Top Ten Future Sports in Movies

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

[This is a repost of a previous Screen Realm article]

Sports, sports, sports! Everyone loves sports, don’t they? At least here in Australia, we’re just a big old sports-loving nation. Well, I’ve got some news for you, buddy. Future society isn’t content with the boring, pedestrian sports we have today.

Whether you’re living in a grim dystopia, ruled by scheming corporate overlords, or just trundling about a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the future sports punter wants to raise the stakes. So you’ll be in for something brutal, from a more basic age, or something too convoluted and futuristic for our puny, antiquated brains to understand. Gladiatorial variations are popular, as are violent evolutions of today’s games. Future sport is big business. Future sport is life and death. Future sport is secretly critiquing society as a whole. So sit back, pick a team and get ready for kick off with the Top Ten Future Movie Sports.

10. Thunderdome | Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

“Two men enter, one man leaves.” Thunderdome’s rudimentary, yet enduring appeal makes it the sport of choice for your motley assortment of radiation scorched, wasteland freaks in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Aunty Entity’s (Tina Turner) forging a new world order with blood sport justice and a town fuelled by pig poop. If she wants to beef with you, you’ll find yourself locked up in the ultimate steel cage death match – bungee jumping for weapons and trading knuckle sandwiches with lunatic ex-cop Max Rockatansky, or gigantic brick shithouse, Blaster.

9. Robot Boxing | Real Steel

If Real Steel is to be believed, all human boxing and fighting will shortly be making way for real life Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. Whereby giant punchy androids beat seven bells out of each other, under the control of a human operator, like giant radio-controlled cars. Evidently, this groundbreaking technology will not really be employed elsewhere in society – it’s only clear application being to enhance robotic fisticuffs. Outside of the big leagues, you might find yourself trawling round country fairs, ala Hugh Jackman, putting in a shift in as both the world’s worst robot boxer and the world’s worst Dad. Conveniently putting aside your son’s 11 odd years of abandonment issues in the face of robo-bonding and a profitable fight card.

8. The Grid | TRON: Legacy

On the one hand, TRON: Legacy‘s neon streaked, gladiatorial combat (are you noticing a theme yet?) is merely a video game. But on the other hand, if you find yourself beamed into the grid by the malevolent Master Control Programme (MCP), ala computer boffin Kevin Flynn, the texture of your reality is gonna end up pixelated. If it’s not bad enough that you have to prat about in a fluoro trimmed leotard, evil henchman Sark is going to make you play a deadly frisbee / Jai alai combo. You’ll have to hop about a dissolving circular platform and whizz a ball back and forth across the void, in the hope of obliterating your electronic nemesis. Find your way out of that sticky wicket and they’ll have you and your computer friends – Tron and Ram – speeding around an arena on a sultry light cycle superbike, trying to get your red tinged opponents to crash into walls and ‘derez’. Now we wouldn’t recommend driving like this, but we would recommend superbikes. Nothing quite beats the thrill of such a powerful engine, the sound, the power, the open road – it really is nirvana.

7. The Running Man | The Running Man

This one’s stretching the sports definition a bit, as technically The Running Man is a game show, but what kind of sports article would this be if it didn’t cheat a bit? To that end, consider this entry to be the performance enhancing, anabolic steroid choice of the list. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Ben Richards, wrongly convicted of massacring people with a helicopter gunship during a food riot, and sentenced to compete in a live, televised gladiatorial battle. His prize? Freedom itself. Before long, Arnie, Yaphet Kotto and Maria Conchita Alonso are offing ‘stalkers’ left, right and centre and alerting the world to the manipulative media and the corrupt forces behind their favourite sport and the government. And you thought F.I.F.A. was bad! Subtlety was not a byword for this production, that’s for sure. So get yourself in front of the tube, crack a coldie, and watch the state collapse. The revolution will be televised. Who knew?

6. Pod Race | Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace

Hard to tell whether this one is technically a future sport or not since it’s set ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away’, but we’ll go with it for the sake of the list. When the residents of Tatooine are not scrapping in the Mos Eisley cantina or popping down to the Toshe Station for some power converters, you will likely find them taking in a spot of Pod Racing, which is basically a no-holds-barred, alien version of Motocross. A bunch of souped up, high-powered speeders zoom around an off-road racecourse, avoiding Tusken Raiders, and trying not to get blown to smithereens by pod race jerk, Sebulba. Anakin Skywalker, the future dark lord of The Sith is, at this point, content to merely irritate everyone, half build a droid and creep on Queen Amidala while hepped up on Midichlorians. But young ‘Annie’ does eventually have claim to being “the best star pilot in the galaxy,” so when he bets the farm on the outcome of the Pod Race, an exciting day is on the cards. So find yourself a nice spot in the stands ““ preferably in the twin sunshine, and away from the Hutts – and cheer on your favourite podracer. “Yippee!”

5. The Games | Robot Jox

Before Guillermo del Toro made Pacific Rim, Re-Animator director Stuart Gordon was getting in on that whole giant-robot-beats-the-shit-out-of-things oeuvre, with Robot Jox. Here, our future society is all messed up and polluted, so you folks will be walking about in facemasks and being encouraged to breed like rabbits. The Robot ‘Jocking’ is not so much a sport as a sophisticated new-world alternative to war, wherein two giant mechs duke it out for lucrative world territory and general indomitable supremacy. There are only two teams ““ you’ll find yourself supporting either The Market (a.k.a. thinly veiled future-USA) or The Confederation (a.k.a. crude Soviet Union stereotype). But take care when going out to the games, because being a spectator can be a somewhat dicey business, and you can easily burn out on being an illiterate Robot Jock if you squish one too many families underneath a giant, toppling mecha. When push comes to shove, the training of a good pilot will always win out ““ unless facing off against a phallic stage Confederation mech, secretly harbouring a gigantic chainsaw robo dork!

4. Jump Ball | Starship Troopers

Combining the thrill of modern day American Football with some parkour gymnastic stylings, Jump Ball is the sport of choice for the young, hip, wholesome members of the future Hitlerjugend. You should enjoy a nice game of College League Jump Ball while you can, because before you know it, your crypto-fascist utopia is gonna come tumbling right down, after the “goddam bugs whack(ed) us, Johnny.” You’ll find yourself shipped off to Klendathu, knee deep in your buddy’s guts, and facing the business end of some hella pointy Arachnid mandibles. And not even you and Johnny Rico’s matching tattoos are going to be able to solve that problem.

3. Transcontinental Road Race | Death Race 2000

Those future dystopias are at it again! This time society is being pacified by a deranged mash up of the Cannonball Run and Wacky Races. Tune in to watch five competitors battle it out across the nation, scoring extra points (what do those bonus points do?) for making road kill out of babies, the elderly and the infirm. Compounding matters are those pesky enemies of the state–the French (!). On paper it would appear that Death Race 2000 is merely an actualised representation of Jeremy Clarkson’s mind, however Roger Corman’s lurid exploitation fest also throws revolutionary uprising and presidential assassination plots into the mix. Notable also, for an early Stallone appearance, and David Carradine wearing a creepy S&M mask. Remade in 2008 as yet another clunker on the monumentally dreadful filmography of Paul WS Anderson, you are well advised to stick with the original. So sit back on the couch again (the revolution seems like it’s gonna be pretty ‘laissez-faire’ about active participation from the masses) and check out what happens on Euthanasia Day.

2. The Game | The Salute of the Jugger [a.k.a. The Blood of Heroes]

Part American Football, part Kabbadi, all madness. The Game is a confounding contact sport amalgam, played in the dust and grit of a nuked-out Earth. The objective of this brutal neo-gridiron is to plonk a dead dog skull onto a post at the opposing end of the field; and in the process, prevent your opposition from doing likewise. The participants are known as Juggers – nomadically traversing the wasteland looking for a match. But don’t try too hard to understand the subtleties of The Game– because there are none. Salute of the Jugger uses the tried-and-tested sports movie trope of disgraced-ex-player-tries-to-make-it-back-to-the-big leagues, except in this instance the ‘big leagues’ means an underground city where The Game is more brutal and the rewards more lucrative. Rutger Hauer heads up the team of Juggers; another enigmatic turn from the man who wrote the book on how to underplay taciturn, soft-spoken action movie oddballs. The rest of the team compiles 90s ubiquity in the form of Joan Chen, underrated character acting via Delroy Lindo, and professional scenery chewer Vincent D’Onofrio. Australian Jugger fans may be interested to note that the movie was filmed in South Australia, which for my money should be that State’s greatest claim to fame, and Rutger Hauer should be on the currency.

1. Rollerball | Rollerball

In the not too distant future, we’ve only gone and signed over all our civil liberties to big business, haven’t we? Crusty old white guys are now running the show with a smooth corporate efficiency. In order to keep the masses docile and unquestioning, the faceless moneymen serve us up a new opiate: Rollerball, a hyper violent take on roller derby. Two teams are pitted against each other, equipped with only rollerskates, motorbikes and studded punk rock gloves. They must take it in turns to score goals and beat the living hell out of each other in front of a baying crowd. Rollerball is designed to be so violent that no one player can ever get so good at it, as to become a hero (and thus sew the seeds of revolution, comrade). However, Evil Corporate America did not count on the awesome Rollerballing prowess of Jonathan E (James Caan). When the fans get behind him and Jonathan becomes Rollerball’s first real ‘star’, the suits try to make Jonathan retire. But he’s just too damn good, and refuses, forcing the powers that be to rewrite the rulebook and make Rollerball more dangerous than ever.