5 “The Color of Money”
Built on the back of the classic Jackie Gleason movie “The Hustler,” “The Color of Money” puts Paul Newman in the driver’s seat as Fast Eddie Felson, an experienced pool shark who recognizes the astounding, yet raw and unfettered talent of upstart Vincent Lauria, played by Tom Cruise. After a series of Mr. Miyagi-esque hard lessons learned, a falling out and an unlikely comeback, the viewer is reminded that the old guard must always be replaced—and suddenly has the urge to go shoot some pool.
4 “Field of Dreams”
“If you build it, he will come.” The most iconic line ever spoken in a sports movie comes from the sky over an Iowa cornfield in “Field of Dreams,” which pairs Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones as unlikely buddies, lost souls on a mission to find the secret to life, which is hidden in a makeshift baseball field. The historical facts of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, the 1919 Chicago Black Sox and the previously little-known “career” of Archibald “Moonlight” Graham are intertwined with whimsical fantasy that brings out the kid in all of us.
Gene Hackman brings it back to the basics in “Hoosiers” as the uncompromising coach Norman Dale, who teaches his undisciplined high school team that fundamentals equal victory. Badgered by the demanding residents of a hoops-obsessed town and inspired by Dennis Hopper as the town drunk whose booze-soaked brain holds the key to basketball success, Coach Dale leads an undersized, outmatched squad to improbable victory. With reluctant hero Jimmy Chitwood drawn back to his former squad, the only thing standing in their way is their own sense of inferiority, which Dale screams and yells out of them in classic Hackman style.
In the greatest rags-to-riches story since “Annie,” “Rocky” tells the tale of an over-the-hill club fighter and self-described “ham-and-egger” who stumbles into a title fight for the heavyweight championship of the world. A very un-Hollywood romance winds its way through this oh-so-quoteable classic that proves sometimes a loss is actually a win. Talia Shire and Sylvester Stallone are complemented by a bevy of side characters, the best of which might be the mean streets of South Philadelphia.
1 “The Natural”
Robert Redford’s character Roy Hobbs leaves everyone who’s ever seen “The Natural” wondering what might have been. If he could hit the ball that hard, that far in middle age, what would he have done if he hadn’t lost his prime to a gunshot wound? Armed with his magic bat Wonderboy, Hobbs goes on a mission bigger than his comeback or even baseball itself—to save the New York Knights from being stolen away from his gruff but affable manager, played perfectly by Wilford Brimely. The cartoonishly evil team owner, his henchman and their secret weapon, Kim Basinger, look so sad in that dark, smoke-filled room when a Hobbs home run knocks out the lights in the greatest ending of any sports flick ever.