Remember the Titans (2000)

The drama of a sports film usually revolves around who will win the big game. Remember the Titans remains true to the conventions of the genre. But it also intelligently explores the conflicts generated by government-mandated integration within the context of high-school football.

Its true story is set in Alexandria, Va., in 1971. The white coach, Yoast (Will Patton), is forced to step down so that a black coach, Boone (Denzel Washington), can become the team leader.

Their players are also forced to integrate, and neither the black ones (Wood Harris and Craig Kirkwood) nor the white ones (Ryan Hurst and Donald Faison) like it. Yoast swallows his pride and stays on as an assistant coach to help overcome prejudice. Boone's boot-camp methods alienate some but produce a winning team that becomes a model of racial harmony for the community. Director Boz Yakin and screen-writer Gregory Allen Howard present humility and self-sacrifice as virtues more important than personal glory and victory at any cost.

Bite the Bullet (1975)

The dying of the Old West is the subject of many great films (Ride the High Country, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, etc.). Bite the Bullet gives the topic a unique twist. At the turn of the last century, a newspaper organizes a horse race of 700 miles over the open countryside. The prize is $2,000.

But the competitors find that the natural elements are as much an obstacle to victory as each other.

Writer-director Richard Brooks (The Professionals) focuses on the episodic adventures of his colorful characters more than the race to the finish. Two tough old hands (Gene Hackman and James Coburn) test themselves against a kid with an attitude (Jan-Michael Vincent), a cowhand with a serious health issue (Ben Johnson), a Mexican (Mario Arteaga) and a beautiful woman (Candace Bergen). A band of outlaws attempts to sabotage the contest, and the wealthy competitors scheme for unfair advantage. The horses, too, are pushed past their usual endurance points and at times seem more admirable than their riders.