Football is a beautiful game that builds leadership, camaraderie, wits, patience and dedication. This is true for even the men on the field … Let’s be honest, even for the die-hard fans, football can feel like a long season, and to make it through the whole thing while staying strong and dedicated to your team, you have to train your body and mind. Many people find the season scary, but work ethic eliminates fear.
This brings me to why I am here: For wannabe (or forced-to-be) football fans, I want to help you stay strong through this entire season … through movies!
Here, 7 football movies that will make you fall in the love with the sport for the first time or all over again.
Not only will you be training your derrière to outlast 4 quarters of action-packed gridiron glee, but you may also learn a little about the game while falling in love with it, too. And that’s really the core issue. I really hate Cricket …why? Probably because no one has directed me to the top 7 movies about Cricket!
Remember The Titans
This is the true story of one Virginia high school federally forced to integrate after one White and one Black school are closed in 1971. However, this perspective is played out through the football team as the coach of the Black school is made the head coach over the future “Hall of Fame” White coach. Earlier, I mentioned how obstacles play a huge part in being successful on the football field. Imagine if communication was one of those obstacles, as seen here?
This movie should be at the top of your list, as this touches on the struggle, tolerance and humility that it takes to become a football player.
I believe these qualities are rarely talked about in most media. Football is a TEAM sport, but you wouldn’t know that if you pay attention to the talking heads. Anyway, the team becomes the unifying symbol for the community as the boys and the adults learn to depend on and trust each other.
Even if you haven’t seen this movie, chances are you have heard or seen references to it. This is also a true story of a 5’ 6,” nothing-but-heart-type of kid who has a dream of playing for the best college football team in the country, Notre Dame. The chips are all stacked against him, as he doesn’t have the grades to get in, he’s not built like a college football player, and his family scoffs at the idea of anyone from their family even going to college, much less actually playing for Notre Dame.
His best friend helps him keep the dream alive, and Rudy takes us through a roller coaster of perseverance and resilience. Rudy personifies one who has “no quit” when any sane person would have. The movies takes place in the years leading up to 1974 and its “92% accuracy” rating according to Rudy himself, truly is why the word “underdog” is being replaced by “Rudy.”
Friday Night Lights
If you ever fought with your friend about the word T-E-X-A-S being phonetically pronounced “ˈfʊtˌbɔl” or “ˈtɛksəs” well, you’d both be right. Friday Night Lights is the documented-to-film account of one of the more fabled but absolutely real Permian Panthers, in Odessa, Texas. This one may be a little heavy for the under 12 crowd, but I think it can spark a lot of conversation, with its economic division and self-actualization themes that are more dominant to even the football being portrayed. In this struggling Texas town, football is the main export. It is the glue that connects them all.
In all honesty, what makes this movie great is the words that come out of the mouth of Permian’s head coach, Gary Gaines: “Gentlemen. The hopes and dreams of an entire town are riding on your shoulders. You may never matter more than you do right now. It’s time.”
If that doesn’t touch your pigskin-clad heart, I don’t know what will. Lastly, I love coach’s line when he says, “Perfection is being able to look your friends in the eye and know you did everything you could not to let them down.”
Solid gold, coach…solid gold.
Apparently the best stories cannot be made up, even in football movies. Thirty-year-old Vince Papale just lost his substitute teaching job to budget cuts, his wife decides he’s a loser and divorces him, and he ends up bartending nights. So what happens? He starts playing football in his (most likely, ample) free time with his friends in the alley.
In 1976, the Philadelphia Eagles get a new coach who decides to have open tryouts, and Vince’s football-alley friends egg him on to go try out. Did I mention he’s 30? He may as well be an octogenarian in football terms. Anyway, Vince reluctantly goes to the tryouts and, well … heartwarming improbability ensues.
Greg Kinnear and Mark Wahlberg in the same movie about football? I should have just written that above in the first line and waited for all the ‘views’ and ‘likes’ to come rolling in.
This is the lone fictional play. It’s an underdog movie where the “big and awesome” peewee football team slights some of the lesser talented kids in town who don’t make the team. The underdogs form their own team and ask the brother of the rival team’s coach to coach their team. As one would imagine, hilarity follows as they recruit the rejects from around town.
One might be led to believe this is another sports movie, but it is more: It follows a great tomboy character with girlish fears. It is a family movie about family relationships and a healthy sibling rivalry that shows the villain isn’t all evil and the victim isn’t completely helpless. Plus, I identify with the great father-daughter relationship depicted. Bring the whole family together for this one; it’s a crowd-pleaser.
Back to nonfiction. This is a football story of two of the unlikeliest of friends. They are competing for the same position with the Chicago Bears, which at first makes them rivals.
This movie was made in 1971, but it truly holds up, transcends time and overcomes barriers to relationships, whatever they might be–racial, religious, or political. It is as timely as it was when it was first shown.
I really don’t want to say too much about this TV-movie, which eventually was widely released in theaters everywhere because it was so successful. You just have to see it, as it remains the best example of the most different of men competing fairly and getting along peacefully.
You will laugh, you will cry, but, most importantly, you will want to play football!
Honorable Mention Football Movies: The Blindside
At the behest of my Ole Miss alum wife, The Blindside should be on this list. The truth is, this is not going down as one of the greatest sports movies ever. However, the general story is great, the movie is super entertaining, and Sandra Bullock’s depiction of Leigh Anne Tuohy is fun to watch … plus there is some football.
Football and movies are probably in the top 5 things to do on Sunday for most sports fans. Meld the two, and it is just magic. However, the true magic is in what football can weave into one’s life.
It encourages roots: remember the friends, neighborhood community and parents who’d stand by us. That’s what football is all about (as well as these movies about football).
Lastly, let’s let Coach Gary Gaines (Friday Night Lights) leave us with one more pearl: “Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It’s not about winning. It’s about you and your relationship with yourself, your family and your friends.”