Malcomb column: A top 10 list for the ages

Reporter Jamey Malcomb doles out his sports movie top 10 list for folks to check out while they're stuck at home.

We’ve all had a lot more time on our hands lately. All of us are — or should be — spending a lot more time at home these days. I’m working from home, which has its drawbacks, but it also has some perks. As I write this, I’m watching one of my all-time favorites, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” — definite perk.

Something you may not know about me is I love movies. I like adventure movies, science fiction, just plain old action, some dramas and most definitely sports movies. Ohh and pretty much anything Quentin Tarantino puts out is something I’m going to see and I’m going to love.

Since we have no sports to cover or watch — ESPN and other networks are scraping the bottom of the barrel on “classic games” these days — I figure it’s about time I give you my sports movie top 10 list.

As much as Indy makes archaeology seem like an extreme sport, I’m not sure Raiders counts.

Anyway, on to the list.


Twentieth Century Fox

10. White Men Can’t Jump (1992)

This is one that went way over my head the first time I saw it, but upon a re-watch or 12, it’s really good.

Woody Harrelson stars as Billy, a gambling junkie with a good jump shot trying to hustle his way out of an enormous debt. Wesley Snipes shows up as Sidney — Billy’s rival and eventual partner playing basketball on the outdoor courts in Los Angeles.

Rosie Perez is Billy’s trivia-obsessed girlfriend, Gloria, who is determine to appear on “Jeopardy!” I won’t call this a “star-making” role for Perez — that happened in Spike Lee’s masterpiece “Do the Right Thing” — but for me she is the linchpin of the whole movie.

United Artists

9. Rocky IV (1985)

There are more quality movies in the Rocky series, but a lot like "The Karate Kid," I must have watched this one on a weekly basis for years on end.


Rocky has to fight for his life against the menacing, steroid-taking Ivan Drago in Moscow at the height of the Cold War. All this is after Drago kills Rocky’s rival-turned-best-friend Apollo Creed in the ring — in case you didn’t know, it was an “exhibition!”

Also, Rocky single-handedly wins the Cold War.

Thanks, Rock.

MTV Films

8. Varsity Blues (1999)

All together now!

“I-I .. .don’t wawnt ... YER LIFE!”

This is definitely not a great movie, but what do you expect from a late-1990s MTV production?


James Van Der Beek — I still have trouble not calling him “Dawson” — stars as benchwarmer-turned-starter Jonathan “Mox” Moxon who leads the West Canaan Coyotes to a string of wins and ousts a tyrannical coach. Jon Voight reaches Bond villain levels of evil as coach Bud Kilmer.

For some reason, there’s a scene where one of the players’ teachers moonlights as an exotic dancer and another involving a “whipped cream bikini.” I think “MTV Films” says it all.

Also, not for kids.

Universal Pictures

7. Happy Gilmore (1996)

This is about as close to a hockey movie as you’ll get from me.

What do you want? I grew up in North Carolina. We play basketball, not hockey.

Adam Sandler stars as the titular character who has an amazing slapshot, but has trouble on skates. Said slapshot translates to 400-yard drives, hilarity ensues.


I remember one night when I was home from college. I got home late from a night out with friends and someone had rented the movie.

“Somebody loves me,” I remember thinking.

I popped it in the VCR and laughed nonstop for 90 minutes.

I may or may not have had an adult beverage or eight out with my friends.

Twentieth Century Fox

6. The Sandlot (1993)

How can you not love “The Sandlot”?

It’s a fun, nostalgic romp through baseball in the summer with your friends.


Scottie Smalls is the new kid in town and hyper-athletic Benny Rodriguez takes him under his wing and brings him to play baseball in their southern California neighborhood.

The kids’ antics are charming and funny, if a little cliched, but I remember sitting down at 16 thinking this was going to be a stupid kids movie.

I walked out thinking it was the best movie I ever saw.

Reality is probably somewhere in between. I still can’t think of too many better ways to spend a couple hours in the house than watching this movie.

Herndale Pictures

5. Hoosiers (1986)

Gene Hackman stars as Norman Dale, a discredited, washed up coach hired to teach and coach basketball in Hickory, Indiana.

Looking back, this one doesn’t hold up as well as some of the others. Particularly problematic are the glaring racial issues. Tiny Hickory — an all-white team from farm country — faces off against the faceless, mostly African-American team from South Bend Central.


That being said, the scenes with Coach Dale working with his players to rally together and form a cohesive unit that can contend for the Indiana state title are unbeatable.

This one will suck me in just about every time, and I can’t say I don’t occasionally shed a tear when they run the “ol picket fence” to open up Jimmy Chitwood for the game-winning shot.

Paramount Pictures

4. The Longest Yard (1974)

This might be the first legitimately great movie on this list.

Burt Reynolds in all his 1970s glory stars as former pro football star Paul “Wrecking” Crewe sent to prison for stealing his girlfriend’s sports car and leading the police on a high-speed chase through Palm Beach.

Crewe is pressured into coaching and playing against the maniacal warden’s semi-pro team of guards.

I don’t want to give out too many details for those who haven’t seen it, but the movie is funny, touching and the football scenes hold up 46 years later.

Columbia Pictures

3. The Karate Kid (1984)

I must have watched this movie at least once a week from the time we got it on VHS until sometime in the early 1990s. I don’t even know where to start, but you know the story. Daniel LaRusso moves to California and immediately angers the local “Cobra Kai” karate students — who all inexplicably have matching dirt bikes.

Pat Morita shows up as Mr. Miyagi to train Daniel-san to take on the Cobra Kais at the All-Valley Tournament and you can guess how it goes from there.

It’s a great movie and I’ll sit down to watch it about any time it’s on.

Orion Pictures

2. Caddyshack (1980)

Caddyshack remains one of my all-time favorite movies.

It’s perfect. Danny Noonan is slacking his way through a summer job caddying at Bushwood Country Club and meets an insane cast of goofballs along the way.

To this day, I don’t think I can play a round of golf without quoting some part of this movie, whether I’m playing alone or not.

Yes. I do talk to myself like Carl Speckler on the golf course. Deal with it.

TriStar Pictures

1. The Natural (1984)

I don’t know if this is the first sports movie I ever watched, but it is the first one I remember.

Dad had just purchased our first VCR, and he made a huge deal about this movie.

“Jamey,” he said, “Come sit down here. I want you to watch this movie with me.”

Robert Redford is Roy Hobbs, a “natural” at baseball with a singular goal of being the “best there ever was in this game.”

Hobbs is sidetracked after being wounded by a woman obsessed with killing baseball’s best player and doesn’t make his major league debut for another 20 years.

There were whole sections of the plot that I didn’t understand during that first viewing, but to this day anytime I hear Randy Newman’s Oscar-nominated score, I get goosebumps.

I immediately turn into that 8-year-old boy sitting next to my dad in my mini-recliner, on the edge of my seat waiting for Roy to hit his next homer.

Sports documentaries

I also love sports documentaries and there are some fantastic ones out there, I just felt they were a little out of place in my sports movie top 10 list.

As you can imagine, however, I have some thoughts.

Das Films

“When We Were Kings,” the 1996 documentary about the Rumble in the Jungle — Muhammad Ali’s 1974 fight against George Foreman in Zaire — is absolutely fascinating.

1994’s “Hoop Dreams” is also a great watch and is always worth your time.

In addition, there hasn’t been one of ESPN’s “30-for-30” series that I’ve watched and haven’t found engaging and thought provoking. My personal favorite is “Without Bias.” It looks at the life and death of Maryland basketball star Len Bias. His death had a profound effect on me as a 9-year-old and I still get chills when I hear his name mentioned.

Another late addition to this list is the Michael Jordan documentary series “The Last Dance.” I watched the first two episodes Sunday, April 19 and realized I will have to block off two hours for the next four Sundays.

Jamey Malcomb is a reporter for the Pine Journal. He can be reached at .

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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