The silver-lining of a lockdown is that it gives us a little bit of time to imbibe all the cinematic riches we’ve been neglecting, forgetting, or simply pining to rewatch for the umpteenth time. But what to watch? Don't worry, The Sportsman has done the hard work trawling through the back sporting catalogues so you don't have to. Enjoy!
American Football - Any Given Sunday (Oliver Stone, 1999)
American sports translate well to the silver screen. Whether that’s down to their isolatory nature, the onus in the majority on speed, power, and point-scoring or simply the good fortune of more masterful film-making.
Any Given Sunday, helmed by the two-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone, has the benefit of all three.
In the late 90s, American Football was firmly an internal sport to the nation and hadn’t started becoming the global powerhouse that it is today, now with a momentous following at home and abroad. Stone portrays the on-field action in riveting, thrilling fashion to equal the very best action movies with a stand-out ensemble including Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J, Cameron Diaz, James Woods and, of course, Al Pacino at his most 90s Pacino. Keep a beady eye out for the Stone-cameo as a commentator early on in the film.
Boxing - Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)
The best boxing film ever made? The greatest acting performance in cinema history? Whatever your stance, Raging Bull is firmly in the argument, brutally, bloodily punching its weight.
Martin Scorsese’s Robert De Niro-starring 1980 biopic about the life of the tortured pugilist Jake LaMotta destroying everything inside and outside of the ring remains one of the most influential movies ever made. Boxing has never looked so beautiful and barbarous.
Football - The Class of ’92 (Gabe & Benjamin Turner, 2013)
This revisit to Manchester United’s historic treble-winning season of ’98/’99 has all the usual suspects collected together to reminisce on their unprecedented achievement at the end of the last century. Whilst Sir Alex Ferguson is noticeably absent, the camaraderie between the Neville brothers, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, and David Beckham is still evident, and each is granted his own episode in this 98 minute documentary.
The feat of the continental treble is unlikely to ever be achieved in the same manner again, particularly when one reflects on how much money is now thrown around football for instant success; this Man United team, a core of hard-working, genuine ‘mates’ rising up to the pinnacle of the sport to form one of the most iconic teams ever seen in England.
The talking heads collection in this doc' is also fantastic; from director Danny Boyle and United legend Eric Cantona, to Stone Roses’ bassist Mani, and former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Baseball - Moneyball (Bennett Miller, 2011)
Baseball is famously known as ‘America’s Sport’, and doesn’t screenwriter Aaron Sorkin know it. A sizzling script from the man behind The West Wing and The Social Network, performed exquisitely by Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman and centrally a superb Brad Pitt as Oakland Raiders general manager Billy Beane trading barbs and typically snappy dialogue with a whole lot of gusto and heart.
Baseball has never ever been this interesting to follow, and something you will ultimately struggle not to ‘get romantic’ about.
Basketball - Hoop Dreams (Steve James, 1993)
If there’s that one documentary you must have to watch before the world ends tomorrow, Hoop Dreams is there to accompany your last meal. The film chronicles the lives of two aspiring basketball players - Arthur Agee and William Agee - in Chicago trying to make their talent stand-out in a ruthless world.
Filmed by a crew headed by Steve James over an astonishing period of six years in the late 80s/early-90s, the result is simply stunning. The side-story of one of the protagonist’s brothers is particularly heart-breaking. Hoop Dreams has to be seen to be believed.
Motorsport - Senna (Asif Kapadia, 2010)
An absolutely stunning documentary of the late F1 driver Aryton Senna, who tragically died on the track at the San Marino Grand Prix. Made by the talented British director Asif Kapadia who also gave us the equally brilliant Amy Winehouse and Diego Marandona documentaries, Senna beguiles even those who have never been enamoured with the sport by highlighting one of the true icons of Formula One.
The film chronicles the Brazilian’s rivalry with Alain Proust and hard-fought quest for his three World Championship, and the heart-breaking, overwhelming, outpouring of grief from the nation of Brazil following his untimely death at Imola in ‘94.
Cricket - Lagaan (Ashutosh Gowariker, 2001)
A mustachioed snarling villain gets challenged to a game of cricket by scintillatingly charismatic superstar Aamir Khan in this aesthetically pleasing epic set during the colonial occupation of India by the British Raj in the late 19th Century.
Slightly predictable, but you’d have to have a stone-cold corpse not to have the cockles of your heart warmed by the story’s conclusion.
Golf - Happy Gilmore (Dennis Dugan, 1996)
You’re not gonna sink this putt, you jackass!