Weekend Roundtable: Favorite Football Movies

If I’m not mistaken, a sporting event of some significance will happen this weekend. I believe it involves football – the American kind, not that soccer crap. As a tie-in, let’s look at some of our favorite movies either about football or at least with notable football scenes.

Shannon Nutt

Although it’s far from a classic – or some could argue even a really good movie – I’ve always been fond of Scott Bakula’s performance in ‘Necessary Roughness‘ (yet another in a long line of Roundtable picks from me that ISN’T on Blu-ray yet!). Bakula stars as Paul Blake, an aging 30-something quarterback who is called back to lead a college team after a scandal causes the loss of all the players’ scholarships, because it’s discovered he still has a year of eligibility left to play football at the school. The cast is filled with the kind you’d expect in this kind of lowbrow comedy (Rob Schneider, Sinbad, and even former supermodel Kathy Ireland as the team’s kicker), but it’s Bakula’s acting that keeps the movie both grounded and memorable. If you’ve never seen this one, it’s worth a look.

Mike Attebery

I’ve always liked the football scene in Jodie Foster’s ‘Home for the Holidays‘. After a day of awkward interactions and family discomfort, the tension comes out in a family game of football. The cold fingers. Elbows to the nose. The clumsy fight. The head of the family spraying everyone down with a garden hose. The whole scene is embarrassing and all too real. This scene likely plays out in households across the country every Thanksgiving.

Luke Hickman

I’m not, nor have I ever been, much of a sports fan. I’m also not much of a fan of sports movies. Having said that, I’ve loved one sports film since the first time I saw it. If you know much about me, you already know I’m talking about ‘Jerry Maguire‘.

Having just reviewed the new 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray, Cameron Crowe’s classic is currently at the front of my mind. I love how ‘Jerry Maguire’ manages to appeal to both the male and female audience. For sports-loving men, it’s a film about a down-in-the-dumps football agent with a subplot about a girl. For the romantics, it’s a love story about two people with voids in their lives that just-so-happens to have a sports subplot. Honestly, when I think back on it, my mind drifts towards the latter perspective. It’s not until I watch it again that I realize how heavily the film is carried by the sporting aspect.

M. Enois Duarte

Instead of watching the game this weekend (because frankly, I don’t care for the sport), I’m sitting down for ‘The Waterboy‘, one of my favorite football movies. Just thinking back to the days when Adam Sandler actually made pretty good comedies makes me nostalgic for that time when I thought he was funny in the first place. What makes this particular movie fun, much like ‘Happy Gilmore’, is the way it subtly satirizes the sports formula. It does this by exaggerating the underdog aspect of the plot with the most unlikely sports hero imaginable, a meek dude from the bayou who really, really loves his momma. In his journey, he learns about love and finds his independence while turning his hometown team into champions.

Brian Hoss

Although it’s no longer on Netflix, I still think that the nearly 40-year-old ‘North Dallas Forty‘ is a must-watch for any football fan. There are few other bits of media I’ve found that so effectively illustrate how duplicitous it is to love the mega-business that is the NFL. (See why here.)

That said, I think the old ‘Rollerball’ might come from that same passionate and scary place. (And yet, I hope that Super Bowl LI is worth watching!)

Josh Zyber

If I have to make a serious choice, I’ll start with Oliver Stone’s ‘Any Given Sunday‘, a very long but mostly interesting examination of American values as seen through the lens of professional sports. It’s not Stone’s best film, and even feels a little impersonal coming from his hands, but it’s well-directed and stacked with a great cast, and has held my attention for nearly three hours on the more than one occasion I’ve watched it. Not many sports movies have managed that.

If I’m being honest, however, the first thing that came to my mind when thinking about football in movies was the scene in the 1980 sci-fi cheesefest ‘Flash Gordon‘ where our dim-witted Earthling hero fights off a horde of goofy aliens from planet Mongo using his ace quarterbacking skills. Flash – ah ahhhhh… He’s a miracle!

I think it’s obvious from our answers that we’re a bunch of nerds on this site, not sports fanatics. Keep that in mind before you deride us in the Comments below for failing to mention ‘Rudy’ or ‘Brian’s Song’ or ‘Remember the Titans’. What are your favorite football movies?

22 comments

  1. Chris B

    I’m not a football fan or much of a sports movie fan but I really dug Friday Night Lights, especially the score by Explosions in the Sky.

    And Any Given Sunday of course….

  2. John Smith

    Any Given Sunday was pretty good but way too preachy. I thought The Program was an excellent film about college football and I do love me some Necessary Roughness, watched it several times in my early teens.

  3. Watched a lot of football films when I was younger. Not so much since the bogus Any Given Sunday and boresville Remember The Titans. Some favorites are Everybody’s All-American with Dennis Quaid, North Dallas Forty, The Program, and The Best Of Times with Robin Williams and Kurt Russell.

  4. Guy

    I’m not all that into sports-focused films anymore because I watch enough actual games or matches in a variety of sports to get my fill the real way. When I was younger, though, Remember The Titans and Varsity Blues were the football movies I went for. (From my very young youth, smaller shoutout to The Little Giants a.k.a. The Mighty Ducks in Cleats.)

    Titans is obviously a paint-by-numbers family film with a message, but I was a tween when it came out and that flick is made for impressionable young boys. Nowadays, with that great period soundtrack and my nostalgia, you better believe I watch a few minutes any time I see it on TV. It’s an absolutely great Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon movie as well. Everybody’s in it.

    I was too young for Varsity Blues at release, but saw it by my early teens and it has a lot of true-to-life satire of football culture in the small-town south. That’s where I’m from and that movie presented a funhouse mirror version of what I saw around me growing up. Looking back even now, the surreal, off-kilter nature of the humor (ex: the weird little brother) was a cut above the other “teen” movies of the time.

  5. I always thought ‘Hardball’ with Keanu Reeves was underrated. I’m cheating, because it’s about baseball rather than football, but I think the movie deserves an extra shoutout.

  6. EM

    I’ll also go with the original Rollerball, whose titular sport is a cross between football, roller derby, and gladiatorial combat.

    Runner-up: A Boy Named Charlie Brown, which has that poor blockhead trying to kick a football away from his nickel-ante psychiatrist.

  7. Pedram

    I’d like an honourable mention for the movie about a guy who’s 5 foot nothin’ and 100 and nothin’, but whose heart outweighs everyone else on the team combined. That’s right, I also vote for RUUUUDDDDYYYYY!

  8. I’d like to put in an honorable mention for ‘Wildcats’, starring Goldie Hawn as the female coach of an inner-city high school football team that includes Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes. It’s not a /great/ movie, but it’s fun and one I love to watch.

  9. Bolo

    I’ll go with ‘Black Sunday’, a pretty solid thriller about terrorists flying a blimp that shoots poisoned darts into a stadium during an NFL match so that they can kill all the spectators, one of whom happens to be the president.

  10. Elizabeth

    Can I nominate “The Faculty” as a football movie? Yeah, it’s more of an invasion of the body snatchers sci-fi movie, but a) one of the main characters is the varsity quarterback b) another important character is the football coach c) the climax of the film takes place during a Friday night football game.

    If not, I’d go with the previously mentioned The Replacements. The jail scene where the team all starts dancing to “I Will Survive” is a classic.

  11. Bolo

    I’ll also throw in that I would love a miniseries adaptation of ‘A Man in Full’. In its day, I thought Burt Reynolds would have been perfect as the main character and it could have solidified his comeback after ‘Boogie Nights’. These days he’s too old and I don’t know who would be ideal for the role, but I would still be interested in a good adaptation.

    • Has the original version of The Program ever been made available again? The one where the football players lie in the middle of the road at night on a busy highway? I remember home video versions getting changed because kids were trying that (and maybe someone got killed? I can’t remember the details).

      • According to Wikipedia (thus, take your pinch of salt): “The only known home video release with this scene intact is the Hong Kong laserdisc published by Taishan International. This version of the film is three minutes longer than the theatrical cut and clocks in at a 115-minute run time.”

      • Csm101

        When I was a pizza delivery driver, I personally saw some jackasses try that little stunt on the street. Luckily no one got hurt, as this was a heavy tourist area with a lot of lost and careless drivers. Never a dull moment on that street…

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