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Top 50 Sports Movies Of All Time: Intro & #50 - The Mighty Ducks

<em>Formerly #1 Ranked Sheen Brother</em>
Formerly #1 Ranked Sheen Brother

First off, let me say that a top 50 movie list is hardly the most original of ideas, I do get that. And my attempt to somehow connect this to the Huskers is tenuous at best as you will see below. However, I try to write about what I love and I do love sports movies. And I'm rolling the dice that I might get a read or two on these for three reasons:

1) A good long, drunken bar chat about Husker games, past or present, or sports of any kind will often morph into someone saying "That reminds me of this movie," or popping a line from a one. ("I must break you," anyone?)
2) Once this list gets going, some of you are going to disagree with me. Violently. I've brought it up to a few people and it's already happened - the disbelieving looks, the cursing, the "You don't have xxx on your list??? WTF?". We sports fans love our sports movies and will not stand by idly while our favorites are slighted in any way.
3) People like lists and they like to laugh. I'm trying to provide both services.

And I just thought of one more:

4) This first one along with the next few will be rough. Like the movies themselves, I'll improve as we move up the list. My promise to you.

FYI, I'm putting no timetable on this whatsoever. None. One week, I might get a wild hair and crank out 46-42. During the season, you might not see one a week. So that might be frustrating. Or Jon might take one look at this and quietly order me to knock it off. The only thing to count on is not being able to count on any consistency at all.

Still game? Here's the format...

(And because of all the explanations, examples, etc. this will be the longest one of these - another promise. I'll do my best to keep it to a two-pooper or shorter. Those of you who print things off at work to read know what that means.)

Quite simply, I've popped a list from #50-#1. I will give each movie a score in several categories, but don't be surprised when you see some movies higher in the rankings that appear to be scored lower than one behind it. When compiling the 50-1 list, I simply asked the question - which movie would I like to watch more?

Here are the categories I will be scoring for each:

Quality of Sports Scenes - Yeah, it's Hollywood, but how realistic were they? Are there pro athletes in there? Are they so bad that it was distracting, even allowing that we don't expect actors to be pros? Also, is everything shot in tight, so you have no clue what's going on? ("Remember the Titans", "Miracle")

The Bad Guys(s) - There's gotta be a villain, right? How effective is the opponent? Do we hate him enough? Or if he's the respected, quality guy who we don't really hate (think Apollo Creed), can he still carry the part to where defeating him fires us up?

Music - Soundtrack & score. Are we Gonna Fly Now or what? Am I buying the CD or hitting up Itunes for a couple of the songs?

The Chick (or dude) Love Interest - Does she bring anything to the table or is she just white bread supportive? On the negative, is she downright horrifying and there to tell the guy he's going to lose until hopping the bandwagon at the end? (The "You can't win!!" Adrian Balboa type)

Adrenalin/Goosebump Scenes -  One of the main reasons we watch 'em. What made you tingle? (Sometimes this'll double up the music - think Vision Quest when Louden starts warming up to the first few licks of Lunatic Fringe by Red Rider) Hall of Fame Coach Speeches score big here as well.

Comedy - Some of these are comedies, others are serious but have funny scenes. We'll rank appropriately.

Unintentional Comedy - Stallone, Macchio & Keanu emoting, Russell Crowe skating, Tim Robbins pitching, Clubber Lang get the idea.

The Training Montage -  I said, ARE WE GONNA FLY NOW?

Rewatchability - Perhaps the most important factor. If this comes on, am I settled in for the next few hours? How many times have I seen it & do I plan to do so again?

Now stars, thumbs up and rotten tomatoes have been taken, so our rankings will consist of the following:

***** Osborne - Exceptional, one of a kind, legendary, etc.
****   Devaney - a definite cut above, great, groundbreaking... the next level down
***     Pelini      - still very good, enjoyable, potential for greatness was there, above average
**      Solich     - average at best, nothing special, brought nothing to the table, not bad but...
*        Callahan- not good, pretty bad actually, maybe could rise to ok with work, sorta want the 2 hours back
none Cosgrove- that special place beyond awful, can't unsee it, blechhh, not even enjoyable drunk

I'll also usually try to throw another flick that falls into one of the following categories (example of each):


(Look for more in the future - these are movies that perhaps appear on Best Ever lists that I consider utter crap. Feel free to defend but my mind's long been made up. Quick capsules ensue.)

Rudy - Strike 1-2-3, Notre Dame's involved. Somebody let the screenwriter know that 4 or 5 mentions of Rudy's heart would have driven it home - the entire cast including Rudy himself didn't have to say it 36 times each. Squatting, breaking & entering, fraud, more stalking...frankly, I found Rudy a little creepy. Only plus was that Rudy did get his lone sack against Georgia Tech. Haha - idiots.

8 Men Out - Zzzzzz..umph bribes...zzzzz...wha? World Series....zzz court scene,,,,yawn...credits

Baseball by Ken Burns - ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ (made it damn hard to argue with those who consider baseball boring...Burns takes boring to the next level)

League of Their Own - Tom Hanks gamely tries to save the crapfest by being a funny, stinking drunk, but it's too high a mountain to climb. And that ending in the Hall of Fame is almost as horrifying as Ned Beatty's signature scene in "Deliverance".

(Exactly what it says - and hopefully these will spawn protests from bowlers, hold 'em players and rollerballers)

Rounders - And, yes, I actually saw this on a couple of sports movie lists out there. There's no hard and fast rule I've ever seen to determine what is and isn't a sport, BUT...just because ESPN televises it does not make it one. Calculating odds in your head, reading people and questionable hygeine are admirable skills, but not athletic in any way.

That being said, it's a bit of shame because this is a tremendous flick. Top-notch cast, great story, well-acted and Ed Norton is just a tour de force as a human train wreck you can't turn away from. It also takes the non-politically correct stance that not every gambler is a diseased addict. Wow. John Malkovich, in a role that could've turned into a punch line with the Russian accent, hits the Teddy KGB character out of the park. ("He bee-yet me. Stray-et up. Pay him. Pay than man hiss money.") 

Damon carries the title role well and his voice-overs allow poker novices to follow along although players will appreciate the little things that aren't spelled out for everyone (what was Teddy's tell?, how did Mike McD turn 10k to 20k to 60k?). Gretchen Mol's sole reason for existence is to make Damon's life miserable. Sleeping on wood floors is preferable to her non-stop nagging. If there's ever a Rounders sequel, hopefilly her character gets the Adrian Balboa in Rocky 6 treatment - a quick visit to her graveside on the way to the WSOP.

Excellent show, but just about every character outside of Jason Bourne looks like they'd pull a left-side sieze-up if they jogged from one sideline to the other. Not a sports movie.

(Was down to the final cut, maybe has one memorable scene but nothing else, lacking in rewatchability - whatever, it just didn't get me as fired up to see it as the others)

The Blind Side - This was a tough one and I'm bound to catch some grief - from my kids if no one else, they both have it in their top 3 probably, but maybe that was the problem. Wonderful story, well-acted, the based on a true story angle adds to the interest, and Sandra Bullock is still looking pretty frisky even playing a mommy and with the dye job. But when in comes down to it, I'm just not in any hurry to see it again.

Two things, I think - 1) sometimes it just felt like a really well-done after school special. And 2) there's a very limited number of chill scenes you can have of an offensive lineman who's twice everyone's size blasting someone. My sports movie has to make me stand up and cheer at the action at some point. That being said, I am nitpicking a little. Very good show, but it just misses the cut.

And finally...



Summary: Former hockey superstar to be gets hurt, becomes a lawyer and gets a DUI. He gets court-ordered community service in the form of coaching a the Bad News Bears of youth hockey (right down to a coach with alcohol issues, a Kelly Leak clone and a girl which begs the questions 1) just how shitty a lawyer was he to get hundreds of hours of community service for a 1st time offense DUI, and 2) what kind of judge would consider it a good idea to drop a drunk into youth coaching? OK, don't answer that. He behaves like an ass at first, but turns the boys around and gets to take on a team coached by the huge tool that made his youth hockey experience seem like a visit to the proctologist.

Quality of Sports Scenes: Nothing special, the kids did to appear to be able to skate including a young Josh Jackson who hadn't yet perfected the art of muttering 90% of his lines under his breath. (Except when he raises his voice in indignation. Pacey, your inner fire was always unquenchable.)

Emilio? A little more questionable - far from Paul Newman's level, but maybe better than Rob Lowe. Hard to tell though since he's coaching most of the movie. Much of the action is in close, so outside of all the breakaways, there's not much semblance of any organized hockey going on...except when the Flying V comes alive - a truly cringe-worthy moment for hockey fans. Not a total downer because there are some nice individual goals, but no one is checking out the Ducks for the sports scenes. Grade: A generous **Solich

The Bad Guys(s) - The best thing about the movie, Coach Jack Reilly. "That Guy" 1st Team All-American Lane Smith appears in one of his career-defining roles (that came in the same year as the other two oddly enough - My Cousin Vinny, The Distinguished Gentleman). I mean, in real life, Coach Reilly is probably on the losing end of a restraining order. It's not enough that he put incredible pressure on a 10-year-old to nail a penalty shot in a squirt title game, and then took a big dump on his head when he missed it. Where were little Gordon Bombay's parents in all this? I'd have thought a cock slap from dad would definitely have been in order for this guy.

And to top it off, Reilly seems to make wrecking Gordo's confidence well into his 70's one of his life's goals. ("An' now look at yourself. You're not even a has-been. You're a never-was.") He'll be bagging on the poor guy at the rink for the next 25 years. Picture Kreese still following Daniel Larusso around 20 years after KK3 and you get the picture. He's pissing me off again just thinking about him. That, my friends is a sports movie villain. Grade: ***** Osborne

Music - Meh. Definitely from the Disney Factory of Generic Inspiring Scores. Bonus points for having a little Southside Johnny on the soundtrack and a requisite playing of "We Are the Champions". In the end, I don't remember being outwardly annoyed, but nothing memorable either. Grade: ** Classic Solich

The Chick (or dude) Love Interest - Heidi Kling in a career-ending performance as Charlie Conway's mom that Coach Gordo was sniffing around - always an incredibly comfortable situation for the kid, right? I remember her barking at Emilio at some point for riding Charlie too hard, but not much else. Grade: * Callahan

Adrenalin/Goosebump Scenes - Not exactly chock full of them. There's not a great deal of suspense in the big final scene - you've know since just past the opening credits how this one's going down. And Disney was still years away from adrenalin rush scenes we'd see in stuff like Titans and Miracle. Joss Acklund, as the Swedish or Danish or German skate shop owner with a heart of gold, tries to pull off some inspirational speeches to Emilio, but they just don't cut it for me. He's much more effective as a South African krugerrand smuggler trying to murder Mel Gibson.

However, I can't completely bag this category because of the scene where the squirt league Gretzky, Adam Banks, makes his first Ducks locker room appearance after Coach Gordo pulls some hijinks to steal him away from the league champs. Expecting him to act like a jackhole, he instead mutters some stuff about just wanting to play hockey and gets spurned by the Ducks one by one. Surprisingly effective and makes the final Grade: ** Solich

Comedy - Gordo's answer to the cop when he's pulled over ("Blood, breath or urine" "No thanks, I'm full (drunken cackle)") gave me early hope, but, no, this is 90's Disney, so all laughs must be family-approved. In other words, not very funny.

Shaun Weiss as Goldberg the fat goalie, however, flirts with tour de force levels at times. As a goalie scared of the puck, he pulls off what is probably the movie's best scene being bungie-corded to the goal and used for target practice. Every time he's on screen, I sit up a little straighter. A good outing by The Fat Guy/Kid always boosts this category. Grade: *** Pelini, because of Goldberg

Unintentional Comedy - Some fine work here. The Flying V as an effective rush strategy always makes me giggle, because I enjoy picturing Scott Stevens or Zdeno Chara dealing with it violently. Every time, the previously mentioned Joss Acklund is on screen, I can't help but picture him saying "Diplomatic immunity" like in Lethal Weapon 2 and shooting Emilio in the leg.

But this category is where Emilio took it to another level. His "Ducks fly together!" speech is otherworldly. If you haven't seen it, I can't begin to describe just how hilarious it is. And the scene where he defies his boss by quacking at him will you have you laughing for the wrong reasons, but you will be laughing. I won't be talked out of the fact that it is the sole reason why the last 18 years of his career have mostly consisted of cameos that his dad and brother could talk producers into. You don't squash headliners on an elevator roof in the first 10 minutes of Mission Impossible. Because it knocked a former semi-star to the depths - Grade: **** Devaney 

The Training Montage - I think it had a winning streak montage? - Grade *1/2 Callahan

Rewatchability - I was ready to trash it, but it does score big points out there with hockey dads, because it's basically still your lone option for a kids hockey flick unless you're deranged and trying to sneak Slap Shot by them. It may sound silly, but the kids will laugh at this a LOT, and you're going to join in because their laughter is contagious. Not for watching with the boys at all, but family night points give it - Grade: *** Pelini

Overall - Better than I expected. We have above-solid work from the Fat Kid in Goldberg, All-American work from Emilio Estevez in the category of career-wrecking unintentional comedy and Lane Smith approaching Retire His Jersey levels as the Coach Who Shouldn't Be Allowed Around Kids. Toss in the fact that it scores well as a family option, and I have no problem giving it an Overall Grade: *** Pelini

***It should be noted that this series went completely off the rails following the original. MD2 in a nutshell - the International Summer Junior Olympics -or Winter in LA - are a nationally televised event and bantam hockey is its signature event.  Host country's own Team USA has decided that a house league champion in Minnesota will form its nucleus. These plucky Ducks and their new friends will need all their heart and skill as they ditch Team USA jerseys for Ducks gear to defeat international hockey juggernaut Iceland in the final.

Go ahead & read that again. This actually got greenlighted.

MD3 features the entire Olympic team being recruited to be the JV team at some snotass prep school. You know -  because world champ 14 year olds couldn't make a high school varsity anywhere. The big game, likely inspired by Rocky 5's alley brawl, is a JV vs. varsity scrimmage. So compared to these two, MD1 was actually Scorsese-level work by comparison. Just thought I'd mention that.


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