Americans are passionate about sports of all and even a cursory glance at the Sugarhouse sportsbook will reveal how popular it is. Those who produce and direct movies have often used famous sports fixtures and events as inspiration for their creative projects. After all, the adrenaline, tension and team dynamics often translate well to the big screen. That’s why it makes sense that some of the best movies ever produced were centered around action on a baseball diamond, basketball court or football field.
This is just as true for the past as it is for the present day as well. The 1980s produced a wealth of excellent sporting moments, many of which have now been immortalized in film. This article will explore some of the 1980s sports figures and events which have been turned into films.
Miracle on Ice (1981)
The 1980s was an important decade in the Cold War. It was in some ways a period of rising tensions, although in other ways it was the beginning of the end for the decades-long battle between the two superpowers – the US and the Soviet Union. In the television movie Miracle on Ice, however, the tensions are running high between the two nations for primarily sporting reasons.
In the film, which is based on real events, the American hockey team heads to the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. They were up against the Soviet Union in this match, which was, of course, a major geopolitical rival for the country at the time. However, the US side managed to go on to secure the gold medal – and the respect of their country for a long time to come. The film stars Karl Malden as the team’s coach Herb Brooks, while other actors included Andrew Stevens, Allan Miller and Steve Guttenberg. You can watch the entire film on YouTube.
When it comes to sporting biopics, The Bear is perhaps one of the most interesting to come out of the 1980s. The movie, which starred Gary Busey and Jon-Erik Hexum, told the tale of University of Alabama football team coach Paul Bryant – who was also known as “Bear.” He was head coach of the team until well into the 1980s, and his life and career are regarded as one of the key moments in the University of Alabama’s football history and overall college football history.
The 1984 film, which was written by Michael Kane, did well enough at the box office. It took $1,160,644 across its opening weekend in the US, which was in late September 1984. However, it primarily lives on in the hearts and minds of many young American football fans as a prime example of the sort of film that tells stories of the individuals who drive forward certain sports and certain teams. He was especially known for his longevity: he died at the Druid City Hospital in January 1983, just a few weeks after he coached his last ever game. Later, he was posthumously given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Reagan, who was in office at the time.
Friday Night Lights
Finally, anyone who is interested in high school football should certainly make the time to watch Friday Night Lights. The film was made in the 2000s, but its a period piece that tells the story of the Permian High Panthers team in Odessa, Texas over the course of the 1988 season. Some big names feature in it, including Billy Bob Thornton who plays the role of Coach Gaines.
The film remains in high regard on the film review website Rotten Tomatoes with ratings of well above 80%. One review on the site sums up the complexities which the film subtly shows: “What Friday Night Lights offers,” the reviewer said, “is the perspective that, for the people and young players caught up in this whirlwind, football simultaneously means everything and ultimately nothing.” By exploring the appeal and even the contradictions of small-town football, the filmmakers produced an excellent movie which will no doubt remain timeless.
When it comes to making movies, some of history’s finest filmmakers have used sporting events as inspiration for their plotlines. From the exciting hockey scenes in Miracle on Ice and Disney's more recent adaptation Miracle, every major sport has been covered in this way by directors and producers looking to enshrine top sporting moments in history forever.