Forget Rocky and Raging Bull: these are the top five sports movies – The Guardian

I like a good comedy. I love a good science-fiction film. But you can’t beat a frickin’ sports movie.

Speeches, stakes and cheerleaders … either the name of the greatest restaurant I have yet to be thrown out of or three of, the clearest signs that you’re watching a genre that can bump my goose like no other.

Asking me to pick my top five, though, is like asking me to rank my limbs. I mean how do you tell Karate Kid he’s benched and Rocky got the nod? How do you tell Rocky that Raging Bull is way better over 90 minutes? And how do you tell Raging Bull that you’re actually more in the mood for Space Jam?

So truss yourself up, stretch yourself out and take a long hard hit of Deep Heat, as I guide you through my starting lineup of iconic nipple-stiffeners.

Forgive me Shooter McGavin, wherever you are …

5. Friday Night Lights (TV series)

I’m cheating here already! The film is terrific, but the TV series is something else. Pitch-perfect in every way. If you don’t want to be a better person having spent just one episode in the company of coach Eric Taylor, then you are truly a lost cause. Wait, what am I saying? Coach Taylor would never give up on you. He’d put one hand behind your head, look you deep in the eyes and say “I trust you”, before cueing those chiming guitars. Kyle Chandler is the best screen coach of all time. That scene where he writes State on the chalkboard … man alive. Clear eyes, full hearts …

4. Jerry Maguire

I think this qualifies, doesn’t it? Set in the world of sports, just from an agent’s POV. So many great moments and lines: “If this [taps heart] is empty, then this [taps head] doesn’t matter.” Gets me every time. Cameron Crowe said he wanted to make a movie about a guy who arrives at his greatest success from incredible failure, which just happens to be the story of my life, albeit one stalled at the incredible failure mark. Career best for all involved.

3. Animalympics

Probably the first sports movie I saw and boy is it a doozy! Amazing voice cast, brilliant songs and fresh animation that isn’t too Disney while still being enough Hanna-Barbera. Hard to pick who I want to be most in it, then and now! Decathlete alligator Bolt Jenkins? Tail-surfing otter Dean Wilson? No no, it has to be the long-distance running-goat Rene Fromage, forsaking the love of a beautiful lioness in his pursuit of Olympic gold … or does he? Vive le victory!

2. Hoop Dreams

A very special documentary that I won’t spoil if you haven’t seen it. Suffice it to say: young shoulders, fathers and sons, basketball. Impeccable and lasting.

1. Kevin Costner

Riding high … Kevin Costner in Open Range
Riding high … Kevin Costner in Open Range Photograph: Disney/Everett/Rex Features

I mean, need I say more? If you’ve read this far, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Kevin Costner is my favourite sports movie of all time. Even in Waterworld.


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