Total Recall

Fake (And Often Fatal) Movie Sports

With The Hunger Games hitting theaters, we run down some memorable big screen athletic competitions that you should definitely not try at home.

by | March 22, 2012 | Comments

Jennifer Lawrence hits the ground running this weekend with The Hunger Games, carrying a teen-friendly franchise-in-waiting that Hollywood’s hoping will pick up where Harry Potter (and, later this year, Twilight) left off. And as a contestant in the titular games, she also joins a long film tradition of protagonists playing fictional sports — one we decided would be perfect to discuss in this week’s list. From action to fantasy, comedy to drama, it’s time to play some fake games… Total Recall style!


BASEketball (1998) 41%


BASEketball – Once upon a time, noted Hollywood satirist-turned-political activist David Zucker wondered what would happen if people played Horse on a baseball diamond, and the rest, as they say, was history. Released in 1998, BASEketball united South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker in a live-action comedy about a pair of slackers who accidentally invent a game that takes the nation by storm. Sadly, the film failed to capture that magic, grossing a little over $7 million against a $23 million budget — although it inspired at least one real-life league.


Death Race 2000 (1975) 81%


Death Race – For commuters in certain parts of the country, getting behind the wheel can feel like entering into a lawless, post-apocalyptic bloodsport. But the next time some jerk cuts you off, just remember: At least you’re not a contestant in Death Race 2000, Paul Bartel’s blood-soaked ode to the vicarious thrill of putting the pedal to the metal and feeding asphalt to anyone unlucky enough to get in your way. (Also be glad you aren’t watching Paul W.S. Anderson’s generally inferior 2008 remake, which gains Jason Statham but loses the authentic grindhouse vibe.)


Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope (1977) 93%


Dejarik – For all the awesome advances and cool gadgets that science has given us, we still have yet to achieve the thrill of playing hologram animated chess on the deck of a ship hurtling through hyperspace with a giant furry thing acting as co-pilot. Fortunately, we can live vicariously through the scene in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope — and benefit from the countless hours devoted to the study of this fake game by the noble nerds responsible for its Wookieepedia entry.


The Blood of Heroes (1989) 13%


The Game – Before the Insane Clown Posse gave us Juggalos, The Blood of Heroes gave us Juggers, roving bands of post-apocalyptic lunatics who battered each other mercilessly in order to collect dog skull trophies in “The Game,” a bloody, psychotic spin on field hockey, and attract the attention of “The League” so they could play in luxurious underground cities. If it all sounds like dystopian hooey, it sort of is, but Heroes has enough of a cult following that a real-life variant on “The Game” — called Jugger — is played in a handful of countries around the world. Guard your dog skulls, people.


Starship Troopers (1997) 66%


Jumpball – Imagine the NFL if it played its games with bike helmets and paralysis-defying leaps in high school gymnasiums, and you’ll have an idea of what this sport played by the citizens of 24th century America in Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers is all about. As futuristic fake movie sports go, Jumpball isn’t all that exotic-looking — sort of like the Arena Football League without Jon Bon Jovi in the owner’s box — but it gives the movie a properly testosterone-filled buildup to the Bug-slaying main event.


Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace (1999) 51%


Podracing – Podracing tournaments are a big deal on Anakin Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine, where the outcome can be important enough to tempt a grumpy Toydarian into making a high-stakes bet that could end up costing him his adorable little human slave. Jake Lloyd’s finest hour — and arguably the most exciting part of the movie — the podracing segment in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace gave (albeit fleeting) free rein to George Lucas’ affection for Golden Age cliffhanger action serials.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) 81%


Quidditch – Harry Potter and his friends at Hogwarts may have had magic powers, but they were still teenagers at heart — and like a lot of other kids, they bonded with intramural sports, only in their case, the game in question involved flying broomsticks, enchanted balls, and plenty of contact. A source of swooping action and high-stakes drama in the Potter books and movies, Quidditch has also become a favorite real-life pastime for a small (and yet surprisingly large) group of aficionados who don’t mind being seen running around a field with a broom held between their legs.


Quintet (1979) 20%


Quintet – An unabashed oddity in the filmographies of its star (Paul Newman) and director (Robert Altman), this 1979 turkey also stands out on our list because it’s the only one that actually tried to inspire a game off the screen — as evidenced by this detailed pamphlet laying out the rules. Of course, the real-life rules don’t advocate the actual murder of losing contestants, but the reduction in stakes didn’t help; Quintet the needlessly complicated board game, like Quintet the convoluted dystopian sci-fi film, failed to catch on.


Rollerball (1975) 69%


Rollerball – There are few things less intimidating than a dude on rollerskates — unless he’s wearing a spike-studded glove, in which case he’s probably a Rollerball champion and you should just stay far, far out of his way. Directed by the normally more sober-minded Norman Jewison, 1975’s Rollerball adapted the William Harrison short story about a corporate-dominated future in which the most popular sport involves armor-clad contestants hurtling around a track and trying to huck a steel ball into the opposing team’s goal. A decent-sized hit with audiences as well as critics, it was sadly reborn in 2002 with Chris Klein and LL Cool J in the leading roles, and the less said about that, the better.


Real Steel (2011) 60%


Real Steel – Unlike a lot of the sports on this list, Real Steel‘s robot boxing doesn’t require breaking the laws of physics. For that reason — and because it would cut way down on the debilitating brain and body injuries sustained by human boxers — it seems like the best candidate for catching on in the real world. As anyone who’s ever played with Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots can tell you, watching machines pummel each other can be a lot of fun. Make it happen, Arduino enthusiasts!


The Running Man (1987) 67%


Running Man – In 1982, when Stephen King wrote his short story The Running Man, the idea of a collapsed American society where criminals are forced to compete for their freedom (and their, you know, lives) in a televised game show seemed sort of fanciful. These days, scenarios like that one seem only a step or two removed from your average episode of Survivor, but it’s still pretty entertaining watching Arnold Schwarzenegger fight his way to the finish line. People keep talking about a remake, but it won’t be the same without Richard Dawson, Mick Fleetwood, or Dweezil Zappa.


Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) 81%


Thunderdome – Jousting: Awesome. Steel cage fighting: Also awesome. Jousting in a steel cage with bungee cords and a pile of nasty weapons, including a mace and a chainsaw? That’s Thunderdome, baby, and even if the third Mad Max is generally considered the most creatively uneven installment in the trilogy, it at least has this wildly over-the-top, no-holds-barred battle scene going for it. Next time you’re being beaten to a pulp by a giant wearing a metal helmet, remember: Go for the dog whistle.


Finally, here’s an explanation of whackbat, the invented sport from Fantastic Mr. Fox:

Tag Cloud

Amazon Studios canceled TV shows Mary poppins Columbia Pictures Syfy Food Network Shondaland TCA Winter 2020 trailers independent movie ID 79th Golden Globes Awards halloween justice league summer TV preview classics Best and Worst Esquire best hispanic cats news remakes Trivia ghosts Disney Plus stand-up comedy franchise DGA streamig sequels VH1 SDCC romantic comedy comiccon PaleyFest Wes Anderson Hallmark Turner historical drama Mudbound police drama Hulu leaderboard CBS All Access 21st Century Fox wonder woman criterion Baby Yoda South by Southwest Film Festival Pacific Islander sequel docuseries monster movies crime drama E3 rt labs Alien fast and furious CNN First Reviews Rocky Extras SXSW Cosplay video on demand GIFs Amazon Pirates Marvel Television Native Year in Review know your critic biopic toronto binge quibi APB YouTube Red Drama asian-american award winner Hallmark Christmas movies Ovation 2017 hispanic heritage month Rom-Com game of thrones DirecTV Classic Film Watching Series Masterpiece DC streaming service New York Comic Con Logo die hard obituary cancelled lord of the rings Marathons crossover cancelled TV shows Chernobyl deadpool cops Women's History Month YA facebook Fantasy El Rey TV diversity Star Wars Emmy Nominations PBS GLAAD AMC Schedule Animation Arrowverse Apple TV Plus American Society of Cinematographers space revenge 2020 Fargo zombies mutant miniseries MGM book Martial Arts interviews Summer Stephen King Western finale Quiz RT History Travel Channel parents new york Cartoon Network TCA Awards 45 Red Carpet joker critics sopranos high school anthology Musical international green book werewolf Election television superman comic books james bond LGBT Film Festival based on movie young adult comic book movie children's TV documentary 73rd Emmy Awards The CW 93rd Oscars See It Skip It target ESPN supernatural Song of Ice and Fire Sundance TV breaking bad hollywood Television Critics Association directors japanese war worst Discovery Channel spain streaming movies TIFF Shudder Avengers CMT dc biography Binge Guide aapi natural history TBS Britbox 2021 golden globe awards Broadway blockbuster cults Black History Month SundanceTV worst movies comedies Mystery vs. south america heist movie Awards NBC National Geographic Universal Pictures zombie Indigenous game show OWN Rock CW Seed Set visit politics Oscar Disney+ Disney Plus godzilla Calendar IFC Films Pixar stop motion Holidays serial killer Countdown NBA ViacomCBS San Diego Comic-Con summer TV USA Network TCA 2017 dramedy LGBTQ NYCC Oscars movies 2015 blockbusters Brie Larson Tomatazos VOD screen actors guild Music stoner Biopics Endgame comics Valentine's Day Marvel Studios witnail ABC Signature indiana jones TLC President dceu WGN universal monsters FX on Hulu thriller nature Fall TV 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards psycho MCU blaxploitation WarnerMedia 20th Century Fox romance Walt Disney Pictures superhero 4/20 X-Men Peacock Sony Pictures Tags: Comedy composers live action travel Reality Polls and Games Winners psychological thriller transformers mockumentary comic book movies Dark Horse Comics olympics documentaries Sundance Now talk show a nightmare on elm street Anna Paquin Fox Searchlight Showtime scary movies sports concert Spike nfl YouTube 2016 debate Mary Tyler Moore VICE summer preview The Purge Spring TV Paramount The Witch Premiere Dates Paramount Plus spanish video slasher The Walt Disney Company Image Comics fresh Thanksgiving saw anime TruTV Funimation Super Bowl Photos Christmas Captain marvel Instagram Live Legendary AMC Plus Acorn TV ratings FOX disaster MTV scary FXX TV One jamie lee curtis 99% italian kong spider-man elevated horror BBC America football cartoon posters Star Trek Lifetime Christmas movies science fiction true crime 24 frames screenings japan crime thriller Netflix Christmas movies black suspense aliens Television Academy social media Disney Channel Starz Country Amazon Prime Video Video Games prank Lucasfilm hidden camera kaiju Horror Trailer Awards Tour discovery Warner Bros. spinoff docudrama basketball TCM indie live event teaser strong female leads halloween tv Family popular reboot scene in color film series Best Picture Exclusive Video Comedy HFPA sitcom Infographic gangster unscripted IFC RT21 94th Oscars CBS new star wars movies Podcast streaming HBO Go king arthur cooking women Focus Features king kong marvel comics Best Actress Character Guide Cannes Emmys twilight BAFTA Crackle doctor who Sci-Fi Comedy Central dragons scene in color Writers Guild of America Trophy Talk Turner Classic Movies Action Certified Fresh canceled Hear Us Out USA Amazon Prime Reality Competition Ellie Kemper slashers Geeked Week latino ITV HBO rt labs critics edition Marvel Hollywood Foreign Press Association genre ABC versus First Look australia Pop A24 festival marvel cinematic universe series Sneak Peek casting TNT Lifetime GoT adaptation Academy Awards BBC One IMDb TV Crunchyroll HBO Max Rocketman archives name the review A&E adenture dreamworks Sundance OneApp Tumblr hist singing competition Star Wars Celebration Freeform cinemax dexter Paramount Network chucky feel good sag awards foreign 2018 kids Ghostbusters Winter TV Comics on TV obi wan theme song YouTube Premium critic resources Tarantino Elton John Apple Interview Film Box Office Sony Best Actor Tubi 007 book adaptation Nat Geo satire TV Land toy story TV movies Universal scorecard films Superheroe cancelled TV series action-comedy The Arrangement animated golden globes cancelled television Black Mirror adventure Teen all-time Pet Sematary Apple TV+ Lionsgate Best Director royal family razzies DC Comics spanish language Disney Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt child's play dark vampires art house Pop TV spider-verse Holiday 71st Emmy Awards broadcast PlayStation batman Mindy Kaling scene in color series FX Neflix BET Awards 1990s laika Paramount Pictures venice ABC Family Grammys Vudu 72 Emmy Awards Kids & Family DC Universe Musicals Adult Swim The Walking Dead TCA Creative Arts Emmys medical drama telelvision Heroines 2019 what to watch Prime Video 90s BBC crime renewed TV shows Tokyo Olympics Nickelodeon political drama dogs Epix rom-coms rotten festivals Netflix period drama harry potter boxing TV renewals french MSNBC cars new zealand Comic Book legend tv talk richard e. Grant rotten movies we love Spectrum Originals zero dark thirty black comedy mob target scene in color robots boxoffice nbcuniversal free movies trophy BET E! mission: impossible Chilling Adventures of Sabrina The Academy Fox News jurassic park comic Toys pirates of the caribbean Opinion rt archives History Superheroes Disney streaming service Mary Poppins Returns Pride Month Comic-Con@Home 2021 Nominations Bravo technology mcc christmas movies SXSW 2022 reviews spy thriller emmy awards