As many of you know, I’m not only a big sports fan, I’m also a huge movie fan. So, it makes sense that I’m also a big fan of sports movies.
Unfortunately, 2017 wasn’t a great year for sports films. No “Raging Bull,” “Hoosiers,” “Rocky” or “Bull Durham.” I guess Disney-Pixar’s “Cars 3” – about Lightning McQueen and other Piston Cup racers – qualifies as a sports flick, but I’m not a NASCAR fan so I had absolutely zero interest in an animated film about race cars. “Molly’s Game,” about real-life underground poker legend Molly Bloom, is out now and getting lots of positive reviews. But the topic didn’t interest me enough to see that one. Back in 2011, there was a little-seen but very good hockey film called “Goon.” Well, there was a 2017 remake called “Goon: Last of the Enforcers” but it was nowhere near as good as the funny, violent original.
That leaves three sports movies from the past year that I can recommend.
It wasn’t a huge hit in the theaters last fall, it won’t go down as a classic, but “Battle of the Sexes” – about tennis legend Billie Jean King’s much-hyped 1973 match against Bobby Riggs and women’s rights – did capture the atmosphere of those turbulent times and was actually pretty entertaining. Emma Stone and Steve Carell were both quite good, and the movie is now available on demand and on DVD.
An even better film that unfortunately never found a big audience was a story about the real-life Rocky, Chuck Wepner. Also set mostly in the ‘70s, that movie, “Chuck,” was extremely well done, and it pulled no punches in detailing Wepner’s shortcomings as a person, including his penchant for booze, drugs and women. Liev Schreiber was terrific as Wepner, and Elisabeth Moss and Naomi Watts as his first and third wives, respectively, were also great. Do yourself a favor and rent “Chuck.” (It’s also available currently on demand and on DVD.)
And, if you count figure skating as a sport, you will also absolutely enjoy “I, Tonya,” which is in theaters right now. The movie chronicles the wild life of Tonya Harding and, of course, that little pre-Olympics drama involving Nancy Kerrigan and Harding. The movie is funny and apparently pretty true to life, and Margot Robbie as Harding and Golden Globe winner Allison Janney as her mother are both fantastic. –Jim “Chet” Chesko