Rocky. Raging Bull. Breaking Away. Bull Durham. Million Dollar Baby. Hoosiers. The Hustler. The Natural. For decades, movies have used sports to craft fantastic features, often showing the real stories and tales of star athletes which can often be wilder than fiction ever could be. Of course, fictional films can enthrall as well, moviegoers finding themselves rooting for the actors as much as any real sports team. A great sports movie can entertain and uplift and make you feel great to be a fan.
Sadly, not all films are created on equal footing. Indeed, many are not just bad, they’re outright horrible on multiple levels. They insult the sports they try to showcase, they just turn out terrible and overall anyone who suffers through them is worse off for it as a moviegoer. In some cases, the sports are secondary but often, they’ll take center stage and look foolish, not just on their own but to their fans as well. A lot of these entries are comedies which play poorly with the sports but the dramas mentioned also fail to properly deliver and make the sports look bad, not better for newbies. Here are 15 movies that did the sports world no favors at all and are damn bad even on their own and best to avoid. And the fact that “Rocky V” isn’t on the list should be a good indicator how wretched these are so be warned on the wretchedness to follow.
15. The Bad News Bears Go To Japan
Part of that elite club to earn a 0% rating at various critic review sites, this 1978 entry pretty much crushed the popular franchise. Tony Curtis takes over as a hustler promoter who decides to get the little league team a big game in Tokyo but many of the original Bears wisely bowed out of this entry. Those who stay have things from running around Japan to an idiotic “love story” and Curtis is clearly just doing this for the paycheck with no passion or drive for the role. We get plenty of sumo wrestling but little actual baseball and the one big game is a total letdown, badly shot and edited and it’s no wonder the movie died at the box office. Curtis himself slammed it in his autobiography and it’s easy to see why as aside from a free trip to Tokyo, these young actors weren’t served well at all or baseball fans.
14. The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh
Much like “Showgirls,” this is one of those terrible movies that’s established a large cult following over the last several years. The owner of the last place Pittsburgh Pythons basketball team hits upon the wild idea of renaming them the Pisces and only recruiting players born under that astrological sign to turn them into winners. Julius Erving is one of the best basketball players ever but that charisma doesn’t translate to acting talent and not helped by the wild disco surroundings, goofy fantasy sequences and a supporting cast of Jonathan Winters, Stockard Canning and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar only make it goofier.
Some may like it for those aspects but as a movie, it doesn’t hold up very well, making pro basketball look a complete joke and reminding you just now nuts the 1970s were.
13. Little Big League
Several movies in the ‘90s wrestled with the idea of a kid becoming part of major league sports but this one was one of the dumber. Luke Edwards is a 12-year-old whose grandfather (Jason Robards) bequeaths him ownership of the Minnesota Twins and in his first move, makes himself the manager. Even if you can swallow the utterly ludicrous idea of major league baseball allowing either of those things to happen, the kid naturally turns into an “inspiration” to fire up his team and balances his baseball work with going to school like anyone else.
The bit of his mother giving him a “suspension” for a fight with an umpire is funny but even by kids’ standards, the logic of this film is totally implausible and despite the cameos by real stars like Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson, it fails to win you over, especially given Edwards’ flat acting. While it has a surprising downer ending, it’s a showcase of how such “kid in the big leagues” films just don’t work out right.
Rodney Dangerfield was often accused of playing the same guy in every movie, a loudmouth wisecracker in over his head. That’s true for this 1992 film where he’s a guy desperate for a promotion at work and agrees to coach the company-promoted girls soccer team only to discover they’re a mess. So he decides to do the obvious: Get his fiancée’s son (Jonathan Brandis) to dress up like a girl and join the team to help them win.
Crossdressing jokes mixed with underage rape humor (yes, really) are a horrible package and Dangerfield’s old joke style hardly helps. As usual, there’s a big “lesson” in how to be honest with yourself but it’s not worth the trip through the bad games and worse humor for a movie even kids will loathe.
Whoopi Goldberg has talent but sadly has squandered it in a lot of bad comedies. Among the biggest is this 1996 entry as she plays a fan of the last-place New York Knicks, who are so desperate for fan attention that they offer the prize that whoever makes a halftime court shot can coach the team in the second half. She wins that ludicrous contest and seeing how the crowd responds to her, the team’s new owner (Frank Langella) makes her the coach for real.
The obvious “comedy” is Goldberg sassy and whipping the Knicks into shape before Langella reveals his plan to remove an iconic New York team to St. Louis as if it’s no problem. Letting someone with zero experience coaching a pro team? Yes, that’s sure to lend the NBA some credence for moviegoers and Goldberg’s mugging just makes it worse.
10. The Fan
Robert DeNiro’s fall from legendary actor to self-parody can really be traced to this 1996 thriller. He plays a knife salesman obsessed with the San Francisco Giants new star player (Wesley Snipes) and soon losing himself to the game as his life suffers. He then begins stalking Snipes and pushing him to extreme actions via kidnapping and “helping” his career via various stabbings.
Snipes is good enough as the ballplayer but DeNiro’s hammy acting mars his would-be psycho character and the film gets more ridiculous with him attacking those who trash Snipes and even taking out a rival player. It culminates in a wild ballgame scene that’s shot way too frantic by Tony Scott, ending a movie that doesn’t exactly make Giants fans look good and stands on its own as a terrible film in itself.
Not every member of the “Friends” cast has the movie success of Jennifer Aniston. Case in point is Matt LeBlanc, who made his bid for big-screen stardom with this 1996 comedy. He plays a new pitcher who forms a bond with the team’s monkey mascot named Ed. It gets more and more ridiculous from just the simple comedy of the monkey jumping around to how LeBlanc forms a bond with it, leading to battles with mobsters, a chase and even a ridiculously done “emotional” hospital scene.
LeBlanc is okay but nothing special and proof that mixing animals and sports on film almost never works out very well, especially for one not meant to be aimed at kids.
8. The Next Karate Kid
Everyone has to start somewhere…even a future two-time Best Actress Oscar winner. In her movie debut, Hilary Swank plays an angry Boston teenager who comes under the tutelage of Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) who teaches her karate as she starts to tangle with a local gang led by a “win at all costs” colonel played by Michael Ironsides. C
ritics were not kind to it, slamming it as silly even by the standards of the series with Morita clearly phoning it in and the “action” looking lazily done and rough. But it did gain Swank her first attention in Hollywood and helped launch her career so in at least one respect, it’s a good thing but as a sports movie, does karate no favors by emphasizing its violent aspects and not even in competition either.
7. Safe At Home!
In 1961, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris captivated the country with their dueling chase to break Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record and drove the Yankees to the World championship. Hollywood decided to hit at that appeal with this 1962 movie where a young teenager brags to his friends over knowing the two stars and when he’s told to invite them to a banquet, goes to the Yankees spring training in Florida to beg them to show up.
M&M may have been fantastic players but their acting is as wooden as their bats, William Frawley out of place as their coach and the obvious lessons of honesty too hokey for an afterschool special. Moviegoers agreed by calling “Safe” out at the box office and even the most die-hard Yankees fan will be hard-pressed to enjoy this.
6. The Babe Ruth Story/The Babe
Given his amazing life with a stunning career and compelling backstory, it’s amazing no one has been able to do justice to Babe Ruth on the big screen. The first attempt in 1948 had William Bendix donning a fake nose and bad editing to look like a ballplayer, the movie playing fast and loose with the facts of Ruth’s life, presenting him as a clean-cut guy who actually orders milk at a bar, heals a wheelchair stricken boy with a simple “hello” and is cited as one of the worst movies of its time.
The 1992 film had John Goodman in the role and while it delved more into Ruth’s dark side, it still failed to win people over and even Goodman himself has said he was disappointed in his own performance. Both pushed Ruth’s ball skills but not the charisma and appeal that made him such a heroic figure and thus fans still have to wait for the big-screen production to give baseball’s greatest icon his due.
5. Caddyshack II
Hard as it is to believe, Jackie Mason was supposed to be the next big comic star. Warner Bros thought enough to make him the star of the 1988 sequel to the beloved classic which ranks high on the list of worst sequels ever. Mason plays the Rodney Dangerfield-like role of a wealthy developer and his every word and action screams the cliché of an aged Jewish guy way too much. When the snotty owners of the country club turn him down, he buys the place and turns it into a massive miniature golf course/water park.
Chevy Chase is back but many stars wisely stayed away as Randy Quaid takes on a role obviously meant for Sam Kinison while Dan Akroyd takes over for Bill Murray as the guy insanely chasing a gopher. It culminates in a big golf game that fails to live up to the original, much like the movie itself. Even by ‘80s standards, a terrible comedy that spits on the original and proves that some comedy guys aren’t always meant for the big time.
4. The Legend of Bagger Vance
Robert Redford directing Matt Damon, Will Smith, Charlize Theron and Jack Lemmon in a period drama. Sounds great, right? Wrong. This 2000 movie has Damon as a golfer in the 1930s trying to win a big tournament and aided by Smith as the title character giving him advice. This movie basically helped create the trope of “the magical Negro” as Smith gives advice and basically acting second fiddle to Damon.
The film looks great but the script is poor and stilted, the acting so-so and it basically presents 1930s Georgia as a time of nice racial harmony, especially with Smith’s character who just pushes the “sage aide” too much. Much like golf itself, it drags too long with dull periods to mar what good stuff is there and squanders a cast that deserves much better.
3. Matilda the Boxing Kangaroo
Look at that title. How can you NOT list that among the worst sports movies ever? Elliot Gould is a small time talent agent who discovers a kangaroo capable of amazing boxing skills and decides to promote her in a match against a human boxer. It’s already bad but then you see it and how the “kangaroo” is quite obviously a person in a costume that would be laughed out of a children’s birthday party.
Watching people treat it like a real animal is utterly ridiculous as is the “training” sequence that boggles the mind and the big bout itself is truly laughable. Truly one of those movies that’s amazing was ever made and does no favors to boxing at all.
2. Juwanna Mann
Insulting enough when it was released in 2002, it’s even worse today. Miguel A. Nunez plays a super-arrogant pro basketball star who loses it and strips on court after being ejected from a game. Thanks to his harsh reputation, he’s suspended and his endorsements dry up so in desperation, he disguises himself as a woman to join their league.
We thus have the “comedy” of a guy in the women’s’ locker room, bonding with a female teammate (Vivica A. Fox), avoiding a leering suitor and learning to be a real team player and not a showboater. It’s as bad as it sounds with lots of shots at a guy dressed as a gal (and the illusion not even that convincing) and such and you can imagine the outrage with the transgender community today as it does no favors to the basketball world either by making it seem okay to get away with anything to win.
1. Ready to Rumble
The idiocy of WCW can be shown in this 2000 “comedy.” You think Vince McMahon wouldn’t leap at the chance for a major studio to finance a movie showcasing WWE? Instead, WCW just made themselves look foolish in this as David Arquette and Scott Caan play a pair of super wrestling fans heartbroken when their idol, the “King” (Oliver Platt) is double-crossed and crushed in the ring. So they take it upon themselves to train him for a big comeback. The big issue is that the movie presents the two as being so stupid that they think wrestling is real and by extension, anyone who cheers for it is much the same way. We have big cameos from real WCW stars like Sting, Goldberg and others but the focus remains Platt battling Diamond Dallas Page in a triple-decker cage amid antics of multiple crotch-kicks, dressing in drag and the two leads getting free stuff by sticking their fingers up their butts. Really.
Of course, the real damage was that, intending to get some free publicity, Vince Russo thought it’d be a great idea to have Arquette become the WCW champion for real, a move that pretty much pushed the company past the point of no return. Thus, not only was this movie trashed by critics and a bomb at the box office but it also helped push WCW further into the grave, making its legacy one wrestling fans hate on multiple levels.
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