Sports and cinema have always had an interesting relationship, aside from WWE wrestlers getting movie deals (if you’d call professional wrestling a sport). Sports legends have been documented, historical moments have been revisited on the silver screen and Will Ferrell has introduced some colorful characters in his comedic sports parodies. It’s the perfect genre to tell stories of competition, triumph, desire and despair, mostly featuring underdog teams that pull off the ultimate upset. With baseball legend Jackie Robinson’s biopic “42” coming out this weekend, let’s take a moment to reflect on the relationship between movies and sports.
Countless films have explored the inherent drama and heroic quality of one of America’s most beloved sports: football. The movie industry has successfully turned the feel-good, family-friendly sport film into a formula, cranking out numerous stories that include tropes like tough coaches leading unlikely teams to unexpected victories. Some memorable football films that come to mind include “Remember the Titans” (2000), “The Replacements” (2000) and “Friday Night Lights” (2004), all of which capture the notion of ordinary men acting as heroes on a grassy field, in the eyes of fans and the public.
In contrast to movies about football, most baseball films focus on individuals rather than teams. One example is “Field of Dreams” (1989), in which a farmer builds a field for the ghosts of disgraced baseball players. A more recent sample, “Moneyball” (2011), is the story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane and his game-changing recruiting methods.
Similar to football films, basketball movies usually feature the universal underdog plot but generally with more diversity. Some have focused on how romance factors into the business, like “Love & Basketball” (2000), or on racial differences within the sport, like “White Men Can’t Jump” (1992). Overall, the subgenre has seen its share of dark horse stories, most notably the childhood obsession known as “Space Jam” (1996).
Apparently, tennis is one of the more uninspiring sports around, since it has yet to elicit a remarkable movie about the sport, and the only one, far from remarkable, that comes to mind is “Wimbledon” (2004). There was, however, that memorable scene from “Bridesmaids” (2011), when a tennis ball whales Kristen Wiig in the chest.
The most memorable hockey movie is “Miracle” (2004), based on the true story of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team that defeated the Soviet team favored for the gold medal. Aside from “The Mighty Ducks” (1992), “Miracle” is probably the only lasting hockey film. Sorry, Mike Myers, but “The Love Guru” (2008) does not count.
The boxing genre has never really featured much plot diversity. From “Rocky” (1976) to “The Fighter” (2010), every movie about boxers features the same story: a rising or dead-beat boxer becomes the unexpected victor in a major fight against the champion.