Sports Films

Since the start of the motion picture industry in the United States, sports have been a frequent subject for the movies. Hollywood has produced hundreds of films about sports for the same reason that synergistic ties have been established between American movies and other cultural forms, including theater, literature, fashion, television, advertising, and toys. From the documentary-style "news films" of major prizefights and the World Series that were an important part of the early film industry to recent blockbusters such as Space Jam (1996), Jerry Maguire (1996), The Waterboy (1998), The Rookie (2002), and Friday Night Lights (2004), collaboration with sports has helped sell the movies.

Sports are rule-governed contests of physical skill in which humans compete against one another. In the sports film such athletic contests play a central role in defining the main characters. The Hollywood sports film in particular has two more important conventions: a utopian view of the world which assumes that anyone who works hard, is determined, and plays by the rules will succeed; and a need for plausibility based on resemblance to the actual sports world that qualifies its utopian outlook with the complexities of social difference. Put more simply, in their attempt to portray plausible athletes and sporting events, Hollywood films often include historical forces that complicate their narratives, which are otherwise focused on individual characters as causal agents.

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