Top 10 American football films

Top 10 Glen Chapman
3 Feb 2010 - 06:26

Ahead of this weekend's Super Bowl, and from the middle of Britain, we pick out our favourite American football movies...

With this Sunday being the Super Bowl, I thought I'd take a look at what I consider to be the top ten American football films.

In the lead up to the big game over the years, my Super Bowl Sundays have involved watching some of the films included in the list below. Having not missed a Super Bowl in ten years I'm looking forward to Sunday night immensely. I've stocked up on beer and have booked Monday off work, so don't need to worry about having to function on only a couple of hours sleep.

This year's final is between Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints. Both teams have outstanding quarterbacks leading their offence and were the top seed in their respective conference. As is the case with most seasons, I'll be following this year's finale as a neutral, as the team that I follow, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, once again failed to make it to the play-offs.

10. Any Given Sunday (1999)

Oliver Stone's gratuitous 1999 football epic is a mixed affair. It features some of the best looking American football action committed to celluloid and a host of appearances from a number of NFL legends, plus it's good to see Dennis Quaid in any movie. However, the film is all over the place. It handles the dark underbelly of American football in an incredibly clumsy way and Al Pacino is ridiculously over the top. Despite its numerous faults, the film still remains reasonably enjoyable. Plus it contains the great quote, "I don't get strokes mother fucker! I give ‘em!"

9. Varsity Blues (1999)

James Van Der Beek plays Jonathan Moxon (or Mox, for short) who is less enthusiastic about football than those around him, pressured to play from a young age, by his father, and constantly playing second fiddle to star quarterback Lance Harbor (played by Paul Walker). But when Harbor is sidelined with an injury, Moxon is called on to start and lead the team. His relaxed attitude to his coach, Bud Kilmer's (Jon Voight), play book causes conflict. Like a film that appears later in this list, Varsity Blues explores the effect American football has on a small town Texan community. It's questionable as to how effective it is in this, but it's fairly entertaining.

8.  Wildcats (1986)

Goldie Hawn plays Molly McGrath, an American football-obsessed high school track coach at a prestigious school, who dreams of being given the opportunity to coach a football team. When an opportunity to coach the team of an inner city high school comes up, she applies and gets the job. She faces challenges in getting the team together but turns their fortunes around and ends up taking them to the championship game where she faces the school where she used to teach. The film also stars Wesley Snipes, LL Cool J and Woody Harrelson. I was exposed to the film at an early age as my mum used to watch it often. It's predictable and cheesy (as a lot of sports movies are) but enjoyable.

7.  North Dallas Forty (1979)

The source material was written by Peter Gent, a former wide receiver for the Cowboys and he's played here by Nick Nolte. Well, the character's called Philip Elliott, but it's obvious who he's supposed be. The Dallas Cowboys were reportedly none too pleased with either the book or film of North Dallas Forty, given the similarities between the legendary NFL team and the fictional North Dallas Bulls here, due to the fact that active encouragement of the use of pain killers features.

6. Remember The Titans (2000)

This is loosely based on true events. Denzel Washington plays Herman Boone who is hired as the head coach for the T C Willams High School football team. Boone faces opposition initially, with the white players threatening to boycott the team if he's appointed (it's this threat that convinces Boone to take the job).  The players soon change their mind and Boone puts them through a rigorous training camp that helps unite a racially segregated team in preparation for their season.

5. Rudy (1993)

As with many (and arguably the best) American football movies, this is based on a true story. Rudy was dyslexic and physically unimpressive (well, at least by American football standards), but persisted to achieve his dream of playing for Notre Dame. Rudy gets his dream and plays in the final play of the season in which he sacks the opposing team's quarterback. Sean Astin puts in one hell of a performance as Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger and the film features Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau in their earliest film appearance.  
4. The Longest Yard (1974)

This is the 1974, Oscar-nominated, Burt Reynolds version, not the questionable 2005 remake starring Adam Sandler (that Burt Reynolds also stars in). This is not only one of the best American football movies, but one of the best prison movies ever made as well.  

3. The Waterboy (1998)

In another story based on someone achieving against the odds despite a physical disadvantage, Adam Sandler's backwater simpleton, Bobby Boucher, discovers that he's able to tackle like a beast when he channels his rage. His new found talent helps him make the transition from waterboy to starting linebacker, helping his team reach the championship in the process.  

2. Brian's Song (1971)

If this movie doesn't make you cry, you're dead inside. This was originally a made for TV movie but got a cinematic release due to its popularity. Again, this is another film that's based on true events, focussed on the life of Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and his friendship with team mate Gale Sayers. James Caan plays Piccolo and Billy Dee Williams plays Sayers. The film was the subject of an unnecessary remake in 2001 that doesn't match the quality of the original. 

1. Friday Night Lights (2004)

Based on the book by H.G. Bissinger, Friday Night Lights follows the exploits of the Permian Panthers, from the blue collar town of Odessa Texas 1988 season and their run for the state championship. Coach Gary Gaines (played by Billy Bob Thornton) faces constant scrutiny and faces losing his job if the team doesn't make the playoffs. When the team lose their star running back early in the season, the outlook is bleak, but they manage to remain competitive in their attempt to mount a title challenge. The film was followed by a TV series, which I hear is good, but haven't seen.

Out of all of the movies on the list, this is my favourite and one that I'll definitely be watching on Sunday before the game. My enjoyment of the movie is helped by a lot of the music being provided by Texan post rockers Explosions in the Sky and the inclusion of New Noise by Refused.

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