When it comes to movies and sports, there is nothing out there that goes together more hand in hand. When you think about the drama that sports can create, mixed with the lights and glamor of Hollywood, especially when it comes to football, there is nothing rawer.
The thrill of rooting for the underdog to do the impossible, with all the knot forming twists and turns that come with it. Few things in this world can invoke such powerful emotions in both men and women. Hollywood has found a way, at times, to perfectly tap into this sensation.
From the hilarious, underestimated The Replacements to Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday, football movies simply hit differently than those of baseball, basketball, and hockey. Now, with Vince McMahon’s XFL kicking off, we here at All Everything Entertainment wanted to celebrate this momentous return with a list of the 10 greatest football movies of all time.
10. Little Giants
When it comes to underdog movies, you can’t get much more underdog than 1994’s Little Giants. While it certainly isn’t the first misfit sports movie, it certainly helped pave the way for a new line of children sports movies like The Big Green.
Starring Rick Moranis and Ed O’Neil as two warring brothers on opposite sides of the cliche Hollywood social spectrum (nerd/jock), things would come to a boil between the two after Kevin (O’Neil) rejects Danny’s (Moranis) daughter from playing on the city football league because she’s a girl. Alongside his daughter, Danny forms a football team filled with rejected misfits to take on his brother’s team.
Say what you want about Leatherheads, George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, and John Krasinki are fantastic together. It’s also a unique take on the turn of football as the National Football League was born.
Dodge Connolly (Clooney), captain of a 1920s football team, wants to give the sagging sport a boost and capture the country’s attention. He recruits Carter Rutherford (Krasinski) to play for the team. Carter is not only a war hero, but he is also fast, handsome, and guaranteed to pack the stands with fans. Newswoman Lexie Littleton (Zellweger) goes digging for dirt on Carter, while both Dodge and Carter try to score with her off the field.
8. The Replacements
Another fantastic misfit football movie, The Replacements is a hilarious take on a second chance. It also happens to be one of the only films where the NFL dropped a goal line defense, preventing Hollywood from using their organizations team names, logos, and arena names in the film.
It’s late in the season; the playoffs are fast approaching; and the Washington Sentinels have just gone on strike. Scrambling for a solution, the Sentinels’ owner Edward O’Neil hatches a plan to bring in legendary coach Jimmy McGinty to recruit a team of replacement players in exactly one week. For fans and owners alike, the strike is a disaster. But for Shane Falco and a mismatched crew of outsiders, it is the second chance they’ve waited their whole lives for.
7. The Invincible
Easily the only thing to come out of Philadelphia that doesn’t suck (yeah, I said it. Come at me. Go Pats!), this film was based on Vince Papale, wide receiver for the Eagles from 1976 – 1978. Vince Papale spoke to multiple generations of football fans that anyone can follow their dreams.
Lifelong football fan Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg) sees his wildest dreams come true when he becomes a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. While teaching at his high-school alma mater in Pennsylvania, the 30-year-old gets a chance to try out for his favorite team and, except for kickers, becomes the oldest rookie in NFL history who never played football in college.
Another film that’s based on true events, Rudy stars Sean Astin as Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, a young man who only wants to play for Notre Dame, despite only being 5’6″. Rudy is another film that shows people not to be afraid to chase your dreams, even though people keep telling you to not do it.
5. Friday Night Lights
You want to talk about a movie that changed the name of the game of sports drama? Billy Bob Thornton is absolutely electric in this film as Coach Gary Gaines.
A small, turbulent town in Texas obsesses over their high school football team to an unhealthy degree. When the star tailback, Boobie Miles (Derek Luke), is seriously injured during the first game of the season, all hope is lost, and the town’s dormant social problems begin to flare up. It is left to the inspiring abilities of new coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) to instill in the other team members — and, by proxy, the town itself — a sense of self-respect and honor.
4. Gridiron Gang
Based on the true-ish story of Sean Porter, a man who uses football to rehabilitate troubled youth and help guide them to a better future, this was one of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s first serious rolls to show off his more dramatic side. The movie itself, I believe, is fantastic because it shows that sports can transcend something as serious as gang ties.
3. Remember the Titans
Based on another true-ish story, Remember the Titans shows us that football doesn’t care about the color of one’s skin. The only color that matters is the one that you put on when you enter the field.
2. The Waterboy
Raised by his overprotective mother, Helen (Kathy Bates), Bobby Boucher Jr. (Adam Sandler) is the water boy for a successful college football team coached by Red Beaulieu (Jerry Reed). When Beaulieu fires Bobby, he takes up the same position for a losing rival team, led by despairing Coach Klein (Henry Winkler). After witnessing Bobby beat up a player who teased him too much, Klein adds him to the roster as a linebacker. Soon, Klein’s players are championship contenders.
1. Any Given Sunday
Are you surprised that Any Given Sunday is in the number one spot? Have you heard Al Pacino’s speech?
An aging football coach finds himself struggling with his personal and professional life while trying to hold his team together. A star quarterback has been knocked out of the game and a naive football player replaces him only to become exposed to the world of sports and become a danger to himself and to his players.