By Cameron Lee
March 21, 2020
Ranked as the 24th best film of all time according to the American Film Institute, Martin Scorcese’s fourth feature film is based on the memoir of embattled boxer and former middleweight champion, Jake Lamotta. Although the film opened to mediocre numbers when it was released in 1980, Raging Bull was nominated for eight Academy Awards and earned two wins for longtime Scorcese collaborators Robert De Niro (Best Actor) and Thelma Schoonmaker (Best Film Editing).
Fun Fact: De Niro, who originally championed the idea of the film after reading the memoir on the set of The Godfather Part II, also wanted to stage a Broadway play directed by Scorcese.
Inspired by Bernard Malamud’s 1952 novel of the same name, the 1986 film based on the iconic character Roy Hobbs remains a quintessential American baseball movie. The fantastical story about second chances, the film is also scored by famed musician and composer Randy Newman who won his first Grammy (Best Instrumental Composition) for the film.
Fun Fact: The novel is based on a true story. The character Harriet Bird depicted in the film, was Ruth Ann Steinhagen, a mentally deranged 19-year-old woman who shot Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus in 1949.
Woody Harrelson, Bill Murray, and Randy Quaid star in this hilariously quirky comedy directed by the Farrelly brothers (Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary) about an ex professional bowler, Roy Munson (Harrelson), who manages up-and-coming Amish bowler Ishmael (Randy Quaid). Opening to mixed reviews it earned high praise from renowned film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. The movie was also ranked number 68 on Bravo’s 100 Funniest Movies.
Fun Fact: Chris Farley wanted to play Ishmael, but was committed to the movie Black Sheep after the success of Tommy Boy.
Relive one of the greatest moments in American sports history: the “Miracle on Ice.” In 1980, the U.S. hockey team faced the four-time defending gold medalist juggernauts, the Soviet Union. Heavy underdogs, the United States team, consisting of mainly amateur players, defeated the Soviet team of professionals. The 2004 film stars Kurt Russell as coach Herb Brooks and received fair praise from critics, even winning the ESPY Award for Best Sports Movie in the same year.
Fun Fact: Miracle wasn’t the first film about the epic Winter Olympics moment. In 1981 Steve Guttenberg played goalie Jim Craig, Karl Malden played coach Herb Brooks, and Jessica Walter (Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development) played Brooks’ wife.
The classic 1996 romantic drama inspired by sports agent Leigh Steinberg, starring Tom Cruise and directed by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky, Say Anything), is worth the rewatch. Nominated for five Academy Awards, the film also earned Cuba Gooding, Jr. his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Fun Fact: Cameron Crowe originally wrote the script with Tom Hanks in mind, but with Hanks in the middle directing his first film, That Thing You Do, he had to pass.
The often forgotten Will Ferrell comedy about fictional character Jackie Moon, a one-hit wonder singer who became an ABA franchise owner, coach, and player for the Flint Tropics. Not a critically acclaimed film by any means, but it still offers some good chuckles with a fun cast that includes Woody Harrelson, André Benjamin (André 3000), and Will Arnett.
Written by actor Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder, She’s Out of My League) and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Pineapple Express, This Is the End), Goon is a story about a half-witted bouncer turned ice hockey enforcer Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) for a minor league hockey team. A box office disappointment when it was originally released in 2011, the film resurfaced and became a success on Netflix.
Fun Fact: The movie is inspired by a real-life former minor league hockey player Doug “The Thug” Smith who is now a cop.
Any Given Sunday
Oliver Stone’s rare sports film features a star-studded cast that includes Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx, James Woods, LL Cool J, Bill Bellamy, Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor, and many more. Offering a different perspective on the darker side of professional football, the film didn’t earn the use of the coveted NFL licensing rights but features several appearances by former players. The film is also where the beef between Jamie Foxx and LL Cool J famously started; Foxx details it in his 2002 stand-up special I Might Need Security.
Fun Fact: Robert De Niro was originally slated to play coach D’Amato but the film budget wasn’t big enough to cast the iconic actor. De Niro was also busy shooting Analyze This (1999) and Meet The Parents (2000).