Fun fact, movies are not the only form of entertainment that has stolen my heart over the last ten years. In the past decade my childhood love for the sport of hockey has grown into a full-blown obsession especially after my Boston Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup. Tonight, the Bruins have a chance to do it again against the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. Usually my top ten lists tie into an upcoming movie but this week I decided to take a different route. With the Stanley Cup final tonight I realized that there have been so many films made to explore the different aspects of this sport, from its violence to its gameplay, players and even its place in national history for both America and Canada. It surprised me just how many of these films I’ve seen with several becoming iconic cinematic classics since their initial release. So, in celebration of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals (GO BRUINS!), I decided to do a special list exploring the best films to tackle this violent and epic sport. These are my picks for the Top 10 Hockey Movies.
For this list, I focused on films that involve the game of hockey as a major part of their story. The film doesn’t actually have to be about playing the game, but hockey has to be an important element to the narrative making these movies memorable as hockey-related motion pictures. I did not limit myself to only American released movies as Canada has played host to a few theatrical releases and seeing as that country is the true home of the sport, I wanted to include anything from across the northern border that was worth mentioning.
What is your favorite hockey movie? Let me know in the comments below and enjoy the list!
10. “Happy Gilmore”
This is an odd comedy film that takes two sports that couldn’t be more different in personality, hockey and golf, and melds them together in one of Adam Sandler’s most memorable films. Sandler stars as the titular Happy Gilmore, a former hockey player and Boston Bruins fan who was unable to cut it on the ice. However, his skills with a hockey stick translate well to using a golf club leading him to embrace his anger and swing to find success in the calmer sport on the green as he seeks prize money to save his grandmother’s house. While most of the film is actually about Gilmore learning to golf, the narrative takes an interesting turn when Gilmore discovers how to channel aspects of his personality and his skills from hockey to succeed in a different sport. Combine this neat idea with some iconic and funny moments and an epic finale where Gilmore uses a hockey stick style putter to fully embrace his duel-sport potential and you have yourself a legendary duel-sport comedy film that stands the test of time.
9. “D2: The Mighty Ducks”
It’s no secret that the Anaheim Ducks, once owned by Disney, were brought to literal life thanks to the popularity of the studio’s “Mighty Ducks” film franchise. While the original movie (we’ll get to that later) remains a classic the sequel has earned its own following as it takes the young team from the original film and brings them to the next level as they reunite with Gordon Bombay and bring in a few new players to compete in the Goodwill Games. The challengers are tougher and for many of the players there’s still a lot of learning to do, but in the end the Ducks must learn to work as a team, explore new strategies and embrace their individual talents to find victory on the national stage. It’s a fun, inspiring and exciting follow up that captures much of the same charm as the original and pushes each of the characters, including Bombay, in new directions to further develop their maturity as leaders in a sport where teamwork is more valuable than almost any other stick and ball sports around.
Rob Lowe and a young Keanu Reeves star in this 1986 sports drama that sees a rural farmhand named Dean Youngblood follow his dream of playing in the NHL. Youngblood’s personal story takes him from the frozen ponds to the major leagues leading him down a familiar path for many real-life hockey players who find their passion in the natural outdoor rinks of nature before chasing Stanley Cup glory. While following somewhat typical sports drama story beats, “Youngblood” explores the challenge of evolving as a player in a rough and tumble sports where skills are only half the battle while physicality is also required to find success. While a lot of films have explored the mix of violence and action that is involved in a typical hockey game or career, “Youngblood” takes these elements to a different level by focusing on a dreamer’s growth as a player who must rise above the limitations of his life and his own mental perspective of the game to become not only a great player, but an effective fighter who refuses to be pushed around.
7. “Mystery, Alaska”
Admittedly one of the corniest setups for any movie on this list, “Mystery, Alaska” packs plenty of charm as it showcases an amateur hockey team challenging the NHL’s New York Rangers to an outdoor exhibition game in an ice hockey David versus Goliath story. While you would think Alaska a perfect place for a hockey team, the state has never hosted an NHL franchise so seeing a small-town team of dreamers take on an Original Six team where hockey was born, in the great outdoors, feels very appropriate. At its core hockey is a game of pride so while it’s an unbelievable narrative to say the least it’s also very inspiring to see a small team of hopefuls in a state where hockey is very popular take on a team of professionals for nothing more than bragging rights. “Mystery, Alaska” also contains some great hockey choreography and while many of the players are fictional it’s still pretty cool to see a professional hockey team like the Rangers represented in a big screen production adding to the films *clears throat* authenticity.
6. “Les Boys”
I honestly knew very little about this film until I started researching for this list and come to find out it’s definitely worthy of a spot here. The only foreign language film on this countdown, “Les Boys” is a Quebec-made 1997 comedy that launched the most successful Canadian-made film franchise in history. “Les Boys” mixes great comedy with sincere respect for the sport of hockey exploring not only the on-ice antics of its titular team but also their locker room banter and team camaraderie. “Les Boys” is a true showcase of not only the passion that the players put into the game but also the country of Canada as a whole as it’s packed with personality and quotable dialogue that shows how even a small amateur team can find endless fun on the ice. Since its release “Les Boys” has become engrained in Quebec culture seeing as hockey remains an obsession for the city and many would-be players see themselves in the band of misfits that take to the ice on screen.
Fighting has long been and continues to be an important part of hockey culture. It’s common to see players come to fisticuffs over bad hits and plays to defend the honor of their team and teammates. Fighting is such a big part of the sport’s identity that a cliché was born saying “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out”. The 2011 film “Goon” take that cliché and puts it on screen in one of the most violent hockey movies ever made. Sean William Scott plays the titular goon, Doug Glatt, who goes from mild-mannered bouncer to hockey enforcer earning the nickname “Doug the Thug”. Over the course of the film we see Doug engage in several well-choreographed and entertaining on-ice fights, but while the violence is definitely overplayed the purpose of fighting is rarely forgotten. From the start, Doug uses his fists to defend the honor of people he cares about and stresses how fighting plays into the concepts of teamwork and brotherhood in a very physical sport. While “Goon” does glorify the violence of hockey it also serves as a tribute to an aspect of the sport that holds a special place in its identity.
4. “The Rocket”
There are surprisingly few biopics focusing on hockey players but the best is by far “The Rocket”, the story of Montreal Canadians legend Maurice “The Rocket” Richard. Roy Dupuis plays the winger and eight time Stanley Cup champion as the film explores his rise to prominence in the NHL. While the Canadians are by far the most prominent team in the sports history, Richard might just be the most legendary player to wear the team’s uniform and his talent and passion for the sport are on full display here. Richard’s history from a blue color living in Quebec to a legend who helped Montreal establish its league dominance is explored giving viewers a unique view of the rise of a real-life player and his passion for his country’s most popular pastime. Richard must fend off multiple attacks as players attempt to take him out of the game and survives all opponents to become a Hall of Famer. Filmed in a raw, darker color pallet “The Rocket” also captures the look of its era showcasing a prominent time in hockey history and a legendary career for all to appreciate.
3. “The Mighty Ducks”
A 90s classic, “The Mighty Ducks’” legacy is unquestionable as a Disney staple in a decade where sports comedies proved hugely popular among younger fans. Despite it’s predictable storytelling, “The Mighty Ducks” became a huge success and launched a franchise as well as a new era of young hockey lovers looking to replicate the fun and excitement they saw on the big screen. The story follows a group of young misfit hockey players who learn to respect the game and work as a unit under their reluctant coach, Gordon Bombay. Together the team and Bombay learn to lighten up and find a balance between their passion for the sport and the fun that makes the sport worth playing while taking on a much more experienced and superior local team for a championship. “The Mighty Ducks” is fondly remembered and remains one of the most iconic kid-focused sports films in history. Its popularity and legacy were further solidified a year after its release as Disney helped bring the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, today simply the Ducks, to the NHL.
While hockey is extremely popular in the United States, most of the talent actually comes from other countries making the Olympics the true test of hockey supremacy every four years. In the 1980 games, the United States had its time to shine in an epic showdown against the Soviets in the medal round on U.S. soil in Lake Placid. Their victory against the far superior Soviet team was deemed the “Miracle on Ice” and was explored in the 2004 Disney film “Miracle”. By far one of the most inspiring sports movies ever made, “Miracle” focuses on a proud moment in U.S. sports history often considered one of the U.S.A.’s greatest sports victories ever. Even knowing the eventual results, seeing the game play out is still just as dramatic as watching a live game, although with better camera angles of course. To top it all off, Kurt Russell’s reiteration of coach Herb Brooks’ pre-game speech is amazing and has since become one of the most inspiring monologues in movie and sports history.
1. “Slap Shot”
The obvious choice is the correct choice for this list. The 1977 comedy classic “Slap Shot” remains the definitive hockey film. Written by Academy Award winner Nancy Dowd, “Slap Shot” explores a minor league hockey team that turns to violent play to get an edge and earn popularity. In doing so “Slap Shot” manages to explore both the violent nature of the game and the action associated with traditional hockey better than probably any movie before or since. “Slap Shot” has become known as a comedy masterpiece and a cult classic earning legions of fans in the last three decades even spawning merchandise and Chiefs jerseys that fans still wear to real-life NHL games today. Over time “Slap Shot” has become more than just a love letter to hockey. Some consider it one of if not the best sports movie of all time while others have considered it one of the greatest comedies ever made. With a legacy like that its hard to deny this movie its righteous title as the greatest hockey movie ever and a true, unquestionable classic worth watching again and again.