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Jan. 17, 2022

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‘King Richard’ joins biographical sports films genre

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Whether they’re skating on a rink in Lake Placid or speeding across a track in Le Mans, sports figures can make for sterling cinema.

Filmgoers eager to catch Will Smith’s turn as Venus and Serena Williams’ father in “King Richard” should check out these true-life marriages of sports and celluloid.

‘Ali’ (2001)

Two decades before “King Richard,” Smith portrayed Muhammad Ali in the movie about the boxing great’s life and career.

Smith captured Ali the athlete and activist, a performance that earned him the first of his two Oscar nominations. Many predict a third is on the way for “King Richard.”

‘42’(2013)

There’s a reason you never see a current baseball player wearing No. 42.

Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the late Chadwick Boseman captured the dignity, strength and inner turmoil of a man who had to be brave and strong enough not to fight back against the vile physical and verbal attacks against him.

As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, the Dodgers GM who decided it wasn’t right for the sport to be as white as the actual baseball.

‘Ford v Ferrari’ (2019)

Got a need for speed? This is your movie.

Christian Bale and Matt Damon revved up audiences and critics alike with their drama about the Ford Motor Company’s attempt to build a race car capable of defeating Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.

It was nominated for four Oscars, including best picture.

‘The Pride of the Yankees’ (1942)

You’ll consider yourself the luckiest person on the face of the Earth after seeing this tribute to the great Lou Gehrig, whose career and life were cut short by the disease that came to be synonymous with his name.

Gary Cooper gives a Hall of Fame performance as the Iron Horse, and nobody can play Babe Ruth like Babe Ruth.

‘61*’ (2001)

Speaking of the Bambino, his record of 60 home runs stood from 1927 until 1961, the year the season was lengthened, sparking the asterisk heard ‘round the world.

Diehard Yankees fan Billy Crystal directed the flick that sees beloved Yankee Mickey Mantle and never-accepted outsider Roger Maris compete for the hallowed homer mark. Both leads hit it out of the park: Thomas Jane as the hard-partying Mick and Barry Pepper as the straight-laced, stressed-out Maris.

‘Raging Bull’ (1980)

It’s peak De Niro and peak Scorsese.

Martin Scorsese used beautiful black and white to film the story of hard-charging Bronx boxer Jake LaMotta, who led a troubled life in and out of the ring.

Robert De Niro also gave his all — and then some. The actor packed on 60 pounds to play the post-pugilism LaMotta and Oscar voters rewarded him with a statue.

‘Coach Carter’ (2005)

Players are supposed to listen to their coach, and how can you not hear what Samuel L. Jackson is saying?

Jackson plays high school coach Ken Carter, who prepares his troubled students at Richmond High School in California for success on and off the court.

‘Miracle’ (2004)

One of the biggest battles of the Cold War took place on a sheet of ice.

Team USA’s unfathomable upset of the mighty USSR on its way to the 1980 Olympic hockey gold medal is a perfect Disney story. And Kurt Russell, who made movies for Walt Disney himself as a child star, is dead-on as coach Herb Brooks.

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