In the meagre reality of planet earth, sports are one of the main ways that those seeking a fix of adrenaline can get their precious rush, whether they’re falling through the sky experiencing skydiving or vying for the winning goal in the self-proclaimed ‘beautiful game’ of football. Truly, nothing brings people together better than a major sporting event, with the football world cup demonstrating this every four years.
Whilst thrilling for us, to an alien race our sports may seem a little bland, bound to the limits of human capabilities and the laws of physics. For example, whilst we’d love to have zero-gravity basketball or underwater horse racing, these fantasies have to stick to the pages of fiction and the wildest imaginations of some of the world’s greatest filmmakers.
Almost exclusively taking place in science fiction movies, the very best fictional sports take advantage of the endless possibilities of the genre whilst making the game also seem genuinely enjoyable for real-life audiences. So, let’s take a look into the top ten best fictional movie sports of all time, including films from such names as George Lucas, Jerry Zucker and Takeshi Koike.
The 10 best fictional movie sports:
10. The Running Man – The Running Man (Paul Michael Glaser, 1987)
We start the list with something of a contentious addition, The Running Man game show from the film of the same name directed by Paul Michael Glaser, and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. You see, in this influential 1987 movie, the participants don’t exactly want to take part in the sport, rather they feel compelled to, with the allure of the release from incarceration being the prize.
Fighting against armed mercenaries, it is the task of Schwarzenegger’s Ben Richards, an innocent incarcerated man, to survive the dystopian game and escape to freedom.
9. Baseketball – BASEketball (David Zucker, 1998)
The South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker are known for their puerile humour, but the 1998 movie BASEketball takes things to a whole new level of absurdity. Truly hard to define, ‘Baseketball’ combines the rules of Baseball and Basketball, with a strong dose of cheating thrown in. Whilst its rules are hard to follow, the true enjoyment that comes from watching the game is enough for us to want to see it in reality.
With Stone and Parker in the lead roles, they are joined by the likes of Dian Bachar, Yasmine Bleeth, Jenny McCarthy and Robert Vaughn.
8. Skeet Surfing – Top Secret! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, 1984)
Skeet Surfing is so utterly stupid that it’s hard not to love, particularly when it’s celebrated to the tune of ‘Surfin’ USA’ by The Beach Boys with a few cheeky lyrics swapped out. Appearing in the war-movie piss-take Top Secret! from The Naked Gun filmmakers Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, the sport involves clay pigeon shooting whilst surfing.
Though this is undoubtedly ridiculous, it’s not too far from reality, with Skeet Surfing being an activity we’d love to see at the Olympics, albeit with plenty of safety procedures in place.
7. Dragon Racing – How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Dean DeBlois, 2014)
Dragons are great, there’s no doubt about it, with the fire-breathing mythical beasts being useful for epic battles, villainous intimidation and, indeed, sports. Occurring at the very start of the second film in the celebrated animated How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, the sport is somewhat comparable to something like rugby and snooker, whereby each competitor vyes for sheep dotted around the land before returning them to their own respective goal.
It’s a simple game that’s wonderfully brought to life in this beloved sequel film featuring voice work from the likes of Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Kit Harington, Jonah Hill and Cate Blanchett.
6. Rollerball – Rollerball (Norman Jewison, 1975)
Brutally believable, the game of Rollerball in Norman Jewison’s 1975 classic is a high-speed game of hockey played in a velodrome whilst wearing roller skates. This is the simplest way to describe the futuristic sport that also involves motorcycles and American football helmets, truly it is a mashup of several different concepts with an added dose of ultra-violence and the possibility of death.
The 1975 film is based around this core concept, telling the story of a world where war doesn’t exist, but the corporate world of Rollerball does.
5. Light Cycle Racing – Tron (Steven Lisberger, 1982)
If they ever found a way to make Tron work in real life, it would be a unanimous success with racing fans across the world. Originally released by Disney in 1982, the retro high-speed sport is much like the mobile game ‘Snake’, in which you travel around a board avoiding your ever-extending trail of influence. The difference in Lisberger’s film is that you’re also playing with others, each trying to block your path.
A thrilling game that is brilliantly portrayed in the original movie and its 2010 sequel, Tron remains one of Disney’s greatest ever live-action films.
4. Robot Boxing – Real Steel (Shawn Levy, 2011)
To some extent, this already exists in real life, just not to the same epic extent. Whilst our Robot Wars consists of clunky DIY projects, the robot brawls of Real Steel are the real deal, featuring eight-foot-tall Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots who beat the screws out of each other with help from their trainers and mechanics. This isn’t a tame family-friendly affair either, with robots being beaten to an inch of their digital lives.
With a strong following on social media platforms, whilst the 2011 film starring Hugh Jackman wasn’t critically adored, it has gained a cult appreciation.
3. Podracing – Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (George Lucas, 1999)
If you’re a lover or a hater of the first of George Lucas’ Star Wars prequel movies, one thing we can all agree on is that the Podracing scene toward the beginning of the film is a cinematic triumph. Utilising excellent cinematography with a rousing soundtrack, Lucas puts together one of the most impressive sequences of the whole of his modern trilogy, showing the equivalent of soap-box racing using souped-up intergalactic engines.
Aside from the climactic battle between Darth Maul, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, this is the best part of The Phantom Menace, and one of the best Star Wars moments of all time.
2. Redline – Redline (Takeshi Koike, 2009)
The most popular race in the whole of the galaxy, the titular sport of 2009’s Redline is truly awesome. Brought to life by over 100,000 hand-drawn frames, the race is a high-octane, vibrant thrill ride that brings together the greatest sportspeople from the strangest corners of the galaxy, like an episode of Wacky Races if it took place on a distant planet with a tyrannical leader who threatened violence to any competitor.
Utterly electric in its delivery, Redline is one of the best movies about racing ever made, with the event itself being something of our wildest imaginations.
1. Quidditch – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mike Newell, 2005)
J.K Rowling did an extraordinary job to build out the world of Harry Potter throughout her iconic book series, with the sport of Quidditch being one of her most memorable inventions. Played on broomsticks, the violent game involves a main ball named the Quaffle, as well as two sinister Bludgers intended to attack the players and a mystical golden Snitch that dodges around the oval-shaped arena like a pixie.
Though it’s played throughout most movies in the Harry Potter universe, no film better demonstrates its potential than The Goblet of Fire, showing the Quidditch World Cup in one of the coolest-designed fictional stadiums ever created.