The Jackie Robinson bio pic 42 already has plenty of buzz leading up to its theatrical release Friday. The story itself of Robinson becoming the first black player in Major League Baseball is compelling enough. This film adds a Hollywood icon with Harrison Ford playing Dodgers executive Branch Rickey, and an Oscar winner in writer-director Brian Helgeland, whose credits include L.A. Confidential, Mystic River and The Order.

Given Robinson's impact on society and the show-biz heavyweights involved in this production, it is intriguing to wonder how the late Roger Ebert might have analyzed the film. Ebert, who died last week, was a sports fan who got his start in journalism covering high school games in Illinois. In his movie reviews, Ebert offered context and perspective, which often prompted his readers to think harder about what they were watching, and 42 seems like it ought to provide fertile ground for additional reflection.

In the absence of a 42 review from Ebert, here are snippets of his columns on 12 notable sports movies, via

Remembering Pulitzer Prize Winner Roger Ebert Through His Reviews Of Notable Sports Movies Slideshow


Field Of Dreams

"Field of Dreams" will not appeal to grinches and grouches and realists. It is a delicate movie, a fragile construction of one goofy fantasy after another. But it has the courage to be about exactly what it promises. “If you build it, he will come.” And he does. Read the complete review at


Bull Durham

There are quiet little scenes that have the ring of absolute accuracy, as when a player is called into the office and told his contract is not being picked up, and the blow is softened by careful mention of a “possibility of a coaching job in the organization next season. . . .” And there probably isn’t a coaching job, and nobody wants it anyway, but by such lies can sad truths be told. Read the complete review at



There are a lot of laughs, but only one or two are inspired by lines intended to be funny. Instead, our laughter comes from recognition, an awareness of irony, an appreciation of perfect zingers -- and, best of all, insights into human nature. Read the complete review at


Friday Night Lights

The movie demonstrates the power of sports to involve us; we don't live in Odessa and are watching a game played 16 years ago, and we get all wound up. "Friday Night Lights" reminded me of another movie filmed in West Texas: "The Last Picture Show," set 50 years ago. In that one, after the local team loses another game, the players catch flak everywhere they go. It's gotten worse. I'll bet if you phoned talk radio in Odessa and argued that high school football is only a game, you'd make a lot of people mad at you. Read the complete review at



Herb Brooks is a real man (he died in a car accident just after the film was finished), and the movie presents him in all his complexity. It's fascinated by the quirks of his personality and style; we can see he's a good coach, but, like his players, we're not always sure if we like him. That's what's good about the film: The way it frankly focuses on what a coach does, and how, and why. Read the complete review at


Hoop Dreams

No screenwriter would dare write this story; it is drama and melodrama, packaged with outrage and moments that make you want to cry. ''Hoop Dreams'' (1994) has the form of a sports documentary, but along the way it becomes a revealing and heartbreaking story about life in America. Read the complete review at


Any Given Sunday

The reason their characters aren't better developed is that so much of the film's running time is lost to smoke and mirrors. There isn't really a single sequence of sports action in which the strategy of a play can be observed and understood from beginning to end. Instead, Stone uses fancy editing on montage closeups of colorful uniforms and violent action, with lots of crunching sound effects. Or he tilts his camera up to a football pass, spinning against the sky. This is razzle-dazzle in the editing; we don't get the feeling we're seeing a real game involving these characters. Read the complete review at


Raging Bull

"Raging Bull" is the most painful and heartrending portrait of jealousy in the cinema -- an "Othello" for our times. It's the best film I've seen about the low self-esteem, sexual inadequacy and fear that lead some men to abuse women. Boxing is the arena, not the subject. Read the complete review at



What makes "Hoosiers" special is not its story, however, but its details and its characters. Angelo Pizzo, who wrote the original screenplay, knows small-town sports. He knows all about high school politics and how the school board and the parents' groups always think they know more about basketball than the coach does. He knows about gossip, scandal and vengeance. And he knows a lot about human nature. Read the complete review at


The Bad News Bears

Michael Ritchie's "The Bad News Bears" is intended as a comedy, and there are, to be sure, a lot of laughs in it. But it's something more, something deeper, than what it first appears to be. It's an unblinking, scathing look at competition in American society - and because the competitors in this case are Little Leaguers, the movie has passages that are very disturbing. Read the complete review at


Love & Basketball

Written and directed by first-timer Gina Prince-Bythewood (and produced by Spike Lee), it is a sports film seen mostly from the woman's point of view. It's honest and perceptive about love and sex, with no phony drama and a certain quiet maturity. Read the complete review at


All The Right Moves

After all the junk high-school movies in which kids chop each other up, seduce the French teacher and visit whorehouses in Mexico, it is so wonderful to see a movie again that remembers that most teenagers are vulnerable, unsure, sincere and fundamentally decent. The kid, his girlfriend and all of their friends have feelings we can recognize as real. Read the complete review at

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