Slap Shot (1977)

Slap Shot was directed by George Roy Hill, but the film really belongs to script writer Nancy Dowd and actor, Paul Newman. As a UK script consultant and script writer for hire I’m really pleased to see a female script writer on an American sports film which is heavily devoted to the male psyche.

Maybe, that’s why Slap Shot is such an enduring and funny film, ALL the characters are well drawn and distinctive, and they seem real living and breathing people. This isn’t a clichéd sports film about a team coming together to beat the odds, although the team do come together and beat the odds, but they do it by playing dirty, making a mockery of the game of ice hockey and becoming nothing more than a fairground goon show.

Paul Newman looks rough, ropey and beat up for most of the film, his character is on his last legs as a player and a coach, and the film follows what could be his last season as a sportsman. Newman looks older than his years in this, and he’s struggling with fading looks and an estranged wife that he clearly still loves, but who doesn’t ever want him back.

Newman is a player who prides himself on clean hockey, but when the chips are down he’ll sell his principles to win, he’ll also lie, cheat and deceive to try and keep his career (and the team) alive.

The team belongs to one of those America towns where everyone is working in the saw mill, and the mill is shutting down at the end of the season (it’s not a threat either, as Newman’s character points out), this time, the town will really die, when most of its inhabitants become unemployed.

So, it’s a real blue collar film, tough and funny in equal measure. It’s also endlessly re-watchable thanks to the Hanson brothers (three lunatics on ice – and players in real life) and the other well detailed performances.  

Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire, UK Script editor  and script doctor for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on or hire him on Peopleperhour

His directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller Markham will be released in 2020.