Sports movies are always big sellers, and when the subject is as popular as figure skating, is it really any surprise that there have been so many movies set around a central theme of figure skating?
Did You Know?Three-time Olympic gold medalist Sonja Henie starred in the 1937 film Thin Ice. Profuse in its depiction of Heine's undoubted skill, this is one of the very first movies highlighting figure skating as a plot component.
Over the years, there have been many movies depicting a story regarding an ice skater. Here's the best of the lot.
Directed by: Paul Michael Glaser
Starring: D. B. Sweeney, Moira Kelly, Roy Dotrice
A talented but spoiled figure skater, Kate Moseley (Kelly), and a pro hockey player, Doug Dorsey (Sweeney), run into each other during the 1988 Winter Olympics when she bumps into him. Their paths later cross when she runs out of partners who can tolerate her, and he has been forced to retire from the sport due to an eye injury sustained at the match right after he bumps into Kate.
They start training together for the 1992 Olympics. Even though she gets on his nerves initially, they learn to work with each other. Like any melodramatic movie, they almost fail at making the U.S. team for the Olympics, but make it when one of the two teams above them in the scoring charts falls during their performance. At the Olympics, they realize they have (don't ... wait for it) fallen in love.
Formulaic, yes, cheesy, yes, but it is doubtlessly still popular. In the first sequel to this movie, The Cutting Edge: Going for the Gold, the daughter of the Dorseys has to look for a partner because she can't compete in singles due to an injury. Surprise surprise, she also clashes at first with her partner, but, surprise surprise, she also ends up loving him in the end!
Directed by: Tim Fywell
Starring: Michelle Trachtenberg, Joan Cusack, Kim Cattrall
A physics nerd, Casey Carlyle (Trachtenberg), realizes that figure skating is a good way to complete her project for a scholarship to Harvard, using her knowledge of physics to make innovations in figure skating. Of course, this doesn't sit well with her mother Joan (Cusack), who sees Casey's grades plummeting because of her commitment to her newfound love. As a result, the two grow apart.
Meanwhile, Casey gets involved in the friction between her coach, Tina Harwood (Cattrall) and her daughter Jennifer. Eventually, Tina becomes Casey's personal coach and helps her reach the Sectionals. At the Sectionals, (just in case you didn't already figure out this was going to happen) Casey's mother comes to watch her daughter, who has by now rejected the Harvard scholarship. Encouraged by her mother's presence (at whom, lest we forget, she has been mad for two months) Casey ends up second in the Sectionals, gaining a ticket to the Nationals.
Of course, there's no escaping the romantic angle in an ice skating movie, however tenuous and unnecessary to the main plot! The romance comes in the shape of Teddy, Jennifer's brother, who helps Casey get ready for the Sectionals and then gets together with her.
Directed by: Francine McDougall
Starring: Jordan Hinson, Brittany Curran, Whitney Sloan, Cristine Rose
Seeing that this is a Disney Channel original, it shouldn't be hard to (go) figure out the movie's plot. Just replace Troy Bolton with Katelin Kingsford, singing with ice hockey, and basketball with figure skating, and you have (go) figured out pretty much the entire story.
Russian skating coach Natasha Goberman (Rose) gets Katelin Kingsford (Hinson) into a high-brow boarding school on an ice hockey scholarship so that Kingsford can learn under Goberman. Like any good, true-to-itself Disney movie, Katelin soon gets bogged down by the workload of juggling schoolwork, ice skating, and hockey. She faces opposition from both camps, and steadily starts to fall behind on all three fronts. Eventually, she takes a bus home to quit.
Her mother then reveals that she also used to be a (go) figure skater ('twirl girl', as the movie calls them), raising the question why in god's name did she hide the fact from her daughter, who also happened to be interested in the same sport, for all these years! Inspired by her mother's revelation, Katelin becomes determined to succeed on all three fronts. She starts to improve her performance in both hockey as well as (go) figure skating, and soon becomes the cornerstone of her hockey team.
Her hockey final and the (go) figure skating Nationals just *happen to be* on the same day. Helped by her hockey teammates, she makes the Nationals after having played the final, and is eventually selected for the Olympic team.
Directed by: Donald Wrye
Starring: Lynn-Holly Johnson, Robby Benson, Tom Skerritt, Colleen Dewhurst
When Lexie Winston (Johnson) enters a regional skating competition, she is scouted by a famous coach. She then moves to Broadmoor World Arena. Of course, I should mention that her father (Skerritt) initially opposes her interest in figure skating, but you don't need me to categorically mention that, do you?
She quickly becomes proficient at figure skating, but alienates her friends and boyfriend, Nick (Benson), due to her newfound success. After a freak accident in which she, at least temporarily, loses her eyesight, she has to be motivated by her boyfriend, to whom she once again gets close, her father, and her former coach (Dewhurst). She learns to skate blind. The film ends with one of her performances, after which her blindness is discovered when she slips on rose petals thrown by a fan. Nick then consoles her by saying that her skating is so good they should have realized there would be flowers.
Directed by: Frank Woodruff
Starring: Belita, James Ellison, Walter Catlett
A genuine gem from the black-and-white era, this figure skating musical was virtually in a club of one, as far as its genre goes, at the time of its release. It starred the professional figure skater Belita as herself, with Ellison and Catlett appearing in supporting roles. The comedy skating duo Frick and Frack also makes an appearance.
Edward's Kay's score for this film earned an Oscar nomination.
Directed by: Oliver Duscatel/Jacques Martineau
Starring: Jimmy Tavares
Using figure skating as a backdrop, this interesting film shows a teenager's life. Etienne (Tavares) is a young figure skater who films virtually everything he does and around him with a movie camera he has been given by his grandmother. As the story progresses, his gradual realization and acceptance of his own homosexuality is depicted. He is disappointed by his romantic interest, and almost commits suicide before being rescued by a stranger.
Directed by: Will Speck/Josh Gordon
Starring: Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler
The spoof that's better than many genuine movies, Blades of Glory is about two male figure skaters who are forced to compete with each other. Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) are rival male figure skaters who tie for the gold medal at the 2002 World Winter Sports Games. Their argument on the podium eventually ends up burning the Games' mascot, which forces the organizers to disqualify them. Furthermore, they are banned from ever competing in singles tournaments. This leads to a downturn in the fortunes of both.
Three and a half years later, Jimmy finds out that he is, in fact, allowed to compete in pairs. He and his old coach eventually land on Chazz as Jimmy's partner, and after initial clashes, the two start to form a friendship. They decide to compete in the World Winter Sport Games as the first ever same-sex pair. Despite constant efforts by siblings Stranz and Fairchild van Walderberg (Arnett and Poehler, respectively) to sabotage their efforts, Chazz and Jimmy end up winning the Games.
Despite all the sarcasm of yours truly about the formulaic scripting of movies about ice skating, the fact remains that emotional roller coasters remain immensely popular, and for good reason. It's a happy ending that we all seek, and in this sense, all these films deliver splendidly.