I was enraptured by the FIFA Women’s World Cup final match, much like the rest of the country. I am so happy that Team USA won, and in celebration of our smashing ladies and their third star (third time’s the charm!), I decided to put together a list of feel-good sports films that leave you grinning. But why do we watch sports movies? Is it the fear of failure? The camaraderie that’s often found in a team? The sweating nervousness that makes us itch to hop on a treadmill and let loose all that energy? Much like a well-deserved victory, these films deserve more praise than offered, and have had me tearing up every time I watch them. Let’s get started!
5. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
Okay, so this one doesn’t make me cry, and some might say that it shouldn’t even count as a sports film. But is it physically competitive? Yes. Is there a team of characters? Yes. Is there a rival team? Hell yes. So I count it as a sports movie.
“Dodgeball” is a fantastic, funny movie, perfect for a nightly hangout with friends and a few beers. Surprisingly for a comedy, there are a few dark moments, but they add to the story rather than detract it. I was rolling on the floor from Ben Stiller’s performance as White Goodman (great hair and makeup too), and was actually humbled by Vince Vaughan’s “average” but smart Peter LaFleur character. High-five to the actors on the Globo Gym team as well.
4. A League of Their Own
While some movie-goers may not remember the title of this film, I guarantee they’ll remember the story. With how frequently it’s shown on TV, I have no doubt that everyone has seen clips of this film at least one in their life. The story is about Geena Davis’ character Dottie and her sister Kit (played by Lori Petty) who get drafted into a women’s baseball league, to substitute for all the male players going to war during WWII. They team up with characters played by Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Ann Cusack, and more, and are coached by a half-drunken Tom Hanks.
This is definitely a feel-good feminine film, despite it’s sad credits song. While the league they’re in lasts only for the duration of the war, the girls stick it to the man and manage to draw huge crowds of war-fatigued families looking for a slice of American nostalgia. It’s a great period piece, packed with humor and inspiration for little girls everywhere.
“Miracle” is the true story of the underdog U.S. ice hockey team that defeated the favored Soviet team in the 1980 Winter Olympic games. It’s been dubbed one of the biggest upsets in sports history, and I feel that the film adaptation does do it justice. Kurt Russell plays the hardass coach Herb Brooks, who takes a ragtag team of handpicked college players and whips them into shape to face the Soviet team. Every player is given their scene or moment in the spotlight, contributing to a heightened team morale that climaxes in the final minutes of the winning game. I wasn’t even a fan of hockey before I saw this movie, and ended up looking into the event itself and how it was unprecedented that our team could come out on top. I’ve seen the Mighty Ducks, but I think “Miracle” tops it. Makes you feel damn proud to be an American.
2. Remember the Titans
Where would this list be without “Remember the Titans”? This one is a tear-jerker, especially near the end, I’m not ashamed to say. In spite of that, it’s still feel-good. “Remember the Titans” needs no introduction, especially since this heralded film has been shown in high schools across America on rainy days without fail. But a quick recap: Denzel Washington plays Herman Boone, hired on as Head Coach for the TC Williams High School football team in Virginia. The only problem is that the school has been newly integrated, and the tensions between black and white kids have mounted. Coach Boone and Assistant Coach Yoast (played by Will Patton), put aside their differences to pull an integrated football team together and conquer the championship.
In this day and age, when racial tensions are still piled high as the eye can see, I think we still need this film now more than ever. It’s an iconic look into what man can achieve if we put aside skin color and reach for a common goal. The friendships that develop between the team members are very real, sometimes funny and challenging. And when the “incident” happens at the climax of the film, it only brings them closer together, brother-to-brother. The best parts of the film are between Wood Harris’ Julius Campbell and Ryan Hurst’s Gerry Bertier, two opposite players who end up bonding over what they love and creating a palpable friendship that you can feel.
1. Friday Night Lights
Remember when I mentioned crying? Well, this is the one you want to save the tissues for. Many people may place “Remember the Titans” in the number one slot, but I’ve reserved it for the original “Friday Night Lights” film (not the TV show), starring Billy Bob Thornton. The TV show came out two years after this film, and carries the same emotional weight and tone of the original film. If you haven’t seen at least season one of the show yet, you have not seen great story.
Back to the movie, this film is about a small town in Texas that worships the high school football team. These players are revered and understand that the slim chances of them leaving this town are dependent on how they do during the season. While “Remember the Titans” had a political message about racial tensions, “Friday Night Lights” packs themes on racism, poverty, and love, all into one film. And SPOILER ALERT…the team makes it to the championship, but loses in the last minute.
In a time when sports films were being held up like heroic epics, where the hero/heroine always wins, “Friday Night Lights” stomped on all those tropes and gave viewers the most bittersweet of endings in cinematic history. The actors portrayed their characters beautifully, giving us a glimpse into a life where your future is literally depending on a ball. We see some players fall and others rise, career-ending injuries and family fights. If you want to feel emotionally impacted by a sports film, I can’t recommend this one enough.