The Ten Spot: Best Football Movies (Video Edition!)
We are two weeks away from Super Bowl XLVII, I thought it would be the time to examine the best football movies ever made. You would be surprised how few there actually are. With the news that the NFL is going to be officially licensing movies with professional football teams, gone will be the days of movies with fictional leagues and teams. So, sit back with some hot wings and some beers and take a look at the big screen's gridiron greats. If your favorite didn't make the cut, feel free to include them in the talkbacks below.
Since it focuses on gambling in sports and retired football players, THE LAST BOY SCOUT is not exactly a football movie, but I had to include it just for the classic opening scene of Billy Cole (Billy Blanks) running into the end zone while shooting a gun. Ah, Tony Scott, you will be missed.
NORTH DALLAS FORTY is the NETWORK of sports movies. It is a satire of the NFL and their flagship franchise at the time, the Dallas Cowboys. Seeing Nick Nolte as a drug-addled star didn't seem like it was going to one day become a reality, but sometimes art does imitate life. Of all the football movies out there, NORTH DALLAS FORTY is one of the most critical of the professional football world and would likely suffer the wrath of the NFL if made today.
No, not the shitty Adam Sandler remake. The original version starring Burt Reynolds portrayed a fallen football star who is forced to play for a prison squad against the guards. The movie featured the classic Reynolds character: smart ass, mustachioed, and always ready to brawl. Many former NFL players made appearances as part of the Mean Machine. While the movie is very dated, it is still way better than the 2001 remake. Plus, nothing beats brutal tackles and violence in sports.
VARSITY BLUES is one of those late-90s MTV movies that is cut like a music video and falls under the weight of too many cliches: the brutal coach, the smart teen who doesn't want to play, the player using steroids, the father who cannot see his son's true passion, the cheerleader vs the brainy girl, and the jock who needs a ticket to college. But, director Brian Robbins pre-dated the much superior FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS by 5 years, telling a strikingly similar story. In the end, I will remember this movie for the whipped cream bikini and the well edited final football game.
Yes, another cliched sports movie that tugs at the heartstrings, but REMEMBER THE TITANS is a well-acted movie despite the glaring Oscar bait moments of racial harmony it strives to portray. Denzel Washington delivers his usually quality performance in a movie that shows the right way to make an emotionally driven movie, unlike crap films such as RADIO or THE BLIND SIDE. It also bothers me greatly that the hot Hayden Panettiere is a the little kid in the movie. Damn, I am old.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS will be remembered more for the NBC television series than Peter Berg's excellent movie. Billy Bob Thornton plays the role of Coach Gary Gaines in this fictional version of the best-selling non-fiction book. Berg streamlines the more political elements of the story in favor of an underdog story about the team itself. In the end, the football action is top notch and the acting is quite good. Is it as good as the book? No, but most movies rarely are.
I love this movie as it brings back mamories of my childhood days watching R-rated movies my parents didn't know about. When I think back to my formative knowledge of sports, it has roots in NECESSARY ROUGHNESS and MAJOR LEAGUE. While MAJOR LEAGUE is the superior movie, NECESSARY ROUGHNESS will always be required viewing if only for the eternally sexy Kathy Ireland. Place kicking has never been so erotic.
Many of you will probably roll your eyes at this movie being so high on my list. But, THE REPLACEMENTS is another example of a fun sports movie that doesn't require a lot of attention. Seeing as it is shown on TBS eighty-five times a week, it is a movie I can drop into any time and just catch a few minutes of Rhys Ifans or Jon Favreau delivering a funny scene. Plus, Gene Hackman makes everything better. I also have a lasting crush on Brooke Langton from this movie.
I have a love-hate relationship with ANY GIVEN SUNDAY. Whether you like it or not, it is probably the most accurate movie to how the NFL actually is than any other film. While Oliver Stone does succumb to his own film tropes a little too often (projecting classic football imagery on the walls during scenes), he does do a good job of the actual sports scenes. Plus, Al Pacino delivers one of the all-time great movie speeches at the end of this flick.
Many football fans will say the movie that makes them weep like little babies is BRIAN'S SONG. For me, it is RUDY. Before he was Samwise, Sean Astin portrayed the ultimate underdog in Rudy Ruettiger, who was an undersized college student whose only dream was to play for Notre Dame. His inspirational effort resulted in not the Hollywood ending where he is responsible for the victory for his team but rather a moment that had no impact on the final score, yet still resonates for him and everyone who witnessed it. It just goes to show that just because you don't play the main role, it doesn't mean you can't make a difference.
THE PROGRAM is not the best movie on this list, but it is the one I always think of when someone discusses movies and football. I remember seeing the trailer on TV with the deleted scene featuring the players laying on the road with cars zooming by their heads. It was of course removed when some dumbasses tried it in real life. I will always remember THE PROGRAM for the way it portrayed the corruption in the NCAA sports world and for James Caan as one of my favorite movie coaches. But, the biggest standout for me is Andrew Bryniarski as linebacker Steve Lattimer. The dude was just batshit crazy and I loved it. Check out the scene above and tell me you don't want to see THE PROGRAM.