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Top 35 Favorite Football Movies

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The fans are in the seats, the fields have been lined in white and the players are ready for some football action. Can’t you smell it in the air? The early days of Fall are here and we’re in the thick of the hallowed football time of year – high school, college and NFL. WAMG is counting down our 35 favorite football films you need to see before the kickoff of pigskin season. It’s never too early or too late to talk the sport loved by fans everywhere. Many of these true stories can be found on DVD, Blu-ray and Video On Demand. Let us know in the comments section below how you would have ranked your favorite football movies or if we left any on the sidelines.

1. RUDY

“You’re 5 foot nothin’, 100 and nothin’, and you have barely a speck of athletic ability. And you hung in there with the best college football players in the land for 2 years. And you’re gonna walk outta here with a degree from the University of Notre Dame. In this life, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody but yourself.”

Rudy tells the true-life story of Dan “Rudy” Ruettiger, a kid with a dream to play football at Notre Dame, despite the fact that he had neither the grades nor the athletic ability for such a feat. But that didn’t stop Rudy. After years of obstacles and very little encouragement, he proved that with dogged determination, miracles can happen and dreams can come true.

2. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

Football in Texas is an obsession and a way of life. Peter Berg (BATTLESHIP) directs this gritty but heartwarming 2004 movie, based on a book by H.G. Bissinger, that chronicles the efforts of Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton), the coach of a high-school football team in small-town Odessa, Texas, to propel his squad to the state championships. But the path to glory is paved with racial and economic strife, and the coach must help his players navigate through the maze so they can play like winners.

3. REMEMBER THE TITANS

Based on real events of 1971, REMEMBER THE TITANS celebrates how a town torn apart by friction and mistrust comes together in triumphant harmony. After leading his team to fifteen winning seasons, beloved football coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) is demoted and replaced by tough, opinionated Herman Boone (Denzel Washington). How these two men overcome their differences and turn a group of hostile young men into champions is a remarkable portrait of courage and perseverance. Who will ever forget the team dance to psyche out the opposing team? Did you know that after Boaz Yakin was hired to direct the movie, producer Jerry Bruckheimer learned that Yakin did not know anything about American football. He then arranged for Yakin to attend a football camp, and the director picked up enough information in two weeks to resume full-speed work afterward.

4. KNUTE ROCKNE ALL AMERICAN

Pat O’Brien (“Angels with Dirty Faces”) delivers a powerful performance as the famed Notre Dame football coach in this moving biography. Featuring a stellar performance by Golden Globe-winner and former president Ronald Reagan as “the Gipper.” With Oscar-winner Donald Crisp (“How Green Was My Valley”). Inducted into the Library of Congress National Film Registry.

5. THE EXPRESS

Based on a true story, The Express follows the extraordinary life of college football hero Ernie Davis (Rob Brown), the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. His fight for equality and respect forever changed the face of American sports, and his story continues to inspire new generations.

6. THE BLIND SIDE


© 2009 Warner Bros. Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw and Oscar® winner Kathy Bates star in this remarkable true story of All-American football star Michael Oher. Teenager Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is surviving on his own, virtually homeless, when he is spotted on the street by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock). Learning that the young man is one of her daughter’s classmates, Leigh Anne insists that Michael – wearing shorts and a t-shirt in the dead of winter – come out of the cold. Without a moment’s hesitation, she invites him to stay at the Tuohy home for the night. What starts out as a gesture of kindness becomes much more as Michael becomes part of the Tuohy family despite the differences in their backgrounds. Living in his new environment, the teen faces a completely different set of challenges to overcome. And as the family helps Michael fulfill his potential, both on and off the football field, Michael’s presence in the Tuohys’ lives leads them to some insightful self-discoveries of their own.

7. JERRY MAGUIRE

JERRY MAGUIRE – We don’t even have to preface this entry with one of “those” famous quotes, because you’re probably already hearing them in your head. The movie that made Renee Zellwegger a star and earned Cuba Gooding Jr. an Oscar looks at the sports world through a little-seen perspective: that of an agent. As the title character, Tom Cruise wheels and deals his way through striking out on his own after a crisis of conscience over the dishonesty in the field estranges him from his agency. His developing relationship with Zellwegger’s character, though, receives just as much attention as that main plot. It’s not so much a movie about sports as it is one set within that world.

8. THE LONGEST YARD (1974)

Did you know that a number of the film’s actors had previously played professional football. Burt Reynolds played for Florida State University and was drafted by the Baltimore Colts. Mike Henry (Rasmussen) played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Los Angeles Rams. Joe Kapp (Walking Boss) played quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. Ray Nitschke (Bodanski) was a middle linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, and Pervis Atkins (Mawabe) played for the Los Angeles Rams, the Washington Redskins and the Oakland Raiders. Doesn’t sound as if a lot of practice was required.

9. ANY GIVEN SUNDAY

Life is a contact sport and football is life when three-time academy award-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone and a dynamic acting ensemble explore the fortunes of the Miami Sharks in Any Given Sunday. At the 50-year line of this gridiron cosmos is Al Pacino as Tony D’Amato, the embattled Sharks coach facing a full-on blitz of team strife plus a new, marketing-savvy sharks owner Cameron Diaz) who’s sure Tony is way too old school. An injured quarterback (Dennis Quaid), a flashy, bull-headed backup qb (Jamie Foxx), a slithery team doctor (James Woods) and a running back with an incentive-laden contract (LL Cool J) also provide some of the stories that zigzag like diagrams in a playbook. and throughout, there’s the awesome spectacle of motion, sound and action orchestrated by Stone.


(c) 1999 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

10. TOUCHBACK

A man in his late 20s who was the star of his high school football team, but whose career was ended when he shattered his leg in his final season. After hitting his head a decade later, he wakes up to find himself back in time, a week before the big game.

11. THE GAME PLAN

The first football flick starring Dwayne Johnson on our list actually came out a year after our # 12 movie, also with ” The Rock “. Three years later Johnson would play a superstar in another sport, hockey, for another big screen family comedy THE TOOTH FAIRY.

12. GRIDIRON GAME

Dwayne ” The Rock ” Johnson starred in this 2006 sports drama inspired by true events. He plays a former pro football player that coaches a team at a juvenile detention center. Although best known in the wrestling ring, Johnson is also a former pro football player. He was a member of the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League.

13. VARSITY BLUES

In 1999 James Van Der Beek capitalized on his small screen teen heartthrob success on ” Dawson’s Creek ” by starring in this Texas high school football drama. He shared the screen with Oscar-winner Jon Voight in several heated locker room confrontations. However, many male film fans may recall this flick for blond temptress Ali Larter and some carefully placed whipped cream.

14. WE ARE MARSHALL

This powerful true story about the efforts to rebuild the football program at Marshall University after the entire team is killed in a plane crash was a big departure for director McG, best known  for the two fluffy action blockbusters based on TV’s ” Charlie’s Angels “. Speaking of the tube, this was Matthew Fox’s attempt at big screen stardom after his small screen success in ” Party of Five” and the cult hit ” Lost “. Special praise should go to the film’s crew for replicating the wild 1970’s hairstyles and fashions.

15. INVINCIBLE

Mark Wahlberg does a sports version of his 2001 comedy ROCK STAR in this based on a true story film . He’s a regular Joe who gets a shot in the NFL, instead of a heavy metal hair band, in this 2006 feel go flick. Greg Kinnear plays Eagles coach Dick Vermeil, who would later lead the St. Louis Rams. Kinnear went on to play a couple of other real guys : inventor Bob Kearns in FLASH OF GENIUS and JFK in ” The Kennedys ” TV mini-series.

16. LEATHERHEADS

Oscar winners George Clooney and Renee Zellweger star with John Krasinski (The Office) in Leatherheads, a fun-filled football comedy.

17. THE PROGRAM

The pressure of playing for a major university can be rough, causing the players to cope in different ways. THE PROGRAM shows the darker side of the football lifestyle.

18. ALL THE RIGHT MOVES

Tom Cruise shines as a high school football player desperately trying to land a college scholarship so he can leave his small town. The only thing really standing in his way is a coach that causes nothing but conflict.

19. HEAVEN CAN WAIT

Heaven Can Wait is a romantic fantasy about Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty), a Los Angeles Rams quarterback who is accidentally summoned to Heaven by an overly zealous celestial escort. Pendleton is returned to earth in the body of another man, who is a corporate giant. While practicing to once again play for the Rams, Pendleton must escape attempts on his life while romantically pursuing a beautiful Englishwoman (Julie Christie) who protests the destruction caused to her village by one of his many corporations.

20. BIG FAN

Paul Aufiero, a hardcore New York Giants football fan, struggles to deal with the consequences when he is beaten up by his favorite player.

21. LONGSHOTS

The true story of Jasmine Plummer who, at the age of eleven, became the first female to play in Pop Warner football tournament in its 56-year history, LONGSHOTS, is a family-friendly film from 2008. Ice Cube Ice Cube has a great eye for scripts that are family friendly and he and the young cast really sell the clichés.

22. JOHNNY BE GOOD

The football-themes movie of the ‘Brat Pack’ era, JOHNNY BE GOOd (1988) starred a youthful Robert Downey Jr. and Anthony Michael Hall. When a top high school quarterback (Hall) is courted by sleazy college football recruiters promising fame and fortune, he exposes their slimy tactics by choosing to play for a school where he’ll get a good education. Typical 80’s cheese all the way, but it’s fun cheese, loaded with awesome 80’s music and an super-sexy 18-year old Uma Thurman as Hall’s girlfriend.

23. NORTH DALLAS FORTY

In a society in which major league sporting events have replaced Sunday worship as the religion of choice, North Dallas Forty appears like a desecration at the altar.

24. EVERYBODY’S ALL-AMERICAN

Jessica Lange, Dennis Quaid and Timothy Hutton headline this moving slice of Americana that sizzles with sexy romance, sparkles with humor and thunders with the pad-to-pad crunch of hard-nosed football. Quaid plays a college gridiron star who struggles when events no longer fit within the playing field. Lange is his sweetheart, willingly led to life’s sidelines as a player’s wife, but eventually becoming a woman of strength. And Hutton is the friend who sees what living in a goldfish bowl does to supposedly charmed lives. Director Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman, Proof of Life) guides his stellar talents through a spellbinding 30-year saga of our lives without fumbling a single detail.


(c) 1988 Warner Bros. All Rights Reserved.

25. THE REPLACEMENTS

During a pro football strike, the owners hire substitute players. A motley group takes the field in THE REPLACEMENTS.

26. RADIO

Football coach Harold Jones (Ed Harris) befriends Radio (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), a mentally-challenged man who becomes a student at T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, South Carolina. Their friendship extends over several decades, where Radio transforms from a shy, tormented man into an inspiration to his community.

27. THE 5TH QUARTER

Driven by the tragic and fatal car crash that took the life of his fifteen year old brother Luke, and wearing Luke’s number 5 jersey, Jon Abbate helps to lead the Wake Forest Demon Deacons to the most successful season in school history.

28. JIM THORPE – ALL AMERICAN

The stirring life story of the American Indian who overcame personal and professional struggles to become one of the nation’s greatest athletes. Burt Lancaster stars. Year: 1951 Director: Michael Curtiz Starring: Burt Lancaster, Charles Bickford, Steve Cochran


(c) 1951 Warner Bros. Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

29. WILDCATS

“It’s the sport of kings. Better than diamond rings…….football.”
Molly (Goldie Hawn) is a high school track coach who knows just as much about football as anyone else on the planet. When the football coach’s position becomes vacant, she applies for the job, despite expecting sniggers from fellow staff members and her former husband.  Hawn’s team includes young Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes, and Mykelti Williamson.  And the film’s end credit song sung by the cast is one that won’t leave your head as much as you try to forget it.

30. LUCAS

“She was the biggest thing that ever hit him until he played football.” For those of you who have seen LUCAS, you know of it’s awesomeness. Football thrown in with being the little guy on the field. Lucas sums it up best, “Either you’re an athlete or you’re not an athlete.” A bit of trivia: this was Winona Ryder’s debut film.

31. THE BEST OF TIMES

Kurt Russell and Robin Williams star in this 1986 comedy about a small-town loser who is determined to take one more shot at making it big time by winning a football game. Fourteen years after what he considers the worst moment in his life, Jack (Williams) gets a second chance to do it right, but not without overcoming some new obstacles, one of which is to convince Reno (Russell) that history will not repeat itself.

32. NECESSARY ROUGHNESS

The Texas State Armadillos are fourth down and nowhere-to-go after a corruption scandal nearly ends the football program. Now upstanding coach Ed Gennero (Hector Elizondo) must put together a brand-new team. For the position of quarterback, Gennero recruits Paul Blake (Scott Bakula, Quantum Leap), a 34-year-old former high school star whose field of dreams turned out to be the family farm. Blake still has the arm, but can he score with a team that includes a samurai lineman, a butterfingered receiver, and a Samoan strongman with eyes for the placekicker (Kathy Ireland)

33. LITTLE GIANTS

Rick Moranis (HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS) coaches a group of misfit kids who form a football team to take on an elite pee wee team of talented kids, coached by Danny’s (Moranis) elitist ex-football star brother Kevin, played by Ed O’Neill (MARRED WITH CHILDREN). Serving as what could be called the football equivalent to THE BAD NEWS BEARS, Moranis and O’Neill clash as polar opposite, making this a funny, family-friendly football favorite.

34. WATERBOY

Bobby (Adam Sandler) is an disrespected water boy for a college football team, that is until the coach (Henry Winkler) unwittingly discovers his uncanny ability to tackle people much bigger than himself, which leads to Bobby being signed on as the new star player. Perhaps one of the last widely-admired comedy from Sandler, THE WATERBOY (1998) is a touchdown both for comedy junkies and for football fans.

35. THE JUNCTION BOYS

Tom Berenger stars as Paul “Bear” Bryant in this story of the legends first summer as head football coach at Texas A&M college. This made-for-TV movie is a dramatic re-enactment of what took place, and while many applaud Berenger’s performance, others dispute and criticize the film for misrepresenting Bryant’s approach to coaching and his personality on the field. Regardless, this remains a favorite of football films.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger Speaks at Pace University | Information about Rudy Ruettiger

  2. Rt49

    September 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Who ever you are you don’t know football or football movies. A complete miss. Please leave selections to someone who has a clue. Not even listing Brian’s Song proves your ineptness.

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