15 Hockey Movies Every Serious Fan Must See
In the make-believe world of television and film, anything can happen, and in the 1980s, it predictably did. The term "Hollywood ending" exists because of the portrayals of a good story, but sometimes we don't always want the predictable conclusion.
The most beautiful thing about sports is that the conclusion is anything but predictable. Sure, statistics can point us to a probable outcome, but that's why they play the game. The ultimate reality show starts with the drop of a puck, a referee's whistle or a hearty "Play Ball!" The outcome is never predetermined, and the drama, blood, sweat and tears are all very real.
Before he was Charles in Charge or even Chachi, Scott Baio was teaching us about the perils of underage drinking in The Boy Who Drank Too Much. There was a chimpanzee named Jack with a wicked slapper and silky mitts in M.V.P.-Most Valuable Primate. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson laced up his skates for a compelling role as The Tooth Fairy. There was also the token feel-good story of a former hockey player who decides he wants to do some ice dancing in The Cutting Edge.
If you are looking for any of those films on this list, please stop reading now. The Walmart budget movie hopper is calling, and you could probably find all four of those films for less than a dollar...combined. What did make the list was a collection of quality movies that either incorporate hockey or hockey players as the central theme. I know, it's fun to think about a monkey on skates, but maybe for a different list.
Like Hollywood, the world of hockey is filled with drama, suspense, comedy and triumph. Each of the following films capture that essence without being overtly cliched and over the top. Some of the pieces feature famous actors, while others are filled with unknowns. There will be more than one historical reboot on this list, and a couple of documentary-style films as well.
If you are a true hockey fan, then you need to make each one of these a part of your collection. You'll laugh for sure, you'll be inspired to hit the ice and, yes, tough guy, you might get a little "something" in your eye for a few moments. That's part of what moves us and what makes a movie great.
So get your popcorn ready, dim the lights and throw any of the following into the DVD player, or VCR/Beta where available. I promise you will enjoy now, or your money back!
Legends of Hockey (1996)
Legends of Hockey didn't appeal to me when it came out 16 years ago as much as it does today. A literal history lesson on each decade of the NHL with fantastic insights and interviews with players up until the mid-'90s when the documentary was released.
Even if you aren't a hockey historian, I promise the DVD set is well worth your time.
Mystery, Alaska (1999)
Though hardly a box-office hit (it was actually a bust), I thought Mystery, Alaska was pretty cool. The premise of the film has the New York Rangers traveling to Alaska to play the local pond hockey team.
Though there is the predictable David and Goliath matchup, the story is written and portrayed well enough to make you believe the Mysterians have a chance against the mighty Rangers.
Don't look for any real Rangers in the lineup, as none agreed to do the film. Russell Crowe rocks a pretty sweet flow in the flick as the town sheriff and team captain. He also comes off as a fairly believable skater for an Aussie.
You can't possibly lose with Burt Reynolds as your coach, right? The characters are well drawn, and the story flows well in spite of the familiarity to films of its ilk.
The Mighty Ducks Franchise I, II, III (1992-1996)
I'll include all three Mighty Ducks films here because I don't feel it is necessary to watch all three. I barely made it through the first one many moons ago, but it seems to have a cult following among the younger generation. It's a Disney product, so it is well put together and well budgeted.
The story reads the same as the Bad News Bears, with Emilio Estevez playing the role of the reluctant coach with baggage who leads the rag-tag group of ne'er-do-wells to an unlikely victory over an overwhelming favorite.
In the first version it's the Hawks, in the second installment the Ducks go international against the dreaded Team Iceland, and in D3 the young high school Ducks take on the varsity at Eden Hall Academy.
The trilogy is better suited for a younger audience that won't pay attention to the villains always being the larger, richer, white-male kids with the all-black (and therefore evil) uniforms. The concept for the movie is certainly not unique, but delivers a positive message wrapped up in a streamlined Disney package.
The Sweater (1979)
OK, so technically this is actually a movie, though it is only 10 minutes long. It is animated and it is hilarious. Plus, I can relate because a similar incident happened to me in my much younger years.
I started following hockey when I was about 12 years old. Growing up in Louisiana, we were many years away from when the Ice Gators came to be.
When my family moved to Maryland we were exposed to hockey in the form of the Baltimore Skipjacks and Washington Capitals. The first time I saw hockey, though, was a highlight from a Detroit Red Wings-Boston Bruins brawl.
Not really grasping the rules but learning that you could in fact have a fist fight in the middle and then finish the game, was enough to reel me in as a fan for life. Naturally, as a Maryland resident, my favorite team became the Detroit Red Wings led by top scorer Steve Yzerman.
Fast forward a few years, and it's Christmas morning. I open a box with a hat in it. The hat is red, so naturally I am excited...until I see the front, which read in script "Montreal Canadiens". Sensing my disappointment, my mother asked if that was my team. Not wanting to crush her feelings, my less than enthusiastic response of "I like them too" seemed to soften the blow.
Of the films on my list, only Youngblood fills the void of unintentional comedy. You could call it Point Break or Roadhouse on ice.
1980s pretty boy Rob Lowe plays Dean Youngblood (just like the title! I know!), a skilled but soft farm boy who is introduced to the rugged world of Canadian junior hockey—by Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves.
I'm not sure what is more absurd from this 1980s gem: Rob Lowe beating anybody up, or NBC Sports Network playing this constantly during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Rhino Brothers (2002)
The Rhino Brothers kind of reminded me of what Youngblood should have been if it had taken place 10 years later. When it was released in 2002 (actually 16 years later), the world had come to grips with the non-Hollywood ending as well.
It centers on a dysfunctional fatherless family whose youngest son is wavering on abandoning the family dream of having an NHL player in the family tree.
The misguided efforts of his very unlikeable hockey mom, leave young Stefan Kanachowski wondering if he is choosing the right career path. The movie is definitely enjoyable, though clearly on a much smaller budget than the others on the list.
Canada Russia '72 (2006)
In 1972, the Summit Series between the Soviet Union and Canada was a wake-up call to the hockey world. Long before he was tried and convicted for embezzlement and racketeering, Alan Eagleson helped coordinate an eight-game series between the two nations to take place in the summer of 1972.
The documentary-style miniseries shows the tension behind the scenes as the Cold War was very much near its peak. Despite underestimating the Soviets early in the series, Canada came back to defeat them on unfriendly ice in a dramatic eighth game.
Les Boys (1997)
The Quebec film Les Boys takes a familiar route as perhaps a grown-up version of The Mighty Ducks meets Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, with the main difference between the films being that there is no Disney presence and no break dancing.
The premise is the same, though. With the threat of property repossession, the eclectic but resourceful group must do what they can despite almost insurmountable odds. In this case, substitute break dancing to save the recreation center, with a hockey game to save the pub.
Les Boys is chock-full of good moments, though, and the film was successful enough to command a couple of sequels and a TV show. Just make sure you know French or get the English version, otherwise the movie is significantly less enjoyable.
A wild and entertaining jaunt through minor league hockey with fictional enforcer Doug "The Thug" Glatt leading up to an epic showdown with veteran tough guy Ross "The Boss" Rhea.
Is it Stiffler on ice? Pretty much.
Crude and inappropriate humor abound with Seann William Scott perfectly dim as Glatt, and Liev Shreiber brilliant as Rhea.
This movie is everything you expect it to be, completely unapologetic for gratuitous violence and bathroom humor. Don't watch it with kids under 18...better make it 21.
Net Worth (1995)
Net Worth takes a look at the trials and hardships faced by Detroit Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay as he attempted to create the National Hockey League's first players association.
Lindsay worked with Doug Harvey of the Montreal Canadiens to form an "association" and specifically not a "union," so as to avoid the wrath of the team owners.
However, the combined efforts of the league and the owners tore the union apart by demoting and trading players.
The movie is great for Red Wings fans and hockey history buffs, but shows a troubling precursor to the woes of the NHL and their ongoing labor problems.
Waking Up Wally: The Walter Gretzky Story (2005)
Touching story of the Gretzky patriarch and his struggles to overcome a near-fatal brain aneurysm in 1991 and the subsequent long-term memory loss. It's important to get over the fact that Wayne is played by an actor who looks like some dude in a Gretzky jersey in order to appreciate the story and the relationship between Walter Gretzky and his family.
Plenty of interesting Gretzky facts with some heartwarming/Kleenex moments, too. Good viewing for the whole family.
The Rocket: The Maurice Richard Story (2005)
This biopic of legendary Canadiens sniper Maurice Richard is a must-see for all hockey fans. It takes a very interesting look at Richard's ascent to stardom; from working-class scrub to the Montreal team that would propel him to superstardom.
The presentation of the movie is fantastic and will take you back to the 1950s.
The movie is as accurate as any, with Richard and his family present to review scenes and dialogue for accuracy during production. Look for a few cameos from some NHL players during on-ice action.
Pond Hockey (2008)
Pond Hockey is one of the coolest documentaries you'll ever see. Director Tommy Haines examines the evolution of hockey and the changing cultures surrounding the sport. Interviews with past and present NHL stars as they share their stories and opinions add value and legitimacy to the watch.
Haines also chronicles the first U.S. Pond Hockey Championships in Minnesota, with camera crews specifically following two teams: the Federal League All-stars and Sofa King Lazy. With 100 teams in the tournament from just about everywhere, there is some great footage and insight. Pond Hockey is hockey in its purest form, an absolute must-watch.
A cult hit from the 1970s, Slapshot has spawned more hockey-related quotes than all other hockey movies combined. It is bawdy, crass, violent and politically incorrect—all of which contribute to the quality of the film. Paul Newman is fantastic as player-coach Reggie Dunlop, leader of his cartoon-character group of hockey miscreants and castoffs.
I think what makes Miracle so good is that we all know the story and we all know the ending. How we get there is what separates the film from others.
Kurt Russell is fantastic as plaid-loving U.S. Olympic coach Herb Brooks. Listening to Russell/Brook's pregame speech will have you looking for your stick and skates.
It is appropriately enough a Disney incarnation of the actual events, but it is impossible not to get caught up in the movie. There are literally parts of the film where you may actually wonder about the outcome of games that were played 30 years ago. Plenty of goose-bump moments make this film an absolute must-watch.