The Best Sports Films of 2009

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Posted January 2, 2010 by Kristian Lin in Blotch

I was trying to figure out whether I had enough material to do this list, and then Bill Simmons beat me to the punch. He even had his best sports movies in more or less the same order as I had. I guess I should file that under You Snooze, You Lose.

(Simmons also makes the case that Clint Eastwood is an overrated director, a drum I’ve been hitting for a few years now, so I guess I got to that one before The Sports Guy did. I don’t always agree with Simmons when he talks about movies, but when he sums up The Blind Side and Invictus with, “One movie was a little too Hollywood; the other wasn’t Hollywood enough,” that’s just about perfect.)

Anyway, I thought I’d add a few of my thoughts on five sports movies better worth seeing than The Blind Side.

1. Sugar: I blogged about this one before. Even though it doesn’t end with the hero realizing his dream of pitching Game 7 of the World Series in Yankee Stadium, his voyage from the Dominican Republic to America comes to a quiet end that’s exhilarating in its own way.
2. The Damned United: This is by the same screenwriter/star combination who made The Queen and Frost/Nixon, and it’s every bit as good as either of those movies. The only reason it’s not getting Oscar buzz is because Americans don’t know who Brian Clough was. This is the story of the one big failure in a legendary soccer coach’s career, and you don’t have to know anything about soccer to appreciate its study of a coach whose ambitions and ability to feed off grudges lead him to screw up his biggest opportunity.
3. Whip It: More on this one in a later post. It’s not a great film, but I was charmed.
4. Big Fan: I’d think more highly of this if it were darker and more twisted and above all funnier. Writer-director Robert D. Siegel (who wrote The Wrestler before this) must have a sense of humor somewhere, or he’d never have been editor of The Onion. Simmons is right, though: This story takes unpredictable turns.
5: Tyson: James Toback only conducted interviews with the boxer himself for this documentary, and the result is an exhaustive and exhausting look into Mike Tyson’s screwed-up head. Big demerits for this movie because it’s really unfair to Desirée Washington. Even so, it’s fascinating stuff.
Honorable mention: Technically, this isn’t a 2009 release, but Take Off played for a couple of weeks at AMC Grapevine Mills. It’s a South Korean film telling a heavily fictionalized version of the establishment of their national ski jumping team for the 1998 Winter Olympics. It’s the best ski jumping movie I’ve ever seen, for what that’s worth.


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