1 COOL RUNNINGS
This is the story of the Jamaican bobsled team that surprised us all by making it to the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. The Disney film may have taken some liberties compared to the true events behind the film – the team was not composed of track sprinters and they were actually warmly welcomed at the Games – but that doesn’t take away from the heart of Cool Runnings that has seen the movie become a cult classic.
The tale of a small-time boxer from Philadelphia was written by Sylvester Stallone and saw him take on the lead role. This is a film of iconic moments: from the training scene with “Gonna Fly Now” soundtrack; Balboa going toe to toe with Apollo Creed, to the very end of the fight and his narrow loss by default; and, of course, a practically blinded Rocky shouting “ADRIANNNN!”
3 THE MIGHTY DUCKS
Lawyer Gordon Bombay is given a chance at redemption after he is arrested for drunk driving. Now he must coach a peewee hockey team for his community service. So begins an underdog story that sees The Mighty Ducks go from being the worst team in the league to champions when they beat Gordon’s old team. And then Queen’s We Are The Champions starts playing. Beautiful.
This is the film that brought back to life the USA ice hockey team’s victory over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics. The Americans were a collection of college players and amateurs pitted against a seemingly invincible opponent, exactly what being an underdog is about. As sports broadcaster Al Michaels famously put it, “Do you believe in miracles? YES!”
Kingpin deserves to be on any unlikely sports hero movie list if only because of Bill Murray’s turn as a maniacal bully of the professional bowling tour. But it’s also the rest of the cast, including Woody Harrelson on a terrible hair day, which makes this an underdog film that stays with us. No bowling hand. No problem.
6 THE FIGHTER
The Fighter puts together Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams in the story of how boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, together with his half-brother Dicky, won the welterweight title. Based on real events - Wahlberg and Ward were friends - the movie won two Oscars and gave us a glimpse at a world where any underdog can achieve their dreams.