Earlier this year, I listed my top five baseball movies and with football season around the corner (we hope at least), I thought I would share my top five favorite football movies. I will admit this was a hard list for me to make. Football has been my favorite sport since I was a kid, and there are a lot of great football movies out there. So, here are my favorites, along with a few honorable mentions.
5. The Replacements
The Replacements is not your typical football movie being it’s a comedy, but it still remains a great football movie in my opinion. The movie follows fictional NFL team Washington Sentinels as the league is on strike and replacement players are brought in to save the season. The Sentinels owner, Edward O’Neill (Brett Cullen), calls in former NFL coach Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman) to coach the replacements. McGinty brings in Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves) to be the quarterback and captain of the team. McGinty and Falco ultimately lead the Sentinels to the playoffs. This movie is great because it perfectly balances the comedy with the football aspect. The Replacements gives you a look at the ultimate second chance opportunity to play professional football.
4. Varsity Blues
Varsity Blues is just one of those movies that if it comes on I have to watch it, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. It follows the West Canaan Coyotes, a high school football team in a small Texas town where high school football is life. Head coach Bud Kilmer (John Voight) will stop at nothing to win his 23rd division title. After star quarterback Lance Harbor (Paul Walker) gets injured in the first game of the season, Jonathan “Mox” Moxon (James Van Der Beek) has to step up to be the starting quarterback. The movie has some great comedic moments, but the overall feel is very serious about a coach who will stop at nothing to win, including injecting student athletes with pain meds to keep them in the game. The scene at the end of movie where the players take a stand and refuse to go back on the field unless Kilmer quits is one of my favorite scenes.
3. Friday Night Lights
I don’t think there is a better movie that captures what it’s like to play high school football than Friday Night Lights. In this movie, you watch the Permian Panthers as they go through the season and try to win a state championship. If you played high school football, you know that feeling of suiting up on Friday nights and Friday Night Lights captures that perfectly. The Panthers face struggles that every teams faces in a season. The team pulls it together and faces all it adversity to eventually make it to the state championship game, which they end up losing. Now I know you’re thinking how can you like a movie where the team loses the big game? Well, you see in the end the players learn after that loss that life goes on even after you stop playing the game you love. The movie is just relatable. Every high school football player goes through the emotions of strapping on your pads for the last time, and this movie shows that better than any I’ve ever seen.
I don’t know a man on this earth that’s a football fan who doesn’t like Rudy. It’s the ultimate underdog story. A kid who has dreams of playing for Notre Dame who ultimately makes that dream come true. Rudy (Sean Astin) didn’t have the grades to get in to Notre Dame after high school, so after going to a smaller school to improve his grades, he finally gets in. He walks onto the football team and makes the practice squad. His family doesn’t believe he’s on the team because he doesn’t dress on Saturdays. After his junior year, he convinces the coach to let him dress for one game his senior season. Things quickly change as the team hires a new head coach, Dan Devine (Chelcie Ross). Devine doesn’t honor the agreement to let Rudy dress. This results in one of the best scenes of any sports movie I’ve ever seen. The day before the last game of the season all the players line up outside the coach’s office and, one by one, come in to put their jersey on his desk and say they want Rudy to dress in their place. If you don’t tear up at that scene, you’re not human. The coach caves and lets Rudy dress, and he even gets to play with his family in the stands. Rudy is just a feel-good movie. I mean, everyone loves a good underdog story.
- The Program
I’m not sure how many people even know about this movie but, for me, it’s the football movie that I measure all other movies against. The Program is just a straight football movie. It follows a fictional college football team called Eastern State. The head coach, Sam Winters (James Caan), is under pressure from alumni to mount a winning season. The movie seems to celebrate college football and attack it at the same time. You have quarterback Joe Kane (Craig Shaffer) who’s trying to deal with the pressure of a Heisman campaign by drinking, a star linebacker with NFL dreams who gets a career-ending injury. The Program also deals with things that we all know happens in college football but is rarely spoken about. Things like players receiving money and gifts from boosters and alumni, getting better grades than they deserve to remain eligible to play, using steroids to gain a starting job on the team. The Program doesn’t just show the negatives of college football, it also shows some positives. It shows rookie running back Darnell Jefferson (Omar Epps) working hard to keep his grades up and working hard to get a starting job on the team. Joe Kane goes to rehab for his alcoholism with the help of Coach Winters and comes back to lead the team. I just love this movie. Anytime someone asks me for a good football movie to watch, I always recommend The Program.
Honorable Mentions: We Are Marshall, Remember the Titans, Any Given Sunday, The Blindside
Brad is a tech and music know-it-all who has probably seen whatever band you’re currently listening to. He’s also the graphic designer for The Citizen.