A very weird list of best sports movies

Posted: November 27, 2013 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

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
9. Olympia
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.

Where’s Caddyshack?

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.

  1. Kolbe says:

    Two reasons that I thought might explain why this list is so awful, but ultimately didn’t:

    1. The Guardian and the Observer are both British publications. I couldn’t find a list of their staff critics who apparently participated in this, but if a majority of them are from overseas, you might have your answer to why there’s an absence of American sports movie staples like Hoosiers. However, there’s also a noticeable absence of British sports movie staples (Chariots of Fire!). So that reasoning is out the window.

    2. These critics might have been asked to pick the best movies that have to do with sports and not the best sports movies (does that make sense?), kind of like what you alluded to with Point Break. However, as you said, half these movies wouldn’t make this list if that were the criteria.

    So in the end, I came to the conclusion that this list is bullshit and it upsets me.

    But hey, here’s something useful from this pointless comment. If you’d like to peruse a well thought out list of best sports movies from 1979-2004, check this out from ESPN’s 25th anniversary special: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/espn25/story?page=listranker/bestmoviesresult

    It’s nearly 10 years old (good lord, where did the years go), the accompanying TV special is impossible to find (as is most of ESPN’s 25th anniversary content, which is a crime) and because of the time-frame it takes Rocky out of the running, but it’s at least put together by people who seem to know what they’re talking about.

    This list is pretty good too and there’s quite a bit more meat to it: http://guyism.com/entertainment/movies/50-best-sports-movies-time.html?single=true

  2. Kolbe says:

    OK, one more thing, I just saw that each critic is named after a description of a movie listed, but whatever, these people are just trolling us…

    Look at some of their other ‘Best Movie’ rankings. For ‘Best Westerns’, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly didn’t even make the list, but The Assassination of Jesse James did. For ‘Best War Movies’, Saving Private Ryan didn’t even make the list, but Three Kings did. For ‘Best Comedies’, Annie Hall is number one, which, sure whatever, you went to film school and you’re smarter than everybody and that means you need a smart comedy to make you laugh, but, no, it’s not number one…

    Seriously, what are these people doing…

    • Travis says:

      I. Am. An. Eff. Bee. Eye. Agent.

      One of the greatest moments in movie history…How Keanu didn’t win an Oscar for that performance is beyond me.

  3. shawnfury says:

    No one can question Keanu’s performance, there’s no doubt.

    I was actually terrified to click on the other Best Movies lists. Like would Requiem for a Dream be listed as one of the great comedies? It sounds like I was basically right not to check them.

    I agree with both points 1 and 2. I don’t want to be Xenophobic, but I feel like by leaving out Hoosiers, Rocky and The Natural — among others — they’re trying to get back at us for a little scuffle between the two countries in the 1770s. And I get them not liking a basketball movie, but if they put Bull Durham on there they obviously know about baseball.

    I can also get behind the concept of movies about sports, compared to sports movies. Maguire would qualify for that, but as you said, even with that qualification it shouldn’t be on this list. It still doesn’t explain Point Break, since that was about robbers and Eff. Bee. Eye agents pursuing them.

    And I know this was before the Internet, but could a Rose Bowl quarterback just blend in and become an undercover FBI agent? Obviously they couldn’t google him and find that info in 2 seconds but still. These guys were obviously football fans — they remembered a specific knee injury from the damn Rose Bowl — how could they not be suspicious about a star QB showing up in their midst? Like if Jake Plummer showed up and infiltrated our gang, I’d be suspicious.

    Please read the script description of the famous football scene. Look at this action! Sports movie! Sixth-best!

    MONTAGE STYLE — Utah tosses a flurry of mindboggling
    passes. Every one picture perfect. Nathaniel scrambles
    z-out left, turns and the ball is practically waiting for
    him. Touchdowns galore. Endzone dancing. Bodhi stares
    at him curiously.

    Tyler rushes. Utah enjoys scrambling, ducking left and
    right, twisting her into a pretzel. Play after play.
    Utah tosses another touchdown, but Tyler keeps coming.
    Sacking him.
    They lie together in a heap, laughing.

    Bodhi quarterbacks. Utah rushes. Bodhi fakes a pass then
    runs, ball tucked in his arm. Utah tears after him. Flat
    out speed run.
    Roach attempts a block. Utah hits him like a freight
    Roach hits the sand face first.
    Grommet and Rosie the biker in a squeeze play.
    Utah, fierce now, blasts between them. No mercy.
    Utah can’t play for fun. We see his expression.
    Something scary there. What we will call “juggernaut
    Tyler just steps aside.

    Bodhi running along wet sand as a wave sweeps up the
    beach. Looks back. Sees a demon shooting up roostertails
    of spray behind him, gaining. Pours it on. Both of them
    pistoning through curtains of water. Not a game anymore.
    Closing on the endzone. 5 yards. Utah is airborne.
    SLAMS BODHI LIKE A SAM MISSILE. They crash and burn
    together in the surf.

  4. Mike says:

    Major League always makes my top 10. “Hayes is going to need a Raahhcket up his ass to get that one.”

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