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In The Karate Kid remake, Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) must overcome a variety of obstacles, such as moving to a new home and being bullied at school. In lieu of this weekend’s surprise box office hit, let’s check out ten other underdog sports films. Since we tend to do a fair amount of these at PAM, we’ve developed a name for these Top 10 list, called “The PAM-10,” which may or may not be inspired by all the college sports conference realignment lately …
Horse racing isn’t exactly the most exciting sport in the world, but Seabiscuit provided an interesting true-life tale that spoke to the American spirit at a time when Americans needed it most: during the Great Depression. The odds were against the horse so to speak, but this films proves that the odds aren’t always right.
9. Major League
It might aim to be a comedy more than a true underdog story, but it’s still about a group of seemingly untalented players with low expectations who end up having success. Plus, it grossed more than four times its budget at the box office which led to a pair of sequels.
8. The Rookie
Dreams can come true at any age, even if you’re a middle-aged man wanting to make it big in baseball. Dennis Quaid leads the film in a terrific performance, perfectly capturing the American spirit of “you can do anything you want to if you work hard enough at it.” Despite making only brief appearances out of the bull pen for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, when he takes the mound for the first time in the Majors, it’s one of the more surprisingly memorable moments in sports movie history.
The true story of the underdog United States hockey team in the 1980 Olympics that defeated the Russians against all odds was an inspiration to the entire country and to the world. The film’s release in 2004 ensured that a different generation could enjoy that same inspiration. Kurt Russell gives a terrific performance as the team’s coach in a film that many regard as the best sports movie of the 21st Century thus far.
Leave it to Gene Hackman to take the Indiana boys to the top in one of the most beloved basketball movies of all time. The film also features a fantastic performance from the late great Dennis Hopper.
5. Glory Road
The tale of the Texas Western’s college basketball team, which was the first in NCAA history to feature an all-African-American starting lineup, was an inspiration and a critical stepping stone in racial equality for the sports world. The film took home an ESPY Award for Best Sports Movie.
Rudy tells a very different story of overcoming the odds. Instead of being about a team trying to overcome the odds within the sport, Rudy centers on one person trying to defeat his small stature to join a team. Sean Astin gives a knockout performance as the title character who will stop at nothing to gain a roster spot and at least play one snap for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
3. Remember the Titans
With a powerful performance from Denzel Washington and an inspirational story, Remember the Titans told a story of a high school football team brought together because of integration laws, whose members not only overcame others; they overcame the prejudices within themselves. Remember the cute little girl helping her dad out with football strategy? That’s Hayden Panettiere.
2. A League of Their Own
A League of Their Own tells the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. With a slew of stars, including Academy Award winner Geena Davis, what makes this film really interesting is that it is based on real life events. The girls overcome the odds by playing the game they love, proving that they can ruff it up just as much as the boys can. It also features the incredible ballad “This Used to Be My Playground.”
One of the great American films of the 1970s. Sylvester Stallone gave one of his absolute best performances in this tale of triumph. After this film came out, the name “Adrian” would never be looked at the same way again. The scene of Rocky running up the museum stairs is one of the greatest moments in film history. Rocky took home the 1976 Academy Award for Best Picture.