Sports Movies Whose Historical Accuracy Rivals Nolan Ryan No-Hitter

We all know that the words “based on a true story” are usually a total Hollywood rip-off; in real life, “Cool Runnings” is far less dramatic than Disney’s tale of Jamaica’s first 4-man bobsled team. work of an entire moving company. And no, you won’t find Kevin Costner or Field of Dreams on this list. I hate to break it to you, but this movie is not based on a true story. I’m sorry to burst your bubble.

“Remember the Titans” is relatively close but changes enough for dramatic license that is only accurate if you graduate on a curve. “Moneyball” is massively inaccurate (Jonah Hill’s character is not named after Paul Podesta, the real person his character is based on) largely because of real life Billy Beane, General Manager of Oakland Athleticsbiased point of view, even though Brad Pitt was fun in the role. The ending of “Rudy” plays so loosely with truth that it’s a wonder Rudy Ruettiger didn’t send off an army of alien invaders and save Earth during the climactic scene. “A League of Their Own” is a wonderful movie, but it’s also a totally fictionalized story based on a historical event that happened (the formation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during WWII). “Hoosiers” can’t even justify using the words “loosely based” on a true story, instead relying on “inspired by a true story” – other than “it happened in Indiana “, there aren’t many similarities to the real high school it’s supposed to be based on. And Rocky might be the best sports movie of all time, but there’s nothing even remotely resembling real events (no matter what Chuck Wepner says to the contrary).

But a few sports movies have really managed to stick to real events far more than you might expect. It’s rare…but I guess it does happen sometimes.

“Eight Men Out”

Bettmann/Getty Images

One of the best sports movies ever made, “Eight Men Out” is about one of the defining events in the history of America’s national pastime: the Chicago Black Sox scandal of 1919. What the movie does do, however, is place it from the perspective of gamers, who all had different reasons for taking money to launch games, but who all hated White Sox stingy owner Charles Comiskey. It’s one of the most realistic sports films of all time, as nearly every character scans as they did in real life – including the film’s most tragic figure, third baseman Buck Weaver. Weaver never pitched games and had a spectacular streak, but he was blamed by association and banned for life.

“Angry Bull”

angry bull
Bettmann/Getty Images

There’s a reason Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull” is the most realistic sports movie ever made: because it was based on a brutal, unflinching autobiography. For all of its many demons – the ones the movie absolutely doesn’t fear – you can’t tell former middleweight champion Jake LaMotta wasn’t honest about himself in his book, “Raging Bull: My Story.” Robert De Niro won his second Oscar (and first of the best actor) for playing LaMotta, though the film won’t get its historic due until after the fact.

“Brian’s Song”

Brian's Song
Sports Zoom/Getty Images

RELATED: ‘The Blind Side’ Leigh Anne Tuohy Is Worth Millions Today

It’s shocking when a TV movie is really good, but “Brian’s Song” is a legitimately good movie, generally considered a among the top five sports movies of all time. Having great performances from James Caan and Billy Dee Williams as the protagonists helps… but it also helps that it’s very, very true to the real-life NFL history of both leads. Despite competing for the same position and having different temperaments/backgrounds, Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo really became best friends in real life before Piccolo’s untimely death from cancer. Then again, that probably should have been a hint that the movie would get it right when it was based on a chapter from Sayers’ own autobiography.

“Joe and Max”

Joe and Max
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

It’s not such a well-known film – for good reason, as it was quite clearly made for TV (and lacked the pedigree of “Brian’s Song”). But it’s also surprisingly accurate in telling the story of heavyweight champions. American Joe Louis and German Max Schmeling in the 1930s. Schmeling was really used as a propaganda tool by the Nazis (although he never joined the Nazi Party), really shocked the world by upsetting Joe Louis, and eventually became lifelong friends with him. The weird thing is that one of the main things the movie gets wrong is the one that, in real life, makes Schmeling look even a bit more heroic: instead of protecting his Jewish tailor from Nazi authorities, as he done in the movie, he sheltered two Jewish children.

“Road to Glory”

road to glory
Rich Clarkson/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

In 1966, Texas Western University (now UTEP) became the first college basketball team to win a national title with an all-black starting five. “Glory Road” is Disney’s adaptation of this story in 2006 and is… not that far off! There are a few liberties here and there — there’s a scene against East Texas State where players find opposing fans scrawled racial epithets in their room, and it didn’t happen — but a lot of that which is depicted is fair enough. I mean, the movie was mediocre, but it wasn’t that far from the truth.

“Sea Cookie”

sea ​​cookie
Keystone/Getty Images

When you do something that’s half a movie and half of a Ken Burns documentary (thanks in part to David McCullough’s narration), it’s no surprise you land pretty close to the true story. The little horse that could, the real Seabiscuit truly became a beacon of hope for Americans during the Great Depression, an underdog who shot down mighty winner of the War Admiral triple crown in a match race. Among the changes: Tobey Maguire’s Red Pollard wasn’t badly injured once, but three times in a series of increasingly bizarre and implausible accidents, meaning the movie was less fantastic than it turned out to be. really happened.


Steve Powell/Getty Images

RELATED: ‘Miracle on Ice’: Relive Al Michaels’ Iconic Call From The Last 60 Seconds

For a Disney movie, this one is closer to the mark than you’d think — perhaps because it doesn’t need drama to make a great story. The Story of the USA Men’s Hockey Team Facing the Invincible The Soviet juggernaut at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York is one of the Olympic underdog stories of all time. By all accounts, Kurt Russell nails coach Herb Brooks as the man most responsible for the Americans’ unlikely gold medal, and the player personalities pretty much match what we know about the people the performances are on. based.


Transcendent Graphics / Getty Images

It’s not entirely surprising that this one lands very, very close: director Billy Crystal is a huge Yankees (and baseball) fan and pledged to do it right. The story of friends and roommates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris chasing Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record in 1961 shed light on much about the relationship between the two, including the frequent stress breakdowns of Maris and the inner demons of Mantle. In the end, you end up rooting for both.

“The recruit”

The recruit
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

It seems really odd to think that Major League Baseball once introduced a 35-year-old MLB rookie relief pitcher named Jim Morris who only attended a tryout after making a bet with the high school team. that he trained that he would do it if they reached their neighborhood for the first time. It sounds weird…but it’s legitimately true. Although “The Rookie” from 2002 – widely considered a great sports film, partly due to Dennis Quaid’s performance – is not 100% accurate, even Morris himself said it was about 90% accurate. That’s a pretty good number, all things considered.


Mohamed Ali
Bettmann/Getty Images

Biopics somehow need to get it right, and for the most part, Michael Mann’s 2001 film “Ali” does just that. Then again, it’s pretty hard to go wrong when you’re dealing with one of the most famous and watched athletes of all time – we know what happened in Muhammad Ali’s life and we will know that something is wrong if you portray him fighting Mike Tyson on the moon or something. The movie skips some events, but it really doesn’t get anything major wrong, per se. Historical accuracy didn’t save her, however; despite being generally popular with critics, “Ali” was a box office bomb — probably because it took one of the most vivid human subjects you could choose from to make a movie, and told its story with an eerily dark tone.

“The fighter”

The fighter
Michael Caulfield/WireImage

I don’t know why there are so many boxing movies here, but they seem to have a better track record on accuracy than most. The story of “Irish” boxer Micky Ward is far from entirely happy, dealing with a dysfunctional Boston family and a drug-addicted older brother for a trainer (Christian Bale in an Oscar-winning performance), and the movie doesn’t shy away from that – which is probably why it was the rare sports film to earn a Best Picture nomination. In particular, Bale apparently did a tremendous amount of research and spent time with the real Dicky Eklund in order to get his accent and mannerisms exactly right. The mistakes the movie makes are mostly changes to Ward’s overall record in various fights; hardly life-altering changes.

Comments are closed.