1 ROCKY (1976)
This Oscar-winning 1976 film – no one will mind too much if you call it a classic – about a mumbling, down-on-his-luck boxer never gets old. If you are not rooting for Rocky Balboa then there is an empty cavity where your heart should be. Line to remember: “You’re gonna eat lightnin’ and you’re gonna crap thunder!”
2 SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER (1993)
Based on the early life of Joshua Waitzkin, an American whizkid, it is a poignant, persuasive tale about the pressure that prodigies are confronted with. Do not worry, you do not need to be highly educated in chess to be riveted.
Line to remember: “You got to risk losing. You got to risk everything. You got to go to the edge of defeat.”
3 QUEEN OF KATWE (2016)
There are not enough sports films made about women, which is weird because there are a thousand lovely stories out there. Like this one. Based on the life of Phiona Mutesi, who was born in a Ugandan slum and became a chess champion, this movie holds you because stereotypes are avoided, the sport is interesting and the struggles are real. Line to remember: “Sometimes, the place you are used to is not the place you belong. You belong where you believe you belong.”
4 REMEMBER THE TITANS (2000)
Cheesy and cliched, yes, but it’s got Denzel Washington, pulsating music, highly dramatic speeches, all wrapped around an emotive tale about the integration of a high school American football team.
Line to remember: “You need a water break! Water is for cowards. Water makes you weak. Water is for washing blood off that uniform and you don’t get no blood on my uniform, boy you must be outside your mind!”
5 RAGING BULL (1980)
The Fighter, The Boxer, Cinderella Man, Somebody Up There Likes Me, The Hurricane… boxing invariably throws up terrific films. But this is special. Because if you take Martin Scorsese, add Robert De Niro, give them the story of Jake LaMotta (a self-described “good-for-nothing bum kid”), film it in black and white, then you get what is surely the finest sports flick ever.
Line to remember: “He ain’t pretty no more.”
6 A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (1992)
A delightful, funny, moving film about a season in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Geena Davis is terrific, Madonna turns up and Tom Hanks shines as their tobacco-spitting manager. Line to remember: “There’s no crying in baseball.”
7 JERRY MAGUIRE (1996)
Nobody likes sports agents a great deal, but they will in this movie which is speckled with quality performances, thoughtfully written, constantly engaging, charmingly funny, happily romantic and replete with memorable lines.
Line to remember: “Help me help you.”
8 MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004)
A triumvirate of gifted actors (Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman) come together to create a four-Oscar masterpiece on ambition, gyms, hope, love and letting go. Hankie alert.
Line to remember: “If there’s magic in boxing, it’s the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance, beyond cracked ribs, ruptured kidneys and detached retinas. It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you.”
9 FREE SOLO (2018)
When you are watching this film, you already know Alex Honnold successfully scaled El Capitan, you know he did not fall, and still you are terrified by what he is doing. You have never, ever, seen anyone do anything like this.
Line to remember: “I try to expand my comfort zone by practising my moves over and over again. I try to work through my fear, until it’s not scary any more.”
10 MONEYBALL (2011)
The brilliant Michael Lewis wrote the book which the film is based on; Steven Zaillian, who also wrote Searching For Bobby Fischer, co-wrote the script; Bennett Miller, who later made another fine sports film, Foxcatcher, directed it. The result is 133 superb minutes about sporting instinct and data, about how to find and read talent, about an affection for baseball and about how small teams have to improvise.
Line to remember:”How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
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