The GOAT - US Sports Films: And The Winner Is...


Last week, Steve Taylor-Bryant and Nate McKenzie set out on a quest to discover what the Greatest of All Time film based on US sports is. Now Nate announces the winner of the public vote...

Read Steve's and Nate's draft picks and see the Final Four.

This is what happens when you let humans make decisions on their own: Trump gets elected, Theresa May too, Brexit happens and Rocky gets voted as the GOAT sports movie over Field of Dreams.

Remind me again why dictatorships aren't more widely utilised?

How did this happen? I feel like I've failed you all as a voice of taste and reason in this world of #HotTakes. But since we are here, I might as well write something positive about Rocky.

First off, I'm not actually disappointed. Field of Dreams is the best sports movie that exists, but Rocky beating out Dreams is like (yes, this is going where you think it is...) Rocky triumphing over the unbeatable Apollo Creed: a huge upset, but well deserved. In fact, you can find Rocky topping more than a few "best of sports movies" lists across the internet. That doesn't mean the choice is correct, but it certainly means it isn't wrong.

The most astounding thing about Rocky is, of course, that Stallone wrote the script. He is not exactly known for his eloquence, with that trademark drawl and slur, but Sly knew he had a story to tell and found a way to get it out. Holding out for a deal from a studio that would attach himself to the project as the lead, Stallone was determined to turn himself into a star, with a story that says as much about America in the time the movie took place as it does about Stallone himself.

Not only did that last reel include some of the most wildly exciting fight footage ever put on the screen, but it also provided an emotionally gratifying capstone to a picture that is truly an ode to the human spirit. -The Hollywood Reporter, 1979
(Read that entire article. Arthur Knight predicts the success of Rocky a month before the movie is even released. Unreal.)

But the story behind the story isn't the reason that Rocky won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It is a story that gripped the everyman; one which blue collar laborers and white collar paper-pushers could rally behind together. Even though, at the time of its release, Vincent Canby of The New York Times spurned Stallone's acting and derided the film as "purest Hollywood make-believe of the 1930's", the rest of the world felt the heartbeat that Rocky provided. That is a staunch lesson in "seeing it with your own eyes".

Rocky is not without flaws. The "mafia goon with a heart of gold" cross-section of Rocky's character has never sat well with me and Stallone's acting is a little clunky at times, but those flaws are real world flaws, signs of an imperfect person in an imperfect world that rises above circumstance when his eleventh-hour shot arrives.

How can any human person not root heartily for that?

Is Rocky the sports film G.O.A.T.? Many believe so. My pick would be Field of Dreams. Steve probably thinks Air Bud is a cinematic masterpiece deserving of the all-time mantle. But both of us clearly underestimated Rocky's chances in the court of public opinion. Where have I heard that story before?

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