Here are some underrated sports movies to enjoy during quarantine
Like so many of you, I’ve spent a lot more time watching television over the last month than I ever have before.
Luckily, there are more good things to watch on the tube now than ever before thanks to the various networks and streaming services that are pumping out content.
Myself, I’ve been drawn to sports movies. Staying at home has re-introduced me to some great sports flicks that I’ve enjoyed in the past, and I’ve found a few new ones that I’d recommend.
In case you’re looking for some underrated sports movies and documentaries to consume with all this extra time, here you go.
Breaking Away (1979)
Yeah, we’re starting with a cycling movie. Well, a cycling movie with a coming-of-age feel and a lot of relationship components.
The movie stars Dennis Christopher and a couple of young up-and-comers in Dennis Quaid and Daniel Stern (yeah, they were young at the time). It centers around Dave Stoller (Christopher), a 19-year-old in Bloomington, Ind., who’s in a limbo period between high school and college.
Stoller is obsessed with Italian cycling (and everything else Italian, for that matter) which drives his father (Paul Dooley) absolutely batty. Well, that and the fact that Dave spends eight hours a day on a bike has strained the father-son dynamic.
The movie successfully presents Dave’s personal growth journey through his cycling, relationships with his friends, parents and a woman from the university he’s taking a liking to.
The film’s climax includes Dave and his friends participating in the Little 500 bicycle race, a time-honored IU tradition.
Extra nugget: The screenplay, written by Dave Tesich, won the 1980 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Tesich graduated from IU in 1965 and was an alternate rider in 1962’s Little 500.
Where you can watch it: Available for rental on Apple TV or Prime Video.
Mr. Baseball (1992)
Tom Selleck stars as Jack Elliot, a self-absorbed slugger with the New York Yankees, who is four years removed from being a World Series MVP and definitely on the back end of his career.
After a stud rookie named Ricky Davis impresses the Yanks, Elliot loses his spot — not only in the starting lineup, but in Major League Baseball — and he’s shipped off to Japan to play for the Chunichi Dragons.
It’s a classic fish-out-of-water tale with Elliot rubbing the Japanese the wrong way (spitting on the field, not shaving his mustache, charging the mound after getting plunked), but with the help of American teammate Max Dubois (Dennis Haysbert) and interpreter Yoji Nishimura, Elliot starts to acclimate to the ways of his new surroundings.
Extra nugget: Ricky Davis is played by Frank Thomas, who at the time, was in the early stages of his career with the Chicago White Sox. Thomas would go on to hit 521 home runs over 19 big-league seasons and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014. It’s a very small part, but it’s still weird to see “The Big Hurt” in Yankee pinstripes.
Where you can watch it: It’s airing on Starz Encore and is also available for rental on Prime Video.
Vision Quest (1985)
Don’t let the above trailer fool you — this is a very good sports movie.
It centers around high school wrestler Louden Swain (Matthew Modine), who’s a smart, driven young man raised by a single father (Ronny Cox).
Louden’s goal for his senior season is to drop weight classes to take on and beat Schute, the defending state champion at 168 pounds and well, an absolute monster according to local legend.
Louden’s goal is complicated when Dad opens his home to Carla (a 21-year-old on her way to San Francisco and played by Linda Fiorentino), after she’s ripped off by a shady local used car salesman and doesn’t have enough money to go anywhere. Louden takes a liking to Carla, and you see what the problem is: (cue Mickey from Rocky’s voice) women weaken legs.
Modine, Fiorentino and J.C. Quinn (who plays Louden’ hotel kitchen co-worker, Elmo) are all outstanding and the movie features one of the better soundtracks of the 80s.
Extra nugget: The big-screen debut for Madonna, who is featured on the soundtrack, and performs two songs as the live musical act in one bar scene.
Where you can watch it: Available for rental on Prime Video.
All the Right Moves (1983)
Don’t let the above trailer fool you — this is a very good sports movie. (Side note: the art of producing compelling movie trailers has come a long, long way over the last 40 years.)
Yes, you have to suspend disbelief for this one, and just buy into the fact that Stefen Djordjevic (played by Tom Cruise) is a hard-hitting, hard-headed cornerback in small town Western Pennsylvania.
All Stef wants is a chance to get out, study engineering and avoid the fate of becoming lifer in the mill like his father and older brother.
His stubbornness, though, affects his relationship with his no-nonsense head coach (played by Craig T. Nelson), who is also looking for an escape from his current coaching situation.
Extra nugget: This was one of four movies (Losin’ It, The Outsiders, Risky Business) starring Tom Cruise to be released in 1983.
Where you can watch it: Cinemax and the MAX GO app
Jack of All Trades (2019)
This documentary, written and directed by Stuart Stone, focuses on the world of baseball cards — a world that changed in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Like many from that era, Stone was convinced that the popularity of the hobby would bring a financial windfall with careful investing. And why wouldn’t he believe that? His father, Jack, owned a chain of 11 different baseball card shops in Canada during the boom years.
The story is two-pronged. It serves as an investigation to the over-saturation of the card market which led to plummeting values and as Stone’s personal search to find his estranged father and learn just how a seemingly perfect family life could be broken apart.
Extra nugget: Whaddya know? Jose Canseco shows up!
Where you can see it: Netflix