My Top 30 Sports Movies of All Time.

MantleRecently Newsweek put together a critics list of all time great sports movies.    As I read it, I became really angry.   Not only were so many great sports movies not considered, many of the movies were either documentaries or in areas that I don’t consider sports at all.  Sorry folks but Mountain Climbing, Chess and Skateboarding are not sports.   They are skills.  Through out the years I have seen a ton of sports movies and I have some thoughts on what makes a sports movie and what doesn’t.  Sports movies can either be really good, or they can really stink.  Babe(The one with John Goodman) and Cobb are movies that  were really bad.  Those two were hugely disappointing to me.  If you have the right story and the right elements, a good sports movie can be a winner.   I haven’t seen all, for instance, I still have not seen 42, hence why it is not on the list.  The list of 30 sports movies I put together are the ones I’ve seen that I consider winners.   The Criteria is pretty simple.  One, it has to be a sport, which means it has to have some element of athleticism and two, it can’t be a documentary with no acting involved.  The movie has to have acting and a story in it for it to be considered.  You could argue that two of my picks about pool shouldn’t be in here.  Some people consider pool a skill, well there’s a little bit of strategy involved in pool or billiards.   I’ve seen enough pool on television to consider it a sport.  I believe it’s a sport because you are competing against another person.  Skateboarding and Mountain Climbing I don’t consider sports because you are not trying to outwit anyone, and there is no defense.  You challenge yourself with those activities.  Those are my reasons for picking these thirty movies.  So without further adieu here are my top thirty sports movies of all time.


Bang The Drum Slowly

The first movie I ever saw Robert De Niro in was a Baseball movie.  He’s done three sports movies.  I have not seen his most recent one, where he plays a boxing trainer and of course Raging Bull.  Bang The Drum Slowly is a strong powerful movie about a popular confident Pitcher named, Henry Wiggin(Michael Moriarity)  who is traded to the New York Mammoths(Fictitious Baseball team that played in the Yankee pinstripes.) and befriends the simple minded Catcher name Bruce Pearson(De Niro) who has a hard time opening up to his teammates and fit in.  Throughout the Baseball season Wiggin and Pearson start to develop a pretty good chemistry and Pearson starts to open up and we discover that he has cancer.  A great movie for all to watch.



In my estimation, this is Gene Hackman’s most underrated movie.   Hackman plays Norman Dale, a former college Basketball Coach given a chance at redemption when he takes a job coaching a small High School Basketball team in Indiana.  Hackman arrives with a lot of baggage and a temper that ruined his college career.  When he arrives, he already runs into resistant through Barbara Hershey, the teacher of Jimmy Chitwood, the star Basketball Player.  Hershey would prefer Jimmy quit the Basketball team and concentrate on his studies.  Hackman would prefer to win at all costs.  A powerful struggle of wills as eventually both Hackman and Hershey reach a compromise.  A powerful movie about a Basketball coach, who learns what it takes to win in a small Indiana town.


Karate Kid

“Wax on, Wax off.”  The first few lessons Mr, Myiagi gives young Ralph Macchio when he teaches him Karate is to wax his car.  So the discipline begins.  We all knew the line and recited it many times when Karate Kid came out.  It was a huge hit and made a huge star out of Ralph Macchio and resurrected Pat Morita’s career.  Wonderfully acted with many lessons learned.  It’s a wonderful coming of age movie about how a boy who learns how to handle bullying, through discipline and hard work and gets the girl in the end.   The Karate scenes in this movie are as good as any Bruce Lee movie and the relationship between Macchio and Morita in this classic are great.


The Longest Yard

I became a huge Burt Reynolds fan in the 1970’s and I couldn’t get enough of his movies.  What’s great about this movie is that Burt Reynolds was a star football player during his days at Florida State University, so when he played Paul Crewe, he kind of knew a little about the sport.  The plot is pretty simple, ex Football great, Paul Crewe is arrested on some trumped up charge and thrown in prison, where he has to deal with all kinds of mean hombres.  Rather than let them kick the crap out of them, he befriends them and decides there has to be a way of this situation.  Burt decides it would be cool if there was a Football game, between Prisoners and the Guards.  It ends up being one the dirtiest games of Football you would ever see with lots of ex NFL players playing both guards and Prisoners.  The Longest Yard has been a favorite of mine for some time.  I haven’t seen Adam Sandler’s version, but the original is pretty darn good.

26:  RUDY:


Another Football movie, that has heart, passion and you cheer for a kid named Rudy as he chases his dream to play Football for the Fighting Irish or Notre Dame.  I watched Rudy again about 4 years ago and what I came away with was this is the little movie that could, about a guy that would not be denied his dream.  It has a great cast and great acting.  Sean Astin(Memphis Belle and Lord of The Rings), plays Rudy with a raw innocence.  Ned Beatty(Homocide, Life On The Street), plays his father, who wants Rudy to succeed, but he thinks he’s too small to play Football.  Charles Dutton and a young Jon Favreau also star in this wonderful movie that will touch your heart and make you believe dreams can come true.


The Blindside

Quinton Aaron plays Michael Oher a homeless teen growing up in the slums of Memphis Tennessee, when Leigh Ann Tuohy(Sandra Bullock) comes upon this young man and decided to take him home with her, so he can have a better life and to pursue his dream of playing Football.   This is a phenomenal little movie and Sandra Bullock’s performance was Oscar worthy as is Kathy Bates, who plays his tutor.  A must see movie with a lot of heart.



Jerry Maguire

Tom Cruise has never really spoken to me as an action hero.  He’s much better when he’s playing cocky, or that he’s so self assured, that when the bottom drops from underneath him, he feels put upon and panic stricken.  Jerry Maguire is one of those types of movies. This is a movie about the other sides of Sports.  The agency side.  And the agency side is pretty seedy and it’s something that Jerry Maguire is trying to come to grips with.  His valiant attempt to write that mission statement with a moral center ends up backfiring after he send it to his colleagues and higher ups.   His fall from A-1 Agent is swift and nasty as he is blacklisted from the business.  It’s no problem for Jerry, he thinks everyone will agree with his mission statement.  Only two people believe in Jerry, one is Secretary Dorothy Boyd(Renee Zelwegger), who decides to quit in support of Jerry and work for him as he strikes out on his own.  The second person is a loose cannon Wide Receiver named Rod Tidwell(Played masterfully by Cuba Gooding Junior.), who has plenty of cocky bravado, but talent that has not been realized.  Tidwell is the only client that Jerry has left and his career has been in a tailspin and his wife thinks he’s better than the NFL thinks, so Rod calls him up and yells in Jerry’s ear.  “Show Me The Money!!!”  This movie didn’t have me at hello, it had me during the opening scene, when Jerry is writing the mission statement that kills his career.  It was one of the most interesting and effective openings of any movie I’ve seen.  A great movie, with great acting.  The chemistry between Cruise and Zelwegger is electric and the chemistry between Cuba Gooding and Cruise is filled with hyper frustrated angst, but that works for me as Cuba is supposed to to frustrate the hell out of Cruise to get what he wants.


Vision Quest

Okay, all right already, I know Vision Quest is a coming of age movie, but it’s still a pretty darned good wrestling movie.  Matt Modine(Full Metal Jacket, Married To The Mob), one of the most underrated actors in the industry gives a pretty good performance as the young cocky high school wrestler Louden Swain, who falls for a drifter named Carla(Linda Fiorentino) who shows up at his house at the wrong time.  Louden is about to drop down a weight class just so he can beat the best wrestler in the state.  It’s a risk and could kill him if he doesn’t watch how he eats.  However, it’s a risk he is willing to take to beat the best.  Of course as you can imagine, having Carla around is enough to drive any teenage boy to distraction(Hey it’s Linda Fiorentino for God’s sake.)  and of course she does, but she also helps him along the way learn about life.  A good solid movie from the 1980’s.  During a decade that was filled with all kinds of coming age movies.  But it isn’t just a coming of age movie.  It’s a Wrestling movie.



No sports list would be complete without this ode to Hockey.   Paul Newman plays Reggie Dunlop, he plays for the Charlestown Chiefs in the Federal League.  The local mill is about to go out of business and he knows that if that happens his team will be out of business, thus ending Reggie’s illustrious career.  So he decides to go out with a bang and bring in the wildest bunch of players to play with.  It’s one of the funniest movies you’ll ever see.  Paul Newman looked perfect for the role.  I remember thinking he’s got that Gordie Howe look going out there on the rink.  The Charlestown Chiefs manages to capture your hearts at every turn, even though they play some smash mouth hockey to do it.  So if you want to watch a movie on Hockey, this is your best bet.  You won’t be sorry you did and you’ll love those goony rough housing Hanson brothers.


The Sandlot

I’d been hearing about the Sandlot for years.  I would talk movies with people and they would mention this movie and tell me it was a pretty cool movie.  So I went out and bought it to find out what all the fuss was about.  The fuss was pretty darned special.  A new kid moves to town and meets a young Baseball prodigy.  Every day he and his friends go out to the Sandlot to play a game of Baseball.  The games are usually a lot of fun until the Baseball prodigy hits the ball over the fence and then they have to stop playing.  You see there is a big beast in the yard next door, whose ferocious, and eats Baseballs for dinner and probably kids too and they don’t want any of that.  I found myself taken back to my own childhood watching where I and played a game of pick up Baseball with my friends down the road.  It was pretty cool.  Look for a young Dennis Leary and Karen Allen as the lead character’s parents.


A Shot At Glory

You’ve never heard of this small little Independent movie, I hadn’t either and what I saw was pretty special.  I came upon A Shot of Glory purely by accident.  It was a Christmas gift by my father to me because of my love of Soccer.    You must see this movie for the writing, the acting and the story.  The characters are well developed and smart and the story is a winner.  Robert Duval stars as Gordon McLeod and of all the movies I’ve seen this man do, he is most convincing as a Scottish Football Manager.   I’ve watched this movie a few times now and from the first moment I saw Duval play Gordon McLeod I kept thinking I was watching the second coming of Bill Shankley.  He reminded me of the great Liverpool Manager, so much that I believed his role that much more.  The story is simple. I often wonder if he studied Shankley tapes for this role.  He sounds just like him.  A Shot of Glory is about a small Scottish Football club in the lowest league of Scottish Football.  An American owner(Michael Keaton), threatens to move the club unless they do the unthinkable, win the Scottish Cup.  To do that, Gordon McLeod must learn to work, with his son in law, the legendary Jackie McQuillan, who had betrayed him and had cheated on his daughter Kate.  McQuillan is played oddly enough by former Rangers legend Ally McCoist.  I am usually pretty lukewarm about former sports stars turning to acting, but Ally, does a great job in his role as the former Celtic great McQuillan.   The wonderful thing about this movie is there are times, when it could take itself seriously, but it finds those special moments to make you laugh.  A Goalkeeper makes a huge mistake and allows a goal to be scored through his legs.  McLeod, incensed lets him have it with an off color joke about his mother.  A beautiful movie and one that should not be missed and if you were a fan of the Fox Soccer Channel and loved Andy Gray explaining the ins and outs of the game, then you’ll like it even more as he has a cameo as a commentator.

19:  GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS:Green Street HooligansLuckily Parliament and the English FA have helped curb Football violence for the safety of the spectator.  However, it’s still there and still needs to be monitored.  This movie came out at a time, when Football violence was beginning to rear it’s ugly head again.  Green Street Hooligans is a deeply disturbing movie that dares to take a look into the other side of Soccer, Hooliganism.  Elijah Wood plays Matt Buckner an American kid, who is wrongfully expelled from Harvard, when his roommate plants cocaine on him.  He drops out and moves to England to live with his sister and her boyfriend Steve(A man with a dark history).  Matt’s sister decides that Steve’s brother Pete (Charlie Hunnam) should show him around town.  Pete is reluctant at first, because everyone on Green Street knows who he is and they may consider him soft.  What we find out is that Pete is the leader of a soccer firm The Green Street Elite, who go to West Ham matches and attack the other teams firm.(Hooligans.)  However once the two get to know each other it’s too late and Pete is forced to protect Matt when he is beaten up by Birmingham City supporters at an away match.  What happens is a mutual respect, as Matt ends up showing Pete he can handle his own and the fighting becomes an adrenalin rush for him.  This movie is intense to watch, so don’t watch it lightly.  I was struck how good Elijah Wood is in this, but blown away by how good Charlie Hunnam is, because he was new and raw to me.  He breathed a psychotic arrogance in his performance that was very similar to a young Malcolm McDowell of Clockwork Orange.  I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and hope to see more work from this excellent British actor Hunnam.

18:  BREAKING AWAY:  Breaking AwayAn us verses them type of movie about the sport of Cycling.   This movie is so funny and so genuinely poignant, it almost made my top 100 list.  Essentially this is about a bunch of kids born in a Bloomington Indiana, the home of Indiana University.  To the college kids, the young townies are called Cutters, because of the local stone quarries where many of their parents lived.  Cutters is a slight they use, because those gosh darned trust fund college kids, don’t like the town folk much and they show it time and again throughout the movie.  The movie centers around Dave Stohler(Dennis Christopher), a young kid whose love of cycling and everything Italian drives his Dad(Paul Dooley)crazy.  Dave and his friends Moocher(Jackie Earl Haley), Cyril(Daniel Stern) and Mike(Dennis Quaid) have just graduated high school and are contemplating their futures.  When the college kids are challenged to enter the little 500(An annual bike race in Bloomington), the Cutters accept the challenge and win the race.  A great movie with great performances from everyone involved.  It’s the little movie with a big heart  It’s been close to forty years since this movie came out and it remains one of my favorite.


Fever Pitch.jpgThe original movie is based on the British novel by Arsenal soccer nut Nick Hornby, who was tormented by his Gunners during the down years.  I have the book, still haven’t read it and I avoided this movie, because I wanted to see the Original with Colin Firth.  The trailer drew me to it and it looked hysterically funny.  My Dad saw it and said it was worth the watch.  He was right.  Instead of Soccer it revolves around a lovable Red Sox fan(Jimmy Fallon), who has suffered through the curse for years.  It’s much more than a Baseball movie though, it’s about what we would sacrifice to be with the one we love.  In this case for Fallon he would sacrifice the Red Sox for  the goofy Drew Barrymore(A personal favorite of mine for years.)  Watch this movie and it will be one of your favorites too.  I do plan on watching the original too, because anything with Colin Firth makes me a fan.


Moneyball_PosterWhat if Billy Beane had become GM of the Red Sox instead of Theo Epstein?  Would he have broken the curse earlier or at all?   John Henry must have thought so, because before Epstein interviewed for the job, Beane did, but  then turned it down.  We also could have had A-Rod too, but sometimes the best moves you make are the ones you don’t make.  Now that’s not to say that Billy Beane isn’t a good GM, oh no, not by a long shot.  This guy turned the fledgling A’s into a contender in the early 2000’s.  His concept was so good that Hollywood decided to make a movie of the topic moneyball.  This is a great sports movie, because it doesn’t just deal with Baseball, it deals with the inner workings of Baseball team and how you worked within the constrained finances of a team.  How you improved your team with saber metric stats that no one considered before.  I apologize if I didn’t give Brad Pitt, much love before, but he’s pretty good in this.  He plays Billy kind of low key and he plays him like his mind is always working on that next deal.  Add Jonah Hill(The greatest character actor going right now) and you have a darned good sports movie.


Vaughn wild thingWhat happens when you take a real Baseball team with a history of losing and create a movie about them.  You are treated to the most lovable bunch of unique characters ever.  Major League was a movie that gave the Cleveland Indians their day in the Championship sun.  A classic hysterical look at some goofy guys still playing the game, because they love it.  The movie wasn’t just funny, it was brilliant.  The characters were just as nutty as the Red Sox 2004 and 2013 teams.  You had the washed up Catcher Jake Taylor(Tom Berenger.)  You had the speed demon Willie Mays Hayes(Wesley Snipes), Pedro Cerrano,(Dennis Haysbert, 24), the First Baseman with a ton of power and a love for Voodoo, Roger Dorn(Corbin Bernsen, LA Law), an arrogant cuss who cares about nobody but himself and the nutcase Closer with the coke bottle glasses and the 100 mile an hour fastball, Ricky Vaughan.(Charlie Sheen) Not only did this movie make money at the box office and bring the Indians a fictionalized World Series Championship, it revitalized the song “Wild Thing” and made it a hit all over again.  This movie is a classic and whenever I hear ‘Wild Thing” , I see Sheen running out from that bullpen, I watch him take the ball from the catcher and imitate Al Hrabosky and throw heat to the plate.

14:  UNITED:


Let me preface this by saying, that I am not a Manchester United fan.  I bleed London Chelsea blue and it’s no surprise that we’ve been rivals over the last decade or so.  However; I am also a soccer fan and anything about this sport intrigues me.   It is such a fantastic movie about one of the more triumphant, turbulent and then triumphant periods of the clubs history.  It starts with Manchester United’s trip to Europe in what today is known as the Champions League.  In the 1950’s it was called the European Cup.  In 1958 Manchester United were known as the Busby Babes, named after their Manager Sir Matt Busby, (One of the greatest Managers in the history of the game.)and his very young club, who were tearing up English Football with Bobby Charlton and a young England star by the name of Duncan Edwards.  That year they were on their way to Munich to play in the latest round of the European Cup, what happened was tragic.  The plane crashed before they got there.  Half the team was decimated either by death, or by injury.  One of the future stars of the game, Duncan Edwards did not survive.  Bobby Charlton was devastated and for months he could not kick a ball or even go near a training ground. This movie deals with the crash, the after math and how Charlton found the will to go on and help United and Busby create a new Busby Babes side.   From there the rest is history.  This is a deeply moving look into a time in Bobby Charlton’s life he doesn’t talk about much.     The performances are brilliant.  Jack O’Connell plays the young Bobby Charlton, Dougray Scott plays Sir Matt Busby and David Tennant(Dr.Who) plays coach Jimmy Murphy, who gives young Bobby Charlton the confidence to continue his career.  There are many stories about British Soccer that should be told and haven’t been.  It’s about time this one was done and it was done very well.


The Rookie

There are a lot of Baseball movies made, but this one is probably one of my favorite.  The Rookie is about Jim Morris(Dennis Quaid) a high school chemistry teacher in a small Texas town, who just happens to be the school Baseball coach.  Jim has a past that haunts him.   At one time, Jim was a hot shot prospect in the minors, until arm troubles ended his career before it began.  To make matters worse, his hard edged military father, played by beautifully buy the very underrated Brian Cox, was a distant father who cared nothing about Jim’s Baseball dream and their relationship has been contentious ever since.  Because Jim sought so hard to seek his father’s approval he gave up on his dream,  had a family and settled down.  Late in his forties his fortunes suddenly change.  While, throwing batting practice for the team he coaches one of his kids complain that he’s pitching him softballs and he wants something harder.  Jim takes the challenges and suddenly realizes that there’s more zip on his fastball and his arm doesn’t hurt.  His kids realize this guy’s got Major League stuff and discover his Baseball past.   The kids egg him on to go to a big league tryout to see what happens.  Apprehensive at first, Jim takes the challenges and suddenly a scout for the Tampa Bay Rays takes note that Jim has pretty good stuff for an old guy.  They offer him a contract in the minors.  Once his minor league trial goes well, he gets the call to the Show as a reliever and proves he’s more than capable.  Based on the true story of Jim Morris, this is a wonderful movie that teaches you, you can keep your dreams and it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there as long as you don’t give up.  Dennis Quaid is brilliant in this movie and I thought after he did this movie, maybe his career had been resurrected, but alas I have not seen him do much since this movie, but this movie is definitely one of his best.

Brian Clough  Brian Clough is considered one of the best English Football Managers in history.  He took two fledgling clubs, Derby County and Nottingham Forest and brought them domestic Championships, European glory and domestic cup glory.   When I saw the trailer for “That Damned United,”  I had to see it.  Michael Sheen had Clough down to the most minute detail.  This movie revolves around Clough’s most turbulent time, his time Managing Leeds United.  Before Clough took over at Leeds, he was a huge admirer of the legendary Don Revie.  During an English FA Cup tie, Clough’s Derby County meet the great Leeds.  At the time Derby were in the Second Division, while Leeds were in Division One.   With stars in his eyes, Clough greets the great Manager, Revie to his ground.  Revie snubs him and Leeds United turn around and use every dirty tactic in the book to defeat Clough’s Derby County.  Clough never forgets that.  He wants a chance to play Revie again, this time in Division One.  To do that, Clough turns a rag tag bunch of no names into the World beaters in Division Two and they win the Championship.  The next two seasons Clough did what no other Manager had ever done at Derby, he won the English Championship, knocking off the great Revie and Leeds at the same time.  It started a feud, where Clough told Revie he was not a very good Manager and that Leeds United were winners under him, because he taught them to cheat.  When Revie took the English job, Clough was hired for the Leeds job.  It was the most turbulent period of his life.  The movie deals with all this and so much more.  Michael Sheen(One of my favorite English actors) captures Clough’s bravado and arrogance perfectly.  Timothy Spall, is brilliant as Peter Taylor his Assistant.  Taylor was the brains behind Clough.  Colm Meany(Star Trek Deep Space Nine and the Van), captured Don Revie to a t, and Stephen Graham(Band of Brothers as Rainey) was perfect as the dirty fouling Leeds Captain Billy Bremner.  This is not so much a soccer movie as it is a biopic on a man who was cherished by anyone who ever came into contact with him.  It’s beautifully written, wonderfully shot and one of the best movies I’ve seen about the sport of Soccer.


Eight Men Out

Some movies have to be made to understand how a sport came through it’s growing pains.  In 1988 John Sayles brought us one of those movies, Eight Men Out.  It’s about the 1919 Black Sox scandal, which mobster Arnold Rothstein helped fix and then the fallout of the scandal was the banishment of eight players from Chicago White Sox.   Shoeless Joe Jackson was one of the best ballplayers of his day and he went with them.  The acting in this movie is brilliant with great stars.  John Mahoney plays Manager and mentor Kid Gleeson.  A young John Cusak plays Buck Weaver, a ball player with honor and integrity, who took no money, but was one of the eight player named, because he knew about it and didn’t say anything.  DB Sweeney as Shoeless Joe Jackson and Alan Rucker plays one of the instigators First Baseman Chick Gandil.  A brilliant Baseball movie and one that shouldn’t be missed.


Basketball DiariesThis isn’t just a movie about High School Basketball, it’s a movie about growing up and falling into the grips of heroin addiction.  Basketball Diaries is an intense movie that will grip you from frame one to the last.  It’s based on a true story and came from Jim Carroll’s autobiographical look at his time as a heroin addict.  For those of you who were fans of the Punk Rock era of the 1980’s you might remember Jim Carroll’s song, “Lots of People Who Have Died,” which is about heroin addiction.  In fact the song is used in the soundtrack to this movie.  The Performances in this movie are gritty, dark and spot on.  A young Leonardo DiCaprio plays Carroll, with that same grittiness.  He was a young kid when he did this.  If you watched a lot of DiCaprio’s early stuff(The Man in The Iron Mask comes to mind and also Gangs of New York)  his performances are weak and forced.  However, Basketball Diaries is one of his better movies from the early part of his career, one that is Oscar worthy.  His performance is mind blowing and I knew that this kid had the goods, he just needed to harness it.  It also stars Lorraine Braco as his mother.  A young Juliet Lewis(The Vacation movies), Bruno Kirby as the coach Smitty.  James Madio(Band Of Brothers) as one of Jim’s slimey friends and a young Mark Wahlberg, also brilliant in this.  It’s a hard movie to watch at times, but it is one well worth it.



“Build It and they will come.”  Kevin Costner did build it in his Iowa corn field and they did come.  He didn’t care that the bank was about to take his house and leave his family homeless.  They is the ball players of his father’s past and his past to a Baseball field built in a cornfield and it is probably one of the most famous movies of all time.  Field of Dreams isn’t just about Baseball, it’s about what Baseball means to us as a fan, as a society and how we all want to hold on to that one moment of our youth, when we got the gloves and the ball and went out into the backyard and had a catch with our Dads.  I did that many times and I’m sure you did too.  A movie worthy of being on this list more than any other.



I saw this movie many years ago and not long after I did, my Dad and I decided to go to the Baseball Hall Of Fame.  Imagine my surprise when I saw an entire wing devoted to the All American Girls Baseball League.  A League started at the time of World War 2 by the owner of Clark’s candy bars.  Clark decided that while the Ball players were away fighting the war, then why not give the home fans some Baseball to watch.   Instead of the scabs that took over they would use girls.   Most people would consider this some sort of chick flick, but not me, it’s deserves to be a sports movie, because it is about Baseball no matter what the gender.   Tom Hanks is at his comedic best as former MLB star Jimmy Doolan, turned drunk after his career went downhill.  Geena Davis plays Catcher Dottie Henson, the teams best player and hitter.  Along with Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell to round out the supporting roles and it has sure fire acting.  This is a movie that will make you laugh and at times make you cry.  If you haven’t seen this movie or looked up the All American Girls Baseball League, you must.  When you do try and look up Bill Spaceman Lee’s mom.  She was quite a pitcher in her day, so as you can see the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.


kev-and-susanThere have been a lot of movies about Baseball that have been done, but none more realistic than Ron Shelton’s Bull Durham.  Shelton was a former minor league farm hand in the Baltimore Orioles system, so he knew the toils of those long bus rides to places like Kenosha Wisconsin.  There are so many great lines and moments in this movie that I can’t count them on one hand.  Kevin Costner is brilliant as Crash Davis, Susan Sarandon is charismatic as Annie Savoy and Tim Robbins is a lovable knucklehead as Nuke LaLouch, the pitcher with a two cent head.  My favorite part of the movie is the speech Costner gives, when he decides not to share Annie with with Nuke.  I call it the Lee Harvey Oswald Speech and it explains Crash Davis thoroughly.




Some people may not consider Pool a sport, but I do and there are two movies on this list based on the topic and they are two of the best pool movies ever made.  In fact both movies are on my top 100 list.  The Color of Money is one of them.  Paul Newman reprises Fast Eddie Felson.  Eddie’s aged a lot, he runs a bar with a pool hall and is interested in Helen Shaver and wants to settle down, but he is drawn back into the wild seedy world of run down pool halls, when he meets Vinnie, a pool flake.  He sees raw talent in this kid and wants to make money with him.  However, he needs Eddie to turn off the flake when it doesn’t suit his needs and turn it on when it does.  Vinnie is wild and cocky and can’t resist showing off.  This movie is brilliant, Tom Cruise(Vinnie) is brilliant.  These types of roles are the reason Cruise is a star.  Paul Newman gives an academy award performance as Fast Eddie and Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio plays Vinnie’s girlfriend Carmen, a bit of a grifter trying to ride Vinnie all the way to the bank.


The Wrestler

There are some movies that come along and make you go wow!  When it’s a sports movie, you’re absolutely numb with delight.  Mickey Rourke finally returns to the big screen after many trials and tribulations and hits it out of the park.  Mickey Rourke plays Randy the Ram Robinson, a washed up Wrestler who still loves the the spotlight and the roar of the crowd.  However, Randy knows his time may be limited and his health isn’t the best and he needs to make amends in his life and reconnect with his daughter.  Also in this movie is Marisa Tomei, who gives a strong performance as a long in the toothed stripper, who falls for Randy.  This movie will eat you up and spit you out for dinner at times.  The best scenes are when Randy tries to reconnect with his daughter(Evan Rachel Wood).  These scenes are poignant and heart wrenching.  As he comes to grips with his heart condition, Randy the Ram, just wants that one more shot at a glory a big main event.  The end is tragic, but in the end Randy ends up dying the way he wanted, in the ring, even though nothing really turned out the way he wanted.  Rourke is phenomenal in this, his best work ever and he won an Oscar for it.  It’s good to see Rourke back and working again doing caliber work like he did with Diner and The Pope of Greenwich Village.  This is a movie that deserves to be on this list and very high on the list.


ROCKYRocky isn’t just a sports movie, it’s one of the greatest movies of all time.  At one point in my life I was a huge boxing fan and this movie was one of the best on the subject matter.  Everyone loves to root for the underdog and Rocky was definitely that.  Rocky was a movie that was done on a shoe string budget, written and directed by Sylvester Stallone’s and it became his breakout movie.  It is not just the story of Rocky, but the story of Stallone’s underdog life.  I think that’s why the movie has so much honesty to it, because he wrote it during a time when he was trying to break out and this movie shows what it was like, just like Rocky.


the-hustlerThe Hustler is the movie that introduced us to Fast Eddie Felson, whose life was spent in seedy pool halls hustling the seediest underbelly of society. Sometimes he won, sometimes he lost and sometimes he was beaten for his trouble.  That didn’t stop Eddie from being cocky enough to know he could beat Minnesota Fats(Jackie Gleason)    This is a much darker movie than Color of Money, but that doesn’t take away it’s gritty dialogue and great performance by Paul Newman.  This is the best pool movie ever and one that spawned the second best, the Color of Money.



My number one sports movie has to be Raging Bull by Martin Scorsese.  A movie about Jake LaMotta, whose life was fascinating and at times a bit disturbing.  Beautifully shot in black and white with Oscar performances from Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty.  The boxing scenes are some of the grittiest I’ve seen.  I know I wouldn’t have wanted to get in the ring with this guy.  If you watch one movie about sports, watch this one, you won’t be sorry that you did.


Sports Movies The Ra Ra speech.


Alan Ball personifies Seamus O’Brien’s heart, desire and courage.  Even though Bryan Hamilton was his favorite player, he uses Alan Ball’s qualities to inspire Sheffield United to Cup glory.

In my action adventure movie, I have two elements going.  The first is element is action adventure.  The second is sports.  In order to pull this off I needed a credible story with a credible character with a shot of irony thrown in.  My main character Seamus O’Brien grows up in Belfast supporting English Football club Manchester City, but his favorite player is another Irishman named Bryan Hamilton who thrived with Ipswich Town and Everton.  The Irony is Seamus is Catholic and so is his soon to be fiance.   His fiance Hannah Laughlin, defies the IRA by becoming a peace activist.  All Seamus cares about is Football, he could care less about sectarian violence.  When Hannah is killed by the IRA, Seamus injures his knee in a cup tie while playing in a cup tie for Manchester City.  When he finds out that Hannah is murdered by the IRA, he joins Interpol.  Many years later his past catches up with him.  He goes undercover for Interpol to take down the leader of the IRA named Albert Renneville.  Renneville was responsible for ordering the hit that killed his Hannah.  When Interpol puts Seamus undercover to catch Renneville, he joins bottom of the table Sheffield United, who haven’t won a Championship since the early 1900’s.  When he arrives they are a shambles.  To make his undercover story credible, Seamus must act like he cares about this club and turn this rag tag club into a bunch of winners, while enticing Renneville to fix Football matches.   He also must teach a young upstart kid, named Mick Such how to become the star the Blades so desperately need.  Seamus treats the kid, like an older brother teaching him some hard lessons along the way.  Mick slowly improves and as Mick improves Sheffield United climb the table and challenge their arch rivals Sheffield Wednesday for the Championship and the FA Cup.  When it is two rival clubs from the same town, challenging for two trophies, I have no choice but to call this movie Derby Double.

Danny Blanchflower revolutionized the role of Captain.  Before Danny came along it was a title given to a well respected player on a club.  Danny thought it should be more of a tactical title.  When Aston Villa and Barnsley wouldn’t allow him to dictate on the pitch. Bill Nicholson of Spurs swept in and made use of the man’s incredible Football IQ and he bacme the first true Captain.  Seamus O’Brien’s IQ and leadership qualities for his character were based on the legendary Danny Blanchflower, one of the greatest players to ever.

In every sports movie there is always that one moment, where the lead character must find a way to encourage his club to dig down deep and fight back.  In the first half of the Derby final, Sheffield Wednesday have torched United and lead by two goals.  At half time, Seamus O’Brien gives that speech and there is a small story behind it.  The idea for this speech came from a true story.  Another Irishman named Danny Blanchflower gave a similar speech to Tottenham Hotspurs when they were underdogs to the great Athletico Madrid.  The irony of this speech is that Danny wasn’t supposed to play in that match.  Tony Marchi was, but Marchi was hurt, so Manager Bill Nicholson brought the club skipper into the side.  Before the match, Blanchflower gave a very colorful speech in which he told each player in the side that he was better than the man he was facing that night. I didn’t copy the speech, only the idea of it.   Seamus’ speech may not be as colorful, but it is no less passionate.  Here is the scene.


COX punches the door open and chucks his gloves at the wall and beats his locker.


I’m gonna kick that thick headed sod in the mouth if he styles in
front of me one more fucking time!

HOPE enters.


Willie!  Simmer lad!

HOPE consoles his players one by one.


We’ve lost. Next year.

SEAMUS pounds Broadley’s locker door.  BROADLEY jumps from the fright of it.  SEAMUS opens BROADLEY’S locker and packs his kit bag and shoves it at him.


Go on.  Take your flipping kit bag and go home.

SEAMUS moves slowly and deliberately down the row of his downtrodden teammates.  He looks at them with an intense stare.


We won the Championship.  There’s only one better prize in this beautiful game.   That’s right here and right now on this stage.

ELIZABETH ENTERS  MICK listens and grins.  He knows what’s coming.  SEAMUS, a hard stare into LLEWELLAN.


Llewellan do you know who my favorite player was?

LLEWELLAN, a shrug.


Ian Rush?

SEAMUS incredulous at the thought.


Ian Rush????

LLEWELLAN, ruffled.


Here!  Ian Rush is one of Wales Legends.


That’s fine for you, you’re Welsh.  I took a different route and not Northern Irish.  English.  Alan Ball was my favorite.  I grew up watching him.  I played against him once.  Do you know that man had courage, desire and the heart of a lion.  Everton won a Championship with him.  He won a World Cup winners Medal here in…



DAYKEN, astonished MICK knew that.


Drilled into my head.


Very good Mick.  Alan fought for every ball he won.  He won back every ball he lost.  When others ran down, Alan ran on and on until the job was done.  You lot aren’t playing like him!  You act as if it’s Barcelona out there.  This is Wednesday.  Dayken!  Wheeler isn’t Neville Southall,  Such!  Muckwith is hardly Lothar Matthaus.  He’s more like Doug Rougvie.

MEAKEN busts laughing.


I see you got that one Teddy.  A little Center Half humor there.  Cox!  You’ve beaten Sherwood and Ownby before.  They can’t beat you.  Not even on their best day.  Think that.  Breathe it.  Sherwood’s not Pele.  Well…actually nobody could be Pele.

Snickers from each player.


This is our Derby rival out there.  It should piss you off that you’re two goals down to them.  I know it pisses me off.  Now some of you lot can sit there and pack it in like Broadley, but not me.  I want another winners medal and I’m going to win the fucking thing if I have to break my kneecap again to do it.

SEAMUS laces his boots, tugs up his socks and he’s all business.

That gives you an idea of my Sports Ra Ra speech.  I worked on this scene for eleven drafts, tossing stuff that didn’t work and bringing in stuff that I thought would enhance it.  This is what it looks like now.  It gets the team fired up.  Mick leads the club in a United chant, one by one each player joins in.  They follow Seamus out of the dressing room and down the tunnel back onto the Wembley pitch.  Seamus refuses to join in until he reaches the Sheffield United supporters end.  Seeing the club pumped up has given the supporters hope.  The supporters begin a rousing chant throughout the stadium drowning out the Wednesday fans.  With all that noise and Sheffield United’s crowd all pumped up, the Blades come storming back in the second half.  Seamus sets up a hatrick for Mick and they beat their Derby Rival 4-3.

The great Stan Matthews known for his incredible wizardly with a Football.  The Pre George Best.  Although Seamus’s talent and passion and love for the game are based on George Best, Matthews was never far from my mind when it came to the epic end of this movie.  I had to have a match that personified a comeback and the Matthews final was the match that sticks out in everyone’s mind, even to this day.

I stole this comeback from the 1953 FA Cup Final. With Blackpool 3-1 down top Bolton Wanderers at half time.  Stanley Matthews(One of the greatest Wingers of all time), literally tore Bolton to shreds and set up Stan Mortensen’s for a hatrick.  That final has a fitting name. It’s called the Matthews final.  Sometimes sports stories are fiction, and can be hard to believe.  The Natural comes to mind.  Some stories can lead to the possibility that they could happen.  This is how, this one ends with a glorious speech firing up a team’s dreams to glory.  In the end, Seamus finds his passion again and discovers new dreams to follow.