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Summer Sports Movie Viewing Guide

School’s out for the summer!  Now many of us can finally relax, sleep — and watch some movies! (Editor’s note: When you’re not outside playing with friends and enjoying the warm summer weather, that is!)

There are so many great sports movies out there, it can sometimes be hard to know which one to watch. So I’ve put together a viewing guide to help! Here’s a week’s worth of movies to get your summer off right. All of these movies have a PG rating, but some have topics that parents might object to. Always ask your parents before watching a movie. (Pro tip: For a better chance of getting a “yes,” ask your parents to join you!)

Soul Surfer (2011)
Sport: Surfing

SoulSurfer is based on a true story, and it’s a pretty amazing one. Bethany Hamilton (played by AnnaSophia Robb in the film) is a teenager in Hawaii who loves surfing. One day while in the water, she’s bitten by a shark and loses her arm. After the attack, Bethany struggles to get back on a board. But with lots of love and encouragement from her parents Cheri (Helen Hunt) and Tom Hamilton (Dennis Quaid), Bethany is able to surf again. And she realizes that even though she is missing an arm, she doesn’t have to miss out on everyday life.

My favorite parts of this movie are all of the surfing scenes. I loved watching all of the surfers doing the amazing tricks! But there’s more to Soul Surfer than surf action. The faith, endurance, and perseverance that it took for Bethany to get back on top in real life is a big part of the movie, too. And it’s really inspiring.

Miracle (2004)
Sport: Hockey

Miracle is another movie based on an inspiring true story: the journey of the 1980 U.S. men’s hockey team from a group of untested young players to Olympic gold medal champions.

When coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) takes over the team before the 1980 Winter Olympics, the American hockey program is in trouble. It hasn’t won a gold medal in 20 years, and the prospects for the ’80 Games look bleak. But through hard work and excellent coaching, Brooks manages to mold the squad into a team that works hard, perseveres, and never quits. After some setbacks and early losses, the American gel into a unit, defeat the heavily favored Soviet squad in the semifinals, and then go on to win the gold medal.

Out of the seven movies that I watched for this guide, this one was by far my favorite. First off, my favorite sports movies are hockey movies — and it was even better watching Miracle after my beloved Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six years. But this movie is also an amazing triumph of teamwork and shows how sometimes the impossible can be accomplished. I loved the way that all of the actors worked together as a team by the end of the movie and experienced a real camaraderie effect.

Do you believe in miracles? You will after watching this movie!

Hoosiers (1986)
Sport: Basketball

Hoosiers tells the story of a small town Indiana high school basketball team that defies the odds in order to win a state championship. In 1951, Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) lost a collegiate coaching job due to hitting a player. So he arrives in Hickory, Indiana, at a last resort job given to him by his longtime friend Cletus Summers (Sheb Wooley). As part of the job requirement, Dale has to behave at all times, which he doesn’t always do! The film was loosely based off of the Milan High School basketball team that won the state championship in 1954. 

Hoosiers was nominated for two Academy Awards including Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Music, Original Score. It’s also a sports movie classic. It exemplifies hard work and determination, showing that even a small-town team has the capability of winning against bigger, badder squads. 

Rocky (1976)
Sport: Boxing

Rocky is another classic. It’s the rags-to-riches story of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), a debt collector in Philadelphia who dreams of boxing. He gets his start as a small time club fighter before earning the chance to compete in a world heavyweight championship against Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), who Rocky didn’t know he was supposed to lose to.

Rocky was nominated for 10 Academy Awards in nine categories, including: Best Picture (won), Best Director (won), Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing (won), Best Music (Original Song), and Best Sound Mixing. Additionally, it led to five sequels with a sixth, Creed, set for release in November. I really loved Rocky’s screenplay and how the filming of the movie made you feel like you were in the ring with Balboa experiencing all of the action first hand.

WeAreMarshall (2006)
Sport: Football

WeAreMarshall tells the true story about how 75 coaches, players, boosters, and athletic directors from Huntington, Virginia, college Marshall University were killed in a tragic plane crash after a game. Four players never got on the plane: Three didn’t attend due to injuries and one overslept and never made the flight. With the team all but decimated, people expect the program to fold. But Nate Ruffin (Anthony Mackie) barges into a university meeting and convinces the school to keep football at the school. The university then brings in a new coach, Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey), to rebuild the team and save a grieving town. 

This was the most emotional movie out of the seven that I watched for this guide. My heart just broke when I was watching this movie. It really captures what happens to the people involved in a tragedy after the initial shock has worn off. 

TheNatural (1984)
Sport: Baseball

The Natural is a classic baseball movie centered on Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) and his impressive career. One day, while Hobbs is playing baseball with his father, his father has a fatal heart attack and dies underneath a tree. Later, the same exact tree is struck by lightning, which Hobbs sees as a sign. So he makes a bat out of the tree’ remains and carves a lightning bolt into it. But he’s not only a great hitter. He can pitch, too. His eight no-hitters land him a tryout with the Chicago Cub, which then launches his baseball career. Things go bad for Roy, though, after a near fatal run in with a baseball fan.

This movie was nominated for 4 Academy Awards including Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction- Set Decoration, and Best Music, Original Score. I liked The Natural because it had a strong all star cast whose movies I admired. Also, I liked how well the entire cast performed together. 

MillionDollarArm (2014)
Sport: Baseball

Let’s wrap this guide up with one more true story: MillionDollar Arm. The film is based on sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) and with his partner Ash Vasudevan (Aasif Mandvi) forming their own talent agency and bringing Indian cricket players into Major League Baseball.

Since all of Bernstein’s clients are retired, he unsuccessfully tries to sign football player Popo Vanuatu (Rey Maualuga) to the agency. But after catching cricket on TV, Bernstein has the idea that a cricket bowler might be retrained to be a big-league pitcher. So he travels to India where he establishes the “Million Dollar Arm” competition with the help of an investor in hopes of finding talented cricket players that could be flown to the U.S. and play baseball. From the contest, Bernstein finds Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal), who come to the States and join the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system.

I actually liked this movie quite a bit. Its plot was very different than all of the other sports movies that I watched. I liked how talented the cricket/baseball players were, and watching them adjust to life in America compared to life in India was a lot of fun.