Beliefnet has assembled a great gallery of the most inspiring sports movies. Most are based on true stories, like Miracle (the 1980 Olympic hockey team), Seabiscuit (horse-race champion), Friday Night Lights (Texas high school football team), The Rookie (middle-aged teacher who becomes a pro baseball pitcher), Pride (inner-city swim team), Hoosiers (Indiana high school basketball team), Cinderella Man (heavyweight boxing champion James Braddock), Ali (heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali), and Rudy (Notre Dame football player). In sports and in movies, underdog stories have a mythic power, and it is especially inspiring when the story is one we know is true. In The Jackie Robinson Story, pioneering baseball player Robinson plays himself, re-enacting his experience as the first black player in the major league baseball. And the list also includes one documentary, the acclaimed Hoop Dreams, the story of two young basketball players growing up in Chicago.
But there are also some fine fictional stories on the list, including Rocky, Bend It Like Beckham and The Karate Kid. Stories like these remind us that sports –and life — are not about winning the championship or breaking a record. It is about character, courage, teamwork, and hope.
All of the films in the gallery are outstanding, but they left out some of my favorites, including Chariots of Fire (the true story of two Olympic runners), The First Olympics: Athens 1896 (watch for this as an upcoming DVD of the week pick), Brian’s Song, The Pride of the Yankees, and Breaking Away.
Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on sports movies coming later this week with my lists of great sports documentaries and an interview with author Robert Gotlin about his new book on kids and exercise.