by Scotty Mincher
Anyone that has met or talked to me knows how much of an avid sports fan I am. For as passionate as I am about sports, there’s another pastime that I’ve come to enjoy very much over the years. Along with Sports, Movies have always helped me break away from a lot of hurdles or challenging obstacles that I’ve had to overcome in my life. In addition to being an escape, movies have also educated me on historic events and happenings in our country as well as other parts of the world. They’ve even educated me and expanded my knowledge of sports, which has made my appetite for sports even stronger. Because no matter how much passion you have for something, you could always be on the lookout to learn something new and exciting every single day. I know there’s been stories and lists of the past, released on the web that have debated on, and ranked the best sports movies ever made. But, even with that being said, It feels like there’s been not nearly as much debate and listing of rankings or discussion, on movies centered on the high school athletes of the sports world. Because of this, a fire has been lit under me to now wanna take a look at and breakdown, the best high school sports movies of all time. Before we get to my top ten list of the best high school sports movies, I wanna get into 5 sports films I haven’t seen yet that I feel are worth mentioning.
The first movie I wanna look at is The Way Back. It stars Ben Affleck. Affleck, in my mind, has had a hit and miss acting career, but has shown he can be extremely effective given the right role and shines in one of my all-time favorite movies Good Will Hunting. In The Way, Back Affleck plays Jack Cunningham a former high school basketball star who walked away from the game and forfeited his future Years later, when he reluctantly accepts a coaching job at his alma mater, he may get one last shot at redemption. The critics consensus on rottentomatoes.com states that The Way Back‘s occasionally frustrating treatment of a formulaic story is often outweighed by Ben Affleck’s outstanding work in the central role. After rewatching the trailer a couple of times, I’m captivated by Ben Affleck’s character’s role in the film as he tries to balance coaching his high school alma mater while fighting his own personnel demons. The Way Back is on my watchlist and looks like it has the potential to go down as a good to very good sports film in 2020, and who knows it could go down as a consensus career-best performance for Affleck.
Next up is a Disney film starring Mark Wahlberg titled Invincible. released in 2006, It’s Based on the story of Vince Papale, a 30-year-old bartender from South Philadelphia who overcame long odds to play for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles in 1976. I really liked Wahlberg’s work in The Fighter. Another sports film based on a true story, Wahlberg plays Micky Ward, a fledgling boxer who tries to escape the shadow of his more famous but troubled older boxing brother and get his own shot at greatness. Wahlberg also got nominated for best performance by an actor in a supporting role for The Departed, the best picture winner of 2006, and made me laugh a whole lot in the 2012 Seth Macfarlane comedy Ted. From the trailer, Invincible looks like an uplifting and heartwarming movie about beating the odds. I’m curious to see if there’s any reference or flashbacks to Vince Papale’s high school days in the film considering that the internet has this movie listed in the high school sports movie category. Regardless, Mostly favorable critic reviews give me hope that Invincible we’ll be nothing short of an inspirational watch on Disney Plus.
The Third movie I’m highlighting is Varsity Blues. It stars James Van Der Beek, Jon Voight, and the late Paul Walker. The story is about a backup quarterback who is chosen to lead a Texas football team to victory after the star quarterback is injured. It gained mostly unfavorable reviews as many critics called it a predictable football movie that lacks intensity. After watching the trailer it’s hard to disagree with that opinion. Although in fairness to the movie, I feel like it’s been referenced or talked about a lot in the more than two decades since it’s release and has possibly even become a cult classic. It also was a chance for Jon Voight to showcase his versatility as an actor. I really haven’t seen much of James Van Der Beek and his work. Dawson’s Creek was a series that debuted in 1998 about the challenges of young adulthood that was well before my years as a young grownup, and I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the movie The Rules of Attraction, with nothing about the film really sticking with me. I only have seen the very first Fast and the Furious movie and it just wasn’t my cup of tea, So with no disrespect to the late Paul Walker I also kinda viewed him as a middle of the road actor with limited range at best. Jon Voight though from what I remember was above exceptional in the movie Deliverance, and also very good in the Showtime series Ray Donovan and has the talent to make Varisty Blues watchable at the very least. Even so, I’ll probably save my viewing of Varsity Blues for a rainy mundane afternoon.
Coming in at number 4 is Teen Wolf. It stars Michael J. Fox, James Hampton, and Susan Ursitti. Fox plays An ordinary high school student discovers that his family has an unusual pedigree when he finds himself turning into a werewolf. Fox, best known for his time as Marty Mcfly in the back to the future trilogy, plays Scott Howard in the leading role. I think he showed the charm and moxie in the Back To The Future movies that can help keep Teen Wolf afloat, and maybe, just maybe… make it fun. Heck, I’d watch it just to see Michael J. Fox, as a werewolf trying to dunk a basketball! Before I finally get into my top ten, the fifth and final high school sports movie that I haven’t seen and I wanna cover is Love & Basketball. It stars Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps as Monica Wright and Quincy Mccall. To sum up the plot of the film, Monica and Quincy love and play basketball together through many life challenges from childhood to adulthood. Sanaa Lathan may also be recognizable to some readers and movie fans for her role in Blade, which like Back To The Future is a trilogy. Omar Epps had an 8 year run on the T.V. series House as Dr. Eric Foreman. It’s a small sample size, but judging by the Trailer Epps and Lathan seem to have solid chemistry on & off the floor, making Love & Basketball a potential slam dunk of a movie. Now, On to my list of the 10 best high school sports movies.
10. The Blind Side-It’s tells the true story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All-American football player and first-round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family. It’s a story that resonates with the viewer. The realization that this movie is based on contemporary facts makes it all the more resonant. It’s well-acted, well written, and a fun film to watch.
9. Coach Carter-I’ve always been a big Samuel L. Jackson fan, and he delivers a strong performance as Ken Carter in the lead role. The basketball scenes are also pretty realistic which makes for a more authentic watch.
8. All the Right Moves-This is one of the better high school sports movies from before my time in the early ’80s. In a small declining Western P.A. town, sports pride is huge and football is the only way out for Tom Cruise. If you love your small town and love football as I do, this one is a must-see!
7. The Rookie– It stars Dennis Quaid as Jimmy Morris, A Texas baseball coach who makes the major leagues after agreeing to try out if his high school team makes the playoffs. Because there’s a lot of influence from his high school team, I think that’s reason enough to include this film on my high school sports movies list. It features Fathers and sons and baseball, to form a grand combination and hit one out of the park!
6. More Than a Game-It follows NBA superstar Lebron James and four of his talented teammates through the challenges and hardships of high school basketball in Ohio and James’ journey to superstardom in the pros. It’s one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen and a truly feel-good movie. To say that it’s inspirational is a big understatement. If you’re a documentary or Lebron fan like I am you’ll see this as a resounding slam dunk!
5. Remember the Titans-It’s based on The true story of a newly appointed African-American coach and his high school team in their first season as a racially integrated unit. The reason it’s in my top 5 and I like the movie so much is it shows that you can overcome obstacles on and off the field. It’s also well made and features great cast performances led by Denzel Washington.
4. Hoosiers- It’s about a coach with a checkered past and a local drunk who train a small-town high school basketball team to become a top contender for the state championship. It’s a marvelous story of what makes our country so great. Giving people second chances in life. The true-life David beat Goliath story makes the movie that much more appealing. I’ve always thought that Gene Hackman was a superstar actor and loved him in Unforgiven as Little Bill Daggett. He’s also a perfect casting choice for the tough but fair basketball coach Norman Dale.
3. He Got Game-It tells the story of A basketball player’s father who must try to convince him to go to a college so he can get a shorter sentence. It finds director Spike Lee at the top of his game. This movie features pointed commentary and his signature visuals. Add a powerful performance from Denzel Washington and that’s enough to catapult this movie into my top 3!
2. Friday Night Lights-It’s Based on H.G. Bissinger’s book, which profiled the economically depressed town of Odessa, Texas and their heroic high school football team, the 1988 Permian Panthers. It’s a portrayal of a football-obsessed heartland that succeeds as a stirring drama and captivating sports movie. It shows you how heart-stopping, agonizing, and fun high school football can be and since I’m from Ohio and love high school football it helps this movie totally resonate with me, a big reason why it’s number 2 on my list.
1.Hoop Dreams- It’s A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional. Rotten tomatoes calls Hoop Dreams one of the most critically acclaimed movies of all time, It runs for three hours but it feels like much less because of the power this documentary holds It’s an absorbing movie that sucks you in and has a grip on you. It tackles real-life issues that society still battles today like racism, poverty, drug abuse, and peer pressure. You’ll fall in love with the characters, and quite frankly, To quote the late famous movie critic Roger Ebert, “It’s one of the best films… I’ve ever seen.”
That’s my list. Who do you have in your Top 10? Checkout YSN’s social media pages for more on how I came up with the top ten, and whether you liked it, hated it, or anything in between If you’re looking for a new pastime give these sports films a chance!