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A couple weeks ago, we aired a story on Team Iceland's role in the movie "D2: The Mighty Ducks." This inspired our intern Dave Souza to put together his list of the best sports movies. After hours of research in the office and at home, Dave settled on the following rankings.
(Spoiler: While Dave acknowledges that "D2" is the best of the Ducks' trilogy, it didn't make the cut.)
Honorable Mention: "Caddyshack" (1980)
The Rundown: Funny sports movies aren't rare, but it is uncommon for films in that genre to become classics. With the exception of only one other movie on this list, "Caddyshack" is the most iconic sports comedy out there — sorry "Major League." The combination of Chevy Chase's antics, Rodney Dangerfield's one-liners and Bill Murray's overall absurdity make Caddyshack a hole-in-one.
Honorable Mention: "Bull Durham" (1988)
The Rundown: In one of two Kevin Costner baseball movies on this list, "Bull Durham" is a story of a longtime minor league catcher who is sent to Durham, North Carolina, to help out a young, hot-shot pitcher (Tim Robbins). Throw in great scenes, like Robbins shaking off Costner during a shutout, a soliloquy by Costner about what he loves in the world and a love triangle, and this one's a great combo of baseball and laughs.
10.) "The Natural" (1984)
The Rundown: Robert Redford portrays a former phenom trying to play his way back into baseball after being shot. What follows is a story of a season filled with ups and downs. Redford's character is admirable. He's driven to be honest and honorable — but sometimes fails at both. The end, Redford's heroic homer to win the game and the pennant, is one of the best home run scenes out there.
9.) "The Sandlot" (1993)
The Rundown: "The Sandlot" is on this list not just because of the movie itself, but also because of the feelings and memories it evokes. Summer nights with your friends growing up, all hoping to play baseball forever. From the fantastic soundtrack — you can't tell me you don't think of "The Sandlot" when you here "Spirit in the Sky" – to memorable scenes (the swimming pool, the big chase, the final scene, the colossal back and forth with "The Beast") "The Sandlot" is the coming-of-age movie for any young kid who dreams of playing baseball forever.
8.) "Remember the Titans" (2000)
The Rundown: One of just two football movies to make my list, "Remember the Titans" is a story about overcoming racial tension. A team comes together. There are hair-raising speeches — at Gettysburg, and on the field at the Regional Championship Game. Toss in some comedy, a tear-jerking car crash and a karaoke scene you can't help but sing along to, and you have an unforgettable sports film.
7.) "Slap Shot" (1977)
The Rundown: The only sports comedy to surpass "Caddyshack," Slap Shot is a cult classic for any hockey fan. The high jinks all stem from the Hanson brothers, the bespectacled goons who play the game with more of an edge than anybody's ever seen — even in minor league hockey. There are the montages of hits and brawls, plus the antics of the other players on the Chiefs (i.e. the finer points of hockey and Ned's final scene). All of this combines to make a hysterical movie from start to finish.
6.) "Rocky" (1976)
The Rundown: "Rocky" is the best-known boxing movie. Rocky's training scenes have become a part of pop culture. When "The Italian Stallion" is chosen to fight the great Apollo Creed, he silences the doubters by going the distance with the champ. The movie, like Sylvester Stallone's character, is an inspiration to its viewers.
5.) "The Pride of the Yankees" (1942)
The Rundown: One of the lesser-known films on this list, "The Pride of the Yankees" details the life and playing days of famous New York Yankee Lou Gehrig. The movie starts out with Gehrig's childhood and continues through the slugger's playing days to his battle with ALS and his famous "Luckiest Man" speech in 1939. An interesting note: Gary Cooper, the actor who played Gehrig, was right-handed, while Gehrig himself was left-handed. In order to film all of the batting scenes, everything had to be filmed in reverse, with Cooper sprinting down the third-base line.
4.) "Hoosiers" (1986)
The Rundown: Based on a true story from 1954, "Hoosiers" is the perfect archetype for an inspirational sports movie. It starts when a new coach — played by Gene Hackman — comes to a small Indiana town to lead the local high school's basketball team. After some early trouble and dissatisfaction from the team and the townspeople, the Hickory Huskers start winning and make it all the way to the state championship game. Along the way, we hear some heart-wrenching stories from players like Jimmy and Everett and see tense moments during games that go down to the wire. And who can forget Coach Norman Dale's iconic speech in the locker room before the regional final?
3.) "Miracle" (2004)
The Rundown: While we're on the topic of iconic speeches, Kurt Russell's reenactment of Herb Brooks' address to Team USA has to be near the top of the list of great sports movie speeches. Arguably the greatest game of the 20th century because of the context of the Cold War and the monumental odds stacked against Team USA, the Miracle on Ice game is perfectly chronicled in this 2004 film. Scenes like Mike Eruzione's goal, the fight between Jack O'Callahan and Rob McClanahan and Brooks' tirade after an exhibition game are enough reason to watch this one repeatedly. A great decision by the filmmakers was having Al Michaels — who was the broadcaster for the actual game in 1980 — do the play-by-play of the reenactment in the movie. And a fantastic touch was using his original call when Team USA beats the USSR in the film.
2.) "Field of Dreams" (1989)
The Rundown: The best Kevin Costner sports movie of all time (sorry, Bull Durham), "Field of Dreams" shows the everlasting power of family delivered through the medium of baseball. This film contains a number of memorable lines, from the chill-inducing whisper of, "If you build it, he will come," to Shoeless Joe Jackson — played by Ray Liotta — asking Costner, "Is this heaven?" to James Earl Jones' lengthy speech on the power of baseball. And every one of those moments leads up to the last, tear-jerking scene, when Costner and his character's father have a catch. The movie is cloaked in this aura of blissful separation, with baseball and that cornfield in Iowa acting as the ultimate escape.
1.) "Rudy" (1993)
The Rundown: Another final scene that warms the heart, "Rudy" is the story of a plucky boy from a working class family who dreams of playing football for Notre Dame. Despite being undersized, his insane work ethic and admirable humility keep Rudy Ruettiger on the path to his goals. The more and more Rudy works to see his dream realized — despite numerous setbacks like the death of his best friend, the repeated school rejections and the firing of a helpful coach — the more the character works his way into the heart of the audience, which is rooting for him to succeed seemingly even more than the crowd chanting, "Rudy, Rudy," in the final scene. There are countless powerful clips in this movie — like the team turning their jerseys in, Rudy's dad finding out about his son going to Notre Dame and Rudy reading his acceptance letter — that make it not only a must-see, but the best sports movie out there. And the fact that it's based on a true story make it even more powerful.
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