Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)
The show, not the movie
You don’t have to understand football to understand what football means to the people of Dillon, Texas. An absorbing television show populated with flawed, multi-dimensional, and memorable characters in a sleepy small town that lights up once a week to experience American football. The series expertly stages the sport and injects it with such heart and soul, you’ll forget it centres around high school students and staff. At appropriate times gripping and intense, this series shoots its sport with an in-there documentary film angle and is able to make you laugh, cry, and cringe for the best reasons. Bringing together everything one could hope for in a sporting subject, Friday Night Lights simply can’t be missed. Look no further than the first episode, heralded among many as one of the best pilots of the last decade.
Remember the Titans (2000)
Strong side, left side – the Titans are on the right side
It may have been the number of times my high school football coach played it, or it may just be the story, but Remember the Titans is my favourite. With a cast full of stars, headed by a fantastic performance from Denzel Washington, this movie has it all. The film is an inspiring story about race relations in America, and features heartbreak, happiness, and great football scenes. The movie is based on the true story of the 1971 Virginia state champions from T.C. Williams High School going through the struggles of an integrated school system. When it’s over, you’ll be chanting their catchy tune: “We are the Titans, the mighty, mighty Titans.”
Hoop Dreams (1994)
Two players, one dream
Legendary film critic Roger Ebert once wrote, “A film like Hoop Dreams is what the movies are for. It takes us, shakes us, and makes us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself.” The documentary, which follows the high school careers of two young basketball players in Chicago in the early ‘90s, hits every right note as an inspiring sports movie, a cautionary tale of the American dream, and a critique of modern social roles and structures we take for granted. Hoop Dreams floored me, and left me thinking for weeks about the lives of its two protagonists and their troubled families. It’s why many consider it to be one of the best documentaries of all-time. While so many other sports films depend on tired clichés, exaggerated speeches, and fictitious last plays, Hoop Dreams’ director Steve James lets the gut-wrenching twists and turns of real life do all the talking—and as always, the ball don’t lie.
Happy Gilmore (1996)
Are you too good for the game of golf?
Are you too good for the game of golf? This film is what first got me hooked on the beautiful game of golf. Happy Gilmore is full of laughs from the very start, and is one of Adam Sandler’s first films that made him the star he is today. Sandler plays a wannabe hockey player who discovers he has a powerful golf drive. He joins the PGA Tour in hopes of making money to save his grandmother’s house from being put up on the market. Happy is an extraordinary player with foul language, unique cheers, and an unorthodox style that some love and others hate. With scenes like Happy’s golf coach Chubbs and his wooden hand, and, of course, Happy fighting Bob Barker, this film is vulgar but amazing. I have seen Happy Gilmore more than 100 times, and each time I laugh as if it were the first all over again.