The Essence of a Training and Sports Movie
I fussed with the title of this post over and over again. In the end I stuck with this because these films cover different aspects of what makes a story inspirational. With the best training movies, while the goal of skill is there, the underlining context is equally important. This is why I can put Flashdance on the same list as I do Rocky.
In order to have been selected for this list, there were requirements that adhered to a certain formula. The following are just some of the needed criteria in order to be considered an adequate training or sports movie. No, not all of these must exist in every film, but the ones containing the most of them are going to go down in history as the best of all time.
There are a few exceptions for movies in which the focus may not be specifically on training, but sports/skills are important and at least part of the story.
#1. The Mentor – You are not a true training hero without your mentor, regardless if they are alive, dead, or wearing a whistle. The mentor is crucial. Bonus points if there is rising above while being the coach or mentor.
#2. The Rise – You have to overcome and rise from adversity in some way. This can be in the form of poverty, inner struggle, or from starting as a chump and becoming a champ.
#3. Broke Ass – Most of the time our hero/heroine is a broke ass. You also get points for the obligatory money collection jar shot.
#4. The Chance To Be A Traitor – You are no one until you have to make an ethical choice to trade up for a higher level of help, usually while wearing an ugly coat.
#5. Someone Dies – It may even be you, but for some reason increasing in athletic ability comes best via the death of a loved one.
#6. Got To Get Some – The pride and devotion to your craft is hot. You get laid accordingly.
#7. Weird Training Methods – For some reason, training is especially inspiring when you do it with unconventional methods—a log or being shaken on a boat by a short Asian man. Why not a clown? Why is our hero/heroine never running down the street carrying a clown on their back?
#8. The Disappointed Family Member – Maybe you prove them wrong in the end or maybe they are just a lazy b**ch who is never thankful even though you bought them a house and took their ass off welfare.
Bonus if they are proud in the end and show it by clapping or showing up to the big game.
#9. The Frienemy – They hated you. They beat you up, made fun of you, but dammit they lead that clap in the end and might just become your best friend.
#10. The Slow Clap – Gets me every time.
#11. The Move -You have to have a move or a moment in which you pull off something that makes no sense at all and/or is absolutely spectacular.
*In no particular order, kind of.
(Feel free to list additional movies in the comments, but if I get one, “OMG WTF? Why didn’t you list this movie?! How could you list that one??” I am going to ban you for a year from my blog.)
1. Rocky (All of them)-It’s f**king Rocky. They literally have all 11 principles of the training movie formula.
2. The Karate Kid (1-4) – You can’t tell me not to include the “Next Karate Kid.” It is as much Karate Kid as the others. There is even a gimpy hawk, come on.
3. Million Dollar Baby – Probably one of the most dramatic and depressing training movies of them all. While I loved it on my first watch, the next time I might hang myself with a catheter tube.
4. Rudy – If this movie doesn’t touch you then you are dead inside.
5. Hoosiers – It almost sounds like hooters.
6. Lucas – The be-all end-all of slow clap movies.
7. Peaceful Warrior – Nick Nolte’s beard alone should inspire you to greatness.
8. Enter the Dragon – “Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.”
9. Remembering the Titans –Frienemies, the union of separate races, and trying to not let the man take you down. What more do you want out of a football movie?
10. The Wrestler – When Bruce Springsteen does the theme song, you know it is going to be good.
11. Breaking Away – It’s the Outsiders, if they would have fought via bike race and Johnny wouldn’t have died.
12. American Anthem – This movie makes no sense. There is no real sequential order. However, there are flashbacks, tortured training moments, and so many list making moments that I would be punished to an eternity of mediocrity if I didn’t list this movie.
13. The Natural – There is a bat cut from a tree struck by lightening. Yeah, like you’re going to pass that up.
14. The Mighty Ducks – Quack, quack, quack, quack…
15. Pumping Iron – Granted this is a documentary and doesn’t technically fit a lot of the criteria, if any, but I had to give something to the bodybuilding world.
16. Necessary Roughness – Slow motion jumping up and down has never been done better.
17. A League of Their Own – They timed his peeing.
18. Flashdance – You may be thinking that Flashdance doesn’t belong. I suggest you refer to the list of criteria and take stock of the difficulty of a jump spin and call me in the morning. I won’t pick up though.
19. Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken- She jumps a horse blind off of a tower into a small “bucket” of water. Blind.
20. Miracle – 1. It’s Disney and let’s be honest, they are the best at this. 2. It’s a true story. 3. Hockey movies bring it almost as much as football movies. Almost.
21. 61 – Billy Crystal can do more than just act and say “moo.”
22. Remo Williams, The Adventure Begins – The king of weird training.
23. Mystery, Alaska – Nothing better than the underdog nobodies playing the big bad professionals.
24. Bend It Like Beckham – “No one can bend it like Beckham” sounds wrong to me.
25. Little Giants – There are few moments more precious than the allergy ridden snot bubble kid standing up with passion and proclaiming, “Don’t you be talkin’ bout my mama!”
26. Only The Strong – “You don’t fool a man who was born in the worst LAMBARIOS of Rio de Janeiro…We’ll see who the real maestre is in this neighborhood.” Ba-na-na-way-ba-na-na-way-bah-na-na.
27. Goal – GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLL!
28. Invincible – Just when you think you aren’t going to be anybody in this world, you realize you are Mark Wahlberg.
29. Tin Cup – Do over!
30. Over the Top – Oh man, seriously. One of the finest pieces of cinematic history ever. If Kenny Loggins is singing your movie theme song, you are a stud.
31. White Palms – A little weird. No, a lot weird. Still it qualifies.
32. Girlfight – Gotta respect a woman who will deck you and then tell you she loves you.
33. Cool Runnings – Jamaica bobsledding. Only a guy smoking a blunt and listening to Bob Marley thought that was a good idea. How about that for a cultural stereotype?
34. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – While not the cliché that most of the others are, it is just so damn good.
35. Cinderella Man – Nothing gets to me more than a broken down and out boxer.
36. The Bad News Bears – Walter Matthau is one of the best characters of all time.
37. Seabiscuit – The trailer will make you cry. What does that say about the movie?
38. Major League – You can’t watch this movie without quoting every single line. P.S. Don’t ever watch it edited for television.
39. The Cutting Edge – The Pamchenko.
40. Never Back Down – Wow.
41. Sideout – Volleyball has never been this intense. No really, because it’s volleyball.
42. The Rocket – At first, the name made me think of the Def Leppard song on Hysteria. Curse of being a child of the 80’s.
43. You Got Served – Rich boy says, “Y’all just mad. Because today, you suckers got served. Served. Served. Served! Served!”
44. No Retreat, No Surrender – Van Damme. With a name like that he was destined for this role.
45. Youngblood – “To the game and getting out of this hick town! Thank God there is a sport for middle-sized white boys.”