My love of women’s sports movies is well-documented, but after watching Gracie the other day (the verdict? It was just okay) I thought I’d compile a list of some of my favorite moments in female sports movies.
Because when the world is stacked against you, and you just can’t muster the energy to finish that term paper/powerpoint presentation/roofing job, there’s nothing better than a rousing, inspiring tale of female empowerment through athletics! Especially when it’s accompanied by a side-dish of snark (see Bring It On) or major attitude (see anything Michelle Rodriguez is in). And after you’ve watched a blind ice skater kick some ass on the ice rink, suddenly your own obstacles don’t seem so insurmountable, now do they?
This list isn’t meant to represent all female sports movies, and I’m sure many of you would choose different moments from the same movies as your favorites. But this is my list, damnit, and there’s plenty of room for you to add your $.02 in the comments.
So here are my nine favorite moments, in descending order with accompanying clips.
9. Blue Crush (2002) — Jet ski surfing
Eden (Michelle Rodriguez) pulls Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) far out to sea on a jet ski so she can prepare for an upcoming surf competition by riding really big waves, and for a few brief, beautiful moments, it’s just two women against the massive power of the ocean — until a wave comes along and crushes one of them. Hey, no pain, no gain, right?
8. Cutting Edge (1992) — The pamchenko twist
Prickly figure skater Kate (Moira Kelly) and former hockey player Doug (D.B. Sweeney) team up to compete as pair skaters and shock the world with their last-minute execution of a dangerous new move called the pamchenko twist (while falling in love, of course). Second place goes to the “toe pick!” scene (if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know what I mean).
7. Girlfight (2000) — Diana (Michelle Rodriguez) beats her boyfriend in the boxing ring
In this low-budget female Rocky that launched Michelle Rodriguez’s career, disenfranchised teenager Diana (Rodriguez) defies her father’s wishes — and the prevailing belief that boxing is a man’s sport — to become a boxer. When Diana’s boxer boyfriend Adrian (Santiago Douglas) makes the fatal mistake of questioning her ability to go very far because of her gender, she tells him, “I love you” — right before beating him in the boxing ring and wounding his pride forever.
6. Center Stage (2000) – The last dance
Amanda (Jody Sawyer), one of the 12 teenagers admitted to study at the prestigious American Ballet Academy in New York, is told after months of working her ass off that she just doesn’t have the right body type and training to make it as a professional ballerina. Meanwhile, she’s trying to decide between her feelings for the ballet company’s playboy star and a fellow (male) student. So what does she do? Shocks the conservative ballet world by starring with the two men in a risque, modern ballet that earns her a standing ovation, and a ballerina position. Bonus points for the red outfit in the last dance sequence.
5. Ice Castles (1978) — Skating blind
It’s easy to pick the best moment of this classic film about a professional ice skater who loses her eyesight: it’s when the newly blind Alexis (Lynn-Holly Johnson) steps out on the ice to compete — accompanied by the now-classic song “Through the Eyes of Love” — and proceeds to deliver a flawless performance, only to trip over roses thrown on the ice by fans.
4. Stick It (2006) — The bra strap routine
When a gymnast on her team gets unfairly marked down on a flawless routine for letting a bra strap accidentally show, reformed bad girl Haley (Missy Peregrym) shows her team spirit by deliberately pulling both of her bra straps out of her leotard, and then scratching (her routine, not her arm). Naturally, the rest of the gymnasts follow suit, because who doesn’t love a reformed bad girl?
3. Bend It Like Beckham (2002) — Jess (Parminder Nagra) scores the winning goal
There are too many good moments to count in this movie — the scene where Jules (Keira Knightley) first approaches Jess (Parminder Nagra) in the park, the clubbing scene, Jules’ mom hilarious attempts to find out if her daughter is a lesbian, and Jess finally standing up to her father and telling him not to hold her back just because he wasn’t allowed to play — but it all culminates in Jess ducking out of her sister’s wedding to make the big play in the finals and win the game.
2. Love and Basketball (2000) — Playing for love
This terrific film about a male and female basketball player trying to balance their love for each other with their love for the game has more good scenes than I can count, but my favorite is the end of the movie where (spoiler warning!) we see Monica (Sanaa Lathan) playing in the WNBA while her former-NBA-hotshot husband Quincy (Omar Epps) waves from the sidelines holding their baby girl. Since there’s no clip of that scene available, I thought I’d show my next favorite — the scene set to out singer Meshell Ndegeocello’s beautiful song “Fool of Me” in which Monica and Quincy play a late-night game of one-on-one with escalating stakes. It might seem a little cheesy on its own, but in the context of the movie, it really works.
1. Bring It On (2000) — Missy (Eliza Dushku) tries out for the cheerleading team
Eliza Dushku flips off the snobby cheerleaders — literally and figuratively — while wearing a chain wallet and an armband tattoo (a fake one, but who cares?), and forever cements her status as a lesbian favorite.
Agree? Disagree? Bring it!