Stallone's Rocky is one of the best-loved movies ever. AP/AP/Press Association Images
The reel deal

The Magnificent Seven: the best sports movies ever

With Moneyball set to be released, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite sports flicks. Do you agree?

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE sports movie ever?

Given that Moneyball is on the verge of being released, we’ve decided to compile a list of the seven best flicks ever released (at least, in our humble opinion).

Also, note that we’re focusing purely on movies and not documentaries (we’ve already done that), so don’t complain when you notice that Hoop Dreams isn’t on the list.

Anyhow, enjoy, and be sure to let us know if we’ve forgotten anything…

7. The Natural (1984)

The plot: Based on a Bernard Malamud novel, Robert Redford stars as Roy Hobbs, an aspiring baseball star with little going for him in his life other than his lucky homemade bat “Wonderboy”. Roy’s hopes of baseball stardom are hampered after being shot by a mysterious woman he encounters. However, at 35, he returns as a “rookie” for one last shot at the big leagues.

Why it’s great: It’s refreshingly sincere without being overly sentimental.

What the critics said: “Arguably the best baseball movie ever” – James Berardinelli, Reel Views.

YouTube credit: TheMovieSceneUK

6. Escape to Victory (1981)

The plot: A soccer match is played out in a German prisoner of war camp between the Allied prisoners and the German officers. Meanwhile, the Allies hatch a plan to escape the camp as the match is taking place.

Why it’s great: Pele and Sylvester Stallone in the same movie. Need I say more?

What the critics said: “The form of the film is conventional, but the manner in which it has been executed is not” – Vincent Canby, The New York Times.

YouTube credit: stallonefans1

5. Gregory’s Girl (1981)

The plot: A shy teenage boy falls in love with the star player of his school’s soccer team who so happens to be a girl: Dorothy. She is seemingly oblivious to his attention, nonetheless he persists in attempting to attract her.

Why it’s great: It’s that rare thing – a sports movie and a coming-of-age story that’s completely devoid of clichés.

What the critics said: “The film has fresh, no-nonsense performances and a script so rooted in truth that it seems to have materialised not been written” – FilmFour.

YouTube credit: alsolikelife

4. Breaking Away (1979)

The plot: The film revolves around four recent high school graduates, each of whom are dealing with the various problems of adolescence. The lead character, Dave, dreams of being an Italian racing champion – so much so that he even adopts an Italian accent. He decides to partake in a bike race against the snobbish college students who have been persistently teasing him in an attempt to gain the respect of his peers and impress the girl of his dreams.

Why it’s great: Dennis Christopher manages to convincingly portray both a wannabe Italian racer and an insecure teenage boy.

What the critics said: “Breaking Away is a wonderfully sunny, funny, goofy, intelligent movie that makes you feel about as good as any movie in a long time. It is, in fact, a treasure” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times.

YouTube credit: amandaschmidt1970br

3. This Sporting Life (1963)

The plot: This Sporting Life focuses on Frank, a coal miner-cum-professional rugby player living out his dream. He simultaneously attempts to woo the emotionally insecure Mrs Hammond and succeeds, only for the couple to break up swiftly thereafter, sending Frank on a path to self destruction.

Why it’s great: It’s the rugby equivalent of Raging Bull.

What the critics said: “Lindsay Anderson, making his debut as a feature director, brings the keen, observant eye of a documentary man to many vivid episodes without sacrificing the story line” – Variety.

YouTube credit: backincinemas

2. Rocky (1976)

The plot: A young unknown boxer from Philadelphia is given the chance of a lifetime, after he is randomly selected to fight the World Heavyweight Champion. Though it initially seems like a cheap publicity stunt, Rocky’s renewed dedication to hard work and training in the wake of this opportunity enhances his chances of causing a major upset.

Why it’s great: The eminently hummable theme tune alone makes it worth watching.

What the critics said: “This is really Sly’s movie as he slugs his way through a heartfelt performance and delivers some cracking punches, both literally and emotionally” – Adam Smith, Empire.

YouTube credit: IAmOnlyLove

1. Raging Bull (1980)

The plot: Based on the real life story of boxer Jake La Motta, Robert De Niro plays a violent young man with enough ambition to conquer the middleweight division. However, as LaMotta’s star rises, his personal life subsequently crumbles.

Why it’s great: It contains arguably Robert De Niro’s finest ever performance.

What the critics said: “This film does more than make you think about masculinity, it makes you see it — in a way that’s relevant to all men, not just Bronx boxers” – Jessica Winter, Time Out.

YouTube credit: mrmuga

Honourable mentions: Invictus, Any Given Sunday, Caddyshack, Friday Night Lights, Bend it Like Beckham, Space Jam, Million Dollar Baby, Bad News Bears, Jerry Maguire, The Fighter, The Hustler.

What have we missed? Let us know in the comments section below?

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