Super Bowl Sunday is much more than a sporting event these days. With the halftime show and the million-dollar commercials and the general all-consuming hype, it’s essentially a national cultural holiday. Throw in a few good sports movies, and you can make a whole weekend out of it. So gather your friends and family around the high-definition hearth for these five sports films, all available now through instant streaming on Netflix.
‘Major League’ (1989)
The classic 1989 sports comedy Major League may not be the best baseball movie ever made, but it’s usually in the Top 5 for those of us who keep a running list. Starring Tom Berenger, Wesley Snipes, 1980s casualty Corbin Bernsen, and Charlie Sheen as Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn, the movie is agreeably loose and raunchy, with lots of baseball insider jokes.
Poor Cleveland — the butt of so many jokes — suffers again here as the Cleveland Indians take the field for another losing season. Or maybe not. Will the lovable losers turn things around? Will teamwork save the day? Will everything be resolved in one last game? Ignore the standard-issue sports movie storyline and focus on the movie’s inspired goofiness, including several now legendary lines from veteran baseball joker Bob Uecker. (“Juuuust a bit outside.”)
‘Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby’ (2006)
Talladega Nights showcases comic actor Will Ferrell hitting on all cylinders in one of his funniest character creations. As NASCAR champ Ricky Bobby, Ferrell sets the pace for an all-star ensemble cast including John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Amy Adams, Jane Lynch, and a very funny Gary Cole.
Talladega sends up NASCAR culture with both savage satire and winking affection. Ferrell has three or four extended routines that are among the funniest bits in his career, and the gags just never stop coming. (Ricky Bobby’s kids are named “Walker” and “Texas Ranger.”) Or consider the movie’s tagline, which is a little haiku of comedy gold itself: “The story of a man who could only count to number one.”
‘30 for 30: Bad Boys’ (2014)
The excellent ESPN documentary series 30 for 30 has been producing insightful programming on sports culture and history for several years. Thanks to some recent licensing deals, you can now get to dozens of 30 for 30 films via Netflix, and consider this a blanket recommendation for the entire series — just find the sports topic that floats your boat.
30 for 30: Bad Boys is the most flat-out entertaining entry that I’ve seen. A feature-length documentary on the Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the film chronicles the adventures of the infamous “Bad Boys” of the NBA — Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Isiah Thomas, and the gang. The doc is packed with old clips, new interviews, and some surprising revelations on the team everyone loved to hate.
From the makers of Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin is the kind of movie that makes you laugh, even when you don’t really want to. Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, and Bill Murray headline this curious collision of con men, bowling hustlers, and the Amish.
Highbrow it ain’t, but the jokes come in low, hard, and fast. In terms of pure joke volume, Kingpin is a real bang-for-your-buck in the realm of sports comedies. As comic Jim Gaffigan has instructed us, there are really only two kinds of people who go bowling: people that really love bowling, and people who are like, “Wouldn’t it be hysterical if we went bowling?” Kingpin is for the latter crowd.
‘The Battered Bastards of Baseball’ (2014)
One of the best sports documentaries of recent years, The Battered Bastards of Baseball is a hugely entertaining film and a must-see for baseball fans. The doc follows the fortunes of minor league baseball team the Portland Mavericks in the mid-1970s, when the reckless and rowdy club broke rules and attendance records across the minor league system.
No kidding, this movie is incredibly fun, and the story it tells seems too good to be true. But it’s true. Battered Bastards was a breakout hit at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, and Netflix quickly bought the rights to present it as original programming. A feature film adaptation is in the works too. Get hip to it now, and you can say you saw it before it was cool.
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