Nostalgia: 5 Best Sports Movies Of All Time

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The magic of live sports seldom translates to the big screen—with a few exceptions.

There’s a reason that sports movies usually find their way into the $4.99 bin.

The magic of live sports simply doesn’t translate to the big screen. Although directors keep trying, the result is seldom pleasing—instead of the athletic rivalry, high tension and brilliant drama of live sports, we get sentimental stories with poorly choreographed scenes played by scrawny actors who aren’t the least bit athletic. And they always seem to follow the same plot—a down-on-his-luck athlete who, under the guidance of his crusty-but-golden-hearted coach (usually chomping a cigar), beats the odds, scores the winning goal (touchdown, homerun, etc.) and finds personal redemption and inner peace.

Some sports movies, however, rise above this level. Click through for five of the best.

Actor Robert De Niro as Jack LaMotta on a poster for the United Artists boxing movie 'Raging Bull', 1980. (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)
Actor Robert De Niro as Jack LaMotta on a poster for the United Artists boxing movie ‘Raging Bull’, 1980. (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)

1. Raging Bull
Director Martin Scorsese raises the sports movie to art form, using boxing as a metaphor for the way we destroy ourselves and those around us. Robert De Niro won a best actor Oscar for his portrayal of boxer Jake La Motta.

2. Slapshot
A ’70s cult comedy of a violent minor league hockey team—seeing Paul Newman pretend he can play hockey is hilarious in itself.

3. Eight Men Out
This highly enjoyable dramatization of the Chicago Black Sox World Series scandal in 1919 never gets the kudos it deserves.

4. Field of Dreams
Heavy on baseball nostalgia and Americana, the movie is best when it focuses on the father-and-son bonds that are forged through sports.

5. Pride of the Yankees
A 1942 biopic of the great Lou Gehrig worth watching, mainly for Gary Cooper’s fantastic rendition of Gehrig’s “Today, I’m the luckiest man in the world” farewell speech.

A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2016 issue with the headline, “Highlight Reels,” p. 15.