Chris, buddy? I didn't want to fall off the ledge with surf movies...there's been some fairly macking art-house surf pics in recent years due to advances in cheap video and film transfer technology, flicks like...gosh...SHELTER, THICKER THAN WATER, SINGLEFIN:YELLOW, THE SEEDLING...long way from Bruce Brown classics like SURFING HOLLOW DAYS and SURF CRAZY.

Deb said...

Todd, your reference to WACKY RACES reminds me that somewhere buried in the bottom of a box I still have my Penelope Pitstop Peace Pendant that I got in a cereal box circa 1968/69.

pattinase (abbott) said...

This might be the most comprehensive list ever assembled. I actually saw most of these movies, TV shows and read most of the books but I don't really consider myself a sports fan. Weird. Favorite sports show: SPORTS NIGHT.

Charlieopera said...

No, no, no ... not the play, Patti (I saw that too--it was okay--Judith Light stole the show) ... Lombardi the HBO documentary.

There will be a quiz ...

The Ohio State-Michigan documentary is more about the rivalry and the fans ... hilarious, really.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Okay. Got it. I will see if it's still on there.

Todd Mason said...

Well, I like sports fiction, and sometimes sports drama, not so much because I like sports as because I like fiction and drama...

Among the older good films about sports, and breaking my female-athletes-only trend, is KILL THE UMPIRE with William Bendix. (Returning to the women, A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN is almost a good movie.)

Todd Mason said...

Deb--I have to wonder what that will fetch these days. Nostalgia points, if nothing else. Just heard a Greg Proops podcast performance in which he compared LA-based famous-for-nothing (actually for her tendency to rent billboards to advertise herself) Angelyne, who apparent drives a pink convertible, to Pitstop...which character seems to have a durable currency...

Todd Mason said...

Ah, yes. GIRLFIGHT. Much better than MILLION DOLLAR BABY, largely because it wasn't desperately trying to improve a typically inept Paul Haggis script.

Todd Mason said...

Another dramatic series, webbed rather than telecast, was BACK ON TOPPS, starring Randy and Jason Sklar.

pattinase (abbott) said...

A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN was fun--wish they had used real female athletes more. But how often do they do that in films about men. Not much.

Todd Mason said...

Meanwhile, almost all the television series try to bring in as many real athletes as possible.

The problem is that most athletes can't act. Patrice Donnelly in PERSONAL BEST does pretty well for an athlete, for example.

Todd Mason said...

Sorry I'd forgotten the earlier citations of A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN...though I'd add to Jeff's citation of the worst baseball films, aside from some of the recent sequels to MAJOR LEAGUE and such, FEAR STRIKES OUT. At least for the awful miscasting of Anthony Perkins (not that much else about the film helps out).