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Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

'Hoop Dreams' director picks 5 best sports films

  • Robert De Niro plays boxer Jake La Motta in Martin Scorsese's 1980 classic "Raging Bull."

    Associated Press

    Robert De Niro plays boxer Jake La Motta in Martin Scorsese's 1980 classic "Raging Bull."

  • Steve James

    Steve James

  • Paul Newman and Michael Ontkean the 1977 hockey movie "Slap Shot," which Steve James calls the funniest sports movie ever.

    Associated Press

    Paul Newman and Michael Ontkean the 1977 hockey movie "Slap Shot," which Steve James calls the funniest sports movie ever.

Steve James made his name exploring the hopeful side of sports with one of the most acclaimed documentaries of all time: 1994's "Hoop Dreams." Now, he's shining a light on the potential dangers of athletics in "Head Games."
James' latest documentary depicts the damage, depression and even dementia that players often endure after years of repeated concussions.
Here, in his own words, are James' five favorite sports films:
"Raging Bull" (1980): Scorsese's masterpiece is the undisputed heavyweight champion. A biopic of Jake LaMotta that's not really a sports film yet somehow manages to capture the sport in all its brutality and beauty, along with the rage, aspirations and impotence that fuel both its participants and fans.
"Slap Shot" (1977): The funniest sports film ever. But also one of the most trenchant critiques of contemporary America I've ever seen in a comedy. George Roy Hill's film is about violence, capitalism and unfulfilled dreams set in the world of minor league hockey. It holds up beautifully, too. It's every bit as relevant today as it was when it was made.
"Senna" (2011): A riveting documentary about the Formula One racing rivalry between legendary Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna and French driver Alain Prost that ultimately ended in tragedy. A formally groundbreaking documentary by Asif Kapadia that is drawn entirely from thousands of hours of archival television footage along with only the voices of contemporaries offering insights.
"Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson" (1993): Barbara Kopple's overlooked great documentary was made around the time that Tyson was convicted and went to prison for raping Desiree Washington. It does a magnificent job of detailing his rise and fall without moralizing or painting him as a monster. An honest, human account.
"The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" (1962): A great and angry film from the British kitchen sink realism movement of the early '60s that tells the story of a troubled, blue-collar teen from a dismal family background who discovers running as an escape. Tom Courtenay gives a great performance in this gritty Tony Richardson film which has one of the most uncompromising climaxes to any sports film ever.

Story tags » Movies

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