The competitive nature of sport lends itself especially well to the feel-good movie genre, offering plausible scenarios for the time-honoured tale of the likeable underdog who struggles through a series of challenges before ultimately emerging a winner.
Arguably the most famous example of the genre is Rocky, Sylvester Stallone’s now iconic 1976 rags to riches tale of a back street debt collector who rises to compete for the world heavyweight championship.
While Balboa doesn’t actually win the fight, he ends the film by winning the girl and the respect of an army of boxing fans – a victory which boosts his own sense of worth far beyond anything a trophy could bestow on him.
At the other end of the serious spectrum is The Mighty Ducks. The first of a trilogy, the film stars Emilio Estevez as a lawyer arrested drunk driving and sentenced to community service by coaching the local youth hockey team.
Leading his charges to victory against his own former team, the film ends with Estevez’s character promising to return the following season and help them defend their title.
An obvious attempt to recapture the success of Top Gun, Tony Scott’s Days of Thunder takes the formula to the race tracks, this time casting Tom Cruise as a young, cocky racer hellbent on winning the NASCAR championship.
The film is perhaps most notable for Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s meeting and subsequent – now ended – marriage.
For horse racing fans, a popular cult favourite is Phar Lap, a 1983 movie about the real-life New Zealand-bred racehorse who went from finishing last in his first race to winning Australia’s biggest and most famous race, the Melbourne Cup.
The horse’s real-world success captured the imagination of a public dealing with the early years of the Great Depression.
So popular was Phar Lap that his heart was donated to Canberra’s Institute of Anatomy and his skeleton to the New Zealand’s National Museum in Wellington. while his stuffed body was placed in the Australia Gallery at Melbourne Museum.