There's an argument to be made that hockey has some of the best movies of any major sport. Hockey films have influenced the way the modern game is played and played a huge role in growing the sport, giving it much needed publicity. If you just can’t wait any longer for professional hockey to return, here's five of the best hockey movies ever to scratch that itch.
1. “Mystery, Alaska” (1999)
Every hockey kid whos ever lived has dreamed of growing up in a world that revolved around pond hockey. “Mystery, Alaska” excels at bringing this dream to life. The film may be about a hockey game against the New York Rangers, but the movie is best when spending time with the interesting cast of Mystery townspeople. John Beibe (Russell Crowe) makes a great protagonist, with great flow to match, but his redemption story is by far the best part of his character, going from grizzled hockey captain to washed up sheriff and back again as he tries to balance his love of the game with family life.
The Judge (Burt Reynolds) is one of my favorite characters, a hardline conservative who opens up to the world through the game of hockey, and lest we forget Bailey Pruitt (Maury Chaykin), who (spoilers!) gave his life to ensure the Rangers really made the trip to Mystery. It’s an adventurous town where everybody knows everything, and to top it off, they all love hockey. This movie has a little comedy, a little heroism and certainly pulls on the heartstrings. You don’t have to be a diehard hockey fan to enjoy “Mystery, Alaska,” but you'll love it more if you are one.
2. “Miracle” (2004)
The hockey equivalent of “Friday Night Lights,” “Miracle” is guaranteed to give you chills, even if you don't know what icing is. This Disney classic portrays the US men's Olympic hockey team’s match against the Soviet Union in 1980, an event dubbed the “Miracle on Ice.” The political context of the game makes it far and away the most important sports moment of the 20th century, made even more impressive when you learn that the American team of young college hockey players was up against experienced Russian professionals.
Outside of the historical significance, Kurt Russell portrays gritty American coach Herb Brooks brilliantly, and the struggles that all of the players, coaches and families face on their road to an Olympic gold will have you blinking away tears. If you haven't watched this movie before, I guarantee you'll be wanting to put on an American hockey jersey yourself by the end of it.
3. “Slap Shot” (1977)
As the oldest film on the list, “Slap Shot” is the mother of good hockey films, and for the most part, it's aged wonderfully. It is unapologetically funny, in your face and full of legendary moments. Its climax is one of the most memorable sequences in hockey cinema, and any fan of the sport will instantly know what you mean if you mention “puttin’ on the foil.” “Slap Shot” pulls no punches when portraying the life of an amateur athlete, removing the romantic sheen that sometimes covers up the grittier aspects of professional sports. Back in the ‘70s when “Slap Shot” was released, hockey was a much more violent game than it is today, and this held the sport back from being considered a serious game.
“Slap Shot” criticises this violence, but don't worry, it shows you plenty of it too. There's bench clearing brawls, fistfights during warmups and plenty of missing teeth. You can watch “Slap Shot” two ways: either turn your brain off and enjoy the ride, or really pay attention to the film's message. Both make for a good movie night.
4. “The Mighty Ducks” (1992)
“The Mighty Ducks” is probably the toughest film on this list for me to rank. On one hand, it's a Disney children's movie, just as cheesy and predictable as you'd expect. There's more than a few moments where I find myself reaching for the fast forward button. That might just be a side effect of watching it too many times because, on the other hand, “The Mighty Ducks” is thehockey movie of most people's childhood, and the film's message still resonates strongly today in a world where youth sports prioritizes winning over fun. You can't help but root for the underdog Ducks to take down the Hawks in the championship, and the Ducks players get up to “Christmas Story” levels of entertaining mischief.
Watching Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) exorcise the demons he's been carrying around since his peewee days is validating too, especially when he sticks it to his tyrannical childhood coach Jack Riley (Lane Smith). “The Mighty Ducks” is an easy watch, but a reliably entertaining one too.
5. “Goon” (2011)
The young man's “Slap Shot,” “Goon” is another movie about the art of hockey fighting, but this movie strikes a different chord than its predecessor. Goon is a more modern comedy, and it keeps a fast pace, throwing a boatload more comedic punches than “Slapshot” does. Inevitably, more punches land. Just as inevitably, more miss.
The comedy in this film teeters on the edge of funny and dreadful, but the hockey scenes are reliably entertaining. Watching Doug “The Thug” Glatt (Seann Willian Scott) stumble around on the ice always makes me chuckle, and the fight scenes are over the top gory, with blood, scars and flying teeth galore. If you're looking for a casual watch, “Goon” might be the best on this list. That said, some of the jokes are on the edge of acceptable. Example: Not to spoil anything, but the most quotable line from the movie is “Gay Porn Hard.” Just warning you.
Honorable mentions: "Indian Horse” (2017), “Youngblood” (1986), “The Rocket” (2005), “Connor McDavid: Whatever It Takes” (2020)