If you’re anything like me (read: a part time sports fan, full time patriot) then I am willing to hazard a guess that over the past fortnight Olympic fever has grabbed hold of you, shaken you from your stupor and (somewhat ironically) plonked you down firmly in front of the television. Sports I never knew existed suddenly became worth rushing home for, stamps which last month I was lamenting the increased price of suddenly became the best thing to spend my money on (except for those Union Jack sunglasses of course: true story) simply because they bore the face of Andy Murray, and a pilgrimage to a golden postbox became, not just the potential title of a brilliant children’s novel, but a socially acceptable reality.
But now those days are over, and, whilst it certainly is nice to witness the return of normal BBC scheduling and collectively remember that there is more to life than the medal count, I’m sure I’m not the only one suffering from a little bit of Post Olympic Blues.* So, in order to fight off those blues why not follow in the footsteps of your Olympic heroes and get out there and take up a new sport.
Oh, it’s raining again so you need a little more inspiration? I thought as much, so I have compiled a short list of what I believe to be the five best sports films ever made. Read, watch and be inspired.
*Whilst it pains me to admit it, I realise that some people have been longing for the Olympics to end. If this is you then be encouraged; none of the below films include Gary Lineker, awkward interviews with distraught losing athletes or countless repeats of the same ten (sorry, 9.63) second race. So you’re ok.
5) The Classic: Chariots of Fire (1981)
Over the past fortnight we’ve heard the iconic theme music a hundred times. A day. But what about the film behind it? It is a touching portrait of two athletes in their bid to reach the 1924 Olympics and whilst it may seem a little slow at times, the characters of Eric Liddle (Ian Charleson) and Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) are beautifully crafted and wonderfully acted. This is a film about running, but what it excels in is how it approaches the sport in a hugely personal way, dealing with issues of faith, love and friendship in an intelligent and thought-provoking way.
4) The Family Favourite: The Mighty Ducks (1992)
You are never too old to be reminded of some simple life lessons by a babyfaced Joshua Jackson and a smooth talking Emilio Estevez. A tale of a group of dysfunctional kids who are rubbish at ice hockey’s journey to become a team who are good at ice hockey, with the help of a self centred lawyer who is forced to coach them. Of course, everybody learns a lot more than just how to play (or coach) hockey and there is a satisfactory (but not overpowering) dose of romance in there as well. This heartwarming film is one of those ones you loved as a kid, and can still love as an adult. (But don’t bother with the third in the trilogy).
3) The Comedy: Happy Gilmore (1996)
Ok, so whether golf is a sport or not is debatable (just joking…I think), but whether or not this film gets a mention is definitely not. Arguably Adam Sandler’s finest work, in which he plays a dejected hockey player who tries his hand at golf in order to help his grandmother; this film has everything a good comedy needs; a loveable but eccentric protagonist, a ridiculous obstacle to overcome, plenty of quotable one liners and a powerful (but stupid) bad guy. Oh, and an appearance from Ben Stiller. Golf has never been so enjoyable.
2) The Drama: Coach Carter (2005)
Good guy goes to rough school, brings people together and changes lives through the uniting power of sport (in this case, basketball); not without a few hurdles and rousing speeches along the way of course. Coach Carter uses the classic ‘inspirational movie’ formula: but boy does it do it well. It’s like Dangerous Minds but with basketball instead of poetry and a brilliant (as always) Samuel L. Jackson in the place of Michelle Pfieffer. The soundtrack is great, the basketball scenes are well choreographed and you can’t help but warm to the wayward boys that Coach Carter takes under his wing. I’ll never forget how close to tears I was after watching this film for the first time, because I realised there was no basketball court in my area. Now that’s inspiration for you.
1) The Ultimate Sports Film Ever: Cool Runnings (1993)
I’ve heard it said recently that Usain Bolt is the greatest Jamaican athlete of all time, and that the four men who stood on the podium on Saturday night and accepted their Men’s Relay gold medals are “the fastest of the fastest of Jamaican sprinters”. This may be so, but let’s not be quick to forget the achievements of Junior, Derice, Yul and Sanka, the (unfortunately fictional) Jamaican bobsleigh team depicted in Cool Runnings, a film inspired by the (gloriously true!) story of the first ever Jamaican bobsleigh team to compete in the Winter Olympics. I don’t really know how to describe this film without getting over emotional or using too many superlatives, so prepare yourself. It’s ninety-eight minutes of loveable (and yet not quite one dimensional) characters, hilarious and hugely quotable dialogue and a plot which will make you laugh, cry and wish you were Jamaican. The lessons learned by the characters, such as how to be “a bad ass motha who don’t take no crap off of nobody” and the poignant advice of “if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it” will inspire you as much as the dedication and perseverance of the bobsledders, and the events of the ending (which are, in my opinion, what elevate this film to its status of Greatest
Sports Film Ever) will have you in tears. In short, every time I watch this film I think my heart might explode.
So there you go folks. Hopefully there’s something there for everyone, whether you’re a sports fan or not, but I realise I’ve missed out some biggies (and let’s face it, I’ve missed out every single sports film apart from five) so if you would like to state the case for your own favourite, go right ahead. Alternatively, if anybody knows how to bobsleigh….