Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

It’s in the Game: What Makes A Sports Movie?

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

There’s a great debate that rages among enthusiasts: what’s the greatest sports movie of all-time? The answers vary from every person, but the great hang-up of the argument is defining what a sports movie is. Is it a film that simply revolves around a sport or a team; or does it have to involve the actual participation in that sport?

Looking back, there are many great examples of movies on. both sides of the coin. Hoosiers (1986), considered by many the best sports movie ever, is a pure sports movie. While it focuses on the coach and the town, the crux of the movie revolves around the results of the team on the court. The underdog story is also probably the most common theme in sports movies.

The theme can also be found in Moneyball (2011), a very different take on the sports movie. While the film revolves around the success of the Oakland A’s, very little is actually seen of the on field performance. Instead the film focuses on the behind the scenes dealings of General Manager Billy Beane, who doesn’t even watch baseball. This fundamentally changes the perspective of the film. The audience doesn’t identify with much of the team and, instead, identifies with the upper management. In a sports movie, this is a large shift from tradition.

Looking at a film like Any Given Sunday (1999) or Major League (1989) we see the more traditional sports film perspective. Management and ownership is vilified, the source of the strife for the team. In the case of Any Given Sunday ownership is putting pressure on a legendary coach to win at any cost, or risk losing his job.In Major League ownership is actually putting pressure on the team to lose, hoping to move the team after a losing season. Purely coincidental, and possibly the topic for another blog, is the fact that both of these films feature female owners who have just come into power on their team.

But what if the film, like Major League, takes a comedic approach to sports?

Look at Slapshot (1977), the film about an endangered hockey team with an owner looking to sell. The team tries to become successful enough for the owner to be able to sell them, and the niche they find is to make a mockery of the sport of hockey. The team is stocked with goons to beat their opponents into submission. Instead of the classic story of a team rising above adversity to attain the unattainable, we find a team that decides to sink to the bottom of the barrel to get their goals.

I would be hard pressed to go any further in this post without discussing one of the perfect examples of this argument: Rocky (1976).

The ultimate story of a hero rising from the ashes and doing the unthinkable, Rocky is a fantastic movie in so many regards. The heroes goal is not the championship, like most sports movies, it’s just to not get knocked out in an improbable fight against the world champion. But the argument on Rocky is over its status as a sports movie. Yes, the movie is focused on a boxer with the fight being the climax of the film, but Rocky is an emotional drama. All the characters have things at stake that are only loosely related to the fight. The stakes are so high because of the interpersonal drama between each character.

So, in the end, what makes a sports movie? Is Rocky a sports movie or a drama? Can it be both? What are your favorite sports movies? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Zac Hogle is a writer/director who has worked on several nationally broadcast series and documentaries. You can follow him on Twitter at

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Categories: Movies, Sports
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