People know The Guardian as the paper that employed Glenn Greenwald when he landed the scoop about Edward Snowden and the NSA’s spying apparatus.
The Guardian made headlines again this week, with some more outlandish revelations. Critics from The Guardian and The Observer picked the Top 10 sports movies of all-time.
Lists like this are everywhere. There’s no right or wrong choices. At least that’s what I thought until reading this one.
10. This Sporting Life
8. Slap Shot
7. Bull Durham
6. Point Break
5. Jerry Maguire
4. The Wrestler
3. Hoop Dreams
2. The Hustler
1. Raging Bull
The list is mostly striking for what’s missing. Namely, Hoosiers, The Natural and Rocky. I’m on record about the greatness of Hoosiers and The Natural, but it’s not like it’s a contrarian move to think those two belong on the list of best sports movies. I’m not convinced Jimmy Chitwood could actually read, but if he did and saw this list, he’d give a solemn nod and go out to his hoop on the family farm and shoot jumpers until his fingers started bleeding, the frustration would be so great. It’s inexplicable, unless, of course, basketball doesn’t necessarily translate to the British audience. But then where’s The Natural?
Raging Bull, fine. The Hustler is a bit too high? Hoop Dreams belongs. The Wrestler is way too high.
Jerry Maguire is an inexplicable choice for No. 5. The sports setting for the movie is fairly secondary, even though, yes, it’s about a sports agent. But the movie’s primarily about an egotistical businessman who didn’t know how to be a team player at his company, an annoying know-it-all kid and an awkward romantic relationship. Jerry Maguire could have been an agent for musicians or actors or TV anchors; the setting was secondary. Not the recipe for the fifth-best sports movie of all-time.
Bull Durham and Slap Shot should probably be higher.
But really it’s No. 6 that takes this list from comedy to tragedy. Point Break is an incredibly entertaining movie. Of the 456 times the movie’s aired on AMC or IFC or TNT or TBS, I’ve seen it probably 300 times. I’ve also read dozens of best sports movies list and I don’t think I’ve ever seen Point Break listed.
Two reasons for that:
1. It is in no way a sports movie.
2. If you stretch the definition of that phrase to something that no one would recognize and we allow it to be classified as a sports movie, it still wouldn’t be in the, what, top 100 of sports movies.
The movie — for the three people who haven’t caught it while contemplating where their life went wrong at 1 in the morning or while stoned at 1 in the afternoon — is about a pair of FBI agents tracking down a violent crew of bank robbers who run around wearing masks of former U.S. presidents. During their downtime — when they’re not spending it planning out their heists with the precision and game-planning that all movie robbers employ, the type of preparation normally associated with Bill Belichick during Super Bowl week — they surf. Sometimes they skydive and perform neat tricks that would show up on YouTube if they’d done them 20 years later. That, apparently, is the sports angle.
Along with the fact that one of the FBI agents — played by Keanu Reeves — used to be a star quarterback for Ohio State until getting nuked in the Rose Bowl, presumably while Keith Jackson or Dick Enberg called the action. He then participates in a Kennedy-esque beach football game with the bank robbing gang. So there’s the other sports angle.
This is sort of like classifying the third Die Hard movie as a sports flick because Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson run through the streets of New York (track and field!) and also make a brief appearance in Yankee Stadium (baseball movie!).
You could place Point Break into many classifications: Action movie; adventure movie; thriller; drama (very emotional when Utah mourns the death of his partner); crime; FBI movie; a Kathryn Bigelow movie; a buddy flick; later-Busey movie; Swayze movie; beach movie; California movie.
The Guardian writes: “But [director Kathryn Bigelow] brings something else that is rare in action movies: an interrogative sensibility, picking over the conventions of genre even as she is serving them up to us on a gleaming platter.”
Point Break no doubt does just that. Still not a sports movie, much less — my God — the sixth-best one of all-time.
My list? Well, Hoosiers and The Natural at the top and then go from there. I don’t know which movies would make up the rest of the list. All I know is what shouldn’t be on it.