Wednesday, August 22, 2012


JOHNNY CHAZZ: Sports is a genre within itself when it comes to the movies, and what better time than now to discuss such a genre. With baseball in its peak, football on the horizon and the Olympics just ending in London, the “boys of summer” are alive and well. Let’s use this week on CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT to discuss some of those sports movies that have had the biggest impact on us over the years. Here is Johnny Chazz’s Top Ten:

#10. “61”: What a tremendous story and a film that so few people really ever talk about anymore. Babe Ruth had held the single-season home run record for quite some time until Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris battled it out in 1961. Whether you are a Yankee fan or not, any sports fan will instantly be enthralled with the content and the authenticity of this film. The performances are solid, the casting is specific and on target, and the plot thickens with every scene. The film was directed and produced by Billy Crystal.

#9. “SECRETARIAT”: Being a fan of horse racing, I am compelled to include this 2010 film on my list. With the underrated Diane Lane across John Malkovich, the casting cannot be sold short. Often times this genre can be a bit too “feel good” and “inspiring” for its’ own good, but “Secretariat” does a nice job through and through to tell one of the greatest sports stories of all-time. The final scene at the Belmont Stakes is riveting and the photography along with the musical score is just outstanding when it comes to a racing film. This one can and will bring tears to a racing fan’s eyes.

#8. “BRIAN’S SONG”: James Caan stars along with Billy Dee Williams at the peak of their acting careers in one of the most powerful sports flicks of all-time. Despite racial differences, both men become close friends. The coverage of Gayle Sayers running for the Chicago Bears is one of the top moments in the film. The soundtrack is excellent, the footage is real to life and the story is simply riveting. Consider this one of the top football films of all-time.
The original 1971 trailer for this made for TV film

#7. “MONEYBALL”: This film did indeed receive the credit it deserved, and believe it or not, “Moneyball” actually had an outside shot at the top award with the Academy last year. I recall actually being at Oakland Alameda Stadium the year that the A’s had such a turn-around season in 2002 and I recall a buzz in the crowd that was like no other I had ever experienced at other ballparks. Brad Pitt, Jonan Hill and Phillip Seymour Hoffman put on quite the performance in their roles on screen accompanying one of the best baseball stories of all time. The film was based upon the novel “The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” where manager Billy Beane (still managing today) put a team on the field simply based on statistical methods that were, in every sense – unorthodox. This film comes highly recommended for baseball fans.

#6. “HOOSIERS”: In 1986 this one came as a real surprise to audiences as it had been at least 6 or 7 years since a really solid sports movie had hit the screen. Gene Hackman and Barbara Hershey made a formidable ensemble here as the film takes us through the 1951 Indiana Hoosiers basketball season. Although Jack Nicholson was originally considered for the head-coaching role, Gene Hackman most likely proved to be the right choice. The film focuses on the great athleticism of the team as well as Indiana’s love for the sport. The film is motivating, well-casted, and nostalgic and could easily be considered the best basketball film of all-time. (Note to Jer: You will be pleased to see that my guilty pleasure of 1979’s “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh” did not make the top-10 list”.)

#5. “MIRACLE”: Here’s a not only a film that has basically been forgotten, but a subject that is not nearly talked about enough. The film was inspired by the United States Hockey Team in the Winter Olympics during 1980. The fact that the “Cold War” was, in a sense being fought on the ice was pure motivation for the American team in this stunning upset as the United States proved victorious in the Gold Medal match over the USSR. Even if you are not a fan of Ice Hockey, it is a virtual guarantee that you will be on the edge of your seat throughout this film. Kurt Russell is outstanding in his role with Patricia Clarkson supporting. The film is a period piece, as well as being one that is quite emotionally impacting especially if you recall the day when the event took place. With the world watching the team rose to the occasion, prompting broadcaster Al Michaels' now famous question “Do you believe in miracles?”

#4. “A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN”: I am not a Tom Hanks fan to say the least, but here is a film that must make my top-ten list. Released in 1992, audiences everywhere seemed to take to this film and Director Penny Marshall did not disappoint. During World War II, it was the “women” who created a league of their own to entertain baseball fans on the home front. The performances by all are actually quite convincing and the score for the film is appropriate for the time period. Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell are well casted here and offer just enough “attitude” to actually make them seem as though they are real ball-players. It was the love of the game that brought all of the players together, and each characters is developed well-enough to tie the film together at the end. Tom Hanks as the team manager is humorous and offers a performance that is timely and charismatic. I recommend this one anyone who has yet to see it as it does stand the test of time.

#3. “EIGHT MEN OUT”: The makes my top three without any hesitation. The very fact that professional sports remains “under the microscope” even today is a testament to the message delivered in this film. The film centers around the true story of the 1919 Chicago White Sox (often referred to as the “Black Sox”) who were accused of throwing the world series in order to make money for themselves from underworld crime bosses and bookmakers. The ‘Sox were a virtually guarantee to win the series over the Reds, but since the odds were so high on the other side, the ‘Sox took a fall for the short money. Some people do not consider this film to be one of their favorite sports movies since it casts a poor light on how we actually “romanticize” baseball in the early years. Yet, we realize the impact of the statement by the young fan who states “Say it ain’t so Joe…..” (referring to “Shoeless” Joe Jackson). Based on the performances (John Cusack, D.B. Sweeney, Christopher Lloyd and Charlie Sheen), the musical score and the attention to detail, this must be considered one of my favorite baseball and sports films of all-time.
The original 1988 trailer for EIGHT MEN OUT

#2. “RAGING BULL”: This was perhaps one of Robert DeNiro’s best films and certainly ranks among his best “sports” roles considering there were only a couple. As a matter of fact, it probably ranks among one of Scorsese’s best with the same token. Still, this film must be in my top three considering the tremendous direction, score, plot and amazing performances throughout. Cathy Moriarty plays Jake a Motta's (DeNiro) wife and Joe Pesci is in the role of his brother Joey. The fight scenes are classic, the sound in the interiors is impeccable, the editing is bold and the scenes inside the ring are perhaps the best of any boxing movie ever. This is an absolute must-see for any sports fan.

#1. “THE HUSTLER”: There was never a doubt that this film would fall into my top slot. Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason star in this 1961 play-like film that is not only one of the top sports films of all-time, but easily ranks in my top-50 of all-time American films. The interior sets are genius as well as the script which was so, so smartly written. George C. Scott also puts on such an amazing and intense performance that he almost overshadows our main characters. Directed by Robert Rossen, the film has Oscar written all over it in so many different categories. The interior sets are classic and refined as well as the billiard action and the angles used by Rossen to create tension within a small space. Pool professional Willie Mosconi trained Paul Newman to shoot such a smart game for the role as the film moves towards the final match between Eddie (Paul Newman) and the “classy” and “refined” Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason).
The original 1961 trailer to THE HUSTLER!

So, this is Johnny Chazz’s take on the top-10 sports films of all-time. I realize that some of you may question why I left out films such as "Rollerball", "The Pride of the Yankees" and "The Natural" - and believe it or not, I almost included "The Fan" as I really loved the modern-day message it sent. Still, I had to narrow it down to ten, and that is easier said than done. Now, hit this one Jer as I toss the ball into your court.

JER: The ball is caught and served… great topic as we wheel away from the summer months and we work around the plates before sliding into home! I have always been a little more selective about my sports films and I realize that I am not as diverse in that world as you are, JC. Nonetheless, a great film is a great film- regardless of the genre or theme. With that said, I attempt to create my own Top Ten List of Sports Films:

#10. MAJOR LEAGUE: It’s comedy, it’s baseball and it had Charlie Sheen before he was a total ASS! (I mean that from my own personal experiences with Mr. Sheen!) Following the road of the disastrous Cleveland Indians through their epic fails, the team begins a new year under new management who will actually benefit from their losses. The team gets wind of this and turns their game around to bat- out a great season. The 1989 cast includes Tom Berenger (PLATOON), Rene Russo (LETHAL WEAPON 4) and Wesley Snipes (BLADE). Play Ball!!!

#9. BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM: 2002’s sleeper hit about an 18 year old Punjabi daughter (Parminder Nagra from Television’s E.R.) growing up under a strict Orthodox family, must hide her passion to play football (or American soccer) and befriends another 18 year old (Keira Knightly from THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN) who plays for the same league under their male coach (Jonathan Rhys Meyers from Television’s THE TUDORS). The film captures the life and times of West London from both a typical English family’s point of view as well as the traditional aspects of life for a London- raised Punjabi family while grasping onto their culture and traditions. The film is both funny and touching with real heart captured by its director/ writer Gurinder Chadha.
The entertaining trailer to BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM

#8. THE LAST BOY SCOUT: A bit far off the field, but an action- packed football film taking place in the heart of Los Angeles. Directed by the recently deceased Tony Scott (TOP GUN, UNSTOPPABLE) the film follows a washed- up detective (Bruce Willis) as he takes on the assignment of assisting an ex- quarterback (Damon Wayans) in cracking a murder case involving a pro football team and a politician. The 1991 film carries all the explosive elements needed for a great action film for its day: written by Shane Black (LETHAL WEAPON) and produced by the legendary Joel Silver (THE MATRIX, DIE HARD) collaborate to create a wallop of an adventurous flick! Did I mention that football was the premise of the story?

#7. CADDYSHACK: How could this classic 1980 comedy not be on anyone’s list? With an unforgettable cast of characters including Chevy Chase (VACATION), Rodney Dangerfield (BACK TO SCHOOL), Bill Murray (GHOSTBUSTERS) and Ted Knight (Television’s MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT) on top of being directed by triple- threat writer/ director/ actor Harold Ramis (GHOSTBUSTERS, VACATION), CADDYSHACK introduced an entire generation to golf with screwball wit! Things aren’t as posh as they would seem within the greens of the exclusive Bushwood Country Club as golf caddies compete for the annual college scholarship amidst an unstoppable gopher who threatens to tear up the entire course while illegal gambling, drug use and insanity take over the course and destroy the prestige name of the Club along the way!

#6. FIELD OF DREAMS: 1989’s fantasy- baseball drama had only one message to deliver:” If you build it, they will come” and so the film discovers many different layers as what the meaning of that phrase takes on for many different characters and the subplots that the film covers. Kevin Costner (THE UNTOUCHABLES) leads the cast as an Iowa corn farmer who hears a haunting voice whisper the memorable phrase as a request to build a baseball diamond in his field to have the 1919 Chicago Black Sox players return for a game. The film focuses on the discovery (and rediscovery) of family, values and the love for America’s game. The fabulous cast also includes James Earl Jones (COMING TO AMERICA) and Ray Liotta (GOODFELLAS).

#5. ROCKY: The 1976 drama introduced America to its next great hero: Rocky Balboa, who was brought to life by its writer and creator- Sylvester Stallone. ROCKY symbolizes the American Dream to become somebody and to prove that anything is possible as long as the spirit to go the distance lives in the soul of the pursuer. Directed with a flare of realistic drama, John G. Avildsen (1984’s KARATE KID) helms the story of a small time boxer from Philadelphia who gets a once in a lifetime shot at fighting the heavyweight champion. Balboa trains for the match of his life for honor and self- respect. With memorable performances by Talia Shire (THE GODFATHER), Burgess Meredith (Television’s BATMAN) and Carl Weathers (PREDATOR), ROCKY has found its place with its fans as a film with heart and guts. 

#4. THE NATURAL: Although missing from JC’s list of favorites, it is one that happily finds a home on mine. Robert Redford plays a middle- aged batter who comes out of nowhere with his self- made bat taken from a tree that had been struck by lightning to help a 1930s losing baseball team to the top of the majors in this fantasy drama. Beautifully directed by Barry Levison (RAINMAN) THE NATURAL contains some breathtaking cinematography and inspiring music from composer Randy Newman (TOY STORY, RAGTIME).
The exhilerating trailer for 1984's THE NATURAL

#3. YOUNGBLOOD: This may not ring on the top of JC’s Top 1000 list, but it sure has a place on mine. 1986’s YOUNGBLOOD might have been a starring vehicle for its main star, Rob Lowe (ST. ELMO’S FIRE) but the film proved to be more than that. With Patrick Swayze as a mentor, Lowe plays a farm boy who wants to play real hockey, so he hops over the Canadian border to play. He has to; however, show that he can move about the ice and being able to hit the puck is just the start. The film features some great hockey sequences as well as a great 80s soundtrack to boot to make this film a fun little treasure for anyone who enjoys the game or the era.

#2. THE BAD NEWS BEARS: I am not talking about that piece of crap wannabe remake with Billy Bob Thorton, but thee original Bad News Bears of 1976! Walter Matthau turns in a memorable performance as the sloppy but loveable Coach Buttermaker who happens to be a down- on- his- luck ex minor leaguer who takes on a league of juvenile little- leaguers as they compete for the California league. With a fantastic cast of pint- sized unknowners, Tatum O’Neil (PAPER MOON) is the jewel on this scuffed tiara as the team’s secret weapon pitcher.
The original 1976 trailer for THE BAD NEWS BEARS!

#1. RAGING BULL: What more can be said of director Martin Scorsese’s true- story telling of the rough and rugged life of prize fighter Jake “The Raging Bull” LaMotta. Robert DeNiro’s portrayal of LaMotta earned him a much deserved Academy Award for Best Actor. The unique style of electing to shoot the film in black and white created an element different from any other film during its release year of 1980. Scorsese has a flair of selecting the right actors to interact with each other that continually add to the drama or tension of the story being told. Joe Pesci (GOODFELLAS) is a break- out star as Jake’s brother, Joey. Another interesting fact that Scorsese built into the production of the film: the fight sequences are recorded in full stereo so that you may hear every hit and jab thrown while the actual dialog or drama of the film is recorded in mono!
The classic opening sequence to RAGING BULL

Great films that deserve a moment of reflection and their enique way of capturing the spirit of the sport they represent... however, it is also understood that many films were overlooked. What do you feel were films that deserve to be recognized?

We always look forward to your comments and please check back as we always reply back to all!

PLEASE join us on Wednesday September 12th as CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT pays tribute to the loss of one of Hollywood's most recognizable and talented Directors: MR. TONY SCOTT (1944- 2012)

Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!


  1. In my experiences Rocky, Raging Bull - the boxing movies along with '61 and 'Pride of the Yankees' were some of the top sports movies ever to made. I like your blog guys - thanks for writing on an interesting subject in films.
    Michael, ALASKA

    1. Hey Michael, greatly appreciate the comments and we are glad you are enjoying the blog! Great pics from your end and PRIDE OF THE YANKEES is a great choice as well!
      Please keep checking back with us bi- weekly and keep letting us how we are doing or if you'd like us to touch on a subject!

  2. Hi toCin ema Counterpoint,

    I sumbited a blog reply a few months ago so now I am back for more lol. I liked your choice this week. I can think of so many sports themes movies but the best on my mind are Rocky, Field of Dream, White men cant Jump and Hoosiers.

    Thanks -- Ronald, AZ

    1. Hello again, Ronald...

      Hreat to see you back here again.. we always look forward to hearing from you!
      Great selections on your end!!! Which submission did you make and did we write about it??? Please let us know and we will get right down to it!
      Thanks again!

  3. Hi to Cinemapoint: There are only two movies that I think rank as 'tops' for sports movies and they are (as you already mentioned) 'The Hustler' and the other would be 'Breaking Away' a movie I was kind of suprised not to be seen on your list. ^Dominic - San Jose Ca.

  4. Hi Dominic and thanks for dropping by!

    I am actually slapping myself in the face for not considering BREAKING AWAY!!!! DUH! What a great movie and great writing as well! Dennis Christopher stole the show, in my opinion and the supporting cast is incredible! Thanks for recognizing a film that deserves to be on the list, for sure!