A great moment doesn't always make a great sports movie, but it sure doesn't hurt. Here are 10 scenes that'll stick in your mind a long time after the lights have come up:
Some people have a problem with the ending of The Natural on a couple of counts. First, director Barry Levinson's version is a tad more upbeat than the finish in Bernard Malumud's novel. And second, it's a bit over the top. But when Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) shatters Wonderboy with a long foul ball, tells the batboy, "Go pick me out a winner, Bobby," crushes a towering home run into the light standard, then slowly circles the bases amid exploding lights and a shower of electrical sparks, all you can say is ... wow.
Knute Rockne, All-American
If Knute Rockne, All-American isn't the original sports movie, it's close. Pat O'Brien's famous speech has become a cliché, but that doesn't negate its power. "None of you ever knew George Gipp," he tells his players. "He was long before your time, but you all know what a tradition he is at Notre Dame. And the last thing he said to me, 'Rock,' he said, "sometime when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. (pause) I don't know where I'll be then, Rock,' he said, 'but I'll know about it and I'll be happy.'" Anybody need a hanky?
Field of Dreams
One of the most lyrical movies ever made, Field of Dreams is full of magnificent moments. But the showstopper comes when Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), for reasons he doesn't quite understand, builds a baseball field on his Iowa farm -- and one day Shoeless Joe Jackson and the 1919 Black Sox materialize in full uniform out of the adjacent cornfield. "Is this heaven?" Shoeless Joe asks. "No," says Ray, "it's Iowa." Wonderful.
The Longest Yard
Hard to image a more satisfying finish than The Longest Yard's. After his team of inmates, the Mean Machine, wins a brutal, bloody football game with the guards, Paul Crewe (Burt Reynolds) starts to walks away. The warden (Eddie Albert) shouts that Crewe is escaping. "Kill that sonofabitch!" the warden screams at a guard. "Shoot him!" As the guard is about to pull the trigger, Crewe leans over and picks up a football from the grass. Then, to the strains of You Gotta Be a Football Hero, Crewe walks over, tucks the ball into the warden's stomach and says, "Stick this in your trophy case."
The Pride of the Yankees
The Pride of the Yankees may seem a little hokey today, but for about 30 years or so most people considered it the best baseball movie ever made -- and it wasn't that close. The baseball is good and Gary Cooper is an excellent Lou Gehrig. If you don't have a tear in your eye when the dying ballplayer tells the crowd, "People all say that I've had a bad break but today -- today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth" ... well, you deserve to sit through Major League II for all eternity.
If the cuddly Rudy, about a runty guy with zero athletic ability but a world of heart who ends up playing on the Notre Dame football team, were fiction, you'd laugh it out of the theater. Especially when Rudy (Sean Astin), after overcoming every sort of adversity, finally gets to suit up. But it really happened. So when a player asks Rudy at the big moment, "Are you ready, champ?" and he replies, "I've been ready for this my whole life," don't be surprised if you find yourself chanting, "Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!"
A League of Their Own
Tom Hanks may own a couple of Oscars, but he's never been more entertaining than as Jimmy Dugan, the grizzled manager of a women's baseball team, in A League of Their Own. At one point, as he's chewing out a player, she bursts into tears. "Are you crying?" he asks. "Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There's no crying, there's no crying in baseball! Rogers Hornsby was my manager, and he called me a talking pile of pigs---! And that was when my parents drove all the way down from Michigan to see me play the game! And did I cry? NO! NO! And do you know why?" She shakes her head. "No, no, no." "Because," says Dugan, "there's no crying in baseball!"
For lack of a better phrase, we'll call this the money scene in Jerry Maguire. Football player Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) has just told his agent (Tom Cruise) that he's not firing him. But he wants something in return. "It's a very personal, very important thing," says Tidwell. "Hell, it's a family motto. Now are you ready? Just checking to make sure you're ready." Tidwell turns his boom box real low. "Here it is -- show me the money." Now Tidwell blasts the boom box at full level. "OHHH! SHOW! ME! THE! MONEY!"
Bang the Drum Slowly
Bang the Drum Slowly, which has been called the Brian's Song of baseball, depicts a not especially talented major league catcher (a young Robert De Niro) who is the butt of his teammates' jokes until they learn he is terminally ill. It's a little maudlin, but if the sight of a dying De Niro helplessly trying to catch a popup in the closing moments doesn't get you, the film's last lines -- "He wasn't a bad fellow ... " says his pal, pitcher Henry Wiggen (Michael Moriarty). "From here on in, I rag nobody" -- certainly will.
The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training
Nobody is ever going to argue that The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training is a better movie than the original. I mean, no Walter Matthau, no Tatum O'Neal, right? But just try to find a 30-something who doesn't break into a grin when you mention the Bears playing in the Astrodome and the crowd chanting, "Let them play! Let them play!" when officials try to halt the game. OK, it helps to have been 10 years old when you first saw it.