Play Ball with 10 Winning Sports Movies

Kevin Costner warms up in "For Love of the Game" (Universal Home Entertainment)

Sports has always been a major theme in motion pictures, and with baseball spring training underway, basketball and ice hockey ready to begin their playoffs and the pro football free agent season and college draft upcoming, it is a fan’s paradise this time of year. Streampix enters the arena with its Top 10 best sports films, an eclectic batch that includes not only baseball (“For Love of the Game”), football (“Any Given Sunday”), basketball (“Love and Basketball”) and ice hockey (“Slap Shot”), but professional golf (“Tin Cup”), zebra racing (“Racing Stripes”), auto racing (“Senna”) and even cheerleading (“Bring It On: Fight to the Finish”).

Love and Basketball”: One of Streampix’s perennial most viewed pictures stars Omar Epps as the son of an ex-NBA player and pro hopeful and his surprisingly touching, heartfelt romance with fellow baller Sanaa Lathan playing the tomboyish girl next door he may have to leave to further his career. Co-produced by Spike Lee, this 2000 movie represented the feature debut of writer/director Gina Prince-Blythewood, who went on to direct the 2008 movie “The Secret Life of Bees,” which featured Queen Latifah and Alicia Keys alongside Dakota Fanning.

The Last Boy Scout”: Damon Wayans plays an ex-NFL quarterback kicked out of the league for gambling who teams up with Bruce Willis washed-up secret service agent after a client he was supposed to be protecting is murdered.  The movie opens during halftime of a live football telecast, when the L.A. Stallions wide receiver receives a threat that unless he wins the game, his life is in danger.  He then takes some PCP and in a drug-induced rage brings a gun onto the field, shoots three opposing players to make it to the end zone, then himself. The 1991 movie was written by phenom Shane Black, who received a then-record $1.75 million for the screenplay, which was directed by Tony Scott, himself the victim of suicide when he jumped off a bridge in San Pedro in 2012. The movie stars real-life players Dick Butkus and Lynn Swann, with fitness guru Billy Blanks playing the footballer who goes off the deep edge. Look for an uncredited cameo by James Gandolfini.

Tin Cup”: Kevin Costner is a talented, but aimless golf instructor who enters the U.S. Open to win the heart of his student played by Rene Russo. The 1996 movie, co-written and directed by Ron Shelton, who also was the auteur behind one of the best baseball movies of all time, “Bull Durham,” also starred Cheech Marin, Don Johnson and PGA golfer Peter Jacobsen playing himself. The movie’s most famous scene involves Costner’s Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy going for broke, and stubbornly refusing to lay up on the 18th hole, hitting the same shot repeatedly, landing in the water to score a 12, putting him out of championship contention for the U.S. Open title, but winning the heart of his girl.

Bring It On: Fight to the Finish”: Streampix is your home for the “Bring It On” franchise, with this 2009 direct-to-DVD entry, directed by Billie Woodruff, the fifth in the series. In this one, Christina Milian’s sassy East L.A. cheer-squad captain and her best friends, played by Vanessa Born and Gabrielle Dennis have their hopes set on winning the Spirit Championships with their mix of hot Latin, hip-hop moves and a little bit of luck. When her mother’s remarriage forces her to relocate to a new school, she is faced with the task of turning this bunch of losers into championship fodder. The movie equivalent of Title IX, this is that rare sports movie made for women.

Any Given Sunday”:  Oliver Stone’s 1999 football film is all close-ups and lenty of action as Al Pacino plays his version of Vince Lombardi, breaking in new quarterback Jamie Foxx for injured veteran Dennis Quaid. The all-star cast includes Cameron Diaz, James Woods, LL Cool J, Matthew Modine, Charlton Heston, Ann-Margret, Lauren Holly, Bill Bellamy, Lela Rochon, Aaron Eckhart, Elizabeth Berkeley and cameos by NFL legends Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor, Dick Butkus, Y.A. Tittle, Pat Toomay, Warren Moon, Johnny Unitas, Ricky Watters, Emmitt Smith, Terrell Owens and coach Barry Switzer.

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Little Big League”: Every kid’s fantasy comes true vicariously when Luke Edwards’ 12-year-old inherits the Minnesota Twins, the baseball team owned by his grandfather, played by James Robards, and makes himself manager in this 1994 comedy directed by Andrew Scheinman. The movie features cameos by ESPN announcer Chris Berman, along with real-life players Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Dave Magadan, Paul O’Neill, Rafael Palmeiro, Wally Joyner, Mickey Tettleton, Eric Anthony, Carlos Baerga, Sandy Alomar Jr., Alex Fernandez, Lenny Webster, Dean Palmer, Kevin Elster, Leon Durham and Tim Raines, as well as manager Lou P:iniella. Amazing how many were on steroids.

Racing Stripes”: A zebra raised on a farm in Kentucky dreams of being a thoroughbred racer in this half live-action/half-animated 2005 comedy for the whole family, very much in the style of “Babe,” starring Frankie Munoz, “Nashville” star Hayden Panetierre and Bruce Greenwood, with animal voices supplied by Dustin Hoffman, Whoopi Goldberg, Mandy Moore, Steve Harvey, Jeff Foxworthy and Snoop Dogg (!!??). The movie’s score was produced by the great Ennio Morricone, with Bryan Adams and Mark Isham.

For Love of the Game”: Another Kevin Costner sports movie, in this one he’s a veteran Detroit Tigers pitcher who mounts a quest to pitch a perfect game while experiencing flashbacks about a whirlwind romance. No, this is not the “Doc Ellis Story,” because he didn’t take acid beforehand. Kelly Preston, John C. Reilly, Jena Malone, Brian Cox and J.K. Simmons co-star in this 1999 feature directed by “Spider-Man” auteur Sam Raimi. Features cameos by baseball announcers Vin Scully, Bob Sheppard and Steve Lyons.

Senna”: This acclaimed 2010 documentary profiles the Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna, who overcame great obstacles to become one of the most celebrated race car drivers in history. Driven by an urge to explore and surpass his own limits, the film charts his rise to becoming triple world champion and his ultimate demise at age 34.

Slap Shot”: One of the greatest ice hockey movies of all time (quick name the others), this George Roy Hill-directed 1977 features Paul Newman as the coach of a struggling minor league team who encourages his layers to engage in on-ice fights, though his best player Michael Ontkean, wants to play clean. Based on the real-life Eastern Hockey League, the legendary cult movie stars the three Hanson brothers, the goon based on the actual Carlson brothers, played by two of the Carlsons, Jeff and Steve, along with David Hanson, known for their taped horn-rimmed glasses.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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