Heard a conversation while listening to sports radio the other day that essentially went like this: If there was an official hall of fame started for sports movies, which movies would get in on the first ballot? In other words, which sports movies are so good that they are almost universally understood to be great? Hmmm, I smell a debate coming on! These days, we love to argue about everything, politics, sports, relationships, reality TV, it doesn’t matter. We just love to argue. And since I’m so obsessed with ranking things and putting lists together, I thought I’d take a shot at this topic. So keep reading if you want to see my list of first ballot hall of fame sports movies!
One thing to note here is that there is a certain distinction between favorite movies, and all time first ballot HOF’ers. The difference is, I can’t just name my favorite sports movies because I would be ignoring the “universally appreciated” aspect that comes along with a Hall of Fame. As such, I’ll give my list, plus a few honorable mentions that will include some of my sentimental favorites. Don’t get me wrong, several of the movies on my HOF list are actually among my personal favorite sports movies, but there are a couple that fit more into the HOF mold than just into my favorite movies.
- White Men Can’t Jump – In my opinion, this is without a doubt the greatest sports movie of all time, so it’s an obvious choice as a first ballot HOF’er. Too often you watch a sports movie and it comes across as corny or cheesy. Even movies that are considered all-timers can come across this way, see Hoosiers or Remember the Titans. Not to say they aren’t great, they just become a bit predictable. But with White Men Can’t Jump you get a gritty movie with characters that turn to sports as a way to escape real world problems. You also get phenomenal sports action shots and inside looks at how race penetrates so many levels within the sport of basketball.
- Bull Durham – Yes, I believe in the Church of Baseball. It’s not a coincidence that the first two movies on my list (and actually my 2 favorite sports movies ever) come from the same director. Ron Shelton does such a great job with these two films by creating real characters in real situations. It’s not all about the glitz and glamour that come with sports’ highest levels of accomplishment. Where Shelton explores the grit of street basketball in WMCJ, he explores the grimy doldrums of minor league baseball in Bull Durham. Where Bull Durham also excels is in the fact that it’s so quotable, as Costner, Robbins, and Sarandon all offer fantastic performances. And if you haven’t seen this movie, you must be a “lollygagger!” Welcome to the HOF Bull Durham!
- Major League – And now the song “Wild Thing” will always be synonymous with the Cleveland Indians, and any pitcher who shows a serious lack of control. Such a great movie with an incredible cast of characters, from Wild Thing to the Manager Lou Brown, this loveable band of losers is a terrific cast to root for. And being from Wisconsin I feel the need to point this out, that the movies was filmed in Milwaukee and normal Milwaukee Brewers radio announcer (and baseball HOF’er) Bob Uecker makes one of the greatest appearances in sports movie history. If you haven’t been at a baseball game and yelled “Juuuust a bt outside,” when a pitcher throws a wild pitch, then you haven’t lived. This is a clear cut HOF’er.
- A League of their Own – This one may seem like a surprise, but bear with me! First of all, Tom Hanks is fantastic. Second of all, (spoiler alert) Dottie drops the ball on purpose at the end. That’s about all that needs to be said about this excellent movie. From beginning to end A League of their Own tells an incredible story about the women’s baseball league that started during WWII. So many iconic moments and lines that at times you can’t help but laugh or at least find yourself with a smile on your face, not even sure how it got there. I would say you might cry at the end, but we all know there’s no crying in baseball.
- Rocky – No surprise here. An Obvious choice for the HOF and easily one of the most iconic sports movies ever.
- Field of Dreams – Again, not a surprise. The only question about Field of Dreams’ place in the HOF might be to point out that sports actually doesn’t play an overt role in the film. There isn’t a team to root for and there isn’t a big game at the end. Instead, baseball serves as a catalyst to connect father and son, to connect men with their passions. But for me this actually makes the impact of the movie more powerful and the importance of sports even greater by correlation.
- The Sandlot – This might seem like an odd choice, but you can’t deny the social importance of the movie itself, and the role that baseball plays in it. It seems like an entire generation of America’s youth can point to The Sandlot as one of their favorite movies growing up. And by that connection it is likely many kids’ first real introduction to what sports can be. The importance of friends and the troubles of growing up. The Sandlot has truly had an impact on American youth that few movies or TV shows can really claim. Not mention that it’s great cast of characters and hilarious one liners make it a movie that will absolutely stand the test of time.
- Rudy – A more obvious choice here, but no movie quite sends the message of perseverance and overcoming odds quit like Rudy. Add in an incredible soundtrack and you have an instant classic!
There is my initial list of first ballot HOF sports movies. Obviously there are several movies that I left off, but if I left them off I did so because I either think they don’t stand the test of time, or there is some flaw with them that might make them not as universally loved. As I mentioned initially, this doesn’t mean that I don’t love those movies as much, many of them are fantastic. In Hall of Fame terms, they’ll get in to the Hall of Fame one day, just not on the first ballot.
- He’s Got Game
- Blue Chips
- Remember the Titans
- Tin Cup
- Any Given Sunday
- The Mighty Ducks