The bigwigs in Hollywood can make a movie out of anything, literally anything. One such genre which has flourished under the invisible hand of Hollywood has to be sports-based films, which are seemingly becoming more commonplace year-on-year.
For every great sports film you do admittedly have to endure ten terrible movies but we have managed to whittle them down to the best three.
Slap Shot (1977)
Sport: Ice Hockey
Cast: Paul Newman, Michael Ontkean
Slap Shot is one of those sleeper films. When it was first released it wasn’t given the most welcome of receptions. The foul language and constant fighting proved too much for the era. However, the film is tantamount to a fine red wine. It only gets better with time. To demonstrate just how good this film is, Maxim placed it number one in their list of 100 Greatest Guy Movies, seeing off competition from Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Pulp Fiction and many more.
The movie sees Paul Newman play the role of player/coach of the fictional side Charlestown Chiefs, a struggling side that looks certain to fold at the end of the season. With attendance figures down and the team getting thumped on a weekly basis, he decides to change the side’s ethos. Rather than playing hockey, they will just pummel the opposition, which they do all the way to the Championship game.
Any struggling NHL side should watch this film and they could improve their odds in the battle to win the Stanley Cup.
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young
Who knows what the film world would have looked like if Sylvester Stallone acquiesced and allowed United Artists to insert someone like Robert Redford or Burt Reynolds into the titular role? What is for sure, their portrayal of Rocky wouldn’t be fit to tie Stallone’s bootstraps.
Following in the classic underdog story narrative, Rocky is an amateur boxer who moonlights as an enforcer for the mob. Just when it seems like his life is going nowhere, fate gives him a lovely surprise. World heavyweight champion Apollo Creed is scheduled to fight in Philadelphia, but his opponent pulls out. Instead of calling off the event, he decides to take on a local fighter. That fighter is Rocky Balboa.
Not only did Rocky deliver in terms of story, something of a rarity in most sporting movies, it also delivered in sporting action. The fight between Rocky and Apollo was superb, and the film is owed a lot of gratitude for introducing us to the beautiful thing that is a training montage. The iconic running scene still sends shivers down the spine, while his cow-carcass punch bag lives long in the memory.
The three Oscar’s won in 1977 is certainly a fitting tribute to a terrific film. It is a film that showed sport could do serious.
Raging Bull (1980)
Cast: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci
As much as we don’t want to have two boxing films in this list, it is nigh on impossible to exclude either. Raging Bull is not only one of the greatest sport films of all time, it is one of the greatest of any genre, period.
When Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese join forces, they make magic happen. The famed director always gets the best out of De Niro, who in turn makes sure to extract every last drop of cinema excellence from his dear friend.
The movie follows the life of former world champion Jake LaMotta, charting his rise and inevitable fall. LaMotta was a beast of a boxer, most noted for his famed rivalry with the mercurial Sugar Ray Robinson. After reaching the top of his profession, his life unravels due to problems with the mob and his own wife. This leaves LaMotta as a very sour individual.
De Niro, who won the best Actor Award for his portrayal, was beyond believable. His commitment to the role has to be commended. Whilst being trained for the film he actually took part in three amateur bouts. Even more impressive is the weight he had to gain in four months to portray the washed-up version of LaMotta. In total, De Niro had to pile on a total of 31kg. This commitment paid off handsomely.