Leave the @!$#&^% kids at home: 15 proudly profane sports movies
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1. Bull Durham (1988)
Writer-director Ron Shelton has always championed outsiders and irreverent fringe-dwellers of the sporting world, and thus has little tolerance for the golden-hued sentimental bullshit that clogs the majority of films on the subject. Countless Field Of Dreams clones spoon-feed audiences the usual squeaky-clean pabulum about America's pastime, but there's only one Bull Durham, which loves the game just as much, but strips away the tacky mythology and tells it like it is. That means hanky-panky and trash talk in the locker room, and grizzled veterans like Kevin Costner's Crash Davis, who immediately knows that when his AAA contract gets bought out, that means he has to "hold some flavor-of-the-month's dick in the bus leagues."
2. Any Given Sunday (1999)
Oliver Stone took on Vietnam in the hysterically overwrought Platoon, and the media in the even more hysterically overwrought Natural Born Killers. In the same way, he again merged the chocolate sweetness of hysteria with the peanut-butter tanginess of overwrought filmmaking for his big-balled football epic Any Given Sunday. So, football fans, what's the dirty truth behind your blessed game? If the first 15 minutes of Any Given Sunday are to be believed, it involves projectile vomiting, projectile shitting, projectile bloody-tooth spitting, and America's sweetheart Cameron Diaz saying "fuck" a lot. And Stone, a true-blue vulgarian known for treating restraint like a wet-nap at Famous Dave's, doesn't stop there. Why stop with a few gratuitous shots of Elizabeth Berkeley's crotch when you can have twice as many shots of big, fat football cocks flopping around the locker room? If you're going to cast walking Viagra ad James Woods as a team physician, you might as well give him classy dialogue like "Stay here and get butt-fucked by 12 Neanderthals."
3. BASEketball (1998)
Nobody does proudly profane quite like Trey Parker and Matt Stone, though they merely star in this 1998 flick about a quasi-sport that blends baseball and driveway basketball. David Zucker, the man behind the Naked Gun series, and more importantly, the inventor of the game of baseketball, is largely responsible for this movie. Regardless, it feels like a Parker/Stone joint: There's titillation (via cheerleaders who are clad in nightgowns at most, and lingerie at the least), locker-room scenes with leg-long penises, and, of course, foul language. There's plenty of potty-mouth in BASEketball, thanks to the game's allowing for psyche-outs: "We've gotta say totally fucked-up shit to make sure the other guy misses." That means everything's fair game, from "I fucked your sister" to detailing the rape of your opponent's dead grandmother. And who can forget "Thanks a lot, Dr. Dickhead! You totally fucked me there!"
4. The Bad News Bears (1976)
At heart, Michael Ritchie's 1976 slob-sports classic Bad News Bears is so good-natured that it could almost be an After School Special. A ragtag bunch of losers with elementary-school educations—because they're all in sixth grade—learns to work together as a team and play baseball well enough to almost beat the hated Little League Yankees. It's a winning underdog comedy about the emotional geometry of suburbia amid a '70s culture of divorce and malaise. It's also so, so potty-mouthed. At one point, one of the Bears refers to his own team as "a bunch of Jews, spics, niggers, pansies, and a booger-eating moron," and he ends the movie by telling the Yankees, "You can take your trophy and shove it straight up your ass." This isn't a "look at the cute kids talking dirty" movie, it's a "kids today are already corrupted little adults" movie. The vulgarity adds verisimilitude.
5. Cobb (1994)
Another Ron Shelton film, Cobb, is even nastier than his Bull Durham: It's a biopic on one of baseball's all-time greats that seems intent on driving his Hall Of Fame reputation into the ground. Cobb paints Ty Cobb as a miserable bastard who tries to bully a writer into printing the legend, and ignoring the abusive lout in front of him.
6. White Men Can't Jump (1992)
And in White Men Can't Jump, Shelton leaves the professionals behind for the shadow league of street basketball, where players are often as creative with their mouths as they are with the ball. Talking smack isn't sporting, but in Shelton's world (and the real one), it's a colorfully ugly part of the game.
7. Cockfighter (1974)
There's really no way to make a movie about the seedy world of underground cockfighting tournaments without getting raw, but what's striking about Monte Hellman's involving portrait of loners and outcasts is the cloud of bitter nostalgia hanging over the proceedings. Cockfighting ain't what it used to be, and erstwhile old-timer Warren Oates is having a hell of a time keeping up with the dirty tricks and double-dealing required to stay on top of the game and become Cockfighter Of The Year. Hellman and screenwriter Charles Willeford, who wrote the novel from which the film is taken, don't pass any moral judgments on the cruelty of forcing animals to harm each other for gambling purposes—which, for the record, is very, very wrong—but they do cast a sympathetic eye toward people who sully themselves by entering into business deals with criminals. The problem with being a cockfighting fan is that in order to indulge your passion, you have to deal with the kind of sleazeballs who like cockfighting.
8. Death Race 2000 (1975)
The favorite sport of America's totalitarian future in Death Race 2000 makes monster-truck rallies look like Amnesty International-hosted tea parties. "Gallant" motormen Frankenstein (David Carradine) and Machine Gun Joe Viterbo (an exceedingly meat-headed Sylvester Stallone) run ahead of the pack in the annual Transcontinental Road Race, won not just with speed, but with points earned for vehicular homicide. Senior citizens count for 100 points each, so an old-folks home lines 'em up for Carradine to plow through in an annual "euthanasia day" tradition. Newscaster Junior Bruce (Don Steele) covers the race with a grin that may well be the most punchable thing in cinema history, and his colleague Grace Pander (Joyce Jameson) interviews the overjoyed widow of the race's first "score." The race's popularity points to a sickness that goes beyond mere sadism; as Frankenstein tells his standard-issue blonde dollop of a navigator, winning it is "the only standard of excellence left."
9. The Longest Yard (1974)
Everybody who's seen the original The Longest Yard remembers Burt Reynolds tooling around in his badass Maserati, on the run from the cops, but not as many remember that he's on the lam because he just beat up his girlfriend. Similarly, while everyone remembers the high-spirited slapstick hijinks of the movie's climactic football game between prison guards and prisoners, few recall the movie's bleak worldview, which is all about who can exploit whom, and who can inflict the most damage along the way. The Longest Yard is one tough sports comedy, full of blood, broken bones, and an unceasing stream of foul language. Its sharp edges are meant to cut.
10. Major League (1989)
It takes less than five minutes for the bad words to start flying in this tale of the hapless Cleveland Indians and their new owner, who will do anything to bring attendance down so that she's allowed to move the team to Miami. (For those keeping score, the Florida Marlins didn't exist until 1993.) "These guys don't look too fucking good," one construction worker tells another. "They're shitty," says the subtitle as a pair of Japanese groundskeepers talk about the team. The rags-to-riches element and the rekindled romance between Tom Berenger and Rene Russo make Major League a heartwarming film, but writer-director David S. Ward does a good job of letting ballplayers talk like ballplayers—at least in the four-letter-word department. Potty-mouths can be found in the library, homes, and even the broadcast booth, but the cussing on the field produces some of the movie's most memorable lines, including the manager's assessment of Wesley Snipes' character, Willie Mays Hayes: "You may run like Mays, but you hit like shit."
11. Murderball (2005)
"We're not going for a hug. We're going for a fucking gold medal." That quote by paraplegic wheelchair-rugby (i.e., murderball) player Scott Hogsett just about sums up the hardcore attitude of the sport's competitors, who spend much of the documentary trying to knock each other's spinal-injured asses out of their seats. Led by Mark Zupan—who, with his tats, shaved head, and goatee, not to mention his CO2-tank-propelled wheelchair stunt in Jackass Number Two, is a punk icon—the murderball squad fights, sends disabled people sprawling helplessly on gym floors, then hurls obscenities at them. Oh, the team also gets their collective freak on: Members talk openly about the mechanics of quadriplegic sex, even to chicks at bars they're trying to get in the sack. But the most profane part of Murderball might seem to be how the players exploit their disabilities for laughs. Most people are likely to agree with the woman pranked by a guy missing all his limbs and stuffed in a small box: "That was real fucking funny."
12. North Dallas Forty (1979)
Where today's sports films are informed largely by childhood fantasies of athletes as golden gods, Ted Kotcheff's raunchy, knowing football comedy North Dallas Forty takes its cues from the real-life experiences of Peter Gent, a former Dallas Cowboys receiver who used his career as the raw material for the semi-autobiographical novel that inspired North Dallas Forty. The eternally rumpled Nick Nolte, who seems to have been born with a hangover and a five o' clock shadow, is perfect as Gent's surrogate, a battered veteran held together by painkillers, booze, and steely determination. North Dallas Forty explores its seedy gridiron milieu with candor, wit, and clear-eyed, richly earned cynicism. Forty depicts athletes as the horny, drunken, proudly hedonistic, ferociously flawed human beings they are rather than the one-dimensional heroes we want and sometimes even need them to be.
13. Raging Bull (1980)
Nearly every scene in Raging Bull, Martin Scorsese's biopic of middleweight boxing champ Jake LaMotta, features the foulest of foul language, distributed with machine gun-frequency. But even if it didn't, it wouldn't exactly be an inspiring bit of kid-friendly uplift. Adapting LaMotta's memoir of the long, dirty road to his championship and the personal toll it exacted, Scorsese and star Robert De Niro deliver a warts-and-all—mostly warts, in fact—picture of a man whose drive to succeed left no room for happiness. Their LaMotta is simultaneously singular in his self-destructiveness, and a product of a particular time and place, a man who uses Bronx-instilled street smarts and brute drive to achieve the American Dream while giving little thought to the consequences.
14. Semi-Tough (1977)
Early in Michael Ritchie's riotous pigskin laugher Semi-Tough, deceptively sly football player Burt Reynolds tells a horrified publisher that he and his colleagues could care less about sports; they're in the game mainly because they enjoy "showering with niggers." Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson play teammates, buddies, and roommates battling for the affection of liberated '70s gal Jill Clayburgh. Alas, the path to Clayburgh's heart winds through an EST-like New Age course led by Burt Convy, a New Age con man prone to shouting things like "Assholes! Ass! Holes! You're all assholes, every one of you. Your lives don't work!" at his bullied, gullible acolytes. Semi-Tough is adult both in its language and its surprisingly mature approach to New Age fads, romantic relationships, and shifting concepts of masculinity. But it's also fueled by a defiantly adolescent contempt for authority, conventional and otherwise. The new Will Ferrell comedy Semi-Pro borrows from the title of Semi-Tough and the plot of Slap Shot without retaining the testicular fortitude or guts of either.
15. Slap Shot (1977)
George Roy Hill's 1977 cult classic Slap Shot is in many ways the quintessential dirty sports comedy. Nancy Dowd's script set a new standard for wall-to-wall profanity; binge drinking; lovingly depicted violence of the hockey-player-on-opponent, hockey-player-on-fan, and hockey player-on teammate variety; impromptu ice-rink stripping; and all-around bad behavior. Reuniting with his Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid director, Paul Newman radiates rakish charm as a long-in-the-tooth player-manager who breathes new blood into his sorry team by recruiting a trio of feral brutes (stick-wielding folk heroes the Hanson Brothers) to physically assault the opposing team. Led by its standout trio of dorky psychopaths, Newman's motley assemblage of not-so-loveable losers quickly becomes the meanest, dirtiest, brawlingest team in the league. This lets the film to simultaneously satirize and satiate hockey fans' insatiable bloodlust, while spoofing professional sports' tendency to appeal to mankind's basest instincts. (Blood good! Home team smash strangers from other city!) A direct-to-video sequel starring one of the lesser Baldwins followed a mere quarter of a century later. 2002's Slap Shot 2: Breaking The Ice was poorly received, but at least it boasted an R for "Strong Language" (including 85 "fucks," according to the good folks over at the Internet Movie Database) and not the chicken-shit, pussy-ass PG-13 most wimpy fucking sports comedies are saddled with these days.