Concussions have been a hot topic in sports in recent years. The National Football League has been at the center of the issue and the upcoming movie Concussion will stir up further debate on this serious issue.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell won’t be thrilled that the league could face further ridicule on this topic once the film, starring Will Smith as real life concussion expert Dr. Bennet Omalu, comes out in theaters on December 25. While football is entertaining many of us on Saturday and Sunday afternoons (unless you’re a Browns fan), it’s also had a big impact on-screen, leaving many teenage boys teary-eyed as on-screen characters experience both heartbreak and victory on the football field.
Here are Screen Rant’s 12 Best Football Movies of All Time.
15. ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (1999)
Directed by Oliver Stone, this film takes a look at life on and off the football field. Lead by an all-star cast including Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, along with a breakout role for Jamie Foxx.
The story is about a fictional Miami Sharks football team in turmoil. Diaz plays a young team owner who inherits the team, Pacino plays a veteran coach that’s being forced out, and Foxx takes over the team after the aging star quarterback (Quaid) gets injured. This is an intense and gritty football film with some really solid performances. The film incorporates a nice balance of on-field action and behind-the-scenes drama.
14. THE BLIND SIDE (2009)
It’s the film that earned Sandra Bullock an Oscar, and the film is a story based on real life NFL player Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a homeless young man taken in by Tuohy (Bullock) and her family who ended up becoming a standout football player in college. It’s a nice and endearing story with good performances, especially by Bullock.
Michael Oher himself wasn’t thrilled by the movie, stating that it takes away from his as a player when people are constantly comparing him to the on-screen version of himself. Nevertheless, it’s a heartwarming tale that provides us with one of Sandra Bullock’s best-ever performances.
13. WE ARE MARSHALL (2006)
We Are Marshall is the story of what happens after a 1971 plane crash that claimed the lives of 75 football players and staff of the Marshall University Thundering Herd football team. For the university, football was a means of uniting the townsfolk beyond racial barriers as the school’s new coach, Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey), rebuilds the team in the wake of such tragedy.
12. VARSITY BLUES (1999)
James Van Der Beek, riding his Dawson’s Creek fame, and Paul Walker, who was new to acting at this point, star in this entertaining high school football comedy. The film explores the lives of teens put under the spotlight and pressure of being part of a beloved football program.
They fight, they party, they have sex, pretty much what you expect stereotypical popular jocks to do. Oh, and there is also a QB controversy as the backup QB steps in to lead the team after the starter goes down to injury. Despite the gross out laughs that you expect from a late ’90s teen comedy, the film also has some heart as the players bond together before the final game.
11. DRAFT DAY (2014)
Kevin Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., the risk-taking general manager of the Cleveland Browns. The film depicts the day of an NFL Draft and the dramatic choices that could end up changing the fortunes of the flailing Browns franchise.
The movie is a bit flawed, featuring some over-the-top interactions between the teams cap guru and Weaver’s love interest Ali (Jennifer Garner), and the portrayal of the athletes being out of control loonies (well maybe that’s not that unrealistic). For hardcore football fans and stat aficionados, this film was a really pleasing look at the inner-workings of the NFL and it’s draft, which has become a sport and spectacle in and of itself.
10. THE EXPRESS (2008)
The Express is another movie inspired by a true story, focusing on Ernie Davis, the first black football player to ever win the Heisman Trophy. Dennis Quaid makes another appearance on this list, this time playing Ernie Davis’s (Rob Brown) coach at Syracuse University.
Davis seemed like a charismatic person in real life, and this is nicely demonstrated in Brown’s performance. When the movie came out in 2008, it was beat out at the box office by Beverly Hills Chihuahua, but it deserved better, as it’s an inspirational tale.
9. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (2004)
The small town of Odessa, Texas is at the forefront in this H.G. Bissinger adaptation about a Texas high school football team that unites its racially and economically ravaged hometown every game day on Friday night.
The movie gives an inside look at the critical importance that football has in the lives of these people. Perfection isn’t an option for these players, it’s an expectation. Billy Bob Thornton plays the motivational coach Gary Gaines, and he does fine work. This movie is a guide to what Texas high school football is and means, and it was adapted into an even better TV series that ran for five seasons.
8. INVINCIBLE (2006)
Disney has done a fantastic job with sports movies. Inspired by true events, this film tells the story of Vince Papale, a 30-year-old bartender from South Philly who overcomes the improbably long odds of making it to the NFL to play for the Philadelphia Eagles.
This is the kind of underdog story that dreams and feature films are made of. Released in 2006, the film was Mark Wahlberg’s chance to shine as a leading man in Hollywood in a movie about perseverance and chasing dreams. Who wouldn’t want to play for their favorite hometown sports team?
7. JERRY MAGUIRE (1996)
Who hasn’t heard the famous line “Show me the money!” before? Cuba Gooding Jr. launched his career with this movie and Tom Cruise diversified his resume with it. It’s a tale of a sports agent that gives up his successful career in search of a greater purpose.
His only client is a loose-cannon of an Arizona Cardinals football player. The film also has some nice romantic and comedic story beats, thanks to writer-director Cameron Crowe. Renee Zellweger became a household name with this movie, and who can forget that little cute kid with those glasses!
6. THE LONGEST YARD (2005)
This entry was a toss-up, and it could have also gone with the 1974 Burt Reynolds version of the film, but this Adam Sandler remake is a lot of wacky fun. After being improsoned for drunk driving, Sandler’s NFL player protagonist forms a football team to go against the abusive prison guards. It sounds silly and unlikely in theory, but it’s so fun to watch.
The movie has a unique mix of comedy’s biggest names in Sandler, Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan teaming with some former NFL standouts such as Michael Irvin and Bill Romanowski, and pro wrestling names like Bill Goldberg, Steve Austin, and Kevin Nash. Burt Reynolds also plays a key part in the movie.
5. REMEMBER THE TITANS (2000)
Once again based on a true events from 1971, in which a black coach (Denzel Washington) is hired to lead a newly-integrated Virginia high school football team. Although there’s a lot of friction between the white and black players at first, they learn to come together for the common good of the team, only to face a setback when their quarterback goes down with a spinal injury.
The movie shares a similar story as Friday Night Lights, with its depiction of a small town obsessed with football, and the effect of overarching social issues into the fabric of the game. Remember the Titans is an uplifting tale with a great performance from Denzel Washington.
4. THE REPLACEMENTS (2000)
The Washington Sentinels (a potential new name for the increasingly anachronistic Redskins) recruits a ragtag group of guys to save their season during a players strike. Inspired by the 1987 NFL players strike, Keanu Reeves becomes the main guy in salvaging the Sentinels season.
This is the opposite of a movie like Brian’s Song, more along the line of the humor of The Longest Yard. The Replacements is an enjoyable comedy, and who knew that Keanu Reeves had all that charisma in him to lead a team. This movie played a lot on TBS during the 2000s, so even after a mediocre reception, it still holds a special place in many people’s hearts.
3. THE WATERBOY (1998)
This film came out during what we might now call the golden age of Adam Sandler. In it, he plays Bobby, a socially inept “waterboy” with a stutter. When he’s fired from his position (after suffering torment from the teammates and coach), he’s given a second chance at another college, where he discovers that he’s actually an excellent player.
As it turns out, Bobby never graduated high school, and so that’s something he has to do before he can play in the NCAA. It’s a dumb movie, but it’s full of laughs, in large part thanks to the talented cast that surrounds Sandler, including Kathy Bates, Fairuza Balk and, uh, Rob Schneider.
2. BRIAN’S SONG (1971)
This is an all-time sports movie classic that doesn’t get the attention it should. An emotionally powerful true life story about the great Chicago Bears player Gale Sayers and his teammate Brian Piccolo. Piccolo is dying of cancer, while Sayers is becoming a star NFL player, yet nothing gets in the way of their friendship.
The movie makes note of the race issues that took place in the mid-1960s, which is relevant, as Sayers is black while Piccolo is white. James Caan and Billy Dee Williams are a fantastic pairing as Piccolo and Sayers in this 1971 on-screen adaptation. The film is less about football and more about the friendship and overcoming racial barriers. This is a definite tear-jerker.
1. RUDY (1993)
Rudy is a football classic. An ultimate underdog tale. A kid that doesn’t have the money, grades, physique, or talent to play football at Notre Dame, yet he finds a way to carry out his dream. With the help of his mentor D-Bob, he navigates through various obstacles including his own dyslexia to gain admittance into the school.
This is an All-American story of fighting against all odds to reach your goals. The movie has a lot of heart and a character that’s impossible not to root for. Sean Astin is adorable as the lead character, and the final scene of the team carrying him off the field on their shoulders will have you you in tears.
Do you agree with the list? Are there any notable omissions? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.