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2016 brought us a slew of great sport films. With time off for the Holidays, now is your chance to catch up with 8 of our favorites. From boxing to track and field, surfing to snowboarding, Strongman to equestrian, we’ve got something for everyone. A mix of documentaries and Hollywood dramas, all are based on the true stories of which sport legends are made!
HARRY AND SNOWMAN (above)
This heartwarming documentary tells the true story of a horse named Snowman, who in the early 1950’s, destined for the slaughterhouse, was purchased for eighty dollars by a Dutch immigrant named Harry deLeyer. In less than two years, deLeyer transformed Snowman into one of the greatest Grand Prix show jumpers history. The two would go on to win the triple crown of show jumping, beating the nation’s far more pedigree horses. Harry and Snowman’s chance meeting at a Pennsylvania horse auction was the beginning of a friendship that lasted a lifetime, both in and out of the ring. 86-year old deLeyer tells their Cinderella love story firsthand, as he continues to train on today’s show jumping circuit.
Based on the incredible life of Jesse Owens, “Race” tells the story his quest and journey to become the greatest track and field athlete in history. Thrust onto the world stage at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, Owens won a record-breaking four gold medals, as he faced off against Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy. “Race” is an enthralling film about courage, determination, tolerance, and friendship, and an inspiring drama about one man’s fight to become an Olympic legend. The film stars Stephan James as Owens, and co-stars Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons, William Hurt and Carice van Houten.
“Bunker 77” documents the surfing life and times of Bunker Spreckels. Born Adolph B. Spreckels III, “Bunker” was the heir to the Spreckels Sugar fortune, and the stepson of Clark Gable, who became a controversial surf star in the 60’s and 70’s, defined by his decadence and flamboyance. A privileged Los Angeles party boy worth millions, Bunker became famous as a surfer, noted for pushing the boundaries of the sport by riding very short boards on the most infamous waves, but after receiving his inheritance, Bunker slipped into a life of pomp and excess where surfing took a back seat to drugs, sex, and wild extravagances. Interviews with famed big wave rider, Laird Hamilton, and skateboard maestro Tony Alva, who Bunker mentored, describe the mysterious and surreal persona that blazed to legendary proportions, as the film documents his metamorphosis from hippie surfer to international playboy, before succumbing to his excesses at the age of 27.
For anyone who has caught bits of “Strongman” competitions flipping through the ESPN channels, it’s hard not to stop and stare in fascination at these behemoth of men who pull trucks, toss kegs over high bars, and hoist massive metal objects. The documentary “Eddie Strongman” follows the life of one, British Strongman Eddie Hall, as he strives to become the “World’s Strongest Man”. With insight into the extreme lifestyle, training and the sacrifices it takes to achieve his goals, beneath his almost 400 pounds of brute strength and tattooed physique is revealed an intensely driven but sensitive soul, who speaks with a foul mouth about training until his eyeballs literally pop out of his head, but also breaks down when talking about the love and support of his family. For “Game of Thrones” fans, there are appearances by one of the sport’s top competitors, “The Mountain”, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger, who hosts one of the premier competitions, the Arnold Strongman Classic, and cheers Eddie on to break the world dead lift record with 465 kgs — more than 1025 lbs!
Inspired by true events, “Eddie the Eagle” is the feel-good story about Michael “Eddie” Edwards, played by Taron Egerton, the notoriously tenacious British underdog ski jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics. After his elimination from Britain’s downhill ski team, Eddie takes up ski jumping, a sport whose last British representative competed back in 1929. Recognizable by his thick glasses, blonde mustache and untraditionally athletic stature, Eddie is an unlikely but courageous ski-jumper, who never stops believing in himself, even as an entire nation counts him out. With the help of a rebellious and charismatic coach played by Hugh Jackman, Eddie takes on the establishment and wins the hearts of sports fans around the world by making an improbable and historic showing at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Despite losing badly, Eddie emerges as one of the great folk heroes of the Games.
Miles Teller stars as famed boxer Vinny Pazienza, and tells the story of one of the greatest comeback stories in the history of sports. After a near fatal car crash leaves him with a broken neck, Pazienza is told he may never walk again. Doctors recommend spinal fusion surgery that will guarantee his mobility but effectively end his boxing career. Pazienza chooses a far riskier spine-stabilization treatment, requiring him to wear a circular metal brace screwed directly into his skull for six months. Seemingly impossible, Pazienza is determined to fight again, and with the help of legendary and eccentric coach Kevin Rooney, played by Aaron Eckhart, 13 months after the accident, Pazienza returns to the ring to do battle with Super Middleweight Champion Roberto Duran, played by Edwin Rodriguez, in the biggest fight of his life.
In the much anticipated sequel to “The Art of Flight”, one of the most revered action-sports documentaries of the last decade, extreme snowboarder Travis Rice rides again in the mountains of Wyoming, Japan, Russia and Alaska. Inspired by the hydrological cycle of ocean swells and snow storms, Rice and his team embark on a 16,000 mile journey to some of the most majestic landscapes around the globe, conquering its most dangerous, untouched peaks. The film is packed with sweeping helicopter shots and other dramatic aerials, documenting the journey with an unprecedented viewpoint. Rice is widely considered the world’s best snowboarder, and “The Fourth Phase” cements his legacy in a film that is what Vanity Fair calls “the shredder’s equivalent of a National Geographic movie”.
“Dangal” is the Hindi term for “a wrestling competition”, and now in theatres is an Indian film based on the true story of Geeta and Babita Phogat. Taught to wrestle by their father, Geeta became India’s first female wrestler to win gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games (55 kg) and her sister Babita won the silver (51 kg). Mahavir Singh Phogat was an amateur wrestler who lived for the dream of seeing his country take home athletic “gold.” He prays for sons, but as the father of four daughters, transfers his obsession onto them. Both a domineering egotist and a de facto feminist, he turns them into competitive wrestlers, cutting against the grain of what Indian society expects girls to be.