Charles Thursby has identified the main problem with sporting films, namely that you cannot suspend disbelief that the actor is the athlete. Some have crossed the barrier successfully, notably Robert di Niro in Raging Bull or Russell Crowe in The Cinderella Man, but the boxing genre works better where a boxer Primo Carnera plays alongside Humphrey Bogart and Rod Steiger in the The Harder They Fall, a cynical look at the not so noble art. Other attempts as sporting portrayal borders on the hilarious – for example, the French crooner Charles Aznavour as an Olympic runner in The Games.
Documentary is the best option and Senna is brilliant, so much better than Rush. Eighth Man Down is a fine account of the throwing of the 1919 World Series by the Boston White Sox, featuring David Strathairn and John Cusack. The Australian film The Club depicts the politics of a Aussie Rules team with the legend, the administrator and the coach all at each others’ throats.
My favourite soccer movie is The Miracle at Bern, the story of the 1954 West German World Cup Victory over the seemingly invincible Magyars, seen through the eyes of a kid whose father, rather confused, has returned as prisoner of war.
Going back a few years, I always enjoy the Arsenal Stadium Mystery with Leslie Banks and The Final Test with Jack Warner .