Calling All Underdogs!


Doesn’t everyone want to be inspired?  Let’s face it.  We all have that hunger to be the one-in-a-million shot.   And if we can’t be it, we at least want to root for that underdog.    

The first movie that had me sitting on the edge of my seat was Rocky.  With my heart pounding with excitement, I watched as he beat the odds.  I remember being so disappointed and even dumbfounded that Rocky didn’t win that fight with Apollo Creed.  I’m not sure I even knew that he didn’t win until years later.  I couldn’t imagine it.  Where’s the happy ending?  Between Adrian’s red beret falling off and her running, running madly for the man she loved and Rocky not caring a fig that the announcer was declaring the winner and him shouting, shouting soulfully for the woman he loved, it sure felt like he won. 

But then, I got it.  It was about GETTING THERE.  Getting the shot and not being afraid to take it. 

Everyone assumed Rocky would lose.  It was a publicity stunt, after all.  But they didn’t count on one thing.  The drive and determination of the average guy, the common man, to rise above and let nothing stand in his way. 

I love the real life underdogs as well as the fictional ones.  I love ‘em all.

As writers, we want to create characters that not only go the distance, but make the journey to get there inspirational.  As readers or viewers, we want to cheer for those characters. 

Who didn’t cheer for Susan Lucci when she finally received her Emmy?  After eighteen nominations, she finally won in 1999, and celebrities there that night openly cried.  Hell, Oprah Winfrey rushed the stage in her excitement!  Even though she’s beautiful and glamorous, we all felt a bit sorry for her when she lost.  Because she lost so many times and became an ongoing joke in the media, we felt sorry for her—glamorous life or not.  She was our celebrity underdog, and we rooted for her.  I never watched All My Children a day in my life, but I sure wanted her to win that Emmy. 

I also love the romantic underdogs or the story where either the man or the woman jumps life’s hurdles, takes the shot, and WINS!  One of my all-time favorites is the original Ice Castles.  Who can ever forget that moment when the blind ice skater finishes her program successfully only to slip and fall on the flowers? Or Robbie Benson coming to her rescue as he skillfully maneuvers her through them to the theme song “Looking Through the Eyes of Love”?  And him saying softly, “We forgot about the flowers.”  Oh. My. God.  I loved that movie when I was a kid.  The romance.  The blind girl not wanting anyone to know she could no longer see after her accident.   Wanting to be judged on her skill and not win by pity. 

So, when writing or life is getting you down, do you tend to see movies or read books where the Underdog wins?  And which of those stories are your favorites?  I wish I could name the top 100, but I’ll limit my list.     

Kim’s Top Ten Underdog Stories

  1. Rocky (of course.  I’d pick all five, but that really limits the rest.)
  2. Karate Kid (the original with Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi)
  3. Gladiator (where a gladiator defeats the emperor of Rome)
  4. Slumdog Millionaire  (all I can say, is OMG)
  5. Pretty in Pink (this is what I call a romantic underdog story)
  6. Gattaca (defying the odds at any cost)
  7. Twilight series (need I say more?  Vampire…human.  Yeah.  Work THAT out.)
  8. Eva Peron (from the common people to EVITA, for God’s sake)
  9. Ice Castles  (the original.  I Cried.  Cheered.  Cried.  Cheered.)
  10.  Cinderella Man  (Russell Crowe apparently plays a great underdog.  See #3)
  11.  Shawshank Redemption  (Okay.  I know I cheated with eleven, but, come on.  Who wouldn’t want Andy to get some recognition here?  Defeating a corrupt warden and his posse?  Climbing through literal crap to escape from prison after being falsely imprisoned….? )

Please share your top five Underdog stories.  You can cheat if you want.  I won’t judge if you list six.

17 thoughts on “Calling All Underdogs!

  1. These eighties movies are reminding me of Teen Wolf, a Michael J. Fox movie where a high-school outsider turns into a wolf and becomes part of the in-crowd. This was the first video I ever rented in my entire life. My brother and I watched it 8 or 9 times in a 24-hour period. No joke.
    From your list, I LOVE Slumdog Millionaire, Gattaca, and Shawshank Redemption. (No. 11? Really? I would have put it much higher!)

    1. They weren’t in order of my favorites. Just my favorites. Like a mom with her kids–special in different ways. 🙂
      Do you know I don’t think I’ve ever seen Teen Wolf? That’s just so sad…
      Maybe I’ll have to remedy that and rent it.

  2. Hmmm, you took some of my favorites. How about:

    1. Princess Bride – come on, Wesley is freshly dead for a while
    2. Little Miss Sunshine – you’ll never hear Rick James without picturing this movie again
    3. Braveheart – I’m still pissed at Mel Gibson for ruining my ability to watch this movie any more because I love it
    4. Office Space – A classic. I want my red stapler.
    5. Die Hard – A cop with no shoes facing down armed terrorists/thieves. Also, it sealed the deal on my lifelong love of balding, alpha male republicans. 🙂

    1. Avery,
      I loved Princess Bride! As you wishhhhhhhh! 🙂 Great underdog story. I also loved Braveheart, but it didn’t feel like he won in the end. Except when he yelled, “Freedommmmmm!” What a way to go out.

    1. I just can’t get over the fact that she was nominated 21 times for an Emmy and only won once. But she’ll always be famous for that.

  3. Great post, Kim! What is it about that underdog that gets under our skin so? Is it because he/she is so relatable? Have we all felt like the underdog at one time, or always? There’s some sort of magic in those characters, in those stories. Maybe because they give everyone hope : )
    So lessee…my five…
    1. Miracle (I mean, hello! hockey fan, of *course* Miracle would make the list)
    2. The Fisher King
    3. Mystery, Alaska (more hockey *s*)
    4. Working Girl
    5. Tin Cup
    And now I’m going to hit “submit” and come up with a half dozen more movies. What’s most important on the list is there already: Miracle. It’s my go-to for when I need a reminder of triumphing against the odds and all that.

    1. Working Girl!!! Forgot that one. I always loved that one. I can’t hear “Let the River Run” by Carly Simon without wanting to pump a fist in the air for that working girl who makes it.

  4. Yay for underdogs! Loved your list, Kim!

    Let’s see:
    1. Say Anything: “Nobody thinks it will work, do they?” “No. You just described every great success story.”
    2. Pride and Prejudice: If poor Elizabeth Bennett is not an underdog, I am the queen of England.
    3. Chicago Cubs (I know they’re not a movie, but is there anyone MORE under-dogish than my Cubbies?)
    4. Oh! Sarah Jessica Parker in Girls Just Want To Have Fun! Am I the only one who remembers that movie?
    5. Malcolm Reynolds and the crew of Serenity, from Firefly. *swoon* *thud*

    1. You are NOT the only one who remembers Girls Just Want to Have Fun.
      And I completely agree about Elizabeth Bennett.
      Good list, Erica. I didn’t think of any of those.

  5. Fun post, Kim! I like to cheer on the underdog ’cause they fight so darn hard and take nothing for granted.

    Erica, I *loved* Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

    1. Karate Kid (cheating, I know, but it’s the ultimate underdawg story imho.
    2. Cool Runnings (Jamaican bobsledders)
    3. Phar Lap (A New Zealand-born Australian racehorse no one believed in but eventually won the heart of the nation during the 1930s).
    4. Dirty Dancing (I can’t seem to comment on a blog site without mentioning this movie!)
    5. Babe (a singing pig who thinks he’s a sheepdog)

    1. Vanessa,
      Babe was on my list, and somehow I left it off later. I loved that movie. What is it about pig movies that really does me in. Those poor little underdogs. Wilbur and Babe.
      “That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.” 🙂

  6. I have so many favorites…

    1. Rudy
    2. Miracle
    3. Mystery Alaska
    4. Gladiator
    5. Shawshank Redemption
    6. The Patriot
    7. Braveheart
    8. Avatar
    9. Die Hard
    10. Office Space
    11. The Princess Bride
    12. Major League

    I’ll stop here, but I could go on and on. I’m a total movie buff. What a great post. Thanks Kimberly!

    1. Dana,
      You’re like me. You could probably list hundreds. I started debating my own choices and trying to think if they were really underdogs. It’s bad when you begin to categorize them and cross them off because they don’t make the cut for whatever reason. LOL.
      I really have to see this Miracle. I can’t believe I haven’t seen it. I’ll have to remedy that very soon.

  7. Go Underdogs!
    My hubby wants to participate, yay!: The Blind Side, My Bodyguard, The Bad News Bears, US Hockey team movie in the Olympics (Can’t think of title), Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club.
    He says, name a movie and he can think of an underdog in it.

    But the one we agree on and is our favorite, Titanic. Leo Dicaprio takes the trophy IMO!

    1. Carlene,
      I had My Bodyguard on the list, but I thought nobody would know that movie. Good old Linderman. What a great movie! Thanks for listing it. At least I know someone else appreciates it as much as I did.
      And The Breakfast Club….Don’t you forget about me…I can’t hear that song without thinking of that one. Classic.

  8. I love this post – so fun! If I wasn’t at work, I would spend all day thinking of this. Well, this is just off the top of my head and in no particular order:

    1. Miracle – I can start crying any time I think about it.
    2. Star Wars – hello, the Rebel Alliance!
    3. Many, many, many episodes of Buffy. I really don’t have room to get into it here.
    4. Harry Potter
    5. Pride & Prejudice

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