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People love sports of all kinds, and enjoy watching movies that portray the team work, training, struggles and triumphs of someone who invests their time and energy into being the best.

Sports films can be based on fictional or real characters and events and usually depict either a team or an individual as they train for a big competitive event such as a race, a prizefight, or a big game. The story of how the team or person fights to overcome the odds to become the champion is central to the theme.

The sports film genre can be classified into various sub-genres. Sports biographies are very popular and tell the story of a real life figure as they work their way to the top of their field. Comedies based on a sports theme are also well-liked by audiences and usually involve the main character’s sometimes comedic efforts to reach fame and fortune. Dramatic scenarios involving sports figures delve more deeply into the personal lives and efforts as the protagonist seeks the goal, and may ultimately show the defeat rather than the victory of the main character. Romantic stories involving sports figures are also popular and contain elements depicting the interpersonal relationship of the athlete and their partner. Sports documentaries are based on true stories and events, either on a team or person or on the sport itself.

An early sports comedy film is The Champion (1915), directed by and starring the great Charlie Chaplin. After slipping a horseshoe into his boxing glove and winning a boxing match in training camp the trainer wants to sign Charlie up to box against the champion.

Another funny sports themed film is The Pinch Hitter (1917), directed by Victor Schertzinger. Starring Charles Ray, Sylvia Breamer and Joseph J. Dowling, the film is about a shy man, Joel Parker, who seems bound for nowhere, until Abbie Nettleton enters his life and she pushes him from a timid nobody to a baseball star.

The Busher (1919) is another baseball themed sports film, directed by Jerome Storm. The movie is about a young baseball pitcher in the bush leagues who is discovered by a big-league manager and given his chance in the major leagues.

Dynamite Dan (1924) is a boxing themed sports film directed by Bruce M. Mitchell, and includes an appearance by Boris Karloff. Dan McLeod (Kenneth McDonald) is falsely accused of wrongdoing at work and leaves to meet with his girlfriend. Already angry, Dan knocks out another man with one punch after he tries to assault them. Witnessing the altercation, a boxing manager then approaches Dan to sign him up for the ring.

Romance combines with the sport of track and field in Girl o’ My Dreams (1934), directed by Ray McCarey. Larry Haines (Edward J. Nugent) is a track champion who has let his success go to his head, so two of his friends stage a contest where he competes with a ringer, Don Cooper (Lon Chaney Jr.), and Larry comes in second. Then Don begins seeing Larry’s girlfriend, and when it’s time for the big intercollegiate competition it seems both men are too distracted to be able to focus on winning for their team.

The Big Wheel (1949) is a race car driving sports film directed by Edward Ludwig and starring Mickey Rooney, Thomas Mitchell and Spring Byington. Wanting to be a winning race car driver like his famous father, young Billy Coy works his way up from mechanic to one of the top drivers, but loses his way when his success takes him into the world of nightclubs and fast living. Luckily Billy has the support of his mother and a race car owner’s daughter to help him find his way back to his goal.

The sport of harness racing provides the theme for The Great Dan Patch (1949), directed by Joseph M. Newman. Chemist David Palmer (Dennis O’Keefe) returns to his hometown in Indiana to marry his girlfriend Ruth (Ruth Warrick), a schoolteacher. He finds his father Dan (Henry Hull) excited about the harness racing potential of a new mare that he's just traded for. When the mare is injured while winning her first race, David's father uses her for breeding, and she has a colt named Dan Patch, who proves to be exceptionally fast.

One of the best known biographical sports films is The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), directed by Alfred E. Green. The film portrays the life of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American major league baseball player in the 20th century, tracing his career in the Negro leagues and the major leagues, culminating with his being honored as the Rookie of the Year in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers and finally his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Jackie Robinson starred in the movie as himself, with Rudy Dee as his wife Rae and Minor Watson in the role of Branch Rickey.

Faith, Hope and Hogan (1952) is a documentary produced and directed by Jack Denove which shows how determination and hard work enabled legendary golfer Ben Hogan to return to his sport after suffering debilitating injuries in a near-fatal automobile accident.

Another biographical sports film, The Joe Louis Story (1953) was directed by Robert Gordon. The film shows the story of Joe Louis' rise to fame as boxing's Heavyweight Champion of the world. Joe Louis held the title for twelve years, longer than any other boxer in history, and had to not only battle opponents inside the ring but also had to battle racism outside it.

The Richard Petty Story #43 (1972) is a biographical sports film directed by Edward J. Lasko and starring Richard Petty as himself and Darren McGavin as his father, Lee Petty. The film shows the experiences that made Richard Petty one of the world’s foremost record-breaking NASCAR drivers, following in his father’s footsteps, and includes plenty of fast action racing footage.

The Wrestler (1974) is a sports film directed by James A. Westman, starring Ed Asner as wrestling promoter Frank Bass and Verne Gagne (a champion wrestler in real life) as Mike Bollar. The film portrays Frank Bass’ struggle to maintain the integrity of the sport against the encroachment of gamblers, mobsters, unscrupulous wrestlers, money-grubbing promoters, and fixers.

Pole vaulting is the sport highlighted in Crossbar (1979), a film directed by John Trent. With Brent Carver starring as Aaron Kornylo, John Ireland as Miles Kornylo and Kim Cattrall as Katie Barlow, the film is based on a true story of a young athlete, Aaron Kornylo, who loses his leg in a farm accident but still works hard and is determined to make it to the Olympics as a pole vaulter.

For fans that enjoy a good story with lots of action and entertainment sports films fill the bill. Check out and treat yourself to some of these interesting movies at Matinee Classics now.

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