With the Hollywood writers strike coming to an end, we thought we’d give credit where it was due. Fair is fair. After bashing the hacks that gave us some of the worst moments in the history of the silver screen, it’s only right to deliver some praise and remember the good times.
20. BASEketball (1998): You had to know that Matt Stone and Trey Parker wouldn’t make a typical sports movie. But creating their own sport? Basketball played with baseball rules? Genius.
19. Tin Cup (1996): Hit and miss, Kevin Costner has made his fair share of sports movies. After surfacing twice on our list of Hollywood duds, his first appearance on our list of gems is thanks to his nonchalant effort as golf pro Roy McAvoy. Add Cheech as his caddy, Rene Russo as his girlfriend and Don Johnson as his no-balls rival and watch him go for it every time. You the man, Cup.
18. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994): Besides turning Courteney Cox and Jim Carrey into household names, credit this oddball, slapstick film with introducing us to the deviance that can derive from the bitter pain of a lonely field goal kicker. And all because fuckin’ Marino couldn’t keep the damn laces out. “Would you look at that, there little footballs!”
17. The Bad News Bears (1976): Finally, someone takes a close look at the ultra-competitive world of little league sports. The good news, Walter Matthau’s band of rag tag warriors resemble an E! True Hollywood Story more than a baseball team.
16. Karate Kid (1984): If painting the fence, waxing the car, painting the house, sanding the floor and learning the ultimate ’80s crane kick didn’t make Ralph Macchio the man, banging Elisabeth Shue sealed the deal.
15. Hoop Dreams (1994): This poignant look at childhood superstardom reminds us that for every KG, Kobe and King James there are millions of more stories that follow the path of William Gates and Arthur Agee.
14. Pride of the Yankees (1942): When Lou Gehrig’s famous quote about being the “luckiest man on Earth” is remembered, most often it’s being delivered by Gary Cooper. Outside of Marshal Will Kane, you couldn’t ask for a better role.
13. Million Dollar Baby (2004): Chick boxing? We know what your thinking … Where’s the mud? Where’s Tonya? Why would we watch this? All thoughts that ran through our heads as well. But we got to give Clint and Hillary their due. This is an uncompromising and astonishing piece of American filmmaking. Trust us, we didn’t want to believe it either.
12. Major League (1989): Before Kenny, Albert and Manny, America went Wahoo crazy for Jake, Willie and “Wild Thing” Rick Vaughn. With the help of Bob Uecker, the crazies in Cleveland got a pennant race on the big screen and the filmmakers sold a few American Express cards along the way.
11. He Got Game (1998): Spike Lee’s epic basketball joint has all the makings of a great sports movie. Jim Brown as a hardboiled cop. Denzel Washington as a hardened criminal. And Ray Allen as Jesus Shuttlesworth – the savior of modern day hoops. The only thing it doesn’t have is a reliable ending. Unfortunately, the mind-numbing metaphoric ball-toss from Jake to his boy is the only thing that took this film out of the top ten.
10. A League of Their Own (1992): Call us sentimental. Call us pussies. We don’t care. There’s no crying in baseball dammit and Tom Hanks is the truth as the fictional manager of the Rockford Peaches. But why wouldn’t he be, his character is loosely based the late, great Philadelphia A’s slugger Double X.
9. When We Were Kings (1996): The Greatest of All Time reclaims what will always be rightfully his – the heavyweight belt. Poor George never saw it coming, but thanks to this Oscar-winning documentary, the rest of us will be able to over, and over, and over again.
8. Slap Shot (1977): Everyone remembers the Charlestown Chiefs and the Hanson brothers, but the heart of this hockey flick lies in its witty dialogue. How can you go wrong when you offer quotes like this: “Your son looks like a fag to me. You better get married again soon or he’ll have a cock in his mouth before you can say Jack Robinson.”
7. The Natural (1984): Roy Hobbs set out to be the greatest ballplayer ever. His journey was long and winding for sure, but in one electrifying moment he achieved his goal. And the rest of us will always remember him as the best damn New York Knight of all time.
6. The Hustler (1961): Before he met the dimwitted Tom Cruise and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio got her tits in his way, Paul Newman’s Fast Eddie Felson just wanted to beat the Fatman at his own game. Thankfully, he did. And we loved it.
5. Caddyshack (1980): If there’s ever been a movie quoted more often than Shakespeare, this would be it. Between Judge Smails, Ty Webb, Al Czervik, Danny Noonan and the immortal Carl Spackler there’s about a million snips of dialogue to choose from … which is nice.
4. Hoosiers (1986): Run the picket fence, give the ball to Jimmy Chitwood and don’t get caught watching the paint dry. In a simpler time, back when Bobby Knight was more legend than punchline, Gene Hackman dabbled in a little Indiana basketball of his own and theatergoers stood up and cheered.
3. Rocky (1976): When the whole thing began, it wasn’t about the belt. It wasn’t about money, notoriety or the tempting honey pot of five fucking sequels either. When the whole thing began, all Rock cared about was the girl at the pet store and going the distance. Paulie, Butkus, little Marie on the corner and pulverizing dead carcasses were all a close second.
2. Bull Durham (1988): Is this movie about baseball or sex? Perhaps a little of both (or, I guess a whole lot of both). And why not? Sometimes the line gets blurred between the two favorite American pastimes, and if Annie’s opening monologue doesn’t get that across, Millie’s description of the young fireballer Ebby Calvin LaLoosh in the opening scene sets the tone early enough: “He fucks like he pitches, sort of all over the place.”
1. Raging Bull (1980): Jake might not have been an Olivier, but the crazy son of a bitch fought Sugar Ray. And thankfully, Martin Scorsese gave him a stage and Robert De Niro made the bull rage. The rest of us, well we all just appreciated the entertainment.