Football dramas are a dime a dozen. We all know the oft-told story of the underdog team that must put aside its differences to compete for a championship. Some win, some don’t, and the journey often remains more compelling than the final results. Still, several football movies are worth your time (no matter how clichéd), especially around Thanksgiving. Here are ten you can check out between your send or third round of turkey.
Mark Wahlberg stars in this true story of Vince Papale, a 30-year-old high school teacher who tries out and joins the Philadelphia Eagles NFL team. Starring Elizabeth Banks, Invincible is about as predictable as a Thanksgiving meal. But the performances from everyone involved, including Greg Kinnear as Eagles coach Dick Vermeil, keep the film afloat. Even while the decidedly PG material lacks the grit and grit of most football dramas.
Remember the Titans
This Jerry Bruckheimer production plays fast and loose with the story. However, it is still an inspiring retelling of TC Williams’ 1971 football squad that mixed white players with black players during intense racism in Virginia. Denzel Washington (in one of his finest roles) shines as Herman Boone, whose no-nonsense approach to the game allowed his players and coaching staff to see past their differences and make a bid for the state championship.
The longest farm
Forget the awful Adam Sandler remake. The original football classic from 1974, The longest farm, resonates as a hilarious, often powerful slice of old-school entertainment. Burt Reynolds stars as a football pro turned prison inmate who must lead his fellow inmates against ruthless guards. Starring Eddie Albert as a corrupt prison guard, Ed Lauter and Mike Conrad, The longest farm is The Shawshank Redemption of football movies.
Any given Sunday
Oliver Stone directs this violent, gritty, realistic look behind the scenes of the NFL, based on the novel by pro-defensive end Pat Toomay. Al Pacino plays head coach Tony D’Amato, whose career hangs in the balance under new management (Cameron Diaz). When young prospect Willie “Steamin” Beamen (Jamie Foxx) emerges as a superstar, D’Amato must navigate the treacherous waters of Associated Football Franchises in America and guide his underdogs to the playoffs. The plot is mostly forgettable, but the exciting football scenes and explicitly R-rated offscreen drama make up for it Any given Sunday one of the most fascinating football dramas ever produced.
The 1971 ABC Movie of the Week classic tells the story of the friendship between Chicago Bears football star Brian Piccolo (James Caan) and teammate Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) during the former player’s battle with cancer. Syrupy but effective and boasts solid performances from its two leads, Brian’s song is the type of movie capable of making grown men cry — it is Beaches for guys. In a good way.
Rudy may not reach the same heights as David Anspaugh and Angelo Pizzo’s sports classic Hoosiers. However, there is plenty of inspiration in Rudy Ruttiger’s ambitious quest to make the Norte Dame football team of the 1970s. Sean Astin stars as our titular hero and delivers a compelling performance, but Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic score makes this football drama soar.
The water boy
Adam Sandler may have joined in The longest farmbut his first foray into the world of football, the 1998s The water boy, remains one of the great silly comedies that reached the peak of his stardom. The Sand Man stars slow-witted Bobby Boucher, Jr., a young man living with his overprotective mother (Kathy Bates) whose pent-up aggression earns him a spot as a linebacker on the school’s football team. Silly but entertaining.
While not necessarily a film about football, Cameron Crowe’s Oscar-winning 1996 drama focuses on the relationship between sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) and rising NFL star Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr.). There’s plenty of sports talk, bromance for the guys, and enough romance (courtesy of Renee Zellweger) for the girls. Jerry Maguire is the rare romantic drama that earns its place among the best of its respective genre.
Friday night light
Peter Berg’s 2004 football epic takes an honest look at Texas football – the good and the bad – in its telling tale of football coach Gary Gines (Billy Bob Thornton) and the struggles he faces when his star player is suddenly injured. Friday night light spends more time on the turmoil our young stars face off the court, but remains a compelling sports drama filled with a terrific turn by Tim McGraw. The TV show inspired by the movie is leagues better, though Friday night lightthe film, stands as a solid football drama.
Listen to me: Draft day is Hollywood hokum throughout, with a contrived plot written by people who know nothing about football and ham performances from Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner and Chadwick Boseman, but hell, is it entertaining. Ivan Reitman points his lens behind the scenes at the Cleveland Browns football team, where grizzled GM Sonny Weaver, Jr. must decide how to use his draft picks. What follows is an absurd, improbable series of events that culminates in Costner calling another GM a pancake-eating mother. What’s not to love?