You’d think that the age-old story of heroism and realising your potential would have gotten boring by now. Yet these seven films about cinema's favourite underdogs prove that the cliché remains a popular crowd-pleaser!   

1. Rocky

Rocky

A triple-Oscar-winner (including Best Picture) and the obvious choice when it comes to ‘the little guy making it big’ movies. Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone, this sports drama has become the ultimate rags to riches story. 

The film was also a breakthrough life event for Stallone himself: prior to appearing in Rocky, he was earning $36-a-week as an usher.

 

2. Erin Brockovich

The influence of Rocky is clearly visible even outside the sports film genre as it inspired director Steven Soderbergh to make Erin Brockovich, the movie that won Julia Roberts an Oscar for her performance as the feisty, foul-mouthed, no-nonsense suburban mother who discovers contaminants in her local water and single-handedly takes on a corrupt system. 

The real Erin Brockovich, who initially hoped that Goldie Hawn would play her in the film, made a cameo appearance as a waitress named Julia. 

Buy Erin Brockovich on DVD

 

3. The Fighter/Warrior

A duo of thematically and stylistically similar sports dramas revolving around a complex relationship between two brothers, their problematic family lives, the multiple sacrifices they make to achieve their ambitions, and, you’ve guessed it—extensive training and fighting montages.

Both are incredibly vibrant and powerful productions, full of graphic, painful-to-watch scenes of people’s arms, hands, and ribs being broken.

 

4. 8 Mile

8 Mile

A harrowing story of success based on rapper Eminem’s early steps to becoming a hip-hop icon of cult status.

Set in 1995, it tells the story of a young white rapper living in a mobile home with his broken family in Michigan, and his attempt to launch a career in rap—a genre dominated by black people.

The film won an Oscar for Best Music, making it the first film to have a rap/hip-hop song win an Academy Award, with ‘Lose Yourself’, becoming one of Eminem’s biggest hits.

 

5. The Devil Wears Prada

Probably the lightest entry in our list, The Devil Wears Prada tells the bittersweet but mostly fun story of Andy—an aspiring journalist who lands a job as an assistant to the notoriously demanding, icy editor-in-chief of a high fashion magazine, brilliantly played by Meryl Streep.

It is widely believed that the character was based on the US Vogue editor Anna Wintour who, despite the initial scepticism, said she had liked the film. 

It is a heart-warming fish out of water story, but also a thoughtful cautionary tale, reminding you to be careful what you wish for.

 

6. Cinderella Man

The inspiring real-life story of James Braddock, a supposedly washed-up boxer who came back to become a champion in the 1930s. Russell Crowe portrayed the titular “Cinderella Man” who, after losing an important fight and fracturing his arm, hit rock bottom.

When given the chance to fight again, he managed to beat the menacing World Heavyweight Champion, Max Baer in 1935. “When you've been through what I've had to face in the last two years, a Max Baer or a Bengal tiger looks like a house pet”—he said of the fight. 

 

7. Seabiscuit

seabiscuit

Another Depression-era sports drama based on true facts, which was nominated for a whopping seven Oscars.

It tells the story of the eponymous undersized, overlooked racehorse whose victories became a symbol of hope for many Americans.

Tobey Maguire, as well as Oscar-winners Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper starred in the film while ten different horses shared the role of Seabiscuit.

 

Enjoyed these? You'll love Bleed for This

Starring one of the best young actors around, Miles Teller (Whiplash, War Dogs), and cinema veteran Aaron Eckhart, the film is a textbook comeback tale.

Vinny "The Pazmanian Devil" Pazienza is an up-and-coming boxer with two world titles to his name. When a near-fatal car accident leaves him with a broken neck, he is told he may never walk again. But it wouldn’t be Vinny if he gave up without a fight.

Relentlessly entertaining and sleek, Bleed for This keeps you on your toes from start to finish, with a powerhouse of a central performance from Miles Teller. With his Italian-American accent, boyish swagger, moody demeanour and unbreakable determination, he makes for exhilarating company for two hours.

 

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