The best sports movies currently streaming on Netflix

By Columbus Alive
From the September 26, 2013 edition

“Rush,” Ron Howard’s drama about the 1976 Formula One racing season and the bitter rivalry between racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, is opening in theaters this weekend to much acclaim (visit ColumbusAlive.com for our review on Friday).

But it was watching the F1 documentary “Senna” on Netflix that got me primed for this movie. Here are some other great sports movies to instantly scratch your itch, whichever sport you dig.

Baseball

The Bad News Bears

One of my favorite baseball movies ever, you can enjoy Walter Matthau’s cigar-chomping beer-swilling coach try to turn a team of misfits — including a young Jackie Earle Haley — into a team of champions.

Knuckleball

This recent documentary about the handful of purveyors of baseball’s oddball pitch is slick and terribly intriguing, especially the honest look at how a journeyman can use the pitch to revive a career.

Hockey

Slap Shot

Yep, the greatest hockey movie of all time is streaming on Netflix right now. Watch Paul Newman and the exploits of the Hanson Brothers … just don’t watch the awful direct-to-DVD sequel, which is also available.

Goon

This 2011 sports comedy is the heir apparent to “Slap Shot.” Don’t let the appearance of Seann William Scott of the “American Pie” movies stop you; he actually gives a funny and moving performance.

Soccer

30 for 30: The Two Escobars

There’s a wealth of ESPN’s “30 for 30” docs available, but few are better than this look at Columbian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar and Columbian soccer player Andres Escobar and their violent demises.

“Shaolin Soccer”

It’s not really a movie for footy fans so much as one for fans of amazing, live-action-cartoon action filmmaking, courtesy of the wild imagination of director Stephen Chow.

Basketball

“Hoosiers”

The greatest basketball movie ever? Also on Netflix. Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper give fantastic performances, and the David-vs-Goliath run for the Indiana state basketball title still gives goosebumps.

“Hoop Dreams”

If you want a less-inspiring look at high school basketball, check out this sobering doc following two talented Chicago youngsters who follow their basketball dreams — because they’re really the only dreams they can have.

Football

“Go Tigers!”

A great behind-the-scenes look at a small town’s obsession with high school football, “Go Tigers!” documents Massilon, Ohio’s culture and bitter rivalry with nearby Canton McKinley.

“Brian’s Song”

This made-for-TV movie about football and terminal illness is one of those “it’s OK for guys to cry if it’s about sports” movies (really, dudes, it’s OK whenever).

Auto racing

Senna

A fast-paced documentary about the fast-paced life of Formula One great Ayrton Senna, who became a legend in his native Brazil, “Senna” is the rare doc that turns archival footage into a feeling you were there.

Days of Thunder

Remember when NASCAR wasn’t a massive cash cow? Remember when Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman had onscreen chemistry? Relive both in late director Tony Scott’s slick flick that’s remembered more for the racing than the melodrama.

Skateboarding

Bones Brigade: An Autobiography

Ex-skateboarder Stacy Peralta documented his generation of skateboarders in the excellent “Dogtown and Z-Boys.” He turned his camera on the generation that followed — including young prodigy Tony Hawk — with similarly stellar results.

Rising Son: The Legend of Skateboarder Christian Hosoi

This doc celebrated the rise of Hosoi — the more flamboyant side of skating and antithesis of Tony Hawk — and his eventual fall into meth addiction.