By Chris Suffield. Brad Pitt stars in new baseball drama, Moneyball, the true story of Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Back in 2002 Beane and his unorthodox assistant manager Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), spearheaded the use of computer-generated analysis to select baseball players.
Friday 26th November sees Brad Pitt stars in new baseball drama, Moneyball, the true story of Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Back in 2002 Beane and his unorthodox assistant manager Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), spearheaded the use of computer-generated analysis to select baseball players.
Moneyball has already scored a home run at the US box office, and Brad Pitt is hotly tipped for an Academy Award nomination. This reminded us that sports movies can make for great viewing; so here’s Chris Suffield’s run down of the top ten sports movies ever made.
10. Kingpin directed by Bobby and Peter Farelly
Sports movies shouldn’t all be serious and The Farrelly brother’s 1996 ten pin bowling comedy is anything but serious. Woody Harrleson stars as rising bowler Roy Munson. Unfortunately, Due to a misunderstanding orchestrated by fellow bowler Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray), Roy loses the use of his bowling hand. Years later, Roy meets Ishmeal (Randy Quaid), a Quaker and natural bowler, Roy trains his prodigy and they compete against McCracken in a national bowling tournament. The film ticks all the boxes: an underdog story, unlikely romance and personal demons to battle. There tends to be a shortage of bowling movies, likely with good reason, but Kingpin is good fun and stands up to repeat viewing.
9. Warrior directed by Gavin O’Connor
This recently released mixed martial arts movie sealed rising star Tom Hardy as a leading man. The story focuses on estranged brothers Tommy (Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton) competing against each other for the prize money. Tommy is a former solider running from his past, and Brendan quit fighting to become a teacher, but financial problems lead him back to the ring. Tommy seeks out his former alcoholic Father (Nick Nolte) to help him train. The fight sequences are impressively choreographed and the film packs an emotional punch and Hardy and Nolte give Oscar worthy performances.
8. Le Mans directed by Lee H Katzin
This 1971 movie filmed in documentary style was only a modest success on release. Over the decades Le Mans has come to be regarded as a cult classic, and one of the most realistic racing films of all time. Steven McQueen stars as Michael Delaney, the driver on the comeback trail after an accident cost a fellow racer his life. Famously there is almost no dialogue for the first 30 minutes of the film, focusing intently of the historic racing track and spectacular driving.
7. Tin Cup directed by Ron Shelton
Kevin Costner’s sports movies are usually in critics top ten, both Bull Durham and Field of Dreams are classics, but his other collaboration with director Ron Sheldon often gets overlooked. Tin Cup sees Costner play washed up golf pro Roy ‘Tin Cup’ McAvoy. Scratching a living on the golfing range a chance encounter with Dr Molly Griswold (Rene Russo) sees the sparks fly. Roy’s former friend and bitter rival David Simms (Don Johnson) asks Roy to caddy for him. Shortly after Roy announces he is now competing in the same tournament against Simms. A smart script and a likeable turn from Costner make Tin Cup the best golf movie to date.
6. The Wrestler directed by Darron Aronofsky
Not since Rocky has man and material been so well matched. Mickey Rourke gives an outstanding performance as former professional wrestler Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson. Director Darren Aronofsky’s film is a gritty and lonely look into the wrestling world; Randy barely scratches a living playing small venues and working part time at a supermarket deli. After suffering a heart attack he tries to mend his fractured relationship with his daughter, but the call of the ring is too strong to ignore. A modern day classic in every sense, it was a real shame that Rourke missed out on an Oscar as he was more than deserving.
5. The Fighter directed by David O. Russell
This is the inspiring true story of boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his half brother and trainer Dickie (Christian Bale). Dickie was once a contender and the hero of his neighborhood until he developed a crippling heroin habit that destroyed his career. Mickey, who has been on the outskirts of success for years, gets a final shot at his dream, but his overbearing family – including Dickie – continually get in his way. Bale won a best supporting actor Oscar this year for his role as drug addict Dickie, and it was well deserved for his riveting performance; however Mark Wahlberg gives a career defining performance as Micky.
4. Hoop Dreams directed by Steve James
This 1994 documentary follows two teenagers, William Gates and Arthur Agee, who both have aspirations to play professional basketball but face numerous obstacles to overcome. The filmmakers spent five years following William and Arthur and both their families. It’s impossible not to get engrossed in their lives, through the ups and devastating hardships they face. Hoop Dreams is a touching and moving true story that stays with you long after the credits roll.
3. Any Given Sunday directed by Oliver Stone
American Football movies don’t always translate to the European market, a handful of comedies are the successful exceptions. Directed by heavyweight Oliver Stone, Any Given Sunday offers a rare glimpse behind the scenes of a pro football team, as well as on the field. Al Pacino gives a fearless performance as aging coach Tony D’Amato. Dennis Quaid is the team Captain nearing the end of his career and Jamie Foxx is the new rising star.
2. Raging Bull directed Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorcese’s seminal boxing biopic just misses out on the top spot. Robert DeNiro gives the performance of a lifetime as Jake LaMotta, the boxer whose ambition to get to the top leaves his personal life in ruins. DeNiro gained over 60 pounds to play Jake in his later years and the role also earned him the Best Actor Academy Award at the 1981 Oscars. A violent and uncompromising film with breathtaking fight scenes, in addition to being one of the greatest sports movies, it’s one of the greatest movies ever made.
1. Rocky directed by John G. Alvildsen
A film with a little known actor, a budget of under $1 million and a script written by aforementioned little known actor doesn’t sound like a classic in the making. However, Rocky remains Sylvester Stallone’s finest performance, landing nominations for both Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay in 1977. It’s the classic underdog that everybody can relate to. You’re right there with him, through every punch, every montage and it’s impossible not to root for him. His delicate blossoming romance with Adrian is one of cinemas most tender and realistic romances.