Play oddball: Top 10 off-the-wall sports films

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on February 4, 2012)

Okay, so you’re not particularly in the mood for the inspirational locker room speech, the decisive last minute rally or to cheer for the underdog. Perhaps your tastes lean more towards the cultish and the offbeat? No worries, I’ve got all your, um, bases covered this evening. Here are my quick picks for the Top 10 Most Off-the-Wall Sports Films:

All the Marbles-A droll sleeper with Peter Falk as the manager of a female wrestling tag team. This was director Robert Aldrich’s final film (Kiss Me Deadly, The Dirty Dozen).

The Big Lebowski– I admit that I am not as slavishly enamored with this Coen Brothers offering as its cultish devotees, but this is the sports film for those who sure as shit do not fucking roll on Shabbos.

Bite the Bullet-Out of his myriad films, Gene Hackman has declared this unique western about a long-distance horse race to be his personal favorite. Who am I to say neigh? Richard Brooks directed.

Caddyshack– I know a lot of people who worship this film. A tad over-praised, but Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase and Ted Knight are well-cast, and ably carry the non-stop gags with their comic chops. Harold Ramis directed, and co-wrote with Brian Doyle-Marray and Douglas Kenney.

Cockfighter– I cannot personally guarantee that no animals were harmed in the making of Monte Hellman’s 1974  drama, but it features a career-best performance by the great Warren Oates.

Death Race 2000 (1975)- At first glance, Paul Bartel’s film about a futuristic gladiatorial cross-country auto race in which drivers score extra points for running down pedestrians is an outrageous, gross-out cult comedy. It could also be viewed as a takeoff on Rollerball, as a broad political satire, or perhaps a wry comment on that great, timeless American tradition of watching televised blood sport for entertainment. One thing I’ll say about this movie-it’s never boring! David Carradine is a riot as defending race champ, “Frankenstein”.

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters-Seth Gordon’s amazing documentary profiles some very obsessed video game competitors. You could not dream up characters like these.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome-You know the rules. Two men enter…

The Seventh Seal-Don’t give me that look. Chess counts as a sport.

Shaolin Soccer-Shaolin monks apply martial arts prowess on the soccer field. This could only come from the mind of Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle). Hilarious, and packed with mind blowing stunts.

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