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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Alternative Thanksgiving Break Viewing: Sports Movies Edition

There must be something in the air this week before Thanksgiving. In a monumental moment, we have come together to write one cohesive list of our favorite sports movies of all time. Thus, we present our list as an alternative to football on your Thanksgiving break.

1. “Raging Bull”

Director Martin Scorsese’s camera work in “Raging Bull” revolutionized sports movies by taking audiences into the ring, giving the action dizzying momentum. In addition, the acting seamlessly compliments the setting and tone. This is especially true of De Niro’s performance, embodying the hubristic masochism and misogyny that compose [professional boxer Jake] LaMotta’s inner and outer worlds. Thus, “Raging Bull” is more than a sports movie: it’s a brilliant character study, a groundbreaking achievement and a knockout drama.

2. “The Sandlot”

It may not have won any Oscars, but something about “The Sandlot” cements itself in audiences’ memories: Is it the infinitely quotable witty banter? The charmingly churlish performances? The sincerity behind the love of baseball? The romanticism behind revisited childhood summers? To try and pinpoint the film’s source of power is akin to trying to catch a fly ball with the sun in your eyes. “The Sandlot” may be 20 years old, but no matter how many times we learn how to properly make a s’more or witness the consequences of combining chewing tobacco and Tilt-A-Whirls, it will never get old, remaining in our hearts for-ev-er.

3. “Miracle”

The ending is already written in history. In 1980, the scrappy U.S. Olympic hockey team defeated the imposing Soviet team in the semi-finals before going on to defeat Finland and win the Gold medal. “Miracle” captures the energy and momentum of this historic moment, lingering on the personal stories of the college boys from competing schools who came together to form a team that brought a nation together and the fearless coach who demanded the best out of them. Every shot, every play, every buzzer is breathtaking in speed and intensity. It doesn’t matter that we already know the end of this story—every viewing reminds us why we believe in miracles.

4. “Friday Night Lights”

This quintessential football movie is about so much more than football. Apart from the gritty realism on the field, the movie shines when it zeros in on the people in this small Texas town, particularly the complicated relationships between fathers and sons. Through unvarnished cinematography and an uncompromising focus on the pain of disappointment, football becomes more than a game. As Coach Gaines, played by an uncharacteristically restrained and thoughtful Billy Bob Thornton, says, “Perfection is being able to look your friends in the eye and know you did everything you could not to let them down.” In “Friday Night Lights,” how we play the game becomes how we live life.

5. “Moneyball”

The challenge: make a compelling movie out of a book detailing a particular statistics number system used by the Oakland Athletics to try and put together a winning baseball team. The payoff: an immensely compelling movie, driven by a central performance by Brad Pitt that captures the technicalities without sacrificing an ounce of narrative drama. “Moneyball” is smart enough to effectively convey the intricacies of the stats system, while still focusing on the players and management. In its hybrid of the numerical and the personal, the movie subtly reinforces the shortcomings of the very numerical system that never quite brought the A’s a championship. Although the numbers don’t lie, it’s the intangible factor, the heart, that makes us keep on watching.

6. “Field of Dreams”

There is something religious about the relationship between Americans and baseball, and nowhere in cinema is this more evident than in “Field of Dreams,” which captures baseball’s spiritual transcendence with poetic sentimentality. The miraculous story is told through a gorgeous score and sweeping shots of cornfields that will make any Iowan proud. From the immortalized line “If you build it, he will come” to the unforgettable “Is this Heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa,” audiences witness a testament to the everyman’s integrity, hope’s resilience and the wonders that await those who have faith in their dreams.

Honorable Mention: “Space Jam”

“Space Jam” seems to inhabit a nebulous place in our generation’s collective memory, evoking a warm yet vague feeling that resembles contentment. “But surely it cannot be as good as we remember,” says our jaded, grown-up mind, “It is, after all, just a cartoon.” Balderdash. While certainly not joining the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, “Space Jam” is a wonderfully silly movie that celebrates basketball in tandem with the inner-child. With heaps of nostalgic sports references and Looney Tunes humor (and surprisingly self-referential, adult asides), it defies expectations, as well as physics. When the chorus for “I Believe I Can Fly” kicks in, just try to not sing along.

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