The turnstiles are still, the bleachers are empty, and the crack of the bat and snap of a glove is nowhere to be heard.
The Major League Baseball season should be underway. But it isn’t.
We all know the health and safety of everyone during this COVID-19 pandemic is far more important than sports, but it’s still difficult, and weird, to not have sports to escape to.
To try and help, the NBC7 Sports Wrap team got together, virtually, to list our top five favorite sports movies to give you a way to kill some time, get your sports fix, and a bit of an escape.
Derek Togerson - Sports Anchor
5) “When We Were Kings”
My reverence for Muhammad Ali is not a secret. This documentary that took decades to get to the screen is about how he trained for and beat George Foreman in The Rumble in the Jungle. It’s as much about the political climate of the time as it is boxing and with the rope-a-dope, shows how great a champion Ali was even though in this fight he was the challenger.
4) “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”
There aren’t many more quotable sports movies (although one is on this list). Some of Will Ferrell’s best work, his NASCAR driving title character is a jerk, an idiot, and completely lovable. That’s hard to pull off. Tip of the cap to Sacha Baron Cohen for stealing just about every scene he’s in.
It launched one of the greatest franchises in movie history. The 1977 Best Picture winner also shot Sky Stallone (who wrote the screenplay) into the Hollywood stratosphere. Every underdog story since Rocky has tried to live up to it ... most have failed. Plus, SDSU’s own Carl Weathers is the perfect choice for Apollo Creed.
One of the funniest movies ever made. Period. The lines from Caddyshack are still repeated on golf courses today, four decades after its release. It was one of the first movies to successfully have most of its dialogue ad-libbed because the cast was simply brilliant and the late, great Harold Ramis put it all together flawlessly.
1) “Bull Durham”
Best baseball movie ever. Best sports movie ever. This is as close to a real look at life in the minor leagues as we have ever gotten or probably will ever get. Kevin Costner has obviously played the game and his portrayal of Crash Davis is spot-on. Plus, the speeches are timeless, even if we’ve largely changed our opinion on the DH.
Darnay Tripp - Sports Anchor
5) “We Could Be King”
You’ll notice a pattern in my list. This documentary centers around two rival high schools in my hometown of Philadelphia. When one of the two is forced to close its doors, players from both have to join forces to form a football team. It’s a great story about young men placed in a difficult situation by no fault of their own, coming together to rise above their circumstances.
This one is bananas. It starts as a cyclist’s personal experiment on the effects of blood doping, and thanks to one incredible character takes a hard turn and shifts its focus to Russia’s Olympic doping scandal. This Oscar-winning documentary is truly phenomenal.
3) “OJ Made in America”
Speaking of Oscar-winning documentaries. I was blown away by the scope of ESPN’s examination of the O.J. Simpson trial. It gives you a greater understanding of the man, his background and how he was received as an athlete and celebrity. And then gives an exhaustive look at the trial, and how the prosecution simply botched the entire thing. This nearly eight-hour feature is highlighted by compelling personalities, and some truly unbelievable details about a complicated sliver of American history.
2) “Free Solo”
The visuals, man. My goodness, the visuals. I find Alex Honnold fascinating, maybe it’s simply because he excels at something so intangible – while making it look effortless. This (you guessed it) Oscar-winning documentary chronicles his free climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan, the first of its kind. While everyone around him is losing their minds at the thought of him plunging to his death, Honnold is just – kind of blank. His steady focus allowed him to do something pretty mind-blowing. Even though you know how the climb ends, the journey is amazing to behold. And, again, the visuals of him doing what he does will break your brain.
1) “Hoop Dreams”
This has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid and may have been what started my love of sports documentaries. It’s an intimate look at the lives of two-star high school basketball players from Chicago – Arthur Agee and William Gates. You get a clear idea of the potential pitfalls and struggles that can derail a young man’s career before it starts. As well as the pressure that follows them when they’re thrust in the spotlight at a young age. It’s worth watching for the cameos from notable basketball players and personalities from the 90s. Given the extra time I’ve got around the house these days, it might be time for a re-watch for the first time in a long time.
Todd Strain - Sports Reporter
5) “The Sandlot”
Basically, this movie is the childhood for so many baseball/wiffle ball loving boys. Sometimes it gets a bad rap as “overly nostalgic,” but it’s an easy, pleasing watch that brings back the memories. The characters names are classic “Smalls,” “Yeah-Yeah,” “Benny The Jet,” “Ham,” and “Squints.” Plus, it has the iconic scene when “Squints” fakes drowning in the pool, so his crush and lifeguard guard Wendy Peffercorn can administer mouth to mouth resuscitation… just as The Drifters song “This Magic Moment” pops through the screen. Classic!
4) “Rocky 3”
Mr. T and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” in one movie is almost too much for me. Throw in Rocky and Apollo Creed running on the beach. Sylvester Stallone in those glistening red, white and blue American trunks. It’s pugilistic perfection, plus after seeing the movie my brother and I bought two sets of boxing gloves the next day and beat each other silly for weeks. Rocky 3, forever a knockout!
3) “The Natural”
A really good movie with Hollywood icons Robert Redford and Glenn Close centered around the classic era of baseball, a winner all around. There are a multitude of intriguing plot lines weaving throughout the movie, but really it all comes down to THE SCENE! Redford as Roy Hobbs, “The Natural,” minus his “WonderBoy” bat and bleeding out of his uniform, hitting a home run that smashes the stadium lights. All set to Randy Newmann’s goose bump inducing soundtrack. It’s like Steve Garvey’s 1984 NLCS home run for the San Diego Padres, but better. Bonus, the old baseball stadium venues are awesome.
2) “Field of Dreams”
A dead Dad, coming back to life, to have one last “catch” with his son… I cried the first time, I cry every time. Plus, “If you build it, He will come,” a baseball field in the middle of a corn field, the sound effects when the players disappear into that corn, James Earl Jones, Burt Lanscaster’s acting perfection as “Moonlight Graham,” peak Kevin Costner… all that is so good it over shadows the historical inaccuracy of having Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe Jackson hit and throw from the wrong wide.
I’ve never dribbled through and around chairs, but I’m all in on the other basketball stuff in this movie. A high school basketball movie about a team coming together, just as I was nearing my high school basketball career, put this movie on repeat. Favorite scenes, Jimmy Chitwood at the town meeting saying “I play, coach stays. He goes, I go” and the shot off all the cars headlights following the Hickory High School basketball team bus to the away games. Hoosiers has some serious life issues, while maintaining that sports movie feel. The old-time, 1950’s basketball scenes are perfectly captured from how the game was played to the uniforms to the gyms. Shout out to the still standing and still hosting games Hinkle Fieldhouse. I was always intrigued by how the Indiana high school state basketball playoffs didn’t have divisions, it was all schools against each, no matter the size, small versus big, big versus small. So, the true story of tiny Milan High’s 1954 run to the Indiana state title was fascinating. Hoosiers it’s #1 on my list and #1 in my heart.
Mike O’Connor - Sports Wrap Producer
5) “Vision Quest”
Wrestling movie set in the early 80’s in Spokane, WA. Louden Swain (Matthew Modine) is on a mission (a “Vision Quest”) to cut weight to wrestle the undefeated state champ, Brian Shute. A beautiful coming of age movie with an underrated soundtrack.
4) “Brian’s Song”
An ABC Movie of the Week back in 1971. James Caan plays Brian Piccolo, a rookie Chicago Bears running back. Billy Dee Williams is star RB Gayle Sayers. In the racially divided NFL of the day, Piccolo helps Sayers come back from injury then succumbs to cancer himself. Have tissues ready for this tearjerker. (Personal note: Brian Piccolo went to Wake Forest as did his daughters. I was in school with two of them and we remain friends to this day.)
Hijinks at Bushwood Country Club. Classic cast at the top of their game.
2) “The Natural”
The story of second chances. Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford), a prolific pitching prospect, is shot on his way for a tryout with the Cubs. Years later he returns as middle aged “rookie” with the New York Knights—this time as a hitter. Hobbs makes the most of his second chance at baseball and at life. A cinematic masterpiece.
1) “Rocky IV”
Duh. Not only does Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) avenge Apollo Creed’s death at the hands of Soviet fighter and steroid user Drago; but ends up singlehandedly winning the Cold War in the process. He not only agrees to fight Drago in the Soviet Union on Christmas Day but decides to train in near isolation in Siberia. While training he climbs the tallest mountain I have ever seen, in jeans and a leather jacket---foreshadowing what’s to come in the ring.
Fernando Ramirez - Sports Producer
I remember when this movie came out, I asked my mom to buy it for me and, because it was a sports movie, she did. This movie was downright hilarious. Will Ferrell was at his best. He was the owner of the team, played power forward and came up with great marketing strategies. Great movie. “Let’s Get Tropical!”
4) “The Karate Kid”
Wax on, Wax off. This is one of the most quotable movies of all-time. You have Daniel-san, who is a kid that didn’t fit in and was being bullied. Mr. Miyagi shows him how karate can we used on the mat, but also in life. Pat Morita did just a great job bringing compassion and wisdom to the role of Mr. Miyagi. This story was an underdog trying to find himself and his path.
3) “Space Jam”
This is the first sports movie I ever watched as a kid. I loved watching Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes team up to try and defeat aliens from space. It was awesome seeing MJ use some of his personal life in the movie. What was truly the best thing was when Jordan finds out he could do cartoon things like on the final bucket of the game.
2) “Remember the Titans”
This is the first movie I saw that showed that the brotherhood on a sports team is bigger than what is going out in the real world. Denzel Washington is a black head coach who takes over for a white head coach. Coach Boone is informed that if he loses one game he would be fired. He along with Coach Yost were able to inspire the team to not see color, but that it was their brother they took the field with every game.
“Yoooo Adrian I did it!” is one of the most iconic lines in sports movie history. Sylvester Stallone truly created a masterpiece. He was the underdog we all see in ourselves having to go up against Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) who is the decorated loud mouth champion. I watch this iconic series (except Rocky 5) at least five times a year.
Becki Schildhouse - Sports Producer
5) “Breaking Away”
If you haven’t seen this movie about a group of friends from Bloomington, Indiana getting together to run the famous “Little 500” bicycle race at Indiana University, you need to watch it! (For full transparency, I went it IU.) There’s just something about this film that I love. It won the Oscar for Best Screenplay and the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical in 1980.
4) “Space Jam”
Laugh all you want but this movie has Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Muggsy Bogues and Nerdlucks. I watched this movie so much as a kid and still love it.
Billy Crystal directed this film about the summer of ’61 when Yankees teammates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris battled each other for one of the most famed records in sports, the home run title. This movie made me a huge Roger Maris fan.
A classic that stands the test of time. Everything about this movie is great. When Rudy says, “I’ve been ready for this my whole life”, I just lose it. There’s something for everyone. “Having dreams is what makes life tolerable.”
1) “Field of Dreams”
It’s a classic! This is my go-to movie no matter what my mood is. My grandfather Hilly died when I was young, but he’s the reason why I love sports, especially baseball so much. He played on the Southside of Chicago and had an opportunity to play for the White Sox. But, back then, ballplayers didn’t get paid a lot and times were tough, so he went to work at a factory to help his family instead. But he loved the game and I grew up listening to my mom tell me stories of going to Comiskey Park with him. I’d do anything to play catch with him, like Ray got to with his father, and anytime I step on a ball field, I know my grandpa is there with me. “I’d have played for food money. It was the game…The sounds, the smells. Did you ever hold a ball or a glove to your face?” Same Shoeless Joe Jackson, same.