Where the sports rivals aren't complete d-bags

Tailing on this thread, in every sports movie I can think of off hand the opposing player/team is not only just an adversary, but pretty much evil incarnate. At best they’re smug and mocking of the upstart protagonist/s, at worst they’ll spend the length of the movie kicking kittens to prove how much they need to be vanquished.

What are some examples of the sports movies where the opponent is morally neutral, or even honorable?

To clarify: let’s keep this to FICTIONAL sports rivals – whatever we may all feel about the Patriots. :slight_smile:

A League of Their Own. Of course, that’s because they were all girls. :wink:

Also, I think Apollo Creed in the Rocky films was pretty decent overall.

In White Men Can’t Jump, the opponents are usually the ones who are tricked and conned. And the other team gets beaten up viciously in Slap Shot.

I haven’t seen it in ages, but I think in Tin Cup, David Simms is a decent character.

And in Das Wunder von Bern (The Miracle of Bern) the Hungarian team is in no way portrayed negatively.

In Mystery, Alaska, the opposing team was a regular NHL team. They were portrayed as being a whole lot better than the Heroes of the movie, but they didn’t go out of their way to demonize them.

But not the last one. Those suckers were evil incarnate.

*Jim Carr: Andre “Poodle” Lussier, defense. Andre, as you know, has been living in semi-seclusion in Northern Quebec ever since the unfortunate Denny Pratt tragedy.
Morris Wanchuk: Not Poodle.
Jim Carr: And from Mile 40, Saskatchewan, where he now runs a donut shop, number 10, former penalty-minute record holder for the years 1960 to 1968 inclusive, Gilmore Tuttle. *

Been a while for me too, but as I recall David Simms (assume that was Don Johnson’s character) was an arrogant prick, though not outright evil.

Yup, though you can’t say, they didn’t have it coming.

I only remember a couple of scenes well, so I might be totally wrong about the character … was he a prick in general or just towards his opponent (after they became romantic rivals)?

Some more movies:

In For Love of the Game, Costner definitely has no evil rival, there is no evil anywhere, unless we go meta and consider romantic sports movies an evil per se.

And while Invictus isn’t in essence a sports film (just like “Das Wunder von Bern”), sports is the carrier of the message and the rival teams are just opponents, not nazi terrorists from hell.

And the only thing evil in The Legend of Bagger Vance is the movie itself.

Another portrait of healthy rivalry in sports is Le Mans and also Grand Prix.

Georgia Tech in Rudy – not fictional, but so what.

A lot of your football movies probably won’t have this, especially if the movie focuses more on the team than the owners or some championship. For example, *Invincible *- the other teams were just teams that the Eagles played; some might have been rivals, but none were evil. Same with *Rudy *- they were just teams to play. Any Given Sunday seems to fit, too - the owners sucked, but the opposing teams were just opposing teams.

Other football movies don’t do so well at this. The Replacements and Necessary Roughness had some douchebag teams (or teammates) that fit in the evil category, as did The Waterboy.

A lot of other sports movies might fit into this mold. Mystery, Alaska has already been mentioned, the Major Leagues are rather like this, and so on.****

In “Chariots of Fire,” one of the American racers who’s going against Eric Liddell hands him a piece of paper with an encouraging Scripture passage on it- indicating that, while we’re supposed to be rooting for the virtuous Liddell, his rival is a good person and sportsman, too.

(In fairness, I’ve read/heard many allegations that Liddell was NOT as saintly or idealistic in skipping a Sunday race as the movie indicated; and the real life American in question says he never gave Liddell any such note.)


As mentioned earlier, Bobby Jones is shown in a very favorable light in “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” and even Walter Hagen is a very likable scalawag. Robert Redford wanted to make us root for Matt Damon, but NOT by making his opponents look like heels.


I don’t know if “The Hustler” is exactly a “sports” movie, but Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) is shown as a decent man- a much better man, in most ways, than the nominal hero, Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman).

In Errol Flynn’ s “Gentleman Jim,” Jim Corbett’s rival, John L. Sullivan, is shown as a pretty good guy in his own right. Sullivan shows up at Corbett’s victory party, and offers a sincere handshake.


Damn it, why do I always get to the bottom of the thread and see that the last post has what I was going to say in it? I came in to mention Minnesota Fats. However, there’s certainly a villain in the film - Bert’s worse than most of the classic “evil” sports teams.

ETA - I’m not sure you can say Fats is a “better” man - a more controlled man, sure, a classier man, but you can’t tell what he’s thinking at all there in the end. We just saw it again last night.

Bull Durham does not portray any of the opposing teams as d-bags, or good guys for that matter.

In Mystery, Alaska, the other team is not portrayed badly, they even are shown respecting the skills of the amateurs they play against. Its the big outside corporate world that is the d-bag in the movie.

The final opponent in Hoosiers was simply portrayed as a larger school that was expected to win.

At the climax of Men With Brooms(yes, they made a curling movie!), the heroes

[spoiler]Burn their last rock. The rivals could have removed the shooter and taken the rest of the result for the win, but their skip puts the rocks back and lets the heroes take the shot again. One of the the other members of the rival teams protests, but the skip says, “Do you really want to win like that?”

I’m not sure if this sequence of events is actually true to the real rules of curling, though.[/spoiler]

If an air race is a sporting event, in “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines” the American gives up his chance to win to save the life of the Italian contestant. The winning English pilot says it was a tie and splits the prize money with the broke American. There is another pilot, played by Terry Thomas, who is a real stinker, however.

In *Bring It On *(a film I am no longer embarrased about loving), the main rivals are not only decent people, they’re also arguably better and more deserving than the protagonistas.

Hence, when the “good guys” lose, that doesn’t make for an unhappy ending. Kirsten Dunst and her team come in a strong second, and seem appropriately proud of themselves.

In the original Rollerball all of the players are essentially faceless gladiators except for the protagonist, Jonathan E. (which violates the real purpose of the game and pisses off the evil corporate overlords). The Tokyo team is a slightly more villanous bunch of evil robots who gratuitously cripple Jonathan’s friend, but most of the other teams, including New York in the finale, are merely casually brutal in a “just business, nothing personal” kind of way.

Even the douchiest of opponents can be redeemed by the slow clap.

Bert certainly is a villain- but don’t forget, he’s a villain who’s on Eddie’s side. Eddie, in his desperation, formed an alliance with an utterly amoral monster.

As for Fats… you’re right, we don’t know that he’s a genuinely good man. There probably AREN"T many saints in the world of pool. But I think Fats had a broad streak of decency. He could see both that

  1. Eddie was a brilliant player, and that he couldn’t win if Eddie was in peak form.

  2. Eddie was in over his head, that Bert was dangerous, and that Eddie would end up dead if he antagonized Bert any further. Hence, Fats warned Eddie, “Shut up and shoot pool.” Fats was trying to save Eddie’s life.

At the end, Fats SEEMED to be thinking, “What a shame- Eddie was good, REAL good, but he blew it all.”