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15 Movie Sports That Are More Fun Than Football

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“It’s an odd boy who doesn’t like sport,” sang Viv Stanshall in 1968. “Sport turns out a jolly good sort.” That may well be true, but which sport? For those of us odd boys and girls who may not be completely swept up by the arrival of the World Cup this weekend, perhaps there’s an alternative among this collection of (often rather bloodthirsty) filmic follies to fire your imagination…

ROLLERBALL

Film: Rollerball

The game: It's basically like Roller Derby, taking place around a banked circular track with the players on rollerskates. There are just a few tiny changes: in this case, some players are on motorbikes too, and violent contact is positively encouraged. Two teams compete for possession of a steel ball, and you score goals by slamming said ball into a magnetic cone.

Could this exist in real life? Only in a dystopia.
Does it carry a high risk of death? Yes.
Does it carry a high risk of serious injury? Yes.
Is death or serious injury the point? Kinda.


DEATH RACE

Film: Death Race 2000 / Death Race / Death Race 2 / Death Race: Inferno (1975-2012)


The game*: In Roger Corman’s original, it’s a cross country Cannonball Run-type road race, with the added twist that you score for killing your opposition, and get bonus points for mowing down pedestrians. In the Paul WS Anderson remake (and its DTV sequels) the vehicular carnage is (mostly) enclosed within prison walls on tracks, and it’s all more akin to gladiatorial combat. But both versions are essentially about being the last man standing.

Could this exist in real life? Only in a dystopia.
Does it carry a high risk of death? Yes - for spectators as well as participants.
Does it carry a high risk of serious injury? Yes.
Is death or serious injury the point? Yes, pretty much.


3D CHESS

Film: Star Wars / Star Trek (various)

The game: The Star Wars version is Holochess, played on a circular board with four holographic monsters per player. The objective seems to be to either jump over or capture your opponent’s creatures in perhaps the coolest board game ever created. Star Trek, meanwhile, gave us Tri-Dimensional Chess, which has the same 64 squares as a normal chessboard, but splits the board into three levels. Often on-screen during the 60s TV series, nobody actually figured out how to play it until 1976.

Could this exist in real life? Yes: in Trek's case it already does and in Wars' case there are rumorus that it's getting closer.
Does it carry a high risk of death? No.
Does it carry a high risk of serious injury? No. (But let the Wookiee win).
Is death or serious injury the point? No (except possibly for Wookiees).

THE HUNGER GAMES / BATTLE ROYALE

Film: The Hunger Games series / Battle Royale series

The game: In both cases, it involves teenagers being shipped to an isolated location and instructed to kill each other by any means available until only one is left. The premise in The Hunger Games is that districts must choose competitors by lottery, as punishment / tribute for past insurrection. In Battle Royale, it’s to do with a government-imposed act that’s somehow supposed to prevent truancy from school. Surely if your whole class was likely to be shipped off for a deathmatch you’d be more inclined not to show up. But hey…

Could this exist in real life? Only in a dystopia.
Does it carry a high risk of death? Yes, well over 90% in both cases.
Does it carry a high risk of serious injury? Yes; even the winners suffer extreme PTSD.
Is death or serious injury the point? You betcha.


QUIDDITCH

Film: The Harry Potter series (2001-2011)

The game: Semi-contact airborne sport played on flying broomsticks between two teams of seven players. The object is to get the Quaffle (the big ball) through the hoops, scoring ten points each time. Hindrance comes in the form of your opposing team and two independently-propelled magic iron balls called Bludgers, which are there to knock players off their brooms. Both teams have “beaters” to stop this happening. There’s also the business of The Golden Snitch, another ball that whizzes around on its own and scores 150 points for the team that manages to get hold of it. The game can’t end until the Snitch is caught, meaning that some games can theoretically last for months, although that seems to be rare.

Could this exist in real life? No, but it does anyway.
Does it carry a high risk of death? No, as long as you're surrounded by competent wizards.
Does it carry a high risk of serious injury? No, as long as you're surrounded by competent wizards.
Is death or serious injury the point? No.


JUGGER

Film: Salute of the Jugger (1989)

The game: Actually just referred to as The Game in the film, Jugger is played in the post-apocalyptic market towns outside of The Nine Cities by roving amateur teams (although there’s a tough-to-get-into professional league too). The prize is a trophy made of a dog’s skull, which, not coincidentally, is also the ball. Players are all armoured and armed (poles, chains), with the exception of the Quick, who’s the only competitor allowed to touch the skull with their hands. The aim of the game is for the armed teammates to protect the Quick, who attempts to score by placing the skull on the opposition’s goalpost. There’s a time limit to achieve that, and as soon as skull hits post, it’s game over.

Could this exist in real life? Yes (and it does).
Does it carry a high risk of death? Yes, although slightly less so in the real-world version.
Does it carry a high risk of serious injury? Yes.
Is death or serious injury the point? No.

THE RUNNING MAN

Film: The Running Man (1987)

The game: More the name of a gameshow than the name of a sport, The Running Man drops convicted criminals (in garish jumpsuits) into a violent gamezone where they have to survive nutters with electric suits and buzzsaws and the like. In Stephen King’s original novel, the action isn’t enclosed in a studio lot, and the protagonist is hunted across America (well, some of it: Detroit, New York, Boston, New Hampshire and, inevitably given the author, Maine).

Could this exist in real life? Only in a dystopia.
Does it carry a high risk of death? Yes.
Does it carry a high risk of serious injury? Yes.
Is death or serious injury the point? Yes.


BASEKETBALL

Baseketball
Film: BASEketball (1998)

The game: Invented by Jerry Zucker for people who are rubbish at sport, baseketball is basically basketball played with baseball rules (with shades of the complicated basketball variant “Horse”, just for good measure). Missing a shot equals an out, while hoops made from various points on the court count as either home runs, triples, doubles or singles. Sledging (in the cricket sense) is also encouraged, in the form of “psych-outs” to put opponents off their shots. Anything goes where those are concerned, almost like a big-screen Calvinball.

Could this exist in real life? Yes, and we're sort of amazed more people aren't playing it for giggles (see also: Calvinball).
Does it carry a high risk of death? No.
Does it carry a high risk of serious injury? No.
Is death or serious injury the point? No.


LIGHT CYCLES

Light Cycles
Film: Tron & Tron: Legacy (1982, 2010)

The game: An arcade game if you’re in the real world on the outside of the machine, but rather more if you’re in the game itself. Players get a rod which generates a solid motorcycle-like shell around them, which they then drive on a grid. The bikes have no brakes and can only turn at 90 degree angles, and they leave a solid wall of light behind them which other bikes can crash into. The object is to be the last cycle on the grid, having avoided crashing and caused everyone else to crash.

Could this exist in real life? No.
Does it carry a high risk of death? Yes (or at least “derezzing”).
Does it carry a high risk of serious injury? No, there doesn't seem to be any stage between derezzing and surviving. It’s all or nothing.
Is death or serious injury the point? Yes.

PODRACING

The game: Pods are one-man, very fast anti-gravity racing craft made of two turbines lashed to a cockpit by haphazard cables and ion beams. Ostensibly just a race, its underground, less-than-legal nature comes from the gonzo nature of the craft themselves, meaning that crowds watch for the probable carnage as well as the skill of the winner. The Hutts control most of the gambling that goes along with it.

Could this exist in real life? No.
Does it carry a high risk of death? Yes.
Does it carry a high risk of serious injury? Yes.
Is death or serious injury the point? Not officially. But yes.


SHAOLIN SOCCER

Film: Shaolin Soccer (2001)

The game: The invention of the mystical Golden Leg, Shaolin Soccer combines the beautiful game with enlightenment-achieved kung-fu superheroics. The result is no-rules lunacy, where flying through the air, and kicking the ball so hard it catches fire, burns off the goalie’s strip and leaves a crater when it lands, are entirely acceptable. If the World Cup looked like this, we'd never miss a game.

Could this exist in real life? No.
Does it carry a high risk of death? No.
Does it carry a high risk of serious injury? Yes.
Is death or serious injury the point? No.


JUMPBALL

Film: Starship Troopers (1997)

The game
Very much akin to American Football, it seems, except that you play it in a gym rather than on a field, and the ball is metal. It’s unclear why that’s necessary, but it’s a dystopian future, so metal balls are de rigueur, we guess. Jumpball is also a lot more gymnastic than its present-day counterpart, making dainty cartwheels over your opponents something of a feature. Hence the name.

Could this exist in real life? Yes, just about.
Does it carry a high risk of death? No.
Does it carry a high risk of serious injury? No.
Is death or serious injury the point? No.

WHACKBAT

Film: Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

The game: It’s real simple. Basically there’s three grabbers, three taggers, five twig-runners and a player of Whackbat. The centre tagger lights a pinecone and chucks it over the basket and the whack-batter tries to hit the cedar stick off the cross rock. Then the twig-runners dash back and forth until the pinecone burns out and the umpire calls hotbox. Finally, you count up however many score-downs it adds up to and divide that by nine. Clear?

Could this exist in real life? The world would be a better place if it did.
Does it carry a high risk of death? No.
Does it carry a high risk of serious injury? No.
Is death or serious injury the point? No.


ROBOT BOXING

Robot Boxing
Film: Real Steel (2011)

The game: It’s boxing, right? But with robots. And as in real boxing there are both officially accredited and more dubious underground versions. The twist is that this is also a sort of Robot Wars, with few or no rules as to what you can actually design your robot to do. That means that it’s less about the skill of the guy controlling the robot, and more about the mods performed before it actually gets in the ring. There’s no equivalent of boxing’s weight categories either, so if you’re unlucky you might end up facing an opponent twice your size. That seems like a flaw in the system…

Could this exist in real life? Yes, although the technology’s not quite there yet.
Does it carry a high risk of death? To the robot, yes. Less so to the controller.
Does it carry a high risk of serious injury? Ditto.
Is death or serious injury the point? To the robots, yes.


FUTURESPORT

Film: Futuresport (1998)

The game: Not unlike Rollerball, Futuresport takes place in a banked circular arena and involves getting a metal ball into a cone-shaped hole. It’s more like hockey than roller derby, however, with elements of basketball and baseball (though not BASEketball, sadly), and you play it on rollerblades and hoverboards, because THE FUTURE. The US government created it as a manageable way to reduce gang warfare – which makes about as much sense as Battle Royale being a truancy corrective.

Could this exist in real life? Only in a dystopia.
Does it carry a high risk of death? Yes.
Does it carry a high risk of serious injury? Yes.
Is death or serious injury the point? Yes.