By Will Gray (original on Yahoo Eurosport)
Which sport creates the best movies?
Most sports have been given the Hollywood treatment over the years and while some have turned out Oscar winning performances others have barely made it out of the cutting room.
The latest to hit the big screen, Ron Howard’s ‘Rush’, is already shaping up to be a classic, with the Academy Award-winning director turning an intense real-life battle between James Hunt and Niki Lauda into a movie full of fast-paced action, suspense, drama and emotion.
It has all the ingredients to be a classic – but what else is out there to give it a run for its money in the list of cinema’s sporting greats...?
On Thursday we covered motorsport, football and golf but now it is time to look at some other classics.
What sport do you think produces the best movies – leave your thoughts below.
One movie that regularly tops the list is Remember the Titans (2000), the emotional true story of African-American coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) and the desegregation of a Virginia high school American Football team in small-town USA in the early 1970s.
Kevin Costner led a heavy hitting cast in Field of Dreams (1989) as Ray Kinsella, an Iowa farmer who hears voices telling him “if you build it, he will come” and so builds a baseball field in his Iowa cornfield - a non-traditional sports movie, but a good one.
Women are the centre of attention in A League of their Own (1992), which tells the true story of professional baseball in 1943, when World War II drained the playing stocks and sparked a new women's league. Geena Davis, Tom Hanks and Madonna all star.
Coach Carter (2005) sees Samuel L. Jackson as Ken Carter, the no-nonsense coach of the 1999 Richmond Oilers, in a movie that uses basketball to portray a broken American school system.
Another basketball flick, Hoosiers (1986) is an underdog classic in which a coach with a chequered past (Gene Hackman) and a local drunk (Dennis Hopper) lead a small-town high school team to the title.
An unusual off-the-field sports movie, Moneyball (2011) follows the story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) as he leads frugal baseball club Oakland Athletics to the playoffs in 2002.
And for some baseball comedy, Bull Durham (1988) focuses on bad luck and transient heroics of three unlikely stars, including Kevin Costner as aging also-ran catcher “Crash” Davis.
An inspiring movie about the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team, Miracle (2004) tells how Herb Brooks’ (Kurt Russell) team overcame the previously invincible Soviet Union. The inclusion of the actual recording of Al Michaels’ rousing ‘do you believe in Miracles?’ speech along with real footage puts it high on many lists of all-time sports movie greats.
Another uplifting story, albeit wayward from the truth, is Cool Runnings (1993), which follows the unlikely entry of Jamaican bobsled team at the 1988 Winter Olympics, and how they came to be there.
The classic Chariots of Fire (1981) won ‘Best Picture’ and although somewhat slow, it tells the engaging true story of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, two incredible track stars from completely different backgrounds and the religious and moral issues they dealt with to reach their goals in the 1924 Olympics.
The big screen has only recently taken note of racing as a subject matter but the last 10 years have spawned two classics.
Seabiscuit (2003), tells the story of an underdog horse that overcomes laziness and crooked legs to become a champion despite being ridden by a disheartened jockey (Tobey Maguire), while Secretariat (2010) is the adaptation of a real-life story that saw a horse named Secretariat set an unbeaten record for winning the Triple Crown in 1973.
Where to start? Well, Rocky, obviously.
The six-film franchise began with Rocky (1976), often voted the greatest sports movie of all time. In case you didn’t know, it follows Italian Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) training for what is surely a no-win contest with heavyweight champ Apollo Creed. A classic underdog does good tale, it also adds an underlying love story, Bill Conti’s iconic score and an unimaginable ending.
But delve deeper than Rocky, and there is a wide range of other boxing classics.
Hillary Swank won an Academy Award for best actress in Million Dollar Baby (2004), an emotive movie directed, produced, scored and starred in by Clint Eastwood, who also won best director. It sees female boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Swank) walk into Frankie Dunn’s (Eastwood) gym and ask to be trained, but soon after that the story becomes very deep when Fitzgerald is paralysed in a fight.
Mohammed Ali is the subject of two big movies. The first, the Academy award winning When We Were Kings (1997) is a documentary of original footage from the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in 1974. It showcases one of the 20th century’s greatest sporting events, which saw Ali, then past his prime, take on and beat undefeated champion George Foreman in the politically unstable African nation of Zaire. The biopic Ali (2001), meanwhile, focuses on an entire decade (1964–1974) and sees Will Smith play a convincing Ali, combining the boxing legend with the history of the period.
A highly rated newbie is Ron Howard’s rags-to-riches story of boxer Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) in Cinderella Man (2005). Based on the real-life rise of an American legend during the Great Depression, it combines the troubled times with a truly inspirational sports story. Crowe trained with Angelo Dundee, who mentored Ali, to perfect his punches, resulting in some genuinely impressive cinematography.
Last but certainly not least is the Martin Scorcese directed Raging Bull (1980), often rated one of the greatest movies of all time. It stars Robert de Niro as emotionally self-destructive boxer Jake La Motta, who stops at nothing on his quest for the top. Dark, intense and mysterious, it was filmed entirely in black and white and takes the viewer on an emotional roller coaster as it follows La Motta from volatile middleweight contender to obese has-been. And if you watch just one of these movies, let it be this one.