I am a cross country runner. After reading that, half of you are cringing. The other half (the half that are runners too) are questioning how serious a runner I really am, because that is the competitive nature of us cross country runners. I'll tell you I am runner enough to know that a movie about cross country has never been released.
But that is about to change.
This year Disney is releasing a biographical film starring Kevin Costner as Jim White, a man who single-handedly build a cross country powerhouse out of a predominantly Latino high school team. I get goosebumps every time I watch the trailer. It had me thinking though: if I wasn't a cross country runner, would shivers still run up my spine?
I started thinking about all the sports movies I've seen and found I didn't have to love the sport to love the movie. The Blind Side was about football. Though I don't like football (remember: I am a runner), that movie never fails to lift me up and inspire me. So, in honor of the new cross country movie being released, I wanted to give an ode to inspiring movies from all different kinds of sports.
Invincible follows the tale of Vince Papale, a seemingly ordinary bartender who works to join the Philadelphia Eagles circa 1976. What makes Invincible so compelling is the character of Papale. That sounds lame, I know, but it is hard these days to find people that aren't willing to step on toes to get to the top. Papale was an honest, hardworking man that went from bartender to Professional football player because of his skill and tenacity alone. Beyond the underdog story Papale champions, the man Vince Papale was is inspiring in itself.
Goal!, though a fictional tale, is just as compelling as a biography. The movie centers around Santiago Munez, a Hispanic living illegally in the United States, as he works to stay afloat with his father by working two jobs as a bus boy and gardener. Santiago, meanwhile, dreams of a better life as a professional soccer player, which his father continues to scorn. I'm sure all of us, young or old, have had our parents knock our dreams down, and Santiago's undying faith and ambition to overcome his father's lost faith are truly inspiring.
Few people these days are unfamiliar with the story of Bethany Hamilton, the professional surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack. Soul Surfer follows Bethany's story from start to finish, and everything in-between, including when she traveled to Thailand with her church to aid in recovering the country from a tsunami. That's the great thing about this movie: it doesn't focus nearly on Bethany's persistence to return to her beloved sport, but the understanding she gained after her injury that there was more to life than surfing.
When Rush came home from the library, I nearly didn't watch it. Boy am I glad I did. Rush is by far one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. The movie follows the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda as they attempt to become the greatest racer in the 1976 Formula One racecar season. The move depicts not only their incredible rivalry, but both of their respective personalities: Hunt's womanizing, partying, live-life-out-loud persona compared to Lauda, a tenacious, technical-genius. Regardless, both men were absolutely driven to succeed, and that is one formula for an incredibly inspiring film.
Glory Road is one film I never grow tired of. And for good reason: Glory Road follows Don Haskins as he leads the first all-black basketball team to become NCAA Division I champions in 1966. Going beyond the sport, Glory Road shows what it was like for African Americans in that time period, depicting some of the horrible events they suffered through. Even with some often serious, very real scenes, Glory Road manages to incorporate humor and true heart, making it a must-see.
Seabiscuit is perhaps the greatest underdog story this world has ever seen (certainly the best I have ever see). With a small racehorse that had a long history of losing races, a jockey that was too large and blind in one eye, a trainer that had lost all hope, an owner who knew nothing about horse racing, and an economic depression that was plaguing the country, no one would ever believe this team would eventually lift up a nation. But that's exactly what Seabiscuit did. At a time when the world really needed a hero, Seabiscuit delivered just that.
I know this movie is not a real story, and I know it was designed to be a comedy, not exactly made to inspire. However, after watching Stick It, I had a desperate need to get off the couch and do something great (in addition to wanting to do a few cartwheels across the floor). Stick It follows Haley Graham after she is forced to return to the world of gymnastics after she walked out years earlier during the World Championships. The humor and attitude in this film may be more directed towards women, but the underlying theme of not letting fear get the best of you is universal for all genders.
It's been a few years since I've seen The Rookie, but I still remember it clearly. Dennis Quaid portrays Jim Morris, a middle-aged science school teacher who is married with three kids. Jim once had the talent and dream to pursue professional baseball, but due to outside factors, was never able to fulfill his high hopes. Years later, when he is coaching a baseball team at the high school where he teaches, it is revealed he still has a great arm. The Rookie proves the age-old mantra that it is never too late to follow your dreams.
Because Rocky is by far one of the most well known movies for inspiration, I had to include it. I mean who isn't inspired when Sylvester Stallone races up those tall fleet of stairs only to pump his hands victoriously in the air? That scene alone inspires all of us to go out and achieve, no matter what that achievement may be. The rags-to-riches tale of Rocky Balboa as he goes from debt collector for a loan shark to heavyweight boxing champion surely lifts us all up.
I know I don't have all sports listed, and that's not because those are any less important. There are some phenomenal sports movies I've never seen [if there's one you love that I didn't mention, please share it below], but there are also a few sports that still do not have inspiring movies in their name. I was shocked to realize I'd never seen anything great on swimming or volleyball. Or fencing! Wouldn't a movie about fencing be so unlike anything you've ever seen? Or Jousting? Now that would be phenomenal.
I am always in anxious anticipation for Hollywood to produce more sports movies to inspire me [like the new cross country movie being released, MacFarland USA]. In the meantime though, at least we have these great classics and more to keep us inspired.