Since football season is right around the corner I’ve decided to put a list of the best football movies I’ve ever seen. If a football movie has come out in the past 40 years, chances are, I’ve seen it. I love any sports movie that can create a reaction and the good ones normally do. I didn’t go with strictly drama based football movies however most of them on my list are dramas.
There are a few things that I looked at when creating this list. The in-game action had to be somewhat realistic. That was the hardest part because Hollywood seems to insert the most vicious hits and action in football that is way beyond what you would normally see on the field. Football movies are the hardest sports movies to make because of the in-game action. If you get it wrong then it ruins everything…that’s why Oliver Stone should never direct another football movie; Any given Sunday was terrible. The other aspect I looked at was the reaction the movie got out of me…laughter, sadness, excitement, suspense, etc. Finally, was it a good movie?
Hope you enjoy the list. If you have any suggestions you are always free to let me know in the comment section below.
10. Varsity Blues (1999)
One of the hardest choices I had to make was the number 10 slot. It was between this and Radio. I chose Varsity Blues because it was funny, it had good action and in-game shots and I chose the whipped cream bikini over a mentally-challenged Cuba Gooding Jr. I know it sounds mean but it’s true.
Varsity Blues was the first movie, that I remember, to capture what it’s like to play high school football in Texas where football is religion. If you can get beyond James Van Der Beek’s terrible southern accent then this movie is really good. Scott Caan (Tweeter) does a fantastic job capturing the “jock” mentality while adding some great one liners and comedy to the film. Jon Voight surprised me as a believable “dick-head” football coach as well.
Overall this movie isn’t the most fabulous, well acted movie but it’s great to watch on the weekend before the football season starts. Varsity Blues also produced one of the great quotable lines from James Van Der Beek. “I don’t want your life” is one of those lines that never gets old and never stops being funny. Even though it was delivered in a ‘dramatic’ scene. It also has a fantastic soundtrack.
9. Jerry Mcguire (1996)
I made up for not putting Radio on the list by adding Jerry Mcguire at #9. I hope Cuba Gooding Jr. forgives me. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen this movie, it’s about a sports agent ( Tom Cruise) that has a moral epiphany and loses his job because of it. He goes out on his own with the only client (Cuba Gooding Jr.) that sticks with him.
Even though there is more story to this than in-game action it is still based around the world of sports. The story line is great, there are a bunch of quotable lines and the acting was very good as well. Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki) was probably the most annoying kid I’ve seen in a movie but since the rest of the cast did such a great job I give him a pass.
This movie had comedy, drama, excitement and it’s a sports movie that you can watch with your girlfriend or wife. It added the ‘chick flick’ aspect to the movie. Although, expect your significant other to ask you if ‘she completes you’ and some other relationship questions. If you aren’t prepared to answer those questions, then watch this movie by yourself.
8. The Program (1993)
I had to put this movie on this list but not too high. I remember seeing this when I was in high school and it holds a special place in my heart. This was the first movie that pulled back the curtain and showed us what ‘big time’ college football was like, behind the scenes. Also, there was some controversy surrounding one of the scenes when it hit theaters. Apparently kids were emulating the scene where the football players were lying on the yellow lines of the road as cars passed…those are some dumb kids.
This also had a lot more in-game action than other football movies I had seen previously. Some of it was a bit over the top but it was still entertaining. Alvin Mack, played by Duane Davis, talks shit before each snap and even though his lines are great it almost seems like there’s no play clock because the quarterback waits until Alvin is done speaking before the ball is snapped. Outside of those few things this movie is great. At the time, most of us thought that some of the story lines were a bit over the top but looking back, they were spot on with almost everything…players that couldn’t read, crazy steroid use, players getting arrested and coaches covering it up. Any of that sound familiar?
I probably wouldn’t have cast Craig Sheffer as Joe Cane, the quarterback and main character of the film but don’t ask me who I would’ve replaced him with. Sheffer’s acting and his ‘look’ dropped the movie down a couple pegs for me. With that being said, Omar Epps as freshman running back Darnell Jefferson made this movie better. So, I guess they cancel each other out.
Again, great movie and definitely one to watch before the college football season begins.
7. Invincible (2006)
I didn’t think they’d be able to make a movie about a shitty Philadelphia Eagles team but they did…and it was awesome. Based on a true story, Mark Wahlberg plays Vince Papale, a 30 year old bartender from South Philly that earns a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles in 1976 when Dick Vermeil, played by Greg Kinnear, holds an open tryout for the team.
The movies listed above had more comic relief but this movie is very good from beginning to end without adding the comedy. Mark Wahlberg does a great job as do all of the other cast members. The whole story should get a reaction out of you. If not, you are made of stone. It’s a motivational movie about overcoming huge odds. The in-game action was very good and the story line was even better.
This is definately a must watch. I could watch this movie 100 times and not get sick of it. It’s basically a football version of Rocky…same city and everything. If you loved Rocky than you’ll love this too.
6. Rudy (1993)
This movie has dropped on my list but it’s still a great watch. This was my number one movie for a long time. Also based on a true story (unless you ask Joe Montana), Daniel E. ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger, played by Sean Astin, was always told that he was too small to play college football but he overcame the odds, finally got in to Notre Dame and walked on to the football team.
This is a purely emotional movie. Even if you’re not a Notre Dame fan this movie is fantastic. Following Rudy from his home town to Holy Cross and finally his acceptance into Notre Dame is a roller coaster ride by itself. You continue the journey by watching Rudy get the shit kicked out of him on the practice squad for the Irish. He finally gets his chance in the final home game as a senior to suit up a run out onto the field.
Maybe it’s because I was a no talent, short asshole that got the shit kicked out of me when I was playing high school football or maybe it was just a great movie. Either way, it’s a must watch. The story, cast, in-game action and a small part played by Vince Vaughn all make this movie pretty special.
5. Friday Night Lights (2004)
This film is based on H.G. Bissinger’s book, which profiled the economically depressed town of Odessa, Texas and their high school football team. This is Varsity Blues without the humor, more character depth and without the big happy ending where everyone’s a winner. It spotlights the Permian Panthers high school football team, its coach and the community that puts entirely too much pressure on all of them because football is god and it’s the only bright spot in that town.
Billy Bob Thornton was cast as the high school football coach, Gary Gaines, and it is by far one of the best acting jobs he has done…outside of Bad Santa. I normally don’t like Thorton but he pulled it off without being completely obnoxious. The football players played by Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund, Derek Luke, Jay Hernandez and Lee Jackson all do an incredible job.
This isn’t what you’d expect from a ‘normal’ sports movie. It’s character driven and depressing at times. It gives you a more realistic look at what high school football in the south and more specifically, in Texas, is really like. You get a sense of what it really feels like to have that much pressure on you at a young age, living in a small town and just wanting to get out.
This movie won’t pick you up and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside but it’s a great look into what high school football really is and how kids react to the pressure of a community that counts on them. This movie doesn’t scream Hollywood like some of the others on this list…I think that’s why I listed it as high as I did.
4. We Are Marshall (2006)
Matthew McConaughey plays the new coach at Marshall University after a plane crash claims the lives of its football team, coaching staff and some of its fans in 1970. While some wanted to not field a football team the following season, the university decides to bring in McConaughey with the daunting task of fielding a team to take the field in 1971.
This is a very heart wrenching movie that brings out many different emotions. McConaghey gives a great performance as the head coach. This movie focuses on the mourning of a city that lost many close friends and family but mainly on the development and difficulties of the team.
Much like Friday Night Lights, We Are Marshall gives you more character depth and seriousness. Even though there are few funny moments in the movie, it focuses more on dealing with grief and moving on. Even though the ending is predictable it doesn’t let you down. It still gives that ‘edge of your seat’ feeling. I know when this movie came out the critics didn’t give it good reviews but I still think it’s great.
3. The Blind Side (2009)
If you remove the social commentary and the fact that I’m not a huge fan of Sandra Bullock, this was a great movie. I was skeptical to see this film but, as it turned out, I was very surprised. Based on a book with the same name, it highlights Michael Oher, played by Quinton Aaron, a homeless high school aged boy who is taken in by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) and her family. He is portrayed as a gentle giant and excels as a left tackle on the high school football team. For those who don’t know this is based on a true story about Michael Oher, the All American football player and first round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens.
It’s a great story with solid acting. Football takes a back seat in this movie and the story carries it. In an age of big action and crushing hits in football movies, this broke away and gave more of a personal feeling and drama. You can draw whatever conclusions you want based on the story line but I’ll stay away from that. This is a football movie that got a reaction out of me. Quinton Aaron does a great job in the role of Michael Oher. He absolutely nailed it.
2. Brain’s Song (1971)
If you have not seen the original Brian’s Song then you have done yourself a disservice. Rent it, buy it or stream it immediately. For those that have not seen this film, the story is about Gale Sayers ( Billy Dee Williams) and Brian Piccolo (James Caan), two teammates for the Chicago Bears who become best friends. It follows both players who have completely different personalities as they become friends. Their bond strengthens through Gale Sayers’ terrible knee injury and when Brian Piccolo finds out that he is dying.
If you don’t cry during this movie then you are not human. This was a made for TV movie and is very short (73 min.) but it packs a huge punch and pulls on your heart strings. Even though this movie was made over 40 years ago it’s a classic that every football fan needs to watch.
Caan and Williams had great chemistry and do a fantastic job of selling the relationship between Sayers and Piccolo. There are a ton of great things I can say about this movie but unless you see it for yourself it’s almost hard to describe. I will say that the in-game action is mostly taken from actual NFL footage of Sayers and Piccolo.
By the way, if you rent, stream or buy this movie make sure that it’s the original from 1971 and not the remake from 2001 with Sean Maher and Mekhi Phifer. I watched the remake and couldn’t get past the first 20 minutes of it. It’s just a watered down version of the original that focuses more on Piccolo’s illness instead of the relationship between Piccolo and Sayers. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
1. Remember the Titans (2000)
Denzel Washington plays coach, Herman Boone, in a true story which follows the 1971 T.C. Williams High School Titans football team and their struggles with integration. The actors in this movie are absolutely fantastic. The writing and directing were both great as well. It’s an emotionally charged and powerful film. Again, even though this is a movie about football, it’s a must watch for anyone.
As a quick recap of the story line… just before the start of the football season, Coach Yoast (Will Patton) who was nominated for the High School Football Hall of Fame gets demoted to Assistant Coach in place of Coach Boone (Denzel Washington). Racial tension and separation are at its peak. Most of the town’s residents are angry, and some of the white players are willing to ruin their football career’s to quit the team to make a statement.
Coach Boone takes the team out of town to separate them from the racial tension in town. At this boot camp the team learns more about each other and they begin to see each other as a family and team. This is a Disney film so the depiction of racism during that time period was a little lighter than what actually took place. The cast made this movie what it was. The script and directing were both very good but the actors took this movie over the top for me.
Remember the Titans is a powerful and inspirational film that will stand the test of time. I can watch this movie everyday and never get sick of it. This is definitely on the list of movies to watch any time but especially as the football season draws closer. Besides being an awesome movie, Denzel Washington is one of my favorite actors and he deserves to be in the top slot of this list.