When tennis champs Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs went to head-to-head on the court in 1973, their televised battle wasn’t just about sports. As dramatized in the new film, Battle of the Sexes (September 22), starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell, their match would call into question the ingrained sexism that blighted the sporting world, and to a large extent remains today.
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There are plenty films out there that revolve around sports, but very often there’s much more to the story…
Even if you’re not a sports fan, these 10 gripping movies will make your heart race:
1. The Natural
Robert Redford, Robert Duvall and Glenn Close lead an all-star cast in 1984’s The Natural. Redford takes on the role of Roy Hobbs, who as a young boy displayed a natural talent for sports, specifically baseball. But raw talent wasn’t enough… Set in the 1920s and ’30s, Hobbs finds himself as a 35-year-old rookie on the last place team in the Majors. It’s one thing to achieve success, but it’s another thing to sustain it.
2. Field of Dreams
Kevin Costner portrays Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella in the 1989 film Field of Dreams. Ray keeps hearing a voice, telling him, “If you build it, they will come.” But build what? And who, exactly, will come? He’s compelled to build a baseball field in a cornfield and, in a fantastical twist, a crop of famous — but also very dead — athletes turn up to play ball. There’s also an appearance from someone totally unexpected from Ray’s childhood.
3. The Cutting Edge
Who doesn’t love the story of an underdog? The 1992 film The Cutting Edge is about two underdogs, actually. Kate Moseley, played by Moira Kelly, is an accomplished figure skater, making her way to the Olympics, but because of her “uppity” personality, no one wants to partner up with her. And then there’s Doug Dorsey (D.B. Sweeney), a talented hockey player who’s forced out of competition due to a head injury. The two pair up, pretty much because they’ve run out of options.
4. The Basketball Diaries
Adapted from the autobiographical writings of Jim Carroll, this 1995 coming of age movie tells the story of troubled high school basketball talent Carroll (Leonardo DiCaprio). He’s a natural athlete, but his craving for victory is surpassed by the pull of heroin and cocaine. His attention turns to the streets, where he can escape the oppression brought on by a strict school and his mother’s concerns.
5. Fever Pitch
Colin Firth stars in the 1997 film Fever Pitch as soccer obsessed school teacher, Paul Ashworth. The lifelong Arsenal supporter seemingly alienates coworker and “football” hater, Sarah Hughes (Ruth Gemmell). But her friend, having seen their undeniable chemistry, predicts where this is going. “I’ve seen this film,” she says. “You end up shagging on the carpet.”
6. Fever Pitch
This isn’t a typo or an accidental repeat. There was, in fact, an American remake of Fever Pitch in 2005, starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. The U.S. version follows the same formula: Fallon’s character is a teacher, but instead of a soccer team, his infatuation is with the Boston Red Sox. His new GF (Barrymore) finds herself in the outfield, feeling a little ignored.
7. The Wrestler
In 2008, Mickey Rourke starred in Darren Aronofsky‘s The Wrestler as Randy “The Ram” Robinson. The film follows an aging professional wrestler, who decides to come out of semi-retirement for one last go at upsetting his rival. While his career may be coming to a close, he’s not done yet and is trying to end on a high note. Or at the least, end on his own terms, rather than being pushed out. Randy is at a turning point in life, and it’s not lost on him what’s been sacrificed. He looks around and realizes he’s all alone. So, he tries to make things right, reaching out to his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood). And he tries to make a connection with a girl he meets, played by Marisa Tomei.
8. The Damned United
The Damned United, directed by Tom Hooper, is based on David Peace‘s novel, which revolves around his fictionalized interpretation of legendary English soccer player and manager Brian Clough’s (Michael Sheen) forty-four days in charge of Leeds United in 1974. This short managerial stint, however, made a huge impact on Clough’s career and those close to him.
9. Win Win
In 2011’s Win Win, Paul Giamatti plays Mike Flaherty, a struggling lawyer turned wrestling coach, who volunteers to take over guardianship for one of his clients. But instead of caring for him, he “dumps” his charge at a senior center. The thing he didn’t realize is, his client has a grandson, who turns up unexpectedly. Eventually Mike brings the troubled teen into his home to live with him and his family. As it turns out, the teenager is a wrestling whiz.
10. I, Tonya
I, Tonya isn’t out just yet, but it’s definitely on our watch list. Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad) is set to portray former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in the forthcoming biopic, which recently screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. Harding was a proven athlete, winning the 1991 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and competing at the 1992 Winter Olympics. But rather than relying on her abilities, it’s believed Harding, her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt, came up with a plan to knock out her main competition at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. I, Tonya will detail the events that transpired prior to the the terrifying assault on Harding’s teammate Nancy Kerrigan.
I, Tonya hits theaters in 2018.
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