It’s the classic Disney-esque formula: the underdog is introduced, the underdog goes through some sort of epic fail moment, the underdog's natural talent is heavily hindered by unalterable circumstances and bullies, then an epiphany builds up to the big climax (almost always in the form of a big match) which starts of a losing battle that is won… and then concluded with a summary of lessons learned, and, of course, a happy ending.
But if it’s so predictable, why does it get to us every single time?The fact is that sports movies are great reminders that hard work and doing the right thing pay off––it represents that desire to be a part of something greater that is embedded within all of us. We always see a bit of ourselves in the character, we relate to the character’s struggles, and we empathise with his/her personal development. We not only understand the underdog, we are the underdog, because every one of us at some point in our lives has dreamed of becoming a hero. Not a hero who wears a cape and has superpowers, no––even better: a hero who represents the oppressed and can make their whole nation proud. Now that’s a title.
The real tugging of the heartstrings come into play when the individual players work together to get the gold, a goal none of them could reach alone––the rawest portrayal of that can only be done in a sports movie. Showing perseverance even after being crushed and dispirited is so inspiring, you don’t just want to become an average athlete, you want to overcome everything there is to overcome in life. Because sports involve more than just your team. You represent a community, you represent your loved ones, and they count on you as much as you do them to make that goal or shoot that hoop, and that becomes your drive, your purpose. A purpose that goes beyond a numeric score or a big pay check.
Whether your protagonist wins or loses, there’s always something to take away. And no, not just the joy of winning or the pain of losing (though most may disagree). But teamwork, self-respect, inner strength, these are qualities that all our favourite athletes possess. These qualities remind us that everything we go through in our own journeys is part of our own Cinderella tale.
And besides, what good is a sports movie if it doesn’t turn you into a blubbering pile of mush, anyway?
If you’re in the mood for some weekend motivation, or a sentimental pick-me-up, here are our most recommended. The best part? You can find them all on Netflix! We got you.
Coach Carter (2005)
Based on the true story of Richmond High School basketball coach Ken Carter who placed grades ahead of sports, Coach Carter speaks volumes of how lives can be changed for the better through self discipline, hard work, and the building of character. Plus, who doesn’t love a little eye candy (ahem, Channing Tatum and Ashanti) and a bad-ass soundtrack?
The Blind Side (2009)
The true-life story and a feel-good movie about race, football, and family, The Blind Side rightly earned its Oscar nominations. The story of football champion Michael Oher defying the odds as an athlete is inspiring, and you can’t help but fall in love with every single character in the movie. And hello, Lily Collins! Need we say more?
A League of Their Own (1992)
Women kick some series baseball ass in this epic sports movie, which boasts a star-studded cast: Tom Hanks, Madonna, Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, and more. “There’s no crying in baseball.” The movie tells the story of a budding rivalry between two sisters, and the first women-only baseball team. Definitely a classic.
Cover Image Credit: Coach Carter by Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.