Throughout the 1990s, Hollywood gave us an abundance of sports movies that spanned every major popular sport. Baseball and football were well-represented, of course, but we also saw plenty of movies that attempted to portray what life was like for athletes in less-popular sports like golf (Tin Cup), track and field (Without Limits), and even bowling (Kingpin).
The look and feel of a sports movie is always important in relationship to its quality. For instance, there are few things worse than watching a sh*tty baseball movie that looks like it was produced by a team of people who don’t watch baseball. But when a sports movie is produced well, there is not a single genre that’s more entertaining, and if Hollywood does a good job with it, the film will have at least one moment that sticks with you for years to come.
Since the decade gave us so many classic titles, I thought it would be fun to revisit some of the all-time greatest athletic feats from our favorite 1990s sports movies. Here are 11 such moments:
The Mighty Ducks (1992): The Flying V
It’s been 24 years since Gordon Bombay was forced by his boss to coach a youth hockey team as punishment for drunk driving in a real movie plot that exists. People are still debating to this day whether the movie holds up, but one thing that cannot be debated is that the Flying V is the most innovative sporting move specifically designed for a movie this side of Daniel-san’s Crane Kick. Granted, the logistics of it would probably not work in real life without either the opposing team simply stick-checking the lead player if he had the puck or the offensive team being whistled off-sides if he didn’t, but the details were never that important. It just looked cool.
White Men Can’t Jump (1992): Or Can They?
For Sidney Deane and Billy Hoyle, whose personalities were complete polar opposites, it was, perhaps, their differences that made them a perfect tandem on the basketball court. Deane would rather look good and lose, while Hoyle would rather look bad and win. Deane could “hear Jimi,” while Hoyle could only “listen.” Deane could jump, while Hoyle…well, you know. Hoyle’s lack of jumping ability caused him plenty of grief throughout the film — and $5,000, for that matter — but when given a chance to redeem himself, he proved once and for all that white men can jump.
A League of their Own (1992): Kit Keller’s Inside-The-Park Homer
This debate will rage on until the end of time, or, at least until I stop bringing it up. Did Dottie Hinson drop the ball on purpose? I still contend that she did not, but based on my social-media poll results that I continue to track in a dynamic spreadsheet, my opinion remains in the 1 percentile.
Rudy (1993): Rudy Busts Through The O-Line
This scene had everything. It had a dad finally coming around and showing pride in his son. It had Charles S. Dutton clapping and Vince Vaughn yelling awkwardly. It had Jon Favreau screaming, “who’s the wild man now?!” in a line that probably should have been scrapped during editing. And it had the entire Notre Dame student-body chanting Rudy’s name in unison. Then, to top it off, our hero made a game-ending tackle in the backfield and got carried off the field while the most inspirational music that has ever been composed played in the background. Commence goosebumps.
The Sandlot (1993): Smalls Hits A Homer
This movie may get a little heavy-handed with the 1960s nostalgia, yet it still remains universally loved by all. Would small towns in the ’60s coordinate elaborate fireworks displays that would light up a night sky to the point where kids could play baseball? Probably not, but we can imagine that they did. Here, our beloved hero Scott Smalls had only been playing unorganized baseball for a very short time, but he still managed to smack a line-drive home run over the fence like he had been playing ball all his life. He was quite the natural sultan of swat.
Rookie of the Year (1993): Henry Floats It
When the physically-awkward klutz Henry Rowengartner lost the ability to throw his devastating fastball after slipping on a baseball (again) during a key moment of a late-season baseball game, he was left with two choices: He could summon his manager and tell him about it — not a chance — or he could take his mom’s advice and “float it.” Sure, he was facing the best hitter in baseball, but the batter’s overconfidence would be no match to Henry’s 35-mph eephus.
Angels In The Outfield (1994): Matthew McConaughey Defies Physics
Two decades before he was winning major acting awards, McConaughey was the starting centerfielder for a fledgling Angels squad that was in desperate need of a spark. He provided it by making an insane over-the-shoulder catch that would have made Willie Mays jealous. I don’t often speak in superlatives, but it was definitely alright.
Tin Cup (1996): Roy McAvoy Finally Clears The Water On 18
After Roy McAvoy carded a 12 on the last hole of the US Open, his girlfriend Molly summed it up best: “[Sure, but] it was the greatest 12 of all time. No one’s going to remember the Open 10 years from now, who won. But they’ll remember your 12! My God, Roy. It was…well it was immortal!”
Molly was the best.
Space Jam (1996): MJ Dunks From The Half-Court Line
Looking back 20 years later, this incredible feat by MJ seems unrealistic. Never in history, as far as I know, has a player ever dunked a ball from the half-court line. Aaron Gordon is working on it, I’m sure. But the way MJ made it look so effortless, especially considering he was being guarded by aliens who were twice his size, will forever make this one of the finest athletic achievements in sports-movie history.
Any Given Sunday (1999): Time To Add Up All Those Inches
This scene wasn’t exactly an athletic feat, but Coach D’Amato’s words remain one of the more inspirational speeches to a sports team that you’ll ever hear. He started off by saying, “I don’t know what to say, really.” Then he proceeded to talk mostly uninterrupted for four-straight minutes. “Life is a game of inches. The inches we need are everywhere…that’s what living is, the six inches in front of your face.” Wait, what?
Varsity Blues (1999): Billy Bob Destroys Three Linemen
Are you capable of hearing this Foo Fighters song without picturing Billy Bob getting into a 3-point stance and then barreling through multiple offensive linemen all by himself? Well you’re not alone. In fact, studies show that listening to “My Hero” during a workout increases performance by 118 percent, and 100 percent of all marathon runners have it on their playlist. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to go out and block a punt right now. Watch me as I go.