5 Sports Movies That Made Me Forget I Don’t Care About Sports
While I like to believe I’m a fairly well-rounded person, there are certain subject that I simply don’t care about. Chief among them is sports. It’s not that I haven’t tried to see the appeal of watching adult people chase around balls of various shapes and sizes over the years, it’s that every attempt I’ve made to watch or play anything sports-shaped has been an abysmal failure. Not one of the games– basketball, baseball, soccer –has been able to hold my attention. When the Olympics come around, I grimace and spend weeks not feeling like a citizen of the world while watching sitcom reruns on TV Land. I am not a sports person.
But sports movies? Those are great. I can watch any movie about a sporting event and temporarily believe that I actually care about sports. It’s the characters that get to me. All sports movies are built around the underdog, the scrappy go-getter or the hero with the tragic backstory. The great irony is many sports movies (like the newly released 42) are about actual players, which leads me to believe that if every sporting event was preceded by a comprehensive rundown of the “character” list I would stop spending every March cursing March Madness for pre-empting my favorite television shows.
Bend it Like Beckham is one of the best teen movies to come out of the late ’90s/early ’00s teen movie craze. There’s a compelling love triangle between Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and a remarkably well done story about the push and pull between cultural expectations and personal desires, but what impresses me the most is the sheer enthusiasm it possesses for women’s soccer.
Jess (Nagra) and Jules’ (Knightley) love for the sport is the movie’s constant. They don’t just like to play; they need to play, and that urgency comes across beautifully onscreen. From the hardcore training sessions to the requisite final act big game, the girls live and breath soccer. It provides the very basis or their friendship, and gives the movie its emotional wallop. Not many teen movies are willing to let their teen characters’ true love be a sport, but Bend it Like Beckham was more than happy to oblige.
David O. Russell’s boundless directorial talents allow him to make any subject interesting through sheer force of style, but even without the gritty look and cool camera moves, The Fighter would have been a compelling story based on nothing more than the fascinating characters at its center.
The Fighter is a duet between two boxing brothers. Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is the hero of the piece; the athlete living in the shadow of his rapidly fading, drug-addled older brother Dicky (Christian Bale), whose career is held back by his commitment to his family. However, it’s Dicky’s story that is impossible to look away from. His trajectory from potential great to a tragic footnote in the history of boxing is heartbreaking, but beautifully rendered by all involved. By the movie’s end, it’s impossible not to cheer for both brothers, and hope against hope that one of them succeeding will be enough to sustain them both.
I don’t care what your feelings about baseball are, when Kevin Costner walks out onto the field that he built on faith alone to play catch with his dead father you will get goosebumps. If you don’t, it’s entirely possibly that you are in fact a robot. In that one moment, Field of Dreams succinctly sums up the connection sports can provide for people, while simultaneously turning otherwise composed adults into blubbering, incoherent messes. It’s an unspeakably moving capper to one of the best arguments for the existence of sports that I’ve ever encountered.
“There’s no crying in baseball!”
Again, I’m a sucker for films that shine a light on women in sports and A League of Their Own is quite possibly the best of the genre. At the very least, it’s the most memorable thanks to the likes of Geena Davis, Lori Petty and Tom Hanks.
Set in 1943, the movie depicts an era where women playing sports was seen as a novelty act more than anything else, but for the women on the field the game is serious business. Their enthusiasm and determination is so infectious that even their reluctant coach (Hanks) is swept away by it. A League of Their Own never shies away from showing just how tough baseball can be (bloody knees and fights abound) or displaying the deep friendships forged between the women who took to the field to entertain their country while the men were off fighting a war. For those reasons and so many more, it is one of the true classics of the genre.
A nearly four-hour long musical movie about the game of cricket should, by all accounts, be a tortuous affair, but Lagaan is the ultimate underdog story. The movie takes place in a small village in India at the height of British rule, where the villagers accept the British officer’s challenge to a cricket match in order to free themselves from taxes for three years. The catch is the villagers have never played the game before.
The entire second half of the movie is one long cricket match and it is absolutely thrilling. Lagaan is the kind of sports movie that will bring you to your feet by the end. It’s exciting, triumphant and mesmerizing– basically everything everyone else tells me a real life sporting event should be.
Have you ever watched a movie that made you interested in a subject you don’t normally care about? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
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