Best Sports Movies? [UPDATED]

For some reason, the question about which sports movies are the “best” or individual favorites has turned up in all sorts of places this week, I have no idea why. When it turned up during tonight’s Red Sox broadcast, I decided  it was time to give my list.

(The Red Sox and Rays are tied in the 7th, 4-4.)

Most sports movies are ethics movies, and my favorite five all fit that description.

1. “Hoosiers“(1986) The Gene Hackman movie about a tiny Indiana town’s surprise victory in the state basketball tournament (the actual 1954 team is above),  covers many ethics themes, including leadership, integrity, sacrifice , redemption, learning from past mistakes,  and moral luck. The basketball games are surprisingly realistic, and Jerry Goldsmith’s score, evoking bouncing basketballs on a court, is one of my all-time favorites. Favorite ethics moment: after training the team to obey him without question, and teaching them to play as a team, not individuals, coach Hackman tells his players with one play left in the championship game that they will use their star, Jimmy, as a decoy, and let another player take the final, game deciding shot. After a long pause, Jimmy tells him, “I’ll make it.” And like all good leaders, Hackman knows when to trust his subordinates. He let’s Jimmy countermand his order, and Jimmy indeed wins the game. Continue reading

Holiday Ethics Assigment: Quick! Watch These 25 Great Old Ethics Movies Again Before You Go Bonkers Too!

movie-theater

I am compiling a new list of great ethics movies to help those troubled by the recently completed Presidential campaign, the election and its aftermath. I haven’t decided whether to reveal it piecemeal, or collectively as I have before, but I do need to begin by presenting the previous list of 25, actually the combination of several previous posts. Ethics films I have covered individually since those lists debuted, like Spotlight and Bridge of Spies, will eventually be added.

For now, here’s the top 25. Don’t pay attention to the order.

1Spartacus (196o)

The raw history is inspiring enough: an escaped gladiator led an army of slaves to multiple victories over the Roman legions in one of the greatest underdog triumphs ever recorded. Stanley Kubrick’s sword-and-sandal classic has many inspiring sequences, none more so than the moment when Spartacus’s defeated army chooses death rather than to allow him to identify himself to their Roman captors (“I am Spartacus!”)

Ethical issues highlighted: Liberty, slavery, sacrifice, trust, politics, courage, determination, the duty to resist abusive power, revolution, love, loyalty.

Favorite quote: “When a free man dies, he loses the pleasure of life. A slave loses his pain. Death is the only freedom a slave knows. That’s why he’s not afraid of it. That’s why we’ll win.” [Spartacus (Kirk Douglas)]

2.  Hoosiers (1986)

“Hoosiers” is loosely based on true story, but its strength is the way it combines classic sports movie clichés—the win-at-all-costs coach down on his luck, the remote superstar, over-achieving team—into a powerful lesson: it isn’t the final victory that matters most, but the journey to achieving it.

Ethical issues highlighted: Forgiveness, generosity, leadership, kindness, courage, loyalty, diligence, redemption.

Favorite quote: “If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners.” [ Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman)]

3. Babe (1995)

A wonderful movie about the virtues of being nice, the greatest civility film of all time. Second place: “Harvey.”

Ethical issues highlighted: Civility, kindness, reciprocity, loyalty, courage, love, friendship, bigotry, bias.

Favorite quote: “Fly decided to speak very slowly, for it was a cold fact of nature that sheep were stupid, and there was nothing that could convince her otherwise…The sheep decided to speak very slowly, for it was a cold fact of nature that wolves were ignorant, and there was nothing that could convince them otherwise”  The Narrator (Roscoe Lee Browne) Continue reading

My 15 Hollywood Cures For A Paterno-Penn State-Sandusky Hangover, Part 1

For this hangover, movies work better.

The past week, as much as any week within memory, has caused me to despair about the culture, the state of ethical values in America, and my own futile efforts to try to bring some light to the darkness. My mood was not only ravaged by the Penn State scandal (and Penn State’s students’ scandalous reaction to it), but also the continued drift and incompetence in our government and the lack of any apparent leadership or courage to address the problems of our economic system, other than to complain about them.

In such times—there have been others, though happily not many—my spirit urgently needs an infusion of inspiration and hope, and fast: as Al Pacino reminds us in “Scent of a Woman,” there is no prosthesis for an amputated spirit. This is when I turn to the movies that speak to me of courage, redemption, and ethical virtues validated. They are my lifeline; I can’t write or think about ethics from the bottom of a pit. I’ve got only a few days before Thanksgiving, after all. This is no time to be cynical and dubious about the course of humanity and the United States of America, a nation I love and admire.

Thus I am going to take a brief detour from the usual format of Ethics Alarms, with your leave and forgiveness, and share with you the fifteen movies that I will turn to as I try to recharge my enthusiasm, inspiration, and hope. Here are 1 though 7; the rest will be along shortly:

1. A Man For All Seasons (1966)

Hardly the most upbeat film to start the list, but probably the greatest ethics movie ever made.

Ethical issues highlighted: Integrity, honesty, courage, leadership, corruption, abuse of power.

Favorite quote: “Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for Wales?” [Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield)] Continue reading