Winning sports movies, performances - and some losers - East Valley Tribune: Movies

Winning sports movies, performances - and some losers

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Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 12:15 am

Today we look at the best sports movies and performances of all time, with a few of the worst thrown in for fun.

Best basketball movie

This one isn't even close. "Hoosiers" is a slam dunk. Amazing performances by Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper make this many folks' favorite sports movie.

Best baseball movie

The best baseball movie depends on your personality. If you go for poignancy, you like "Field of Dreams." If you like drama, you like "The Natural." If you're old-school, you pick "The Pride of the Yankees." If you want tears, you prefer "Bang the Drum Slowly." If you want history, you want "Eight Men Out." And a ton of excellent baseball movies aimed at kids appeal to adults, too, such as "The Sandlot," "The Rookie" and "The Scout." But our pick is "Bull Durham." It's funny, smart and sexy and captures the world of minor-league baseball.

Best football movie

It seems as if there is a greater percentage of good football movies than there is for any other sport. The top ones are "Rudy," "The Blind Side," "Semi-Tough," "We Are Marshall," "Heaven Can Wait," "Friday Night Lights," "Jerry Maguire" and, a personal favorite, "All the Right Moves." When picking the best, it comes down to two, in our book: "Remember the Titans" and "North Dallas Forty." We'll take "North Dallas Forty," based on the book by Peter Gent. It was a comedy but also offered a revealing look at the cold business of pro football.

Best hockey movie

"Slap Shot" is not only the best hockey movie, it's also the best sports movie. It's raunchy, politically incorrect and hysterical. "Miracle," the story of the gold-medal-winning 1980 U.S. hockey team, is second because of Kurt Russell's spot-on imitation of coach Herb Brooks.

Best soccer movie

"Bend It Like Beckham," the story of a young girl who wants to play soccer against her parents' wishes, is sweet and funny and a movie you can watch over and over. It's very underrated when it comes to listing the best sports movies.

Best auto-racing movie

"Six Pack" with Kenny Rogers! We kid. Man, auto movies are bad. Most are just goofy -- the "Cannonball Run" and "Herbie" movies -- or just not good, such as "Days of Thunder." It's hard to find a good one. Does "Smokey and the Bandit" count? Probably not. So by default, the award goes to Will Ferrell's "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," but we do have a soft spot for "Heart Like a Wheel," a 1983 movie with Bonnie Bedelia playing real-life driver Shirley Muldowney.

Best boxing movie

Because of the sequels, the "Rocky" movies get a bit of a bad rap. But don't forget that the original won the 1976 Oscar for Best Picture. Plus, we liked the sequels, except for "Rocky V." But Martin Scorsese's "Raging Bull" is among the greatest films made, sports or otherwise. Robert De Niro's portrayal of Jake LaMotta is difficult to watch, yet you can't take your eyes off the screen.

Best golf movie

You would think golf would lend itself to decent drama, but the list of golf movies is fairly weak. Even the ones you think have a chance at being good turn out to be disappointing, such as "The Legend of Bagger Vance." "Caddyshack" is a silly screwball comedy, but it's still the best golf offering.

Actors with the best athletic skills

No one has had a sweeter-looking baseball swing than Robert Redford in "The Natural." He looked to be, well, a natural. Then again, Kevin Costner could swing the bat from both sides of the plate in "Bull Durham." Costner is the actor-athlete champ, having made three baseball movies and golf's "Tin Cup." Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes showed off legitimate hoops skills in "White Men Can't Jump." D.B. Sweeney learned to hit left-handed so he could play Shoeless Joe Jackson in "Eight Men Out" (unlike Ray Liotta, who batted right-handed to play Jackson in "Field of Dreams"). And a special nod to Geena Davis, who showed some game in "A League of Their Own," as well as her movie-teammate Megan Cavanagh, who played Marla Hooch. You remember her: "Marla Hooch ... what a hitter." Cavanagh is up there with Costner because she was a switch-hitter.

Actors with the worst athletic skills

Anthony Perkins looked like he had never even run in his life when he played baseball's Jimmy Piersall in "Fear Strikes Out." Tim Robbins was funny as Nuke in "Bull Durham," but did he learn to throw a baseball on the set? Except for Michael O'Keefe, no one in "Caddyshack" looked as if he had ever picked up a golf club, especially Scott Colomby, who played D'Annunzio.

Worst athlete-turned-actor

Not only was former Oklahoma football star Brian Bosworth a disappointment in the NFL (he played 24 games), he couldn't even turn his offbeat charisma into a decent acting career. He made his film debut in 1991 as a cop fighting the system in the forgettable "Stone Cold." He would have won the 1991 Razzie for Worst Newcomer, but he was beaten by Vanilla Ice. Amazingly, he has more than a dozen acting credits, including the 2005 remake of "The Longest Yard."

Best athlete-turned-actor

We include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just to mention his memorable scene from "Airplane!" in which he grabs a kid and says, "Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes." But Kareem hasn't done many movies. Chuck Connors had a distinguished TV career after playing pro baseball and basketball. Plenty of football stars have become action heroes, including Jim Brown, Fred Dryer and Fred Williamson. The best might be Carl Weathers. He played in the NFL and CFL and then went on to star in such movies as "Predator" and "Happy Gilmore" and, of course, as Apollo Creed in the "Rocky" movies.

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