This is the second installment in my list of the top 50 greatest sports films.
For this list, I turn to some basketball films, with a few others thrown in for good measure.
Again, this list is not a ranking of my top 50, it is just a list. The films are given in alphabetical order.
1. Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)
The film critic Roger Ebert wrote about this film as being “the ultimate baseball movie.” This is another film about a relationship surrounded by the game of baseball.
It certainly ranks up there with the favorite tear-jerker movies. It has been written that one of the best ever sports tear-jerker was the television movie Brian's Song, which is on this list a little later.
In this 1973 film, Michael Moriarty and Robert De Niro portray two New York Yankees who bond during a season. De Niro plays a catcher who confides in his pitcher friend (Moriarty) that he is dying.
This film was penned by Mark Harris, who adapted it for the screen from his 1955 novel. The film really seems to understand baseball and, more importantly, how to handle death in a way that is poignant and though-provoking. Another great film on this list.
2. Coach Carter (2005)
This film was inspired by the life of coach Ken Carter, who took over as head coach of a California high school basketball team.
This film may not reach a lot of lists, but it is on mine. Granted, there are most likely some liberties taken with this film. Most biopics or stories inspired by actual events do take those liberties when translated to film. Some movies do it well, while some don't. This one is one that does it well.
The film evokes some emotion and is entertaining to watch. Coach Carter was motivated to show how grades and high academics were more important than scores and winning games.
He most notably became big news when he locked the gymnasium and forfeited several games because his players didn't meet the academic standards set forth by a contract he had the players sign. Ultimately, the kids turn around, the kids start playing and winning on the court as well as in the classroom.
3. Glory Road (2006)
Another basketball film on the list. This one I enjoyed immensely. It is another sports movie based on actual events. I'm sure, as I've said, some liberties were taken. However, the film showed a distinction of this being more than just another basketball movie.
In similar fashion of a film like 42, this movie explores the racial tension felt in America, and in sports, in the 1960s. Coach Don Haskins came to Texas Western University and eventually rewrote the rules in college basketball.
At the time, there was an unwritten rule that no more than a few black players were to be on the court at any time. Haskins (played by Josh Lucas) recruited several black players to play for the college. And when they started winning, more people began to support the team.
After getting to the 1966 NCAA championship, Haskins made a statement by starting five black players in the game against Adolph Rupp's (Jon Voight) all-white Kentucky team. TWU went on to win and changed the look of the game of college basketball.
4. Hoop Dreams (1994)
This film, that originally started as a short documentary, expanded into a longer realistic look at urban America.
Here, the filmmakers captured the essence of two inner-city Chicago-area teens on their path with the hope of playing professional basketball. This film, nearly three hours, plays as a lengthy documentary following the two boys.
The film also examines the everyday life and struggles families and kids experienced at the time – poverty, racism and a troubled education system – in those socio-economic circumstances.
The film displays a raw set of emotions and realism throughout the story that puts this film among the greatest.
5. Hoosiers (1986)
There is something about high school sports that can surpass many moments in professional sports when a big game is on the line, even if it is in the movies.
This film is No. 4 on the American Film Institute's list of top 10 sports films of all-time, and rightly so.
This film appears begins with a story structure that is a familiar look in most sports stories. Hoosiers takes that structure and adds rich detail in the characters and story.
Gene Hackman plays Norman Dale, a seemingly aging and over experienced coach at a small Indiana town, charged with turning the basketball team around. He has help from a local (Dennis Hopper) in this endeavor. Together, they turn the team around to be a contender for the state championship. This movie has magic and heart.
6. Miracle (2004)
Deviating from basketball now and turning to another sport story that was based on a real event.
The film Miracle was released in 2004. The event became known as the “Miracle on Ice,” when the U.S. Men's Olympic hockey team did the seemingly impossible in 1980 by defeating the Soviet Union team for the Olympic gold medal.
This moment has also been ranked as one of the greatest upsets of all time.
Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) had a strong desire to take his group of men into battle on the ice and come away with an impossible victory – and was able to do just that.
Russell gave an outstanding performance as the coach who inspired his team for greatness.
Do you believe in miracles?
7. The Color of Money (1986)
For the longest time, I didn't realize this was a sequel to another great film (which is just below on this list), The Hustler.
Probably because I didn't see it until long after I saw The Color of Money. I suppose one of the reasons I like this film is because it featured the song, “It's In the Way That You Use It,” by one of my favorite music artists Eric Clapton. For some reason, I just really like that song.
Anyway, the film brings in Paul Newman to reprise his role as “Fast” Eddie Felson from The Hustler, which also starred the late great Jackie Gleason.
Felson takes an up-and-comer, Vincent (Tom Cruise), under his wing to show him the art of pool hustling.
The Color of Money is directed by Martin Scorsese, one of my favorite directors. This movie may not be one of Scorsese's best, such as Mean Streets, Goodfellas or Taxi Driver, but it is very enjoyable.
8. The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005)
The first film entry that centers around the game of golf.
In 1913, a young American novice named Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf) defeated an older, experienced British player Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane) to win the U.S. Open.
The last part of the movie devotes an ample amount of time to the final rounds of that match, and in doing so, plays out like one splendid sports broadcast. The simple human nature of this film is why I put it on this list.
The actors portray strong characters that help bring the story to life and engage the audience, especially during the moments of the match.
9. The Hustler (1961)
So far we have seen three of my picks that were also on the list of the American Film Institute's Top 10 sports movies of all-time. Add another one to the list.
This film comes in at No. 6. Its sequel, 25 years later, The Color of Money, (earlier on this list) brings back a breakout character “Fast” Eddie Felson.
This character, played wonderfully by Paul Newman, is a carefully drawn character that displays all his facets – his strengths, weaknesses and other short-comings. Surprisingly, the film is not all about the game of pool, but is a character-driven film in which we follow the hero (Newman) through his trials, including his game with Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason), and also a relationship story between Felson and Sarah Packard (Piper Laurie).
The film is full of lively characters, a captivating storyline and marvelous scenes and bits that notches its way on the list.
10. Trouble With the Curve (2012)
The final film on this list of the second part is a return to the baseball genre with a Clint Eastwood film.
There will be another Eastwood film later in part three.
This one, however, is set in the baseball arena as Eastwood plays Gus, a scout for the Atlanta Braves. This is another sports film that is more than a sports film. It primarily deals with the relationship between Eastwood's character and his daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams).
Both actors give wonderful performances and Eastwood delivers his dry, gruff character traits that just work in anything he does.
Mickey joins her father to check in on him as the Braves’ might be close to retiring Gus because the owner Pete Klein (John Goodman) is aware that Gus may be losing his touch in his older age.
It may not be the one of the greatest sports films on a list, but I pick it because it is entertaining and engaging.