February 12, 2004

Viewer Discretion Advised

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I wanted to review Miracle. So, in a John McEnroe-esque tantrum of bad sportsmanship, here are four excellent sports flicks that pull off the simultaneous miracle of successfully capturing its sport and being a great movie.

Chariots of Fire

A predominantly British film, Chariots of Fire is a must-see for any true sports, movie, or sports-movie fan. The film follows two 1924 British Olympic runners, elegantly tying in aspects of religion with its musically articulated training and race scenes. Vangelis’ classical music couldn’t have been a better fit for this film. One of the runners, Eric Liddell, is a devout Christian who competes for God. “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” The other, Harold Abrahams, is a Jewish university student whose goal is simply the thrill of the spotlight and breaking free of prejudice.

Brian’s Song

Brian’s Song captures the real-life relationship between two professional football players on the Chicago Bears during the ’60s. Indicative of the era, Brian’s Song echoes the difficulties of the Civil Rights movement. Gale Sayers is a star halfback and record-holder who is brought out of his shell by the vivacious Brian Piccolo. Both compete for the same spot on the team, yet become best friends while being the first black and white roommates in professional sports history. Both careers end early, with Sayers suffering numerous injuries and Piccolo developing a terminal case of cancer. Still, this film places importance on friendship that overshadows color, producing a lasting effect.


Gene Hackman takes a handful of middle-of-nowhere, Indiana kids to the high school basketball state championship. The characters, including Dennis Hopper as an alcoholic assistant coach, complement one another perfectly. Coach Dale’s focus on fundamentals captures the essence of teamwork. Hoosiers accomplishes what no other sports movie has to this day. It shows that great teams are flawed individually yet perfect when its players truly learn to coexist. The final shot, a still photograph of the championship team and a voice-over of Dale telling his team “I love you guys,” is a moment in sports-movie history that won’t be forgotten.

Field of Dreams

Ray (Kevin Costner) is obsessed with baseball and the memory of his deceased father. After mysterious voices tell Ray to build a baseball field, legendary players who’ve been dead for decades start walking through his cornfield to play pick-up games. James Earl Jones plays a reclusive author who helps Ray figure out just what the hell is going on in Iowa. Field of Dreams will convince anyone that Costner used to be in good movies and that there is an undeniable spiritual element to America’s favorite pastime.

Archived article by Dan Cohen