Trying to choose a list of “Top Five Sports Movies” is actually a rather difficult endeavor. Given the inherent nature for drama, along with natural pro- and antagonists, sports make for excellent storylines and, as such, there are a plethora of quality sport movies available.
Everyone’s list is going to be based on different criteria. Some people will choose movies which have a certain artistic merit. The Wrestler was a critically-acclaimed movie which would fall into this category, whereas Happy Gilmore would not. This is not to say that one movie is necessarily better than the other. They just aimed to accomplish different goals and this would place them on different lists.
Some people’s lists will mostly contain comedy, others intense drama. When faced with a broad topic as diverse as “sports,” there is a wide range of possible ways at looking at the top films.
This particular list of top five sports movies is centered around some of the usual suspects (Hoosiers, Rudy, Field of Dreams…), but the criteria involves sports movies which are about more than just the sports. These movies have conflict and obstacles, passion and growth. Of course, the viewer wants the protagonist(s) to win, but there is something inherently deeper going on with the characters.
- The Sandlot (1993)
This movie could be debated as an actual sports movie, but the plot to bring the characters together centers around baseball. The boys from The Sandlot may love many things, but nothing more than they do baseball. Smalls, the main character, goes through a virtual transformation from the shy, awkward kid who can’t even catch a baseball to a valued member of the team and close friend to the other boys. His ability to overcome fear and shyness is a great role model for millions of children who are insecure and reluctant.
The Sandlot is simply a great family film. There is not a lot of unobjectionable content in the movie, although the boys do try chewing tobacco. Of course, the tobacco experiment is a horrible experience for them and they learn their lesson. Beyond that, though, the movie is perfectly acceptable to watch with children, who will learn a lot from the adventures of the boys.
- Rudy (1993)
Rudy is the consummate tale of an underdog who will stop at nothing to achieve his dream. In spite of a lack of size usually needed to play college football, Daniel “Rudy” Ruettinger has always wanted to play football for Notre Dame. After high school, Rudy finds himself working in a steel mill. While there, an explosion kills his best friend. As a result of this tragedy, Rudy realizes life is finite and it is not an option for him not to pursue his dream.
Rudy is faced with tremendous obstacles, but never stops in the face of difficulty. His drive leads to an impressive work ethic and true tenacity. As with The Sandlot, there is hardly any objectionable content and children can learn a lot from Rudy’s story. They will see the value of pursuing a dream and learn that, in the end, all the hard work can be worth it to accomplish a valued goal.
- Eight Men Out (1988)
Unlike the other movies on this list, Eight Men Out is not necessarily an uplifting, the-good-guys-win kind of film. What it is, though, is a gritty, true life account of the infamous “Black Sox” scandal from 1919. The Chicago White Sox were touted as the best team in baseball and clear cut favorites to win the World Series. They might have gone on to easily do so, but a criminal element entered the picture and managed to corrupt the team, creating a tremendous scandal.
Whereas the first two movies were chosen because of uplifting messages, this one was selected on account of its tremendous portrayal of human nature. Each member of the Chicago White Sox has his own respective Achilles’ heal with regard to being paid off by professional gamblers to rig the World Series. Eight Men Out shows the difficult situations in which some of the ball players were put by the criminals, and displays the darker nature of those who reside in a life of crime. The viewer can see the conflict by the ball players who want to win (the very reason games are played in the first place), but are either tempted by dollars or threatened with harm to loved ones. This movie has incredible drama and remains true to the period in which it takes place.
- Hoosiers (1986)
Hoosiers is the timeless tale of a small town basketball team making it to the big time and playing in the state championship game. Perhaps it is a tad cliché, but this is a David versus Goliath story, much like Rudy.
Beyond the actual basketball story, this movie centers on the redemption of a once-disgraced coach, Norman Dale. This small town basketball team becomes his chance to put his past behind him and advance with his life. In addition to redemption, Norman Dale is faced with the seemingly-impossible task of winning his team over and gaining the trust of the town’s basketball superstar, Jimmy Chitwood.
- Field of Dreams (1989)
Field of Dreams is a baseball movie, but that doesn’t say nearly enough. Ray Kinsella, the main character, is a conflicted man. He fears becoming his father and isn’t sure about his life. One day he hears a voice coming from the cornfield. It provides one of the most classic and frequently quoted movie lines of all time – “If you build it, he will come.” From there, the movie goes on a simply amazing journey.
This movie is at the top of this list because the main character has so much internal conflict, but also because he becomes passionate about trying to figure out the meaning of the voices and where it all leads. Ray is a man driven by a mission, even if he’s not entirely sure what the mission is about. Field of Dreams is about connections and an intertwining of past and present. There are several themes, the least of which is not father/son relationships, and the film does an elegant job of drawing them out. This movie is nothing less than powerful and a must-see for anyone who is interested in baseball, family, or the supernatural.