They all have something important to say that goes beyond the field of play ...
Many of us live in a world of four seasons: winter, spring, summer and football.
Oh, don’t let the “pre-season” moniker fool you: Football fans already are ankle deep in statistics and optimistic training camp reports, and cramming for their fantasy football draft just right around the corner.
But not everyone (alas) enjoys watching grown men push each other around for three hours. Some people even claim they don’t like sports at all.
The eight movies listed below all qualify as “sports” movies, but all should have some appeal for the non-sports-lovers among you, too. And for those who are sick of football season already, there’s not a single pigskin classic on the roster. They’re all available on various streaming networks (and many are newly arrived), and all have something important to say that goes well beyond the field of play.
42 (2013, PG-13, Netflix) Warner Bros. Pictures | Fair Use
It took a remarkable man to break baseball’s color barrier, and Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) was just such a man. Dealing with scathing racism from many corners of the country, Robinson dealt with it all with class and dignity: The fact that he was a whale of a baseball talent didn’t hurt, either. This story is peppered with harsh, period-appropriate (but not necessarily family-appropriate) language, particularly the n-word. But skip past the foul words and we find a true diamond on the diamond, and a hero for the ages.
Babe (1995, G, new on Hulu) Universal Pictures | Fair Use
Call this a different sort of pigskin tale. Babe, an orphaned oinker, wants nothing more than to be a sheepdog. Alas, his inherent pig-ness seems to be an insurmountable barrier to his dream career until his owner, Arthur Hoggett (James Cromwell), signs him up for a sheepherding competition. This sweet, Oscar-nominated film will have even non-sports fans going hog-wild for the little pig who could.
Creed (2015, PG-13, Amazon) Warner Bros. Pictures | Fair Use
The Rocky saga has, like the boxer himself, gone through some rough patches.
Rocky IV, Rocky V, the little-seen Rocky and the Chamber of Secrets (the last might be just a fever dream of mine). But when Sylvester Stallone’s famed boxer trains the son (Michael B. Jordan) of his longtime frenemy, Apollo Creed, the saga takes a poignant and inspirational turn. While the film is marred by some profanity and sexual content, Creed — filled with themes of hard work and forgiveness — is a knockout. Hildalgo (2004, PG-13, new on Hulu) Touchstone Pictures | Fair Use
The horse Hildalgo may not look like much, at least to his rivals. An American mustang racing against a field of Arabian horses across the 3,000-mile Najd desert, he and rider Frank Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) are mocked and shunned and even sabotaged. But for Hildalgo and Hopkins, completing the race becomes a matter of pride, and they’ll push to the very edge to cross the finish line — all while Hopkins tries to preserve his humanity. Some spiritual issues may be a sticking point for some families. But overall, this biographical flick showcases a perfect blend of man and beast in a contest where winning is purely secondary.
Hoosiers (1986, PG, new on Amazon and Hulu)
Inspired by a true story,
Hoosiers features Gene Hackman as Norman Dale, a successful Indiana coach who enjoyed winning a little too much. Working for redemption at a tiny Indiana high school, Dale’s determined to do things the right way this time ’round — and winds up making history. Miracle (2004, PG, Netflix) Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
“Do you believe in miracles?” So went Al Michaels’ immortal call during the 1980 Winter Olympics, when a handful of college hockey players took on the mighty, and supposedly unbeatable, Soviet Union team and came away (eventually) with a gold medal. In this reasonably accurate retelling of that fabled match, it’s pretty obvious that neither the team nor its coach, Herb Brooks (played by Kurt Russell) are exactly candidates for sainthood. But it does offer good lessons on how to be a good person, as well as a good hockey player, and for those looking for a little inspiration on ice, this film hits the net.
Secretariat (2010, PG, new on Netflix)
This docudrama about the greatest racehorse that ever lived begins with the words of Job 39: “Do you give the horse his strength, or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?” From that bold beginning,
Secretariat does not disappoint, showcasing a remarkable steed and his modest-but-determined owner, Penny Cenery (Diane Lane). The movie’s about winning races, sure, but it’s also about the sacrifice that winning sometimes entails — in this case, Penny’s time away from her family. Secretariat inspires and entertains, but it shows that every carpet of roses comes with a thorn or two. Trouble With the Curve (2012, PG-13, Netflix) Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc.
Secretariat shows how success in sports can separate a family for a time, Trouble With the Curve is about how sports — in this case, baseball — can bring one back together. Aging scout Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) is joined by his estranged daughter (Amy Adams) on a scouting trip, revealing that familial love can run deeper than familial troubles. Bad language mars the good heart of this sweet sports drama. But even so, this may pull as many heart strings as foul balls.
It should be noted that all these films clock in significantly shorter than your standard football game, and few will get you flagged for a neutral zone infraction. Enjoy!
Read more: Take me out to the movies! 4 inspirational baseball films