As a fan of movies, I don't think anything makes me roll my eyes more than I hear a film is "based on the inspiring true story." This isn't to say that films like this are never good, or that some of their stories aren't truly inspiring, but more often than not, this phrase seems to just get thrown around as a way to sell the movie to a larger audience. The reason why I have so many issues with films that sell themselves as inspiring is that they are intentionally trying to manufacture an audience response that is cheap and unearned.

The concept of a film being based on an inspiring true story also frequently gets in the way of what makes stories actually compelling, and nowhere can this be seen more clearly than within sports films. Since Remember the Titans came out in 2000, a seeming constant barrage of these "inspirational true story" sports movies have been made (many of them by Disney), and very few have really done anything especially interesting from a filmmaking perspective. Jeff Labrecque of Entertainment Weekly has a harsher (but entirely true) way of putting it--that the Hollywood sports movie has been neutered.

This comes down to an issue with what is perceived as "inspiring," or at least, how the idea of an inspiring story is sold. This says that adversity can only be overcome through victory on the field, and that victory helps eliminate hardships away from sports.

The most inspirational stories are not necessarily ones that wrap up perfectly at the end, which puts them in direct conflict with the goals of these sports films. Also, in an effort to give these films a broad appeal, they specifically have to go after these stories with themes that transcend sports. What this leaves us with is are films with incredibly muddled messages. Should we be inspired by the story of on the field success, or by the overcoming of hardships?

Clearly, these films are trying to tread the line between these two sides, or we would see more sports films about In the sports world, some of the most inspiring figures are considered as such not because of hardships, but simply because of success. The sports side of these stories, however, are lacking in the hook that is needed to go after a larger audience, and that is how we end up with these movies that land somewhere in the middle.

This plays into a problem present across the entire inspirational true story genre; they're frequently not all that true. Remember the Titans, the film responsible for this constant Disneyfied sports films, is far from accurate to the real events it is based on, and was changed so that it could be a compelling film. It was still promoted as a true story, however, and if this doesn't highlight the problems with these films, then I don't know what would.

Though I am admittedly quite jaded at this point, none of this means that true story sports films are completely doomed. There just needs to be a shift in how these films are made. They need to get back in touch with how real life actually works. The hardships that life presents are not always resolved by success on the field. Not only is this outlook untrue, but it rings as such to the viewer. Characters in these films don't feel like real people, they feel like characters in a parable (which, in reality, is exactly they are).

Compare this to the best films of the genre, like Rudy, Hoosiers, or my personal favorite (and favorite film score ever), Friday Night Lights, where the characters feel genuine from start to finish, and their problems are not all solved by winning the state championship. This is how you fix this genre: tell real, compelling stories that treat characters like real people.

Stop trying to make a story inspiring, and tell an actually inspiring story.