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12 Must-See Sports Movies from Before Your Time

Nick DimengoFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2014

12 Must-See Sports Movies from Before Your Time

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    George Widman/Associated Press

    We all typically mention Rudy, The Mighty Ducks trilogy and Happy Gilmore as some of our favorite sports movies, but that doesn't mean that they're the greatest ones ever made.

    As someone who was born in 1984, I can say that there have been plenty of flicks about sports that I've never even heard of, let alone seen.

    But after doing some research, I was able to compile—and actually watch—a few must-see sports movies from before most of us were around.

Knute Rockne All American

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    Filmed: 1940

    This one might have been made 44 years before I was born, but that doesn't mean that it should be dismissed as a poor movie.

    A story about legendary Notre Dame Fighting Irish head football coach Knute Rockne, it's not only inspiring and interesting to see the rise of Rockne's career, but Knute Rockne All American also stars a young, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan as George Gipp—the player who inspired Rockne's "Win One for the Gipper" speech.

The Pride of the Yankees

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    Filmed: 1942

    For all of us who never saw former New York Yankees great Lou Gehrig play in person, the movie The Pride of the Yankees helps us to better understand just how much of an impact the guy had in baseball.

    Of course, he was a Hall of Fame player who wore pinstripes for 17 seasons, but more than just his baseball career, he inspired many people—especially following his "Luckiest Man" speech during his farewell on July 4, 1939.

    With the 75th anniversary of one of the most famous speeches in U.S. history coming up, do yourself a favor and go watch this movie in his honor.

The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings

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    Filmed: 1976

    While I thought that he was solid in Brewster's Millions—though, technically, it's not a sports movie—Richard Pryor was even better as Charlie Snow in The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings.

    It's a slapstick comedy that might be better appreciated after consuming a few alcoholic beverages, but for those who like good one-liners and feel-good stories, watching the Negro League team travel around and play baseball is a good choice—if for only those reasons alone.

Slap Shot

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    Filmed: 1977

    While you may have never heard of a few of the movies on this list, Slap Shot is one that, hopefully, most readers have seen before.

    Starring Paul Newman as Reg Dunlop and three of the fiercest sports movie characters in history—the Hanson Brothers—the movie follows the wildness of the Charlestown Chiefs, a minor league hockey team that uses violence and a lot of fighting to win games.

    Hockey fan or not, this is one everyone should see at least once.

The Hustler

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    Filmed: 1961

    Yet again, Paul Newman finds his way onto this list.

    While most of us probably know about the movie The Color of Money—which starred Tom Cruise alongside Newman—The Hustler was the original story about Newman's character "Fast" Eddie Felson, a pool shark who battles the best pool player in the world for high-stakes cash.

    As someone who gets a thrill out of gambling money on Cleveland sports—yeah, it's a dumb move—The Hustler is a movie I really enjoy.

North Dallas Forty

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    Filmed: 1979

    Based on the novel written by former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Peter Gent, North Dallas Forty was actually a semi-true story about America's Team from the '70s—which is why the NFL wasn't a huge fan of its portrayal.

    With Nick Nolte acting as wideout Phil Elliott—an over-the-hill, barely-hanging-on former star—the North Dallas Bulls endure a fight with their legendary head coach and a number of extracurricular activities—which seemed a bit too close to what happened during those years in Dallas.

The Bad News Bears

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    Filmed: 1976

    One of the first sports movies I ever saw, The Bad News Bears is a reminder to every grown-up that coaching a kid's little league team might not always seem like fun.

    With a bunch of rag-tag misfits as players, former minor leaguer Morris Buttermaker doesn't display what I would call a positive technique of coaching, often humiliating and putting down the group of teens.

    Thanks to the success of this movie, it sparked a variety of films with a similar plot—including a few sequels and the first The Mighty Ducks film.

The Longest Yard

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    Filmed: 1974

    While most of us are familiar with the 2005 remake that teamed Adam Sandler alongside Chris Rock and original star Burt Reynolds, the 1974 version of The Longest Yard is still an absolute classic.

    With a few prison mates forced to battle a team made up of guards, Reynolds—who stars as former pro quarterback Paul Crewe—assembles a roster full of badasses.

    It's cheesy as hell, but it's that corniness that makes it so good.

Raging Bull

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    Filmed: 1980

    Depending on whom you ask, boxing movie Raging Bull is one of the best sports flicks ever made.

    Starring Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci, the Martin Scorsese film follows the life of Jake La Motta (DeNiro), who is always at the brink of self-destruction outside of the ring and uses the anger from his personal life to beat opponents inside of it.

    Seriously, if you need a good movie to watch either alone or with a few of your close buddies, check this one out.

Le Mans

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    Filmed: 1971

    Any movie that stars legendary badass Steve McQueen in it—as Le Mans does—deserves a spot on this list automatically.

    Documenting and using actual footage of the 24-hour Le Mans race in France, the movie may have struck out at the box office, but for anyone who's a car and racing fan, it hits a home run.

    With the sweet, roaring sounds of Porsches and Ferarris, it's a movie that should only be watched using surround sound—to give it the full effect, of course.

Rocky

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    Filmed: 1976

    OK, so there are plenty of you who have seen not just one Rocky movie but most likely every single one.

    Still, that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be on this list.

    Following the journey of underdog fighter Rocky Balboa, the film became an absolute classic, with both its characters and even theme song gaining popularity.

    Balboa represents the feeling of a lot of Americans—overlooked and doubted—making this a movie every sports fan should watch.

Caddyshack

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    Filmed: 1980

    Whether you're a sports fan or not, Caddyshack is one that needs to be watched.

    Starring some of the biggest names in comedy from the '80s like Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray, this movie has some of the most memorable scenes—yes, you know I'm talking about the doody in the pool one.

    After seeing it once, I almost guarantee that you'll start greeting people with "Ahoy, polloi"—or at least consider doing so.

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