Well, the 2020 NFL season wrapped up with Tamba Bay’s decisive victory over the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. Tom Brady won his 7th ring and put an end to any doubts that he’s the greatest quarterback in NFL history. If you’re suffering from withdrawals knowing next season is a long 7 months away, we’ve got the perfect solution: why not binge on football movies? Here are 10 that we highly recommend.
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10. All the Right Moves
A movie from early in Tom Cruise’s career, he stars as a Serbian-American high schooler who lives in a rundown, blue-collar factory town in western Pennsylvania. He dreams of landing a college scholarship so that he can pursue a career in engineering, but a big argument with his coach leads him to being kicked off the team. The action on the field isn’t particularly convincing (although this is a problem with most sports movies), but overall it’s a solid story with great acting.
9. The Program
This one provides the audience with a glimpse of life at a big-time college football program (or at least the 80s/90s version of it). The fictional Eastern State University has underperformed in consecutive seasons, and coach Sam Winters (James Caan) finds himself in the hot seat. Cheating on drug tests and academics is the only way to get by. It’s an enjoyable movie, if not a bit over-time top. My personal favorite scene is when the hulking, roid-raging Steve Lattimer (Andrew Bryniarski) celebrates the fact that he’s been named starting defensive end by smashing car windows with his forehead.
Unlike the other movies on this list, Undefeated is a documentary. It follows a season of football at Manassas High School in Memphis and how Coach Bill Courtney is able to turn the program around both academically and on the field. It won the 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
7. We Are Marshall
This film depicts the aftermath of the real-life 1970 plane crash involving the Marshall University football team, which killed 75 people including 37 players, 5 coaches, and the school’s athletic director. While a lot of football movies focus on a handful of players, this one is truly about the entire team and how they overcome obstacles to return to glory.
6. The Waterboy
Let’s be honest here. Adam Sandler movies have been absolutely terrible for the last couple of decades, but he gets paid so why should he care? However, several of his 90s movies were actually funny and watchable, including The Waterboy. He plays a goofy cajun named Bobby Boucher, who originally joins the team as their waterboy but whose tackling skills capture the imagination of the team’s coach, played by Harry Winkler. Kathy Bates also gives a fantastic performance as Boucher’s mom.
Sort of based on a true story – but with some typical Hollywood antagonism necessary to create tension and drama – Rudy (Sean Astin back in his pre-Hobbit days) is about an undersized walk-on at Notre Dame who dreams of making it onto the field. After feeling discouraged and even quitting the team, Rudy returns when he realizes how much he would regret his decision. It’s a warm, fuzzy movie, but earnest and it’s impossible for even the most cynical viewer to find fault in it.
4. Any Given Sunday
Directed by Oliver Stone and starring Al Pacino and an ensemble cast of big-time actors, Any Given Sunday is regarded as one of the most realistic portrayals of professional football ever to hit the silver screen. The action makes you feel as though you’re watching an actual game, and you leave with a better understanding of the dark temptations of the sport as well as the life-and-death struggle to succeed.
3. Brian’s Song
This isn’t just the saddest sports movie ever made, it is arguably one of the biggest tear-jerkers of any genre. It’s the true story of the friendship between Chicago Bears stars Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo, Black and White players who came from two completely different backgrounds, as Piccolo dies of an aggressive form of cancer. In spite of its tragic nature, the film succeeds at not being overly sentimental. The actors come off as completely genuine.
2. Friday Night Lights
Based on the 1990 non-fiction book about high school football in Texas, it tells the story of how the sport affects the entire community and in particular how the weight and pressure are put on the shoulders of 16-year-old boys even as they’re still trying to figure out who they are as people. The gameplay is realistic and the story is well-written.
1. Remember the Titans
Based on a true story and set in 1971 Alexandria, Virginia, a recently integrated high school is dealing with racial tensions. Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) is named the football team’s first Black head coach and is tasked with not only ensuring the success of the program, but to bring the community together. The on-the-field action is a bit kooky at times, but otherwise it’s a nearly perfect movie that resonates more than 20 years after it was released.