Get ready to cheer for the underdogs - the SWITCH team is stepping up to the plate to bring home the top sports films streaming now! The ball's in your court, so be a team player and check out these cinematic slam dunks!
You would imagine a film about Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) would be full of clichés and bombast, like Conor McGregor, but the very first note of The National's song 'Start a War' in the intro to Gavin O'Connor's 'Warrior' won me over. Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) is a hulking, traumatised former Marine who turns up on his recovered alcoholic dad's (a heartbreaking Nick Nolte) Pittsburgh doorstep and starts making a name for himself at the local MMA gym. His brother, Brendan (Joel Edgerton), is a Philadelphia science teacher and family man, a former pro fighter who moonlights in parking lot matches to help pay off his mortgage. These long-estranged siblings end up as unlikely entrants in Sparta, a nationally televised tournament to determine "the toughest man on the planet" with a prize worth millions of dollars. Eventually, they'll have to beat the crap out of each other in a cage of emotions. 'Warrior' isn't really an MMA movie - it's a family drama. The themes are trauma, love and forgiveness but the setting just happens to be in the MMA world. Rather than superman punches and rear-naked chokes, the focus is on humanity and character, more so than David O. Russell's garish 'The Fighter', minus the nihilism of Darren Aronofsky's 'The Wrestler' and surely influencing Ryan Coogler's 'Creed'
. The beach scene. The casino scene. The final struggle in the Octagon. The music. Personally, I have never cried once in my life, but word on the street is that many grown men have shed tears over this film. As the French would say, "Preparez vos mouchoirs."
'THE KARATE KID'
Montages, underdogs, learning life lessons, 80s rock ballads and motifs to try and replicate at any given moment, 'The Karate Kid' is the
sports movie. I first watched this movie at a sleepover party, and at an age where most of my friends thought "old" movies weren't cool, this one went down extremely well. The premise is simple enough, as all good sports movies generally are; Daniel (Ralph Macchio) moves to a new town and starts to get bullied by a group of boys, and the only way to defend himself and find his place in this world is by learning karate with this trainer, Mr Miyagi (Pat Morita). Of course, everyone knows that learning karate means never having to use karate, rather it's about learning to harness its skill and wisdom to become a more complete person. Obviously. We couldn't stop quoting and reenacting every part of this classic, from the "Wax on, wax off" scenes, to the infamous crane kick, and even Mr Miyagi's healing remedies. This film is rewatchable, uplifting and a perfect isolation go-to, because it's impossible to leave this movie not smiling (and wanting to kick ass).
'TOUCHING THE VOID'
It takes a certain amount of arrogance to tackle a mountain no one has ever managed to climb - or, in the words of Joe Simpson, "We were fairly anarchic and fairly irresponsible and we didn't give a damn about anyone else or anything else, and we just wanted to climb the world... And every now and then it went wildly wrong." When he and Simon Yates attempted to to reach the summit of Siula Grande in Peru in 1985, disaster happened on their descent. The story is told in a docudrama by Kevin Macdonald ('Whitney'
, 'How I Live Now'
, 'The Last King of Scotland') in a very understated production. There's no narration and little music; Macdonald relies on the vividly detailed interviews to create tension and apprehension. These guys are extraordinarily fortunate, and also wildly foolish, but insanely lucky to still be here to tell their miraculous tale.
"Everybody get up, it's time to slam to now!" After retiring from the NBA, Michael Jordan has taken up golf when he gets pulled into the centre of the Earth by the Looney Tunes. Bugs Bunny and the rest of his friends explain to Jordan that he must help train them so they can compete in an intergalactic basketball game against the evil Monstars. 'Space Jam' is the ultimate 90s fest, from the unapologetic product placement to one of the best soundtracks of all time. The impact this movie still has today is insane - everywhere you go you can find the Toon Squad on T-shirts, drink bottles, and socks - the merch along has grossed Warner Bros over $6 billion dollars. For younger people, 'Space Jam' is most likely their introduction to the Looney Tunes. The tie-in to both Michael Jordan's departure from the NBA and re-joining it plus the original ad the film is based one is just wild. 'Space Jam' is one of those perfect 90s films; it wouldn't be the film it is if it came out in any other decade. And there's a sequel on the way, and while I'm excited, there is no way it will capture that perfect cheesy 90s lighting in a bottle that is 'Space Jam'.
Sports films are made to inspire - it's why they swell up those emotions inside. By nature, they're stories of resilience, determination and application. The best sporting films utilise this nature to drive a greater message home. 'Coach Carter' executes this beautifully through the game of basketball. Whilst detailing the hardships faced by a team through their training, it stands as a representation of the hardships faced by young African Americans in an impoverished and harsh society. This film is about free throws, charging, blocking and dribbling - but its true message lies at the heart of winning over statistics stacked against them. It is an awesome 2005 MTV film that comes gift-wrapped with Samuel L. Jackson and a young Channing Tatum. Lay up and catch this film - it's a fast break to great entertainment and addresses deeper issues.
Sometimes, a film that you wouldn't expect you would ever enjoy surprises you by having a tonne of laughs, great performances, and a super large heart. Based on the life of ice hockey player Doug Smith (played by Seann William Scott, 'Bloodline'), 'Goon' tells the story of his rise in the minor league as an enforcer or "goon", tasked with playing dirty on the ice and shedding a lot of blood. What makes 'Goon' such a delight is not only the gleeful violence and its realistic portrayal of the ice hockey, but also Scott's performance as a sweet but shy man trying to find his calling. Be warned - this isn't another wholesome ice hockey movie a la 'The Mighty Ducks'; 'Goon' is crude and super violent, and all the better for it.
'A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN'
Up until the 40s there was no crying in baseball - and then the war happened, the men were shipped off, and on top of raising families, working in factories and farms and having the constant dread of "that telegram" arriving at their front door, the women of American were also tasked with keeping the country's favourite pastime alive. Lucky for us, the genius filmmaker Penny Marshall - along with Tom Hanks, Gena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty and more - brought this slice in time to life in 'A League of Their Own'. It's funny, poignant and a goddamn classic.
This may come as a surprise, but I love
sports movies. 'Rocky', 'The Natural', 'Friday Night Lights', even 'We Are Marshall' have reduced me to tears. We always think of sports movies as inspirational though, when there is a darker psychological side to the pursuit of physical excellence. No film better captures this than Bennett Miller's extraordinary 'Foxcatcher', based on the true story of Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum, in a career-best performance) and his mentorship/relationship with troubled millionaire John du Poet (Steve Carrell, in a career-best performance), and the tragic consequences for Mark and his brother David (Mark Ruffalo, in a career-best performance). In 'Foxcatcher', sport becomes a haven for the lost, a place of belonging and guidance, but also a place where that safety can be exploited for power, where the idolisation and pursuit of masculinity can become a vicious battle for dominance, and where that sense of belonging can be bought, exploited, demanded and obliterated - where sport can become a psychological weapon. It's a film of extreme darkness, a careful journey into the shadowy depths of the fears and paranoias of the male mind and body, and a remarkable work of modern American cinema.READ OUR REVIEW