Great sporting achievements can have a gripping tale behind them, and over the years filmmakers have used these as inspiration for various sporting movies said to be “based on a true story.” In many cases, there’s a certain amount of artistic license taken to streamline the narrative and make it more entertaining. And sometimes real-life tales are even used as the impetus for a whole new fictionalized set of characters. Here’s a look at ten of the most memorable sports movies based – sometimes loosely – on actual sporting events.
10. Invincible (2006)
In Ericson Core’s 2006 movie Invincible, Mark Wahlberg portrays 30-year-old Vince Papale, who goes from working at a local bar to playing for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. Set in 1976, the film shows the Eagles under new coach Dick Vermeil (played by Greg Kinnear), who holds an open tryout to help break a succession of losing seasons and so appease angry fans. Papale stands out from the rest of the rabble and makes the team. The movie shows Papale scoring a touchdown, which did actually happen – although it was ultimately ruled out. It also suggests that Papale didn’t play football apart from in high school. In fact, he played professional and semi-pro football and was invited for a private tryout session with the Eagles. Still, true to Papale’s real-life story, the film documents the inspirational tale of the oldest non-kicking rookie without college football experience to compete in the NFL. In 1978 Papale’s team named him as its “Man of the Year.”
9. 61* (2001)
Billy Crystal directed the 2001 HBO film 61*, which tells the story of the pursuit by Roger Maris (played by Barry Pepper) and Mickey Mantle (portrayed by Thomas Jane) of Babe Ruth’s Major League record of 60 home runs in a single season. The asterisk in the title is to signify baseball commissioner (and Babe Ruth ghostwriter) Ford Frick’s decree that unless the record was beaten within 154 games, which was the length of the season during Ruth’s day, the Babe’s original record would stand. Plot-wise, the movie attempts to bust the myth that Maris and Mantle were bitter rivals, when they were actually roommates and good friends. In addition, the film documents Mantle’s hard-partying off-field lifestyle. Towards the end, Mantle ends up in hospital with a hip infection, and he’s happy when Maris breaks the record – during the last and 162nd game of the season – instead of him.