sport movies

Make your muscles scream – Movies for every sport

Today, we set out doing a little bit of every kind of sport while sitting comfortably on the couch to watch a series of movies inspired by some real-life athletes.

You will see that these men separate in time and space by their personal experiences, for better or worse, but whatever their sport, they always have the same premises for winning.

Indeed, the winning recipe of every champion and the identity card to succeed in making history and standing out among thousands of would-be rivals is sweat, toil, pain, sacrifice, and hard work.

That’s right because, in every sport, it’s not only winning that counts but also succeeding in carving your name in the collective imagination to become part of something greater, that eternal glory that exalts kids and prompts them to make murals with your face.

Boxing, wrestling, rugby, cycling, athletics… we’re not missing a thing today; it’s impossible for there not to be at least one of these movies that doesn’t involve a sport you’re passionate about.

So slip into the most comfortable tracksuits in your wardrobe, do your good stretching exercises so you don’t leave your muscles cold, and above all, stay focused on the screen because, as usual, that’s where the real magic happens.

The Bleeder (2016)

The Bleeder 2016 movie
Amazon Prime Video

On the starting lineup, we have Chuck Wepner, a boxer of average talent but great courage and physical endurance, not coincidentally called The Bleeder because he cashed in hard blows without going down, even when bleeding like a fountain.

His lifestyle is certainly not among the most blameless; between nights of partying with his entourage of fans and friends, while at home, his wife Phyllis and little Kimberly are always waiting for him to return at a late hour.

Yet his career is swimmingly, even taking him to fight a legend like Muhammad Ali, fresh from his incredible victory over George Foreman in Zaire.

As expected, Ali wins, but Chuck defends his honor as a gladiator by holding his own against the champion, thus inspiring the young Sylvester Stallone to write the screenplay for the first Rocky Balboa movie.

At that point, fame becomes planetary, just as Chuck slips into the abyss of alcohol and drugs, losing touch with reality and consequently also the love of his family.

Despite using the name of one of the world’s best-loved boxing sagas, Philippe Falardeau directs this biopic in the most anti-epic way possible, away from the musical montages of training and fighting on the edge of the human impossible.

It’s a successful choice to keep the bizarre character played by Liev Schreiber anchored in reality, and for once, he gets a chance to be a protagonist, charging an ambiguous character, not always good and perfect, with strength and weakness.

Alongside him, actresses Elisabeth Moss and Naomi Watts play the boxer’s wife and mistress, respectively, bringing a gentle dose of femininity to an otherwise tough male story.

For all Rocky lovers, we have a must-see movie about the harsh truth behind an indelible myth of cinema and sports.

The Program (2015)

The Program 2015 movie
Amazon Prime Video

From movie inspiration, we turn to a movie about a cycling legend who inspired (for a time) all fans and non-fans of the sport with his dramatic and compelling personal epic.

We talk about the unbeatable prodigal son of Texas, Lance Armstrong, going from his first victories in the 1990s to the unexpected setback in his career when he discovered he had cancer.

But Lance did not give up, defeating the terrible disease and resuming racing faster than ever, even going as far as the unbeatable record of winning seven consecutive Tours de France.

The public hails him; journalists sing his praises; every other cyclist wishes to be like him, and money comes pouring in from rich sponsor contracts.

Except that at one point, David Walsh, an Irish journalist for the Sunday Times, dares to raise his hand and ask: But is it all true, or is someone here cheating?

The pebble stirs the mountain, so begins an investigation by Bob Hamman, boss of SCA Promotions, an insurance company that is supposed to pay Armstrong the rich rewards for his victories and would, of course, be happy to save the money if doping incidents came to light.

Firmly at the handlebars of this documentary movie about one of the biggest scandals in sports history is Stephen Frears, a British director with eclectic talent in numerous film genres from costume drama to stylish comedy, always with a signature biting social satire.

Equally varied in the roles he plays is Ben Foster, sci-fi action hero in Pandorum or dramatic underdog in Galveston; his portrayal of Armstrong is one of perfect arrogance and conceit, leaving in the background the righteous, sad weakness of a legend who rose to the Olympus of glory and then plummeted to the hell of ignominy.

Foxcatcher (2014)

Foxcatcher 2014 movie
Amazon Prime Video

We now tell another tragic tale of sports and fragile humanity with the lives of Dave and Mark Schultz, brothers and wrestling champions divided by their talent and success.

Dave is the more skilled, wise, and patient brother, while Mark is weaker and insecure in life, as in wrestling, often giving in to his instinctive aggression.

Everything changes, however, when Mark receives the proposal of a lifetime from John E Du Pont, a wealthy tycoon who wants the brothers to head his Olympic team, the Foxcatchers.

Eccentric and reclusive, Du Pont pours into sports all that passion repressed in childhood under the total control of his mother, Jean, hoping to finally win her respect with the medals won by his men.

At the same time, his friendship with Mark grows closer and closer, becoming obsessed and jealous of his brother Dave to the point of tragedy that will end in blood at his very ranch/gym in 1996.

Bennett Miller confirms his talent as a director after the already excellent Capote of 2005, continuing to depict the cracks in the human mind that sink into the depths of madness with cold detachment.

Steve Carell, an actor usually known for the pleasant dementiality of his comic roles, is simply glacial in his performance; however, he is flawless and icy in his portrayal of this terrifying sociopath.

Equally good is the pair playing the Schultz brothers, with the muscular Channing Tatum as the younger, lurching Mark and the ever-reliable Mark Ruffalo as the wiser David.

It is a tragic testament to the excesses one can go to for sports, for a movie where, however, the greatness of those who fight against everything and everyone to be number one also finds its place.

Invictus (2009)

Invictus 2009 movie
Amazon Prime Video

About this movie, I could say that it is an epic of sports and culture by the great Clint Eastwood and starring the immense Morgan Freeman; it would be enough to have these two cinematic monsters to trust and watch.

Freeman reaches perhaps the pinnacle of his career in the role of Nelson Mandela, finally free and president of South Africa after spending nearly 30 years in prison for his unjust arrest by the apartheid government in 1962.

The revolution is over, and the hated National Party regime fell, yet the country is split more than ever into classes of citizens, especially the black majority, who still see the white minority as the enemy.

What does sports have to do with this movie? Well, Mandela’s genius was to exploit the Springboks, the white national rugby team, to unify and equalize national pride and belonging.

Match after match, captain François Pienaar and his boys climb to the top of the 1995 World Cup right in front of their South African compatriots, who were thrilled to host the sporting event and, of course, even more delighted to see the Springboks make their way to the final against the unbeatable All Blacks of New Zealand.

Clint Eastwood paints an intimate portrait of the political revolutionary leader, embodied with charisma and irony by Morgan Freeman, who takes on the many doubts and certainties this man faced in those turbulent years.

Equally vital is the character of Pienaar, played by a solid and muscular Matt Damon, who is instead the protagonist of the many fantastic sports action sequences in the Springboks’ games.

In short, a great moment not only in the history of sports but also in the fight against racism and the commitment to the social integration of minorities.

Peaceful Warrior (2006)

Peaceful Warrior 2006 movie
youtube movies

After these big sports names, we conclude with one last movie about the less famous but no less important Dan Millman, a multi-talented athlete who later became a motivator/teacher in sports activities.

In this story, we follow his senior year in college, where he quickly gets good grades due to his intelligence, is attractive and charismatic, and takes a different girl to bed every night.

In addition, he is the most gifted athlete on his college team, the one everyone looks up to with respect and envy, especially since the Olympics are now near and the gold medal is virtually guaranteed.

Nevertheless, he cannot sleep, feeling as if something is missing, as if all the winning pieces of his life fail to complete the mysterious puzzle of himself.

One day, unfortunately, he has a terrible motorcycle accident, shatters his right leg in several places, and ends up under the knife, from which he emerges with a metal bar holding his bones together.

Naturally, his teacher and classmates think his career is over and that he will already be lucky if he can walk again.

He will find unexpected help in the mysterious Socrates, a small mini-market manager with a passion for sports whose teachings instill courage and confidence, pushing him toward a human and athletic goal everyone thought impossible.

I have already said what I think about Victor Salva in my article on the fantastic horror saga “Jeepers Creepers,” so you can safely go and read my admiration and regret for the enormous talent and the awful end this filmmaker came to.

In this case, Salva abandons horror but stays in the realm of the quasi/supernatural, with the charming young bad boy Scott Mechlowicz guided into the light by the guru played by the divine Nick Nolte.

Not to be outdone, the ecstasy of spiritual rebirth through sports is just as intoxicating as in today’s other movies, where we have touched on disciplines and cultures as varied and distant from each other as the planets of the solar system, yet just like the planets we all revolve around that bright sun that is the search not only for well-being in our lives but also for something deeper and more enduring that gives our existence a verse of purpose and meaning.

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