EDITORIAL: The Ultimate Movie Character Summer Olympic Team
In having a little fun with the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympic Games, I couldn't help but notice a great deal of obscure and untapped athletic talent in the movie characters I've been seeing on on the silver screen so far this summer. I saw a red-headed Scottish princess with a knack for archery, a superhero team of immense talent and strength, and a few other flashes of brilliance.
As with many movie topic tangents, I got to thinking of what I could do to editorialize this idea. My solution is naming the the "The Ultimate Movie Character Summer Olympic Team." I culled the archives and found a few good movie or movie character examples for every one of the traditional Summer Olympic sports that will be competing this year in London.
I had one rule in generating this team and list. The actors or characters had to be fictional. No real athlete or person could make this list, meaning both athletes who have acted in movies or movies about real-life athletes. For example, I wasn't going to pick any NBA basketball player (Ray Allen in He Got Game, Michael Jordan in Space Jam, or Shaquille O'Neal in Blue Chips) or professional wrestler (anything with Hulk Hogan or Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) who have been in movies OR sports movies about real-life people (the two Steve Prefontaine movies, for example) or Olympians (Chariots of Fire). I feel those choices are two easy, obvious, convenient, and uncreative. A big "thank you" goes out to the many Facebook friends that playfully helped with this list. Enjoy!
ARCHERY-- Going in alphabetical order, we get a slam dunk easy one to start. There have been many excellent movie archers. Look no further than the many screen versions of Robin Hood, most especially Errol Flynn (trailer), Kevin Costner (clip), and Russell Crowe (featurette). Don't forget about Orlando Bloom's killing power accuracy in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (his highlight reel) or Disney's new princess Merida from Brave (trailer).
BADMINTON-- This was a hard one to research, but there is an obscure Singapore movie called Men in White about a badminton player (IMDB page). Sorry, that's all I got. I'd like to take the old Vitamin Water commerical with David Ortiz and Brian Urlacher, but it would be breaking the rules.
BASKETBALL-- I'd love to say Hoosiers but high school players would get rocked by professionals at the Olympics and they were still mostly based on a real team. That leaves the movie Olympic basketball team of the animated characters in Space Jam, Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf (clip), Jim Carrey's Chip Douglas from The Cable Guy (clip), and the Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson hustlers of White Men Can't Jump (trailer). Even they are not beating the 1992 "Dream Team." If you need more, here's the master list of movies with basketball scenes. Remember the rules. No real players and real Olympians.
BEACH VOLLEYBALL-- This one is too easy. For the men, pick any movie scene with hot girls playing volleyball in bikinis on the beach. For the ladies, the hot shot pilots and glistening sweat of Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, and Rick Rossovich from Top Gun, pulsed to the beat of Kenny Loggins.
BOXING-- Give me Rocky Balboa, all day long! He's the perfect fictional movie choice for this Olympic team, even if the boxing at the Games is amateur and not professional. That's the toughest part of researching is finding amateur boxing over professional. Maybe Roddy Herrington's otherGladiator (trailer) from 1992. To a lesser degree take the turn-of-the-century bare-knuckle variety from Far and Away and the cheese of Teen Wolf 2.
CANOEING, KAYAKING, AND ROWING-- My absolute winner in this category is Daniel Day Lewis from The Last of the Mohicans. He outran men out to kill him and his girl under antiquated and rough conditions (long clip). I bet our rafting buddies of Deliverance or The River Wild or Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid wouldn't do too bad either (even though he lets frogs ride his paddles and a pair of eels tip him over). That Ivan Drago from Rocky IV could sure tear up just about any piece of exercise equipment he wants. I would think a rowing machine, or even a real boat, wouldn't be a problem.
CYCLING-- While the bike-riding kids of The Goonies are a little young and Pee Wee Herman ( (Pee Wee's Big Adventure) is a little, well, Pee Wee, I think have have some contenders in American Flyers (trailer) and the upcoming August release Premium Rush (trailer). Want to make them go faster, just put The Wizard of Oz's Miss Gulch (quick intro) behind them!
DISCUS-- Discs being tossed around. In might not be for distance every time, but look no further than the gamers from Tron (clip) and Tron: Legacy (clip). They know there way around round thrown objects. If not, hand it to The Hulk (a pattern you will see forming more as this list goes on).
DIVING-- Plenty and dozens of movie characters have dove into water from varying heights and for varying reasons. Nobody shows much of an Olympic level skill to it. I'm sure any of the six James Bonds we've had in movies could pull off a dive and Valeria Golina puts a mean indoor dive on top of Charlie Sheen in Hot Shots, but for my money and artistic scores, give me Milty's obese high dive belly flop in Van Wilder (clip).
EQUESTRIAN-- For equestrian events of horsemanship and jumps, give me every good cowboy rider from every good John Ford or John Wayne western, including The Duke himself. That should make for an endless team of riders and chewing tobacco companies could sponsor the Games for those televised segments. If you need a little diversity, add Gandalf riding his trusty steed Shadowfax and the riders of Rohan (clip and clip) from The Lord of the Rings, the kid from The Black Stallion, and Afghanistan's American equestrian hero John Rambo from Rambo III (clip)).
FENCING-- With the wealth of great sword fighters in movie history, we have more than a few winning possibilities for fencing. First, go with the original heroics of Errol Flynn as Robin Hood in The Adventures of Robin Hood (clip). Just like the Robin Hood character, we've had more than a few Zorro movies with excellent fencing, none better than Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones teaching each other in The Mask of Zorro. The final duel in Rob Roy is quite the clinic. At the top, with arguably the most and best fencing are the dashing heroes and villains of The Princess Bride (clip), particularly our man Inigo Montoya.
FIELD HOCKEY-- Help me out readers, but I couldn't find a good field hockey movie to save my life. The closest I got was Chak De! India, a 2007 women's sports film from India (info). If you need more, you're going to have to hope that the boys from Slapshot and the kids fromThe Mighty Ducks can do their moves without skates.
GYMNASTICS-- For sheer humor, I love the Old School competition scenes with Will Ferrell (clip), Vince Vaughn (clip), and company. A few characters that would be better are the gymnast from The Peaceful Warrior (trailer), Beast from X-Men: The Last Stand or X-Men: First Class, and Dick Grayson before he becomes Robin in Batman Forever.
HAMMER THROW-- Hands down, the best executed mock hammer throw I've seen in the movies is when the Hulk throws a tank into a mountain in 2003's Hulk (clip). What a beast and nice technique! Beat that!
HANDBALL-- This one is light on team members possibilities. Al Pacino's character from Frankie and Johnny had an affinity for handball, even taking that little blue ball bowling. If we need some racquetball skill moved over, Canada could enlist John Candy in Splash (clip). He uses his head the right way.
HIGH JUMP/LONG JUMP-- Lots of movie characters have hops. I'll say no flyers like Superman. That's cheating. Star Wars Jedi knights like Ewan McGregor's Obi Wan (1:58 in this clip) and Hayden Christiansen's Anakin Skywalker can sure jump. Thanks to the difference in gravity and muscle density, Taylor Kitsch's John Carter conquers high and long jumps quite well (trailer). Here we go again, though, as the guy who can do it for miles at a time is the Hulk (clip). Get out the GPS and put away the ruler to measure those jumps.
HURDLES-- I'll borrow the same people I just wrote for high jump and long jump and add the real-life incarnations of everyone's favorite horizontal jumpers, Mario and Luigi, played by Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo in Super Mario Brothers (trailer).
JAVELIN-- The easy answer here is the 800 different movie actors who have played a quarterback in a football movie. The list is long and distinguished, from Burt Reynolds and Scott Bakula to James Van Der Beek and Paul Walker. When it comes to straight-up Olympian-life javelin throwing, you've got a pair of Greeks, the rivals Achilles (Brad Pitt) and Hector (Eric Bana) in Troy from 2003 (fight scene behind-the-scenes). Honorable mention goes to Lamar from The Revenge of the Nerds (clip) and the sword-tossing Prince Phillip in Sleeping Beauty (clip).
JUDO-- Jackie Chan and the stunt men in his Supercop film utilize judo (trailer). I'd say Jackie Chan has more enough skill to compete in a movie character Olympic games. I think Austin Powers (clip) and James Bond (Roger Moore, in particular) can bring their signature one move of the judo chop to the Olympics in their native country for high marks and effectiveness. The puns and bad jokes that follow can stay out of competition.
LONG DISTANCE RUNNING-- When it comes to running long distances, I think everyone's first vision is the bearded Tom Hanks running across the entire United States (twice) in Forrest Gump. With Chariots of Fire and Steve Prefontaine off limits, according to the rules, the choices are few. England can enlist the hilarious Simon Pegg in Run Fatboy Run (trailer). For my money, give me the long morning Philadelphia jogs of Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky series. For more, here's a list of the ten best running scenes in movies. Some of these fit the later nominees for sprinting.
POLE VAULT-- This one was a slim one. The best I could do was Angelina Jolie in one scene from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (trailer). Something tells me the all-round athleticism of Captain America could make this event.
SAILING-- Jack Sparrow in the Olympics?! You bet! Go ahead and mark down every movie sailor and pirate for this Olympic event. For more serious sailing, check out the boys from White Squall (trailer) and the racers from Wind from 1992 (trailer).
SHOOTING-- This one is too easy. Name any great movie crack shot or sniper and they would be perfect. Pick from this list of the ten best sniper movies if you want. You could use Wesley (James McAvoy) from Wanted, Jean Reno in Leon: The Professional, Mark Wahlberg from Shooter, the Latin dude from The Losers, Billy Zane and Tom Berenger from Sniper, or even the down-home skill of Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) from the classic To Kill a Mockingbird. According to the rules, the one real-life character you can't use is Jude Law's from the outstanding sniper film Enemy at the Gates.
SHOT PUT-- Once again, this can easily be a Hulk or Superman special. I mean if Superman can lift an entire island into space, then I think he can handle a 16 pound rock, just as Hulk proved himself earlier with that tank for the hammer throw. For something slightly more sporting and accurate, the rock throwing competition scene (I can't find a clip online) between William Wallace (Mel Gibson) and Hammish (Brendan Gleeson) in Braveheart is a great movie example for shot put.
SOCCER-- Like most other Americans, I'm a "football" guy, not a "futbol" guy. I'll leave the master list of the best soccer movies and possible characters to this article from Forbes magazine. The non-U.S. countries still have us beat for sure. I'll allow movie character Olympic competition in soccer if the rowdy fans of Green Street Holigans (trailer) can come to.
SPRINTING-- Until they make a movie about the DC Comics hero The Flash, we're going to have to find more sprinters. First up is little Dash (montage) from Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles. Unleash the fury and stop telling him to coming in second. For someone without super powers, Tom Cruise seems to run in just about every movie he's in. Check out this very humorous homage montage of his running scenes in his many movies. I know he can't be as fast as Usain Bolt, but the movies sure make it look like he is. If you can't win at sprinting, cheat like Sasha Baren Cohen does in this year's The Dictator (trailer). Once again, check out that list of the ten best running scenes in movies. Some of these fit here from long distance being covered earlier. My personal favorites from the list are the T-1000 from Terminator 2 and Daniel Craig's physicality in Casino Royale as James Bond.
STEEPLECHASE-- For those who forget what the steeplechase is, the event calls for distance running with obstacles and water. Translating that to movies, I picture ever escaped criminal running away from the law through heavy foliage and terrain. There are hundreds of them. Put a number and a uniform on Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) in The Fugitive, Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones, Sylvester Stallone in his Rambo movies, and Jaguar Paw in Mel Gibson's underrated Apocalypto (part 1 and part 2). Go ahead and add this to Daniel Day-Lewis's events from The Last of the Mohicans, because if he's not rowing, he's running.
SWIMMING-- Until they make anAquaman movie, this is where the mermaids will dominate. Sign up Daryl Hannah from Splash and Ariel from the Little Mermaid. A close runner-up goes to the merman Kevin Costner from Waterworld. Race those three, Michael Phelps!
SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING-- Austin Powers nails his chance at synchronized swimming in the opening credits of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (clip). If the Olympics begin to allow animals, then the entire cast of creatures from The Little Mermaid qualify in all of their song-and-dance numbers ("Kiss the Girl," in particular).
TABLE TENNIS-- I've got two perfect examples for this one. The first is how table tennis is one of the many talents of Forrest Gump in Forrest Gump (too bad most of his faster scenes have a CGI ball). My personal favorite ping pong action comes from the over-the-top and nefarious characters in the the cheesy B-movie Balls of Fury (trailer) from 2007.
TAEKWONDO-- The chosen martial arts discipline of the clownish Danny McBride in The Foot Fist Way is taekwondo. I didn't say he was good at it, but he's a movie character with those skills. He has as much of fighting chance as the next man (red band trailer).
TENNIS-- There are many MANY movie characters that pick up a racket to hit around the little green ball. Some are good, but most are pretty terrible. For the master list, check out this website. There are too many to list.
VOLLEYBALL-- In my research, I was surprised how few court volleyball scenes there were in movies. I found far more examples of beach volleyball. The best I could find were Ciara in MTV's All You've Got (trailer) and the dreadful spinoff Air Bud: Spikes Back (thankfully short trailer).
WATER POLO-- Right there with the obscurity found for field hockey and badminton, the best I could do for water polo is a film based on real Olympians. This selection is going to have to break the rules. At the 1956 Melbourne Olympics a famous and brutal water polo match took place when Hungary faced Russia. The match had real-life national pride in the background with the Hungarian Revolution occurring during the same year. Two films, Freedom's Fury and Children of Glory were made about the famous match.
WEIGHTLIFTING-- The easy choices here are another final dose of Superman and The Hulk. For something more human, go with the strong bones of Bruce Willis in Unbreakable (deleted scene). He's got weightlifting potential for sure!
WRESTLING-- In the final sport, this is one of those cases where I can't pick Hulk Hogan or Dwayne Johnson (not that their kind of wrestling is traditional mat wrestling anymore). I guess I can't use Tiny Tim Lester from No Holds Barred (trailer) either. For more amateur wrestling, get a laugh from Vin Diesel and Brad Garrett from The Pacifier (clip). For a legit wrestling background, check out Tom Hardy and the MMA guys from Warrior (trailer).
If I missed any that you want to share, please feel free to add a comment and start the discussion. Enjoy the Summer Olympics opening this week in London! See you in two years for a Winter Olympics version of this list and the "Ultimate Movie Character Olympic Team" for the 2014 Games from Sochi, Russia. Have fun!