Depending on the time of year, sports may come and disappear. Baseball? Football? How about a game of hacky-sack? Surely, the Summer Olympics have ended, right? , but a solid sports movie is usually a smart idea. Sports not your thing? Don’t worry. For those who enjoy watching sports, a well-made sports film may provide drama, suspenseful underdog stories, a glimpse into history and more.
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And even better, Netflix has an impressive collection that includes both narrative and non-fictional sports films that cover a wide range of sports and hit exactly those oh-so-perfect notes. In “Operation Varsity Blues,” “Athlete A,” and “Icarus,” as well as “Million Dollar Baby,” and “Battered Bastards of Baseball,” you’ll receive a more in-depth look at recent historical events. If you’re not already pumped on Mountain Dew, “Talladega Nights” will do the trick. For those of you who are interested in sports, you can log in and explore the world of sports, but please don’t ask us what the first down is.
1. Athlete A
As the narrative of Larry Nassar, a USA Gymnastics doctor accused of sexually assaulting hundreds of young girls, Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s “Athlete A” places it in context, combining Nassar’s decades-long abuse with the system that allowed it to go unchecked…. Nassar’s narrative is fresh and well-known to the general population. In this way, the film benefits from not dwelling on Nassar’s specific crimes for too long, but rather on the reporters and survivors whose work eventually led to Nassar being prosecuted. Elite gymnastics in America is also examined in this film, where physical and psychological abuse is tolerated as long as victories keep rolling in.
For example, there are Maggie Nichols and Rachael Denhollander among the many women who have spoken up about their experiences at the hands of former USA Gymnastics coach and abuser Larry Nassar. Given that, despite the fact that Nassar was convicted and imprisoned and former USA Gymnastics chief Steve Penny faces possible jail time, others involved have yet to face legal consequences, the narrative of “Athlete A” is even more relevant in light of this development.
2. The Battered Bastards of Baseball
If you think the story of “The Battered Bastards of Baseball” is too unbelievable to be true, think again. Bing Russell, the father of Kurt Russell, who features in the doc, actually relocated to Portland, Oregon in the 1970s to oversee a minor league baseball team. As an independent team without any major league ties, the Portland Mavericks were led by Russell and comprised of gritty misfits, washouts, and everyman Joes (including a young Kurt Russell). After then, they began to win.
Incorporating the nostalgic, happy DNA of its predecessors is a fantastic starting point “Sandlot” with some baseball drama “He couldn’t bear them. With a group of beer-drinking, fun-loving baseball players in their late thirties or early forties, Kurt Russell’s father’s relationship to the baseball establishment is shown in the film “The Battered Bastards of Baseball.”
3. High Flying Bird
Steven Soderbergh’s “High Flying Bird” focuses on a rookie basketball player (Melvin Gregg) and the attempts of an agent (Moonlight’s André Holland) to protect his career amid a lockout in the NBA.
As a result of Steven Soderbergh’s zippy direction and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s smart, sleek script, the film remains enjoyable and comprehensible even to those unfamiliar with the business of basketball (like someone who didn’t know what a “lock out” was, or that the NBA had ever had one—not naming any names). Zazie Beetz, Sonja Sohn, and Bill Duke round out the excellent cast.
Bryan Fogel’s “Icarus,” which won the Oscar for best documentary feature, begins as a single film:
In the wake of Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal, Fogel, a longtime fan of the cyclist, wants to chronicle his attempt at competing in the world’s most arduous amateur cycling event while taking performance-enhancing drugs.
As he tries to find a doctor who can treat him, the film changes dramatically. Our interview subject is at risk of being assassinated by the Russian government in a very different way.
Similarly to “Athlete A,” “Icarus” takes on a topic that most people have heard about — in this case, the Russian doping crisis — and treats it like a full-length feature documentary. As a result of working with whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, who ran Russia’s anti-doping lab, Fogel’s documentary has an immediate, urgent feel. This is because Fogel actually assisted Rodchenkov in breaking the story of how the Russian government helped its Olympic athletes use illegal substances without being caught.
5. The Karate Kid
Documentaries about sports are some of Netflix’s best offerings. Only five out of the 10 films on this list are docs, and there might be a separate list for all of Netflix’s sports-themed limited series like “The Last Dance,” which won an Emmy. However, there are moments when you crave a work of fiction that is nostalgic and features a man dressed as a shower.
“The Karate Kid” is here! Cobra Kai, a sequel to the ’80s kids hit, puts middle-aged Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and one-time meathead Johnny “Sweep the Leg” Lawrence (William Zabka) against each other once again. It’s possible to watch all three “Karate Kid” sequels on Netflix, as well as 1994’s “The Next Karate Kid,” starring Hilary Swank. The only exception to this rule is if you’re in the mood to see a Hilary Swank sports film on Netflix.
6. Million Dollar Baby
“Million Dollar Baby,” which earned an acting Oscar for Swank and Morgan Freeman, a directing Oscar for Clint Eastwood, and a best picture Oscar at the 2005 Oscars, is arguably a better choice. A grizzled trainer (Eastwood) takes on a talented but inexperienced hopeful boxer (Swank) who, through hard work and determination, wins her way into pro-boxing circles and Eastwood’s cold, shriveled heart — but the film’s third act takes a somber turn, shifting away from convention in favor of meditative, downbeat contemplation on what makes life worthwhile.
While Eastwood has let his heart to harden, Swank remains generally positive about human nature; if you anticipate that combination to result in something facile and syrupy, well, remember that you’re watching a Clint Eastwood movie. Be prepared with the tissues.
7. Operation Varsity Blues
“Plucked from the headlines” filmmaker Chris Smith’s third and final “plucked from the headlines” documentary on this list tells the story of wealthy, entitled jerks who lie about their children’s athletic prowess in order to get them into a prestigious school.
It’s not about sports in “Operation Varsity Blues,” but rather the investigation that brought down the college admissions scam, with sports serving as a convenient red herring in both film and in the real-life scandal, where parents paid a group of conspirators to make it appear that their kids were truly, truly good at sports like water polo and fencing. Sports in this country aren’t about competition or hard effort; they’re a way for the wealthy to better themselves at the expense of others who can’t just throw money at a problem. Consider the consequences of hurling your television set.
…oh, he was a great soccer player, wasn’t he?” if that is all you know about Pelé. Pelé, by Ben Nicholas and David Tryhorn, goes beyond simply presenting a biography of the Brazilian soccer sensation to connect his rise — and the ups and downs of his career — with the changing identity of Brazil, which gained international prominence (largely thanks to Pelé) in the mid-20th century before it fell into dictatorship.
Pelé, one of the greatest soccer players ever, is hardly an underdog in this film, but only because Brazil is the underdog.
Pelé is depicted as a humble, gentle, and patriotic figure in this film. Pelé’s political neutrality during the presidency of Brazil’s President Médici is examined by Nicholas and Tryhorn in their film, which avoids turning into a hagiography of the legendary footballer.
During the ’70s, Formula One drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda had a fierce rivalry that captivated the world of racing. Rush (2013), which has some of the best and most immersive vehicle racing scenes ever filmed, featured Ron Howard dramatizing the rivalry between the drivers as they traded underdog status back and forth.
The British Hunt is played by Chris Hemsworth, who is portrayed as a boisterous, outspoken playboy, while the Austrian Lauda is played by Daniel Brühl, who is methodical and quiet to a fault.
In “Rush,” we see Howard at his best: a seasoned, accomplished director who knows how to tell a good narrative. Is this a Dad movie? Maybe. Yes, if that’s the case. And if you’d like to round off a weekend of sports-and-chill on Netflix with one more racing movie…
10. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
“Jesus, my eight-and-a-half-pound, six-ounce baby. I haven’t learned a single word yet. Just a tiny baby. So cozy, but omnipotent at the same time.” “Talladega Nights:The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” is more quotable than any other movie on this list combined; quote a sentence from any of the other movies, minus “The Karate Kid,” and I will personally bring a crate of Bojangles and Cheerwine, in celebration of “Talladega Nights,” directly to your home….
As one of the most quotable comedies in recent years, and perhaps all time, “Talladega Nights” showcases Will Ferrell at his hilarious peak, which is no easy accomplishment (Will Ferrell at his dramatic high is, of course, “Blades of Glory”). As for Michael Clarke Duncan, “Don’t you put that evil on me, Ricky Bobby!” should have earned him an Oscar nod, as should John C. Reilly.