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Updated Feb 28, 2013 - 9:57 am

The 5: Most Underrated Sports Movies

So the Oscars are in the rear view mirror until next February, and judging from the lack of attention they got at this year's gala, 2012 wasn't a great year for sports movies.

That hasn't always been the case. Since 1976, 11 sports movies have been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Three of them -- Rocky, Chariots of Fire and Million Dollar Baby -- won the award.

But for every critically-acclaimed sports movie, there are dozens of underrated and under-appreciated sports flicks.

Here's my personal list of the five most underrated sports movies. (Click on the titles to view trailers).


5. All the Right Moves - 1983

Tom Cruise (before he was creepy and controversial) stars as Stefen Djordjevic, a senior cornerback at fictional Ampipe High School, which is located in a steel-producing town in Pennsylvania. Craig T. Nelson (before he became Hayden Fox) stars as Nickerson, a demanding coach who rides his players, including Djordjevic, hard.

Stefen challenges his coach after he berates running back Vinnie Salvucci (c'mon, an Italian running back? How great is this?) who is distraught after fumbling away the Bulldogs' chances against powerful Walnut Heights. Nickerson kicks Djordjevic off the team, seriously damaging his dreams to earn a football scholarship to pay for his engineering education.

Best Line: "You know, Nickerson, you are not God! Huh? You're just a typing teacher!" -- Stefen Djordjevic

Bonus: If you've ever wanted to see Marty McFly's mom (Lea Thompson) sans clothing, this is the flick for you.

Sports Realness Factor: 7.5 out of 10


4. Goon - 2011

Here's another one you might not have heard of -- I know I hadn't until it showed up as a selection on Netflix. I resisted watching it because it stars Seann William Scott, who I don't hate, but the thought of Stifler on skates didn't exactly appeal to me. But I relented, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Stifler, I mean Scott, plays Doug Glatt, a bouncer who gets noticed at a low-level minor league hockey game after he beats a player senseless in the stands after a fight broke out. He eventually lands with the Halifax Highlanders as a protector for the talented but knuckleheaded Xavier LaFlamme. It all leads up to a climactic fight with legendary tough guy Ross "The Boss" Rhea, played brilliantly by Liev Schrieber -- yes the same guy who does all the voice-overs for HBO Sports.

The violence is a little over-the-top and Glatt's best friend, played by Jay Baruchel (who co-wrote the movie) is way annoying, but overall this was an enjoyable hockey movie.

Best Line:

Doug Glatt: Where is LaFlamme?

Gord Ogilvey: Probably giving some single mother herpes out in the parking lot.

Bonus: Former Coyotes play-by-play man Curt Keilback plays the announcer for the Highlander and delivers some good one-liners.

Sports Realness Factor: 8 out of 10


3. Long Gone - made for HBO - 1987

You've probably never seen this movie, so I'm going to do you a favor, with the help of somebody else who did us a favor by posting the entire thing on YouTube.

This incredibly hard-to-find flick (trust me, I've looked) stars William L. Petersen as Cecil "Stud" Cantrell -- a once great St. Louis Cardinals prospect who is toiling as a player-manager for the Tampico Stogies in an independent minor league because of injuries suffered in WWII. Cantrell gets an offer to manage in the Cardinals' minor league system, but there's a catch. He's got to throw the championship game to the Dothan Cardinals to claim his dream job.

The movie also stars Virginia Madsen as Stud's love interest, Dixie Lee Boxx (I'm not making that up) and a young Dermot Mulroney as na´ve rookie shortstop Jamie Weeks.

Another plot line deals with the Stogies having to hide the true ethnicity of slugger Joe Louis Brown (played by Larry Riley) because of the rampant racism in the south in the time the movie was set (late 50s). So he becomes JosÚ Brown from Caracas, Venezuela. Totally believable, right?

Best Line: "The thing of it is guys, I never touched Houlihan's sister. Hell, who'd want to? Of course I told him I had her 14 times." -- Stud Cantrell

Bonus: Teller, from Penn & Teller, plays Hale Buchman, Jr., the weaselly son of the team owner -- and he speaks!

Sports Realness Factor: 8 out of 10


2. Big Fan - 2009

This is not your standard sports flick. Comic Patton Oswalt stars as Paul Aufiero, a parking lot attendant who lives with his mother and is completely obsessed with the New York Giants. Obsessed to the point that he writes and rehearses his sports radio rants about his beloved G-Men.

One night Aufiero and his buddy see their favorite player, Quantrell Bishop, driving around town and decide to follow him to a strip club. Bishop gets freaked out, and beats Aufiero to a pulp. Now he's faced with the decision of whether to do the right thing and pursue litigation against the millionaire athlete, or just shut up about it because it could hurt his favorite team.

This is a dark, dark movie, but it's very well done.

Best Line: "You put the tiniest bit of pressure on McNabb, that guy crumbles like a cookie." -- Paul Aufiero

Bonus: Okay, it's not really a bonus, but Scott Ferrall plays the part of sports radio host "The Sports Dogg" -- but you should watch the movie anyway.

Sports Realness Factor: n/a


1. Vision Quest - 1985

Yes, a high school wrestling movie is number one on my list. Vision Quest stars Matthew Modine as Louden Swain, a high school senior on a quest (get it?) to drop a substantial amount of weight to get on the mat with Brian Shute, the seemingly invincible returning state champ at 168 pounds.

Along the way, Louden falls in love with a drifter (played by Linda Fiorentino) who is staying with him and his single father after she was ripped off by a shady used car salesman.

This is a great coming-of-age flick which also happens to be a very good sports movie.

Seriously, take time to see this one before the rumored remake starring Taylor Lautner comes out. Why must they ruin everything from the 80s?

Best Line: "Wrestling is not a team sport. When you're out there on the mat with somebody who's bigger and faster than you, there's not a whole hell of a lot a team can do for you." -- Louden Swain

Bonus: A young Madonna (we're talking a pre-"Like a Virgin" Madonna) performs in a couple bar room scenes. Oh, and the soundtrack is great, too. I defy you not to get pumped up when listening to "Lunatic Fringe" by Red Rider.

Sports Realness Factor: 9.5 out of 10

Note: Don't judge Vision Quest by the atrocious trailer...really, the trailer is laughably bad and not at all representative of the movie.

Honorable Mention: A League of Their Own, Mystery, Alaska, 61*, The Hammer

About the Author


School: Arizona State University

When you started with Bonneville Phoenix: October 2011

Favorite sports memory: Watching Cardinals win NFC Championship over Philly in January 2009 with my Dad...ASU wins 1987 Rose Bowl...Suns defeat Lakers in 1990 NBA Playoffs...2001 World Series

Favorite all-time athletes: Don Mattingly, Jeff Hornacek, Walter Davis, Anquan Boldin

Favorite sports movies: Friday Night Lights, The Natural, Hoosiers

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