Top 20 Movie Underdogs


3rd April 2008

Modern cinema just wouldn't be the same without its underdogs: because everyone just loves watching chump become champ. You know the type: the no-hopers who shock the pros, the Davids who bring down the Goliaths, the rank outsiders who come from nowhere to beat the odds and shit all over the bookies. Underdogs come from all walks of life - sport, war, love and even videogaming - but these guys all have one thing in common: they pull off the most unlikely victories, win our hearts and minds and tug on our heartstrings. On behalf of the internet, we thank you all - let's hope the little guys keep on giving us losers hope. We're welling up already.

Downhearted after being kicked to the kerb following a six-year relationship, wannabe actor Mikey (Jon Favreau) attempts to get back in 'the game' via a Vegas road-trip with best buddy Trent (Vince Vaughn). But how can a guy like Mikey - stocky, sensible, shy - punch any kitty in Sin City when in competition with such a deluge of douche? After all, Trent's rules get Mikey nowhere (the answer phone scene is a cringeworthy gem) and every chick that blips on his radar is either too stupid, too highly strung or too unavailable to swing with him, right? Not so: after a movie's worth of effectively being kicked in the crotch by the fairer sex, perennial loser Mikey stumbles across the heavenly form of Heather Graham in a bar and his geeky charm wins out. Talk about pulling above your station - strike one up for the little guy.

The Cleveland Indians are having a stinker of a season; they can't win a game for shit, fans are abandoning them in droves and to top it all off, their new owner wants the team to continue losing so she can move them to Florida. To this end, she puts together the worst team she can find, including a minor league coach (James Gammon), an over the hill catcher with bad knees (Tom Berenger), a prima donna third baseman (Corbin Bernsen) and a pitcher whose only real experience is with the California Penal system (Charlie Sheen). Together, these misfits decide to defy expectations and lead the team to their best season in years, going all the way to the division championship. Despite the diminishing returns of the sequels, Major League still stands as an exceptional entry in the underdog sports genre, and indeed on Charlie Sheen's career CV.

Historical accuracy and crummy accents be damned: Braveheart is still a rousing tale of an underdog struggling to rise above overwhelming odds. As a wee lad, William Wallace (Mel Gibson) bore witness as his father, brother, and numerous others lost their lives attempting to free Scotland from English rule. Now that he's all growns up, Wallace just wants to live the quiet life of a farmer with his childhood sweetheart. Unfortunately, after she's publicly executed by a bastard English sheriff, Wallace finds himself drawn into a bloody guerilla war. In the end, Wallace's merry band is simply no match for English might, and Wallace is taken into custody, whereupon he is beaten, hanged, racked, disemboweled, tickled (not really) and finally publicly beheaded. However, Wallace's final cry of "FREEDOM!" is taken to heart by those who witnessed his execution, and they carry on the fight in his name. Stirring stuff.

It's the oldest cliché in sports movie playbook; a team of lovable misfits must defy the odds and defeat a superior team of seasoned athletes and/or juiced up 'roid freaks. Dodgeball doesn't deviate too far from this tried and true formula, but it does play the premise up for laughs, as Peter Lafleur (Vince Vaughn) leads his team against fitness guru White Goodman (Ben Stiller) and his team of muscle bound monsters. After a rigorous training period with dodgeball legend and whore connoisseur Patches O'Houlihan (Rip Torn), Lafleur and his teammates - including a guy who thinks he's a pirate - travel to Vegas for the international dodgeball tournament and end up facing Goodman's balls in the final round. Can the Average Joes rise to the challenge, or will they go home with their tails tucked between their legs? Well, what do you think? It's a feelgood sports movie. You do the maths.

So unassuming is The King of Kong protagonist, he could slowly fade into another dimension mid-sentence, and you'd barely notice he was gone. Despite displaying promise during his school years, Wiebe became something of a quiet nobody - the American Dream turned down to a hush. Yet Wiebe had two extraordinary secrets up his sleeves - namely magic wrists that allowed him to rack up phenomenal scores on old arcade games. Following his quest to challenge Donkey Kong champion Billy Mitchell to some friendly competition, The King of Kong unravels to show Wiebe caught up in a world of obsession, fanboy elitism and snivelling cronies, determined to stop nobodies like him getting a look-in. But life finds a way. The cuddly human to Mitchell's scheming android, Wiebe eventually proves that nice guys don't always finish last, no matter what the initials on the scoreboard say.

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