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YumCha! Picks: 10 + 1 Sports Movies

Written by YumCha! Editorial Team Tell a Friend

The Olympics are here! To get into the Olympics mood, we've picked ten of our favorite Asian sports movies to root for. When you're not watching the games, find time to cheer on the underdog athletes and inspiring real-life stories that are made for the movies.

1. Forever the Moment (2008)
Did you know handball is an Olympic sport? Well, it is, and in 2004 the Korean national women's team defied the odds to reach the finals at the Athens Olympics, inspiring this award-winning hit four years later. The film proudly wears its heart and perspiration on its sleeve, chronicling the handball team's turmoil and rebuilding after coaching changes and the addition of older athletes (Moon So Ri, Kim Jung Eun) returning to the sport for an unlikely Olympic run.

2. Give It All (1998)
The Olympics is all about the spirit of friendly competition between nations, and Give It All shows that the journey can be more important than the destination. In her debut film, Tanaka Rena plays a high school freshman who finds motivation in life by becoming the first member of her school's girls rowing team. Not exactly your typical zero-to-hero sports film, Give It All tells you that the bond of friendship and the strength of spirit in sports are just as important as going home with a medal.

3. Jump Ashin! (2011)
Based on a true story, Jump Ashin! is the story of an athlete who takes a harrowing journey through a life of crime to realize his true potential. The film is also a testament to the ability of the human body, as seen in star Eddie Peng's physical transformation into the part of a skilled gymnast. While the hit film by director Lin Yu Hsien (the younger brother of the real Ashin) is relatively light on gymnastics, the drama in it is so involving that the moment Ashin finally takes off in the finale is one of the most memorable sport film moments in recent memory.

4. Love Lifting (2012)
The story of a female weightlifter who makes an amazing comeback after health problems forced her to retire, Herman Yau's Love Lifting presents a dilemma that many athletes face: choose a peaceful family life outside the spotlight, or risk everything to follow one's dreams. Both an inspirational sports drama and a gentle romance between two wounded souls, this true life-based drama is a touching tribute to an athlete's determination and the loved ones who support them all the way.

5. Pacemaker (2012)
You can't get much more timely than Pacemaker. Released theatrically in January 2012, this underdog sports drama about an aging runner actually sets its final race at the London Olympics. While you're not likely to see a Korean marathoner headlining this summer, this movie holds out hope for the unheralded athletes who sacrifice for the sport. Kim Myung Min is never less than compelling in the leading role as the pacemaker who wants to finish the race for once. Also provides a look into the strategic selection process for Olympic athletes.

6. Ping Pong (2002)
If there's one film on this list that encapsulates the Olympic spirit, Sori Fumihiko's Ping Pong may be it. The stylish sports drama follows the journey of two childhood friends (Kubozuka Yosuke and Arata) connected by their talent in ping-pong. After fiercely mowing down their respective opponents for one final showdown, the two put down their arrogance and finally learn to simply play for the love of the game. Featuring a pulsating soundtrack with music by Supercar, Ping Pong is an exhilarating film about the joy of sports.

7. Shaolin Soccer (2001)
A group of down-and-out former Shaolin monks with extraordinary physical powers forms a ragtag soccer team - this simple premise epitomizes Shaolin Soccer's winning formula which incorporates a sports theme with Chinese martial arts, cartoonish visual effects, and Stephen Chow's trademark underdog comedy. The result is a wildly entertaining crowd-pleaser worthy of its status as a record-breaking mega-blockbuster, a multiple awards winner, and a unique Hong Kong cinema classic. The film was also significant as a turning point in Chow's career and a herald of what was to come for the Hong Kong film industry at large.

8. Take Off (2009)
The year is 1996 and the alpine county of Muju is angling to host the 2002 Winter Olympics (eventually held in Salt Lake City). To strengthen the bid, Korea hurriedly forms its first national ski jump team. This blockbuster - one of Korea's top ten grossing films of all time - offers a fictionalized account of the motley team of pioneering athletes (led by Ha Jung Woo) who come together, fall hard, and soar high in the name of inspirational sports movie tropes. Though not a subtle film by any means, Take Off is massively crowd-pleasing, with impressively rendered ski jump scenes that live up to the movie's title.

9. The Fantastic Water Babes (2010)
Director Jeff Lau's film exudes an easy charm courtesy of the likeable cast, the beautiful island setting, and the kind of zany humor that Lau is known and thanked for. Babes is many good things rolled into one, but what qualifies this refreshing romantic comedy for the list is its theme of swimming, and the inclusion of bona fide athletes in the shape of leading man Alex Fong Lik Sun - a former pro swimmer who represented Hong Kong at the Olympics before he struck gold in showbiz - as well as Olympic gold-medal diver Tian Liang in a hilarious cameo.

10. Tomorrow's Joe (2011)
Based on the beloved 1968 manga, Tomorrow's Joe follows the journey of a street thug who is rescued from a life of crime when he learns boxing. However, Tomorrow's Joe is more than just a hero's journey, as Joe grows obsessed with his rivalry against another powerful boxer and ends up paying the ultimate price. In addition to Ping Pong director Sori Fumihiko's exciting boxing scenes, this new version of Tomorrow's Joe features intense performances by Yamashita Tomohisa and Iseya Yusuke as the rival boxers.

+1 Champions (2008)
A whole slew of Olympic tie-in movies were released in China back during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, ranging from patriotic biopic One Man Olympics to the title-says-it-all Kung Fu Hip Hop. Out of all the releases, Champions holds a special place in our hearts for being so eclectic, it's almost inexplicable. Dicky Cheung of all people leads a hodgepodge cast of athletes and martial artists striving to participate in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but short funds, evil triads, rival schools, illness, and questionable filmmaking conspire against our heroes. Meanwhile, the campaign to make wushu an Olympic sport still continues to this day...

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Published July 27, 2012

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  • Region & Language: Hong Kong United States - English
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