Most sports have been given the Hollywood treatment over the years and while some have turned out Oscar winning performances others have barely made it out of the cutting room.
The latest to hit the big screen, Ron Howard’s ‘Rush’, is already shaping up to be a classic, with the Academy Award-winning director turning an intense real-life battle between James Hunt and Niki Lauda into a movie full of fast-paced action, suspense, drama and emotion.
It has all the ingredients to be a classic – but what else is out there to give it a run for its money in the list of cinema’s sporting greats...?
Grand Prix (1966) was one of the ten highest grossing films of its year and won three Academy Awards. It told the fictional story of the 1966 season, mixing dramatic action with off-track affairs, and it included cameos from real life races including Graham Hill, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt and Jack Brabham.
Steve McQueen stars in Le Mans (1971) but there is little plot or acting and he doesn’t speak until 36 minutes in. It’s all about on-track action at the legendary 24-Hour race with the focus on a duel between German Erich Stahler in a Ferrari 512LM and American Michael Delaney (McQueen) in the Gulf Team Porsche 917.
When Senna (2010) was released, it changed the game. Told purely through previously unseen archive footage and interviews, it unpeeled the layers behind enigmatic legend Ayrton Senna and his rivalry with nemesis Alain Prost. Exciting. Emotional. And Real. It was a BAFTA-winning delivery.
Planned as a modern-day ‘Grand Prix’, Driven (2001), was produced by and starred Sylvester Stallone. It hit the skids when trying to agree terms with Formula One, went to Champ Car and fell down on a rather cheesy ‘rookie comes good’ script with a cringe-worthy ending.
NASCAR is the focus of Days of Thunder (1990), the classic motorsport hero movie starring Tom Cruise, and Talladega Nights (2006), in which driver Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) tries to stay on top when a French F1 driver (Sacha Baron Cohen) joins the field.
And on two wheels, there are few movies more nail-bitingly emotional and factually fascinating than Closer to the Edge (2011), filmed in 3D and giving an action-packed insight into real life stories behind the legendary Isle of Man TT.
FIFA-backed Goal! (2005) had the potential to be big but despite a cracking soundtrack and cameos from the likes of Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and even Sven-Goran Eriksson, it failed to hit the mark with its nobody-to-hero story following Santiago Munez, a poor, asthmatic, illegal Mexican immigrant spotted by a scout and whisked off to play for Newcastle United. Despite its poor performance, it still spawned two sequels.
Set in WWII, Escape to Victory (1981) also had a host of cameos including Bobby Moore and Ossie Ardiles. It’s a classic that sees a team of Allied prisoners' plot their escape after being set up to play in a propaganda game against an all-star Nazi team.
For genuine docu-movie excellence in football, however, The Damned United (2009) offers a compelling look at the always controversial Brian Clough and his 44-day reign as the coach of Leeds United. Michael Sheen acts a brilliant ‘Cloughie’ as he reveals just what an emotional rollercoaster the legendary manager was on.
For a more oddball football choice, The Third Half (2012) follows a German club owner trying to overcome the challenges of war to build the best team in the country while the politically charged Offside (2006) follows a group of female fans sneaking into a World Cup match in Iran against national rules that ban women from football grounds.
And then there’s Bend it Like Beckham (2002) which, well, at least helped launch the career of Keira Knightley...
There is no shortage of emotional and amazing real-life stories in golf, yet on the big screen the sport has delivered more on comedy than drama, with two of the ultimate sporting funny films.
In Happy Gilmore (1996), Adam Sandler stars as a bad ice hockey player who discovers he can hit a golf ball further than anyone else in history, but his attitude doesn’t quite fit the game. In Caddyshack (1980), Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Ted Knight, and Michael O’Keefe are four ill-fitting ‘personalities’ immersed into an upscale golf club and delivers laughs right to the last second.
Tin Cup (1996) plays things a bit more serious, with failed pro Roy ‘Tin Cup’ McAvoy (Kevin Costner) working at a run-down driving range and trying to pay off his debts. He ends up trying to qualify for the US Open to win the heart of his successful rival's girlfriend.
Joins us for Part Two on Friday when Will looks at movies featuring US Sports, Olympic Sports, Horse Racing and Boxing.