Sports feed off the conflict bred from rivalries, and sports movies are no different. A great adversary or villain can take a good story and make it great, boiling the blood of viewers as the protagonist is foiled once more by his or her nemesis.
Imagine for a moment that this year's NBA Playoffs were a movie. It would have been a darn entertaining flick, but not just because of the level of play or the burgeoning crop of young superstars such as Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant.
No, the NBA had something it hasn't had in years—a great villain, this year played by LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
As I see it, a great villain has to be two things: adversarial to the protagonist in a manner that frustrates or enrages the viewer of the film, and well-crafted and nuanced so the villain is entertaining or believable.
Here come the bad guys.
(Note: These are taken from fictional films not explicitly based on real events, so no Jake LaMotta or Soviet hockey team here, folks.)
Jean Girard may actually perfectly sum up the phenomenon of the "hated rival." He is a worthy adversary on the track, and he represents all of the things that Ricky Bobby can't stand in life.
Sure, he breaks Ricky Bobby's arm, but there isn't actually anything villainous about Girard. He's just a good driver who lives a lifestyle that completely contrasts Ricky's own.
It's the same in real sports. I despise the Yankees, but I don't think they are evil. They just win a lot and have consistently done so in a manner I think is pretty lame (buying talent).
And Jean Girard is much funnier than the Yankees are.
He's the guy you love to hate—an arrogant tough guy who consistently carves up your team and enjoys nothing more than doing so.
(Go to the 1:35 mark of the video)
Reilly isn't just a coach with his priorities out of whack. He's also responsible for shaping Bombay's mentality in his adult life.
Win, win, win?
Someday. As Bombay realizes, there comes a time for only caring about winning, but kids should just have fun.
Nobody likes a goon.
Take a guy like Sean Avery. Does anybody other than his teammates or the fans of the team he is playing for like him?
Not a chance.
Spike is mean, chauvinistic and pretty scary. I mean, can you imagine how frightening this dude would be if you were a kid?
It's also not his fault since his father was training him to be a football player his entire life. That makes Spike sympathetic to a point.
Still, you can only be so sympathetic to a guy who speaks in the third person, so he had to be included.
Birdie is literally a villain in the underrated flick Above the Rim, acting as both Kyle's basketball adversary (Birdie is the coach of the opposing streetball team) and as a negative influence in Kyle's life (Birdie is a drug dealer and murderer).
Birdie is the sort of dude you don't want to disagree with, and Tupac Shakur certainly brings that to life in his representation of the character.
Is there anything more annoying than a smug character?
Perhaps not, which is what makes Don Johnson's portrayal of David Simms so annoying and hence so good.
In some ways, Simms is admirable. He's a smart and talented golfer who has achieved a high level of success.
But he knows it, and his holier-than-thou attitude gets under your skin quickly.
Sure, the "heroic" finale to Tin Cup isn't actually heroic so much as it is incredibly stupid. But that isn't Simms' fault. He's fun to despise.
Have you ever been to a Little League game and been forced to suffer idiot parents who scream at the umpires and get ridiculously upset at their kids when they make a mistake?
That in a nutshell is Roy Turner, except it is worse because he's the coach of the Bears' rival, the Yankees.
Also, I feel the need to re-emphasize something: If you are the parent who screams at umpires and gets ridiculously upset at your kids when they make a mistake, you are an idiot!
This has been a Bleacher Report public service announcement.
White Goodman is shallow, image-obsessed and obnoxious. He is the sort of person you try to avoid at all costs when you work out at the gym because you suspect he has been genetically engineered to smirk at everyone he sees.
However, the character and Ben Stiller's portrayal of that character is pretty hilarious. Dodgeball would have been pretty lame without White.
After all, nobody makes him bleed his own blood. NOBODY!
I actually think this clip sums up Ogie pretty well.
God bless Slap Shot.
Screw you, Iceland.
I'm just kidding, Iceland. But Wolf Stansson needed to chill out, am I right?
I mean, was it really necessary to slash Bombay like that, my man? And you certainly didn't have to be such a sore loser at the end.
You may be "The Dentist," but when I was a kid, I wanted to bash your teeth in.
(I was an aggressive child, apparently.)
Need a little bit of class tension in your life? Why not watch the pompous Judge Smails in Caddyshack?
I guarantee you'll be shaking your fist at entitled and condescending power-mongers in no time.
In the life of a sports fan, an owner who moves the beloved home team to another city is the most vile, despicable, heartless and unforgivable person in the world.
(Yes, that is an exaggeration. But it feels that way, I'd guess, at least for a time.)
And an owner who puts together a ragtag squad of scrubs she hopes will be terrible, thereby opening the door for her to move the team elsewhere?
Well, that's the worst transgression of them all.
Stated simply, Johnny Lawrence is a punk, and because he knows how to fight, he's a bully punk.
Which made this so satisfying to watch.
This is an easy one. Does anybody like a sleazy agent?
To his credit (I think), Jay Mohr nailed the role.
In "Teddy KGB," we have an actual bad guy (he's a Russian mobster) who is going to kill Mike McDermott's best friend Lester Murphy within five days if he doesn't pay off his outstanding debts.
Oh, and he's a pretty arrogant jerk at the card table to top it off.
I'd say that's a pretty good movie villain right there.
Bud Kilmer is the worst type of coach. He only cares about winning and his own legacy to the detriment of the health and well-being of his players. You get the impression the only thing he cares about is his own statue.
Sure, his character is a little over the top by the end, but I assure you that the mentality of that character exists at the high school level.
It's a shame, quite frankly.
Ah, good old Cobra Kai. Johnny Lawrence may be the ultimate punk, but at least a part of the reason why is the psychosis of his coach, John Kreese.
The man might as well be training assassins to kill rather than teaching kids karate.
Which makes this such a satisfying scene.
Bill Murray is hilarious as Ernie McCracken, the arrogant and flippant nemesis of the movie's protagonist, Roy Munson.
He also delivers one of the funniest trash-talking moments in sports-movie history.
There is one thing that keeps Rocky's nemesis in Rocky IV from being higher. He stands at the forefront of the movie's trite representation of the Soviet Union and its really corny resolution at the end of the film.
Sure, you hate him for killing Apollo, no question about it. That's why he made it this high. But you don't totally buy the character either.
"The Judge" is just plain old evil, going so far as to poison Roy Hobbs in his efforts to win full ownership of the Knights, which will be sacrificed by the manager Pop Fisher if the team doesn't win the pennant.
This is another case of "If the team does bad, the owner gets what he/she wants."
With the way owners are depicted in sports movies, it's a wonder anyone could take the side of the owners in the NFL lockout.
Not only is Warden Hazen a power-hungry jerk, but he also asks Paul Crewe—who is quarterbacking the prisoners' team—to throw the game so the guards can win.
If Crewe doesn't, the warden tells him he will be accused of being an accessory in a murder he had no part of.
This is a gut-wrenching proposition for Crewe, who had been kicked out of the NFL for point-shaving. Hazen has him by the proverbial balls, and he knows it, which makes him a vile (and thus extremely effective) villain in the movie.
(For the record, I'm referencing the first—and superior—film, but I could only find clips from the remake. Tragic, I know.)
I think these clips pretty much speak for themselves. You don't go talking about a man's wife like that!
Plus, Clubber Lang gave us such classic lines as "I pity the fool" and "Prediction? Pain."
I don't think you can watch Rocky III without wanting to knock his block off.
He's only Rocky's adversary in the first two films, as they become buddies later in the (tragically long) series.
I thought long and hard about who to put No. 1, and I finally decided on Apollo Creed for one reason: Of all the villains or opponents in sports movies, Apollo is probably the most iconic.
He's not terribly unlikable in the first one, at least until you find yourself rooting against him in the epic fight at the movie's finish.
But his public insults of Rocky give him "unlikable" status in the second film, setting up the rematch and dramatic (read: corny) conclusion to the fight.