Critical Thinking: 8 Similar Movies You Must See

‘Critical Thinking’ is a 2020 biographical sports drama film that revolves around a few inner-city kids from Miami Jackson High School. Set in 1998, it shows how a chess teacher named Mario Martinez drives a few students to pursue the National Chess Championship. The movie explores classism and racism and portrays how the lesser privileged people always have to fight harder to get the same opportunity.

Directed by John Leguizamo, the movie is based on actual events and offers an authentic depiction of the lives of inner-city kids in Miami. The audience witnesses how the boys overcome difficult circumstances to make something of themselves. If you’re a fan of such sports drama movies, we have curated an exciting list of movies like ‘Critical Thinking’ for you.

8. Hardball (2001)

Based on the book, ‘Hardball: A Season in the Projects’ by Daniel Coyle, ‘Hardball’ is a sports drama movie directed by Brian Robbins. It follows Connor O’Neill (Keanu Reeves), a gambler deep in debt with bookies, and the only way for him to pay them back is by coaching a team of African-American kids for their baseball championship. Like ‘Critical Thinking,’ ‘Hardball’ is a classic underdog story about a group of misfits whom nobody believes in. The character arcs, conflicts, and resolutions in both movies are comparable.

One of the stark differences between the two films is the coach’s role. In the John Leguizamo directorial, Coach Mario is nearly perfect in every sense of the word. He doesn’t seem to have any flaws despite having a dark past. In contrast, the Brian Robbins directorial portrays Connor as a highly problematic person addicted to gambling. He is nowhere close to being a perfect guide to the kids, but as the narrative progresses, he becomes the coach the kids deserve. Hence, the audience finds it easier to relate with Connor because of his imperfections and connect with him on a deeper level.

7. Knights of the South Bronx (2005)

‘Knights of the South Bronx’ is a drama movie that centers on Richard Mason, who takes up a job at a school in South Bronx and tries to teach the kids the game of chess. Most of these children come from problematic households and do not seem keen on learning the game or anything else in school. One day, when one of them discovers how great Richard is with the game, things begin to turn around, and the teacher gives the children a purpose in life. Directed by Allen Hughes, the movie is based on the true story of David MacEnulty and is akin to ‘Critical Thinking’ in several ways.

For instance, both stories portray underprivileged kids who do not believe they have any future after school. Another example is how chess becomes a beacon of hope for children who think they can accomplish something. The most crucial similarity is how Richard Mason and Mario Martinez perceive chess. Both believe that on the board, it doesn’t matter where the kid is from or what color or gender they have. In a way, chess acts as an equalizer for all people. The ideology is significant to the narrative because it helps the audience understand the concept of privilege, know what it’s like to come from an impoverished background, and how people can always change if given a chance.

6. Life of a King (2013)

Directed by Jake Goldberger, ‘Life of a King’ is based on the true story of Eugene Brown, an ex-convict who starts a chess club to help teenagers from the neighborhood make something of their life and not get into selling drugs and other illegal activities. The Jake Goldberger directorial is a slightly darker version of ‘Critical Thinking.’ The latter seems to instill a sense of hope with a grand win at the National Chess Championship. Albeit, in the former, hope comes from very little.

Although both films portray what it is to be an inner-city teenager and how people perceive them, ‘Life of a King’ gives a more pragmatic picture of the day-to-day circumstances and issues people face. It is far more gritty and intense than Critical Thinking.’ When the audience watches both stories unfold, they might take home the message that hope need not come only from grand victories. In fact, it can come from something as fundamental as a gesture of appreciation.

5. Glory Road (2006)

Set in 1966, James Gartner’s ‘Glory Road’ is a sports biopic that follows Coach Don Haskins as he selects the first-ever all-black starting line-up for the college basketball team. He takes the team to the NCAA National Championship to prove that everyone deserves an equal chance to pursue glory. ‘Glory Road’ is a period film that explores racism in the 60s. In many ways, it is analogous to ‘Remember the Titans’ and is comparable to ‘Critical Thinking.’

At different points in the latter, Coach Martinez says the boys must stay out of trouble at any cost. He mentions that some people are out to get them because of something they can’t control. In another scene, he says that the history books ignore the black and Latin-American people to instill a burning desire in the boys’ hearts. ‘Glory Road’ follows a similar style, wherein Coach Don is responsible for choosing the basketball team and ensuring they win. In both cases, the players fight against all odds and strive to get closer to their ambition.

4. Cool Runnings (1993)

Disney’s ‘Cool Runnings’ is a sports film inspired by the Jamaican bobsleigh team, which debuted in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Directed by Jon Turteltaub, it follows a disqualified Jamaican sprinter who decides to start the country’s first bobsled team and represent the nation in the Winter Olympics. ‘Cool Runnings’ is a slightly lighter version of ‘Critical Thinking’ because it doesn’t involve guns, drugs, and problematic neighborhoods.

Instead, the film portrays how the world perceives countries such as Jamaica and how society’s classist and racist ways do not deter the team from participating in the bobsleigh competition. Interestingly, ‘Cool Runnings’ is similar to ‘Life of a King’ because both movies do not portray grand accomplishments but show how taking the first step toward something big is noteworthy.

3. McFarland, USA (2015)

‘McFarland, USA’ is a sports drama movie based on the true story of the 1987 cross-country team who comes from a predominantly Latin American school in McFarland, California, and wins the state championship. When a bad incident makes Jim White (Kevin Costner) and his family move to McFarland, the former coach decides to form a cross-country team with individuals nobody believes in.

Like several other films on the list, the Niki Caro directorial is an intriguing underdog story that portrays people’s hardships due to societal stereotypes and racism. ‘Critical Thinking’ touches on the subject similarly and makes the audience root for the players. In both movies, sports give people a sense of purpose and guide them toward a better life. Although the audience celebrates their wins, the true victory is in the shift in attitude toward everything. It indicates how the kids will be okay, no matter what they do or where they go.

2. Remember the Titans (2000)

Directed by Boaz Yakin, ‘Remember the Titans‘ is a biographical sports drama film that centers on a football team, the first racially integrated team in the school. Led by an African-American coach, Herman Boone (Denzel Washington), the team players learn concepts such as unity and equality with football as their medium. The movie explores the subject of racism and portrays how prevalent it was back in the 70s.

‘Critical Thinking’ also touches on the subject in a few scenes, yet unlike ‘Remember the Titans,’ racial discrimination isn’t the core premise of the story. In addition, the approaches Coach Herman takes are vastly different from Coach Mario because of the different goals they are trying to accomplish. The former wants the team to function as a single unit irrespective of the players’ backgrounds. However, Coach Mario needs the players to see the game as an opportunity for success in life.

1. Coach Carter (2005)

‘Coach Carter’ is based on the true story of Ken Carter, a basketball coach at Richmond High School, who tries to show the players the significance of studies and sports. The movie portrays how Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) benches his entire team because of their poor performance in academics, which leads to their first defeat in the tournament. Interestingly, the film’s protagonist, Coach Carter, is against his team playing basketball if they do not study.

Unlike Coach Martinez from ‘Critical Thinking,’ Coach Carter doesn’t see sports as a metaphor for life. Despite the striking difference, the movies are innately similar because they shed light on how being underprivileged leads people into a life of crime. Ken and Mario’s approaches are different, but they want the same thing for all the players – to lead a stable and meaningful life. Both films hook the audience to the end and make them ponder several societal issues and how the movie portrays them.

Read More: Where Was Critical Thinking (2020) Filmed?