There’s nothing like a good sports movie to celebrate hard work, determination, and above all else, teamwork. That said, not all sports are created equal in terms of their impact on cinematic history. Go ahead and try to think of a truly great film about badminton — we’ll wait. While there are the occasional films about less popular sports (“Dodgeball” for dodgeball and “Happy Gilmore” for golf both come to mind), more often than not you’re looking at films that revolve around baseball, hockey, football, or boxing.
Films about baseball seem to evoke a certain nostalgia, reflecting the United States as it wishes it was. More than any other sport in film, there’s a wistfulness and melancholy to a lot of baseball movies. You have “The Sandlot,” where a sports announcer reflects on his idyllic childhood playing the game with his friends in an abandoned lot. “Field of Dreams” shows a man (Kevin Costner) building a monument to baseball in an attempt to reconnect with his long-deceased father. In “A League of Their Own,” an elderly woman remembers her youth as a member of the All-American Women’s Baseball League during World War II. In almost every single baseball film, there’s a lot of reflecting on the past and remembering the glory of bygone days.
Hockey films, for some reason, tend to focus on the classic underdog story. In “The Mighty Ducks” franchise, a ragtag group of kids overcome adversity and beat their physically and economically advantaged rivals. “Miracle” details the true story of the 1980 Winter Olympics where the US hockey team came from behind to defeat the dominant Soviet team. There’s also “Mystery, Alaska,” where a small-town hockey team is chosen to play an exhibition match against the New York Rangers. Even comedy “Goon” celebrates a misfit on ice who follows his dreams in semi-professional hockey.
Football movies are all about teamwork and overcoming differences on and off the field. Underrated gem “The Replacements” stars Keanu Reeves as the quarterback of a hastily thrown together team to play in the NFL while the professional players are on strike. “Remember the Titans” adds a racial component, as black high school football players are integrated into a formerly white team in the South. “The Longest Yard” features a group of inmates who play together on a prison team against their guards.
You know what we said about teamwork and rallying together? Forget it. Boxing movies are all about the individual and his or her battle to overcome their adversary (and often, some personal demons) in the ring. They’re particularly well-represented among award-winners, with “Raging Bull,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “Rocky,” and “The Fighter” all coming up big at the Academy Awards.