As the New England Patriots and New York Giants do battle at the Super Bowl February 5, Movie Fanatic has taken the opportunity to look back at Hollywood's history on the gridiron. On this Super Bowl weekend, we proudly present our Top 10 Football Movies. Any one of these 10 films will get your batteries charged and have you shouting, “Are you ready for some football?!”
Mark Wahlberg (What are his top 10 movies?) soars in his portrayal of real life Vince Papale. He was a thirty-year-old South Philadelphia bartender who bucked the odds and played for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1976. Invincible shows why we love football movies as it has audiences leaping from their seats and cheering uncontrollably.
9. Knute Rockne, All American
The 1940s classic told the story of another real life footballer and gave us one of film’s and our culture’s greatest lines: "Win one for the Gipper." It also starred a man who would eventually become our president, Ronald Reagan. Knute Rockne was a Notre Dame player and coach who inspired his players to greatness. One of Hollywood’s first football movies is also one of its 10 best.
8. The Blind Side
Sandra Bullock scored an Oscar for Best Actress for The Blind Side, which also was nominated for Best Picture. It is an inspiring story that exemplifies the saying, “It takes a village.” Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, a Tennessee woman who took in a homeless teen into her family. The film warms the heart while showing how football can serve as a catalyst to greatness. The Blind Side’s real life subject, Michael Oher, is currently playing for the Baltimore Ravens.
7. The Longest Yard
The 1974 version of The Longest Yard is on our list, not the Adam Sandler “remake!” Burt Reynolds stars as an inmate who is part of a prison football team charged with playing the facility’s guards in a game of pride. The guards will never know what hit them.
6. Friday Night Lights
Before there was the astounding Friday Night Lights TV show, Billy Bob Thornton starred in the 2004 film version. The story follows a Texas high school football team that crafts a football season for the ages. The film excels in its showing of how high school football is godlike in its stature in Texas, particularly in small towns like Odessa where Friday Night Lights takes place. Riveting, raucous and all outstanding, the film is one that will not soon be forgotten by anyone who witnesses its majesty.
5. North Dallas Forty
The Dallas Cowboys ruled the 1970s NFL (to be fair, the Pittsburgh Steelers were right there with them). North Dallas Forty is a fictionalized version of how pro football is done in Dallas, circa mid-70s. Nick Nolte scored in his career-defining role as a wide receiver nearing the end of his playing days that rallies his team to triumph. The film explores the sex, drugs and rock and roll atmosphere of the NFL in that era.
4. Any Given Sunday
Oliver Stone turned his camera on the world of professional football in this 1999 classic. Al Pacino starred as a Miami coach who, when his star quarterback goes down to injury (Dennis Quaid), has to deal with the modern NFL quarterback as embodied by Jamie Foxx. He is brash, talented and self-centered. But it is through him that the team must win. Cameron Diaz stars as the owner and turns in a career best performance. Foxx also excelled as Willie Beamen. Stone’s take on pro football in Any Given Sunday was electric and completely unforgettable.
3. Jerry Maguire
The relationship between wide receiver Rod Tidwell and his agent Jerry Maguire centers this 1996 Cameron Crowe film. Cuba Gooding Jr. won an Oscar for his role as Tidwell and his pro football player may be flashy and believe he’s worth more than he has shown on the football field, but at his core, he is an everyman and that is why audiences so identify with him. He simply wants a new contract to ensure his family’s financial security. When he emerges as Tom Cruise’s newly broken sports agent's only client, the two will form a bond that raises Jerry Maguire beyond a terrific sports film to one of Hollywood’s greatest films.
Long before he adorned Hobbit feet in Lord of the Rings, Sean Astin scored as Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger. He was an Indiana kid with dreams of wearing the golden helmets of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Deemed too small and weak by the coach, and even some in his family, Rudy never gave up until the day arrived when he was given his chance. This is one of those movies that makes grown men cry and rightfully so. It is inspiring and more importantly, Rudy is one of those films that can be watched repeatedly -- further proving its power as not only a great football film, but a fantastic movie… period.
1. Remember the Titans
Another football true story and another top 10 football movie... in fact, it's our number one! Denzel Washington stars as a newly minted coach of a formerly segregated post-Civil Rights school. Will Patton is the team’s former coach and now sits alongside Washington as his assistant. The school is immersed in racism that spills onto the football field. But, if Washington can get his players on the same page, not only will they change racial sentiments at the school, but potentially serve as a mirror to society and how we should all live. Remember the Titans? We could never forget you.
Honorable Mention: Brian’s Song
Brian’s Song is a TV movie, so it doesn’t make our list, but deserves mention. The movie is a must-see for any sports fan as it inspires in its showcasing of the friendship between two men and the power that that bond brings to all those involved.