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10 Greatest Bowling Scenes In Film

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The writer’s strike: Kryptonite to Hollywood moguls wise enough to remember the industrial action of 2007 which stalled numerous movie productions.

But there is one sort of writer’s strike of which we can all approve - the kind of that lands on a casting table and involves bowling, that most American and thusly cinematic of part-time sports.

To doff our cap in the direction of this classic movie environment, we’ve gone and listed the 10 best lane-related scenes. We hope they bowled you over, too.

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The Big Lebowski

“This is not ‘Nam. This is bowling, there are rules,” barks the worryingly loveable Walter Sobchak in bowling-fest The Big Lebowski, a film equally appreciated for its acidic banter and fiercely regulated league games down at the bowling lanes as its stoner sleuth plot. Our favourite part? When a rival bowler named Smokey attempts to flout said rules, forcing Walter to point a gun at his head and tell him he's entering a world of pain. Our refereee doesn’t ‘fuck with the Jesus,’ mind. And nor should he.

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The Break-Up

Messy break-ups can be a minefield of tenure, each party unsure who lays claim to what: that t-shirt you bought? That box-set of Friends? And no film before or since has captured this fraught post-relationship ownership anxiety as humorously/brutally honest as The Break Up, hitting it out of the park when Vince Vaughn turns up for a game only to be told by Jennifer Aniston that he’s kicked off the team now they’re no longer a couple. Such a shame; we’re sure they would have been more than capable of facing a split.

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Critters

Write Critters off as a poor man’s Gremlins at your peril. The treacle black comic sci-fi about extra-terrestrial fuzz-balls reigning havoc across the American mid-West is a serious cult classic, abetted, it has to be said, by some truly over-the-top scenes, like when two intergalactic bounty hunters pay a visit to a ramshackle bowling alley: probably deeming the place devoid of intelligent life, one of the omnipotent pair takes a ball and hurls it at the pins with such force he reduces them to dust, teeing up one bemused onlooker to spout the pitch-oerfect line, “I wonder what team he’s on”.

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Kingpin

Because nothing says ‘disco bowling’ quite like the opening scene of Farrelly Brothers’ classic Kingpin, introducing us to Woody Harrelson’s State champion, Roy Munson, who all but bends the space time continuum with his spin-loaded throw that stops midway down the lane, screeching backwards, then forwards once more before toppling the pins like a cannon ball. Coupled by Munson’s pelvic limberness and fist pumps mid-shot, all of which to Disco Inferno no less, it gets better with every viewing.

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Uncle Buck

From the moment a bowling ball plummets from a cupboard shelf and lands on Buck’s head (thankfully it’s a comedy or we imagine this would’ve been a very short and histrionic film), along with scoring extra klutz points, we’re under no doubt as to what Buck’s favourite sport is, giving him ample reason to wear teamster shirts and take his brother’s kids to a seedy downtown bowling alley later in the film. It’s here, amid trying to teach them some finer points of the game, where Pal, a tooth-pick chomping sleazebag known to Buck, makes inadvertently hilarious moves on his niece. Not for long.

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There Will Be Blood

Just two types of milkshakes bring the boys to the yard: those belonging to Kelis, and those belonging to Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood. The latter's used as a metaphor by Daniel Day Lewis’s land-grabbing oil prospector eager to take vengeance on Dano’s preacher in the film’s rousing finale. Admittedly, we don’t see many wooden pins knocked down in the skittles hall where the rancorous oil tycoon soon takes aim at his rival in a physical manner as well as verbal, it's his act of bludgeoning his rival to death with one which ensures this scene is hard to wash off, hypothetical beverage or not.

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Lars And The Real Girl

Ryan Gosling isn’t just cool, he’s the epitome of cool, the poster boy of cool, even. He’s the man who makes the Fonz look like Mr Bean on a daily basis - which is more than can be said of Lars Lindstrom, the introverted soul he played so well in 2007 indie Lars and the Real Girl. For one of the best scenes, his gawky guy throws one of the most abominable bowling shots cinema has ever seen, sending a gutter ball into the wrong gutter. Can’t fault that footwork, though. That slide is all Gosling.

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Men In Black 3

Will Smith doesn’t appear to have aged a day since 1997’s original MIB. With this in mind, maybe Agent J should look a bit closer to home when hunting for earth-dwelling aliens in human form, but as it stands, for the franchise’s third instalment, he’s still busy cracking heads – literally, as in one trip to amass information at a bowling alley, he takes the head of a perp, aims it down the sights of the wooden lane and fires. Then much to the wise guy’s obvious discontent, Josh Brolin, channelling the surliness of Tommy Lee Jones to a T, completes the job by giving the noodle a quick polish.

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Five Easy Pieces

The key to this landmark sixties drama, starring Jack Nicholson as the child piano prodigy turned truculent oil rig worker who reluctantly takes his pregnant diner waitress girlfriend home to see his dying estranged father and privileged family he’d previously ostracised himself from, is what isn’t said, it’s the gaps left between. Those little silences, you see, are what give us a chance to work out what’s rattling around the head of Nicholson’s wild tempered and confused individual as he faces some personal crossroads. After a game of bowling, during which he says pretty much nada to his girl, the only time we see him being anything near charming comes outside the alley when trying to woo her back.

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The Big Lebowski

Admit it. You knew another Dude-related clip was just around the corner. But when dealing with great cinematic bowling scenes, specifically those in the Coen Brothers’ classic, it would be near treason not to mention Gutterballs, the fictional movie dreamt by the dude. Part erotica, part drug trip, all ball-fest, it’s simply the ultimate tribute to the Dude’s favourite sport.

[Images: YouTube, AllStar Picture Library]

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