By Justin Zarian
I will be honest for a moment — sometimes watching a sporting event can feel like watching someone else play a video game. It is more fun when you are actually doing it. Thankfully, sports movies overcome this problem for me because they make the sport part of an interesting story with cool characters.
I am sure we are all familiar with the audience-favorite movies like “Rocky,” “Remember the Titans,” “Hoosiers,” “Rudy” and many more. However, there are those great sports films that slip through the cracks into obscurity. Thankfully, your friendly neighborhood movie nerd is here to shed light on five hidden sports gems.
“Million Dollar Baby” (2004) – One of the best boxing dramas ever, the story follows a trailer-bred girl who, with the help of a veteran coach, rises up the ranks of the female boxing circuit. If you can stomach the heavy ending, you will love the terrific fights, the heartfelt story and the powerhouse performances by Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman (for which the latter two won Oscars).
“Field of Dreams” (1989) – A crowd-pleaser about an Iowa farmer who hears voices that he interprets as a command to build a baseball diamond in his corn field. Emulating a Frank Capra tone by blending fantasy and reality, director Phil Alden Robinson creates a touching story with likable characters played by Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, Ray Liotta, Burt Lancaster and Darth Vader himself, James Earl Jones.
“Chariots of Fire” (1981) – A Best Picture winner that much of the public has forgotten, the film follows two aged athletes reflecting on their time competing in the 1924 Olympics. Touching upon the topics of British class and religious politics, the film benefits greatly from a stellar cast, thrilling running scenes and one of the most iconic music themes in film history (you will know what I am talking about when you hear it).
“Brian’s Song” (1971) – I am cheating here by using a TV movie, but it is hard to ignore this inspiring tale of the friendship between real-life athletes Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers after Piccolo is diagnosed with terminal cancer. A darling with audiences and critics alike, the film generates genuine pathos through a great script and strong performances from stars James Caan (Sonny from “The Godfather”) and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian from “Star Wars”).
“Knute Rockne, All American” (1940) – Remember President Ronald Reagan? Did you know he was an actor back in the day? Well, he starred in a little film that highlighted the life of Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne. If anything, this film will help you know where the phrase “Win one for the Gipper” came from if you ever hear your parents or grandparents say it.