Given the great prominence sports holds in the public imagination, it should come as no surprise that that passion should bleed into the world of fiction. These athletes are among the great fictional athletes of all time.
Far and away the most famous athlete in cinema, Rocky has the special distinction of being arguably the best sports movie of all time, being the extremely rare sports film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. The character catapulted Sylvester Stallone to superstardom. Rocky Balboa is an icon of the city of Philadelphia, which has installed a statue of the famous fictional boxer at the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, which Rocky ran up in one of the most famous montages in 70s cinema.
Since we mentioned the greatest fictional male boxer of all-time, we should give a quick shout out to his female counterpart. Million Dollar Baby was, like Rocky, a critical hit, with Maggie Fitzgerald, a classic cautionary tale of ambition gone too far.
Based on the real story of the Washington Redskin’s replacement squad who defeated real NFL players during a player’s strike, The Replacements is one of those classic so-bad-it’s-good films, which is probably a status its cast of castoff misfits-turned-football players would’ve been fine with. Leading this squad is quarterback Shane Falco, who embodies his team’s misfit offbeat us-against-the-world mentality.
An aging star looks to brave personal injury and setback and leaves his mark with one final burst of heroism. The home run hit by Roy Hobbs at the end of The Natural is one of the most iconic (and parodied) in the history of sports films.
Before there was Michael Vick or Baker Mayfield, there was “Steamin’” Willie Beamen. Any Given Sunday examines the changing nature of football, pro sports, and American values, and Willie Beamen is at the very center of it. Contrasted with “Cap” Rooney, an aging straight-edged legendary quarterback, Beamen is a symbol of new athletes in our media-saturated world – brash, individualistic, and eager to promote his brand. The two represent two ways of approaching sports and, indeed, life.
These athletes represent some of the most interesting fictional athletes in cinema, capturing different ways in which we imagine athletes and ourselves.