As you read this, hundreds of athletes are ri-skiing life and limb out there on the slopes of the Sochi, looking to seize a very cold gold medal at the XXII Winter Olympics. Conditions aren’t the best, and images of plumbing-free bathrooms and playdo door knobs at the Olympic ‘village’ are all over the interwebs. Honestsleigh, the Russian premiere should have Putin his money where his mouth is and arranged for some proper facilities, he’s So-Ch(i)eeky. With all these Olympians braving the odds (some can’t even access Twitter), Movie Quibble thought it’d be fairly fitting to post a Top Ten list of underdog sports movies. So here it is.
10. Cool Runnings (1993) – Let’s get the sled bobbing with this Disney take on the incredible true story of a group of failed Jamaican sprinters that went to the Winter Games to do some tobogganing, for apparently no reason at all. It’s not all that clever, but amusing enough, and stars a maniacal John Candy just months before he passed away.
9. Seabiscuit (2003) – This is another real life retelling, though it’s less underdog and more underhorse. Toby Maguire, it has to be said, is for once not bad as the oversized jockey riding stunted stallion Seabiscuit. The gritty depression era setting and awesome on the hoof cinematography set hearts racing the world over. Apparently, some people found Maguire’s feet to be the sole draw of the film though…
8. Escape to Victory (1981) – Pelé, Sylvester Calzone and My Cocaine are trapped in a German POW camp. Meshing the premise of Burt Reynold’s The Longest Yard with the famous Christmas footie match of WWI, Escape to Victory’s star studded cast have just one goal, freedom, and in order to achieve it they have to score a lot of goals.
7. Kingpin (1996) – The Coen brothers may have made the best bowling film of all time, but the Farrelly brothers struck first with Kingpin. Ex-champ (Woody Harrelson) has a lot of spare time on his hands after his sumptuously vindictive rival Eddie McCracken (Bill Murray) ended his career. Then he finds Amish prodigy Ishmael (Randy Quaid), and they alley together (sorry) to form the ultimate bowling dream team.
6. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004) – Goofy it may be, but aside from the retrospective ruining of one of the most pivotal scenes by a certain Tour de France winner and his filthy lies, this is a near perfect comedy. Throwing caution to the satirical wind, Dodgeball takes the piss out of just about everything, and the relentless mockery of steroid use in sport makes Lance Armstrong’s appearance all the more sad(dle)enning. Gear oh gear. Really flown of the handle here. Puns.
5. Undisputed (2002) – Convict Wesley Snipes takes on heavyweight champ George ‘Iceman’ Chambers, a very, very slightly fictionalised Mike Tyson that’s been sent to prison for rape and child cannibalism. Snipes’ solitary warrior gives the Iceman a good ol’ whoopin, and the corruption of the US prison system is tackled too. Eight years later, Snipes found himself locked up for real. Whether or not he engaged in organised bare knuckle boxing matches and built massive Chinese Pagodas out of matchsticks is unconfirmed, but highly probable.
4. Bloodsport (1988) – Jean Claude Van Damme and Bolo Yeung face off (as in kick one another’s faces off) in this kung-fu masterpiece. Bloodsport’s risibly awful out-of-dojo drama and the bone chilling score represent the very best of the eighties, and the fight scenes are the stuff of legend. It’s so dangerously good, you STILL can’t buy it in England.
3. Rocky (1976) – Hard hitting man-against-the-world(champion) drama that runs rings around every other boxing film (except Rocky IV). Rocky bagged three Oscars, spawning sequel after sequel after sequel after terrible sequel after not-that-bad-sequel for the Italian Stallion. The best part of Rocky though? He knows he won’t win, but he still gives it his all, and in many ways that’s better.
2. Rocky IV (1985) – All American (or at least half-American) hero Rocky Balboa takes the fight to the Ruskies, teaching kids all the important stuff in the process; steroids are bad, and so is Communism. Ivan Drago is the ultimate rival, defying democracy itself with every merciless, 1850 pounds of pressure punch.
1. Slapshot (1977) – The Charlestown Chiefs are a low league hockey team on the b-rink of collapse. Comprising mostly of toothless alcoholics, they have one last season to prove themselves worthy. Icy cool veteran Reg Dunlop (Paul Newman) skates up to the plate, rallying the Chiefs together for one final, blood-spilling push. Hilarious and heart felt, this is the best sports film ever made.