180 not released! Great Movies Featuring Unusual Sports

Films centered on team sports have long been a staple of popular cinema. Often the sport in question is an integral part of the story being told, with these films making good use of a sporting event as a way to update the drama. Escape to victory is a weird and wonderful example of this, with its well-known (and slightly ridiculous) football game closing the film (something it was also sold for, with the appearance of real footballers Bobby Moore, Pele and Ossie Ardiles) . Over the years we have seen films such as angry bull, The Color of Money and A League of Their Own all use the inherent passion and spectacle for their narrative advantage.

As can be seen in some of the examples already mentioned, real life has inspired many sports film releases, with Fighting with My Family, the Magnificent I, Tonya, Ron Howard’s Rush and Michael Mann’s Ali being fairly recent examples. We’re obsessed with the people behind the making, the player behind the game. It’s a well-trodden path for sports movies to focus on slingshots and arrows shot at a single individual, with crowds gathering to see them go up triumph or fall in defeat.

I TonyaA quick glance at IMDb will give you sports movie lists full of movies focusing on soccer, usually its American variant, baseball, boxing, etc. The more popular the sport, the more movies there are naturally about it. But today we watch films based on less obvious sports activities. Sports that, while demanding so much athletic prowess and capable of raising thousands of voices in a passionate pursuit, are often overlooked by filmmakers. Ready? Game on…


body lineBodyline/Lagaan

With matches that last for days, eclectic nomenclature like Silly Mid Off, Googlys, a Duck and Dibbly-Dobblys, the gentleman’s game of cricket may not immediately become a magnet for dramatic cinema. And so it turned out – while the game has never been more popular (or more loved around the world), there are only a handful of big and small screen entertainment that feature the game.

In the 80s there was an acclaimed miniseries from Australia called body line, a dramatization of the Ashes tour of 1932–33. Starring a young Hugo Weaving, the tagline was a bit over the top “The day England declared war on Australia”, and the miniseries no doubt benefited from the (sometimes less playful) rivalry between the contemporary cricket teams of England and Australia.

lagaanBut if you’re looking for a slightly more upbeat evocation of the game, you can’t do better than Ashutosh Gowariker’s 2001 epic Lagaan. Set during the era of the British Raj, the film sees a small Indian village struggling to learn the game in order to beat and humiliate the arrogant British soldiers. The price – not having to pay their mountain taxes.

It was nominated for an Oscar and was a huge hit around the world, at the time the most expensive film of its kind. Worth looking up if you like the game, as it does CricTips for all the latest news and tips for the game around the world.


Cool-Runnings-DI2Cool races

You might have expected this one on a list like this. It’s a classic, beloved by millions around the world, and one that still holds up almost thirty years later. Cool Runnings is an enhanced version of the true story of Jamaica’s 1988 Winter Olympics bobsled team, the first of its kind.

If you have seen the film, you will know the dramatic events that dominated the film. In fact, at the start of the film, the plan was to make it a dramatic retelling of history. Enter John Candy, and the team of Leon Robinson, Doug E. Doug, Rawle D. Lewis and Malik Yoba never looked back.

It was a respectable success, certainly more than expected at the time, but over time a real fondness for the film developed. It’s a classic tale of strangers in a strange land, outsiders under a mentor stranded against the world. And it has a great soundtrack too.



Growing up in the UK in the 80s, darts were everywhere. Although mostly confined to smoky pubs and a well-remembered game show, there were televised world championships that gripped the nation and showcased its best players. Easy to pick up, ridiculously difficult to master, the game hasn’t found too many avenues on the big screen, although a recent episode of Ted Lasso featured a wonderful moment of triumph on the oche.

In the early 2000s, Damien O’Donnell used the game as the basis for his oft-overlooked comedy road movie Heartlands. Spurred on by a rivalry and a host of marital troubles, a disparate darts team heads to the regional finals to overcome their problems and triumph. It’s a much quieter offering than the others on their list, but the film pulls it off thanks to an excellent cast, led by the ever-great Michael Sheen.

heartsSheen is joined by Mark Addy, Mark Strong, Celia Imrie and a reunion of Ruth Jones with James Corden and of course Eric Bristow shows up to give the loyal fléchists a touch of authenticity. Also features a rare film appearance by Hi-De-Hi’s Ted Bovis, Paul Shane. And if that doesn’t convince you, nothing will.

Derby on wheels

whip itWhip it

This film will always have a special place in our hearts, as it did on the first films we discovered while working on HeyUGuys. We’ve rewatched it twice (! – here and here) and there’s an infectious sense of fun to the film that still holds up today.

This 2009 film was Drew Barrymore’s feature debut (and so far only) feature, and she stars alongside a sizable cast including Alia Shawkat, Marcia Gay Harden, Daniel Stern, Jimmy Fallon, Kristen Wiig , the great Zoë Bell and Juliette Lewis. But the crown jewel is Elliot Page, whose discovery of the sport is as uplifting and joyful as any other coming-of-age drama of the era.

whip itWhip it! has a lot of fun with her depiction of the sport and revels in overturning preconceptions about what young women of this time and place should do with their time. It’s been somewhat forgotten, but the rewards of rediscovery – you’ll be cheering the whole time.

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