The 50 greatest sports movies: part three

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Everybody's all American in part three, as we take in favoured Yank pursuits like motor racing, baseball, basketball, golf, meat-punching and so-called football, but there's still room for a spot of damnably British derring-do courtesy of the old Arsenal Stadium

30. On Any Sunday (1972)

Dir: Bruce BrownStretchin’ up, reachin’ high, leavin’ my Monday world behindComing from the director of surf epic ‘The Endless Summer’, you wouldn’t expect this documentary on the motorbike racing scene of the early ’70s to be anything less than fresh, evocative, witty and strikingly shot. Taking in all manner of track races, trial riding, sadistic cross-country marathons as well as plenty of simple, joyous motorised mucking about, it captures that wonderfully crisp Southern Californian feel where it’s always morning, it’s always sunny and it’s always somehow Sunday. It’s also a good deal more successful than the crass, pea-brained ‘Easy Rider’ in its artless portrait of the motorcycle as one of the last remaining unadulterated expressions of the American spirit. ALD
Watch some misty-eyed Steve McQueen goodness from '
On Any Sunday'Read the original Time Out review arsenal sm.jpg

29. The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1939)

Dir: Thorold DickinsonMurder most foulA real curio this one. Skullduggery's afoot at Highbury as John Doyce, star of Britain's best amateur team, The Trojans, and all round copper-bottomed cad, is mysteriously poleaxed on the pitch during a friendly against George Allison's '38 league-winning Arsenal side. Call for Inspector Slade, the Yard's campest detective and wannabe impresario to get to the bottom of things. Director Dickinson mostly plays the whole thing fairly straight, but comic relief is amply supplied by Leslie Banks as the hat-loving Slade, who sweeps through the hallowed marble corridors like a diva. Watch it with a milk stout, and wonder at the days when there were more hats and pipes in the Arsenal dressing room than the BBC's props department. PPWatch a tribute to Arsenal’s Highbury stadium here Read the original Time Out review Caddyshack.jpg

28. Caddyshack (1980)

Dir: Harold RamisA Cinderella story…1976 Masters champ Raymond Floyd maintained that ‘they call it golf because all the other four-letter words are taken’, and every single one of them is enthusiastically pressed into service for this, the sporting equivalent of Agent Orange. In prising the putters and pitching wedges away from the country club set and thrusting them into the hands of whatever nouveau riche bozo or long gone geek happens to be walking past the camera, ‘Caddyshack’ takes a game that was devised by a couple of goldbricking Scottish farm hands and restores it, drunk and horny, to the great unwashed. Rodney Dangerfield’s jive-talking philistine and Bill Murray as a greenskeeper with an especially intimate connection to his grass are the most obvious of many scene-stealing performances, but it’s Chevy Chase who ultimately gets closest to the pin with his elegantly poised essay of Ty Webb – surely the most perfectly realised playboy Buddhist contrarian in all of Western cinema. ALDWatch some Zen golf from 'Caddyshack'Read the original Time Out review Night-and-the-City-2.jpg

27. Night and the City (1950)

Dir: Jules DassinMickey Rourke, eat your heart outWhatever fans of ‘They Live’ might say, the greatest hand-to-hand combat scene in movie history takes place in this filthy slice of London noir, adapted from Gerald Kersh’s wonderfully seedy novel by Hollywood expat Dassin. Following irksome American spiv Richard Widmark’s attempts to break into the lucrative world of wrestling promotion, ‘Night and the City’ is more about the dirty deals that go with sport than it is about the wrestling itself. But it deserves a place here for that one scene alone, as loveable ageing champ Gregorius takes on his arch-enemy The Strangler for one sweaty, punishing, seemingly endless but ultimately rousing final bout. TH
Watch the big, bruising wrestling match from 'Night and the City'Read the original Time Out review
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26. North Dallas Forty (1979)

Dir: Ted KotcheffWe’re not the team… we’re the equipmentWe won’t lie: it’s the stellar cast that gets Kotcheff’s rowdy gridiron comedy-drama within punting distance of our top twenty. Based on a contentious memoir by former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Peter Gent, the film lifts the lid on the drug-fuelled party times that formed the backdrop of professional football in its ’70s heyday. Nobody comes out of it too well, with the owners and management busily swindling their players at every opportunity and turning a blind eye to wholesale painkiller abuse. All the while, the players themselves are happy to exist in a state of eternal frat-house docility until the moment they run out of beer and money and go crying to the front office to bitch about their plight. It might not sound wholly revelatory, but that vintage cast, which includes Nick Nolte, Charles Durning, Bo Svenson, GD Spradlin and Dabney Coleman, manages to elevate a sporting standard to the status of a minor classic. ALDWatch some clips from 'North Dallas Forty'Read the original Time Out review once in a lifetime 2.jpg

25. Once in a Lifetime (2006)

Dir: Paul Crowder and John DowerPelé… Jagger… Kissinger – goooaaaaaaalll!‘Oversexed, overpaid and over here’ was the British complaint made against American GIs stationed in the UK during WWII. The Old World got some degree of satisfaction by contributing a few of those same afflictions to the ailing North American Soccer League of the late '70s. The clashing egos, jarring excesses and gallows humour that runs through the story of the New York Cosmos are brilliantly conveyed in this riotous documentary. High on disco glamour but sober enough to lay bare the hubris and turmoil of an undeniably seductive outfit, the film tells of a team that existed well beyond the limits of its own league and ultimately paid as much of a price for its huge successes as it did for its major failures. ALDWatch the disco-tastic trailer to 'Once in a Lifetime'

Read the original Time Out review Hoosiers.jpg

24. Hoosiers AKA Best Shot (1986)

Dir: David AnspaughHack attackHas there ever been a more beautifully American story than ‘Hoosiers’? A washed-up basketball coach. A town on the skids. A team of plucky losers with a whole lotta heart. A dream, a goal, a drunk Dennis Hopper. An entire nation in a nutshell. Gene Hackman is at his most winningly implacable in this perennial high school favourite, shooing off small-minded, small-town intervention and goddamn doing it his goddamn way, goddamn it. As a portrait of mid-'50s, Midwestern middle America, ‘Hoosiers’, like its heroes, is pretty hard to beat. THClick here for a rousing motivational speech from the Hackster in 'Hoosiers'

Read the original Time Out review


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23. Rocky (1976)

Directed by John G. AvildsenYou’re gonna eat lightnin’ and you’re gonna crap thunder! 

We know Sergei Eisenstein probably deserves the majority of the plaudits for developing the time-honoured training montage, but where do you get to see a lovably dim Philly chancer practicing his uppercuts on a side of beef in ‘Battleship Potemkin’, eh? Sly Stallone took the giant leap from relative obscurity (his prior credit being a minor role in demolition derby hokum ‘Cannonball’ AKA ‘Carquake!’) into the hearts of the Academy voters with this all-American tale of a feisty smalltimer whose hard, montage-based graft results in a 15 rounds stunner with heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed. Due to its massive popular success, five sequels followed which saw The Italian Stallion avenge the death of his trainer by tanning Mr T’s hide (‘Rocky III’), take on a killing machine from the Soviet Union (‘Rocky IV’) and partaking in a back-alley scrap with a mouthy upstart called Tommy Gunn (the unloved and underrated ‘Rocky V’). DJWatch Philly's finest fine-tune for the fight in 'Rocky' Read the original Time Out review


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22. Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Dir: Stephen ChowBack of the net!Hats off to Stephen Chow, the man who saw that the only thing missing from association football (apart from, you know, excitement, drama and a point) was a bit of kung-fu hustle. This wondrously loopy old-school fable fuses sports movie drive with martial arts thrills, producing a frankly bonkers collision of slapstick, mid-league CGI and spectacular stunts. If real footballers could kick so hard that the ball blew people’s clothes off, smashed through concrete or transformed into a furious panther made of pure golden energy, maybe I’d watch. THWatch the bonkers trailer to 'Shaolin Soccer' Read the original Time Out review bull durham x.jpg

21. Bull Durham (1988)

Dir: Ron SheltonThe beautiful gameDirector Shelton has dabbled in boxing (‘Play it to the Bone’), basketball (‘White Men Can’t Jump’) and golf (‘Tin Cup’), but will, it seems, always return to the church of baseball. In ‘Cobb’ he delivered a searing portrait of the latter days of the irascible Georgia Peach, Ty Cobb, and is currently lining up Mexican baseball comedy ‘Our Lady of the Ballpark’, but it’s ‘Bull Durham’ on which his reputation ultimately rests. A former minor league ballplayer himself, Shelton knows all the bases and casts an insider’s eye over the fates of a crash-hot young pitcher (Tim Robbins), a fading journeyman (Kevin Costner) and the ball-obsessed groupie (Susan Sarandon) from whom they both learn a few valuable life lessons. The script might be a tad overwritten, but any baseball film that trades in quantum physics, William Blake and quadraphonic Blaupunkts is fine by us. ALDWatch Costner declaim his creed in 'Bull Durham'Read the original Time Out review

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Author: Adam Lee Davies, Tom Huddleston, David Jenkins



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