Topics in History: History through Film

A Southport student review of the 2005 movie The Greatest Game Ever Played

Topics is a course at Southport High School, taught by Kevin Sanders, which analyzes major events from United States and world history through Hollywood films that attempt to portray those events. Students investigate historical documents and other sources to determine if a film is historically accurate.

The goal is for students to develop deeper understandings of the historical discipline while generating questions about the way the world is around them, along with watching classical films that have graced American and international screens. This week, Nicholas Snyder reviews the film, The Greatest Game Ever Played.

By Nicholas Snyder

The Greatest Game Ever Played, directed by Bill Paxton, takes the traditionally viewed as boring sport of golf and transforms it into a success story of accomplishment and perseverance. The film follows the story of the first amateur to win the U.S. Open, Francis Ouimet. To provide context, to this day the U.S. Open is an outing like no other and remains one of the four majors in professional golf. Of course, if you are a fan of golf, you will adore this film. Even simple sports fans will watch in celebration. What if you are not a fan of sports? This film still details the success of a working-class young man among the elite. As the film is set in 1913 anyone can be intrigued by the historical context that this film provides.

This movie clearly depicts the separation of classes in the sport of golf. In a time where only wealthy men could step foot on the acres of perfectly manicured greens, the main character Francis cannot deny his interest. All odds blatantly state that Francis has no business stepping foot on a golf course, but nonetheless he perseveres.

Aside from the fact that this film offers a dramatization of a great moment in sports history, it is also a well-done film. The camera work and effects tell the story of a great golf shot so well. You forget that you are watching a modern movie and instead slip into the mindset of the early 20th century with the omnipotence of following a story to as great detail as possible.