Superbowl Sunday is upon us and if you’re like me, the stakes are not too high tonight seeing as my team didn’t make it into the Superbowl this year but nevertheless, I still wear my Indianapolis Colts jersey with dignity and fragrance of chicken wings. Apparently the BBQ smell is hard to come out of clothes – who’d have thought?
Now, you might just enjoy football and all that it encompasses like me and enjoy watching some solid gridiron action or you might not. A few of my friends don’t understand the sport and at times find it nothing short of “boring”. Most times when I hear them utter such words, it’s almost blasphemy to me. Sports are sports; they’re meant to define and challenge organized competitions, embrace human contact and come together for a common goal with a tremendous heart. There is a beauty within any game in any sport and football has this sort of, “je ne sais quoi” regarding its attraction. However, not everyone needs to watch the Superbowl to see or understand football for more than its face value. Perhaps you’d prefer the more handsome, refined action from the green field with a heart-warming plot and a few laughs?
Instead of watching the Green Bay Packers fight it out with the Pittsburgh Steelers, tonight you might want to sit back and relax and watch a good old American film while still being in some sort of football mode.
In no particular order, here are ten football movies for your viewing pleasures:
Starring: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty, Charles S. Dutton and Jason Miller
Running Time: 114 minutes
This film is by far one of the most poignant and respected films in the football genre. It tells the true story of Daniel Eugene “Rudy” Ruettiger who has always been told that he’s too small to play college football. After an accident at local steel mill, he comes to the realization that life is short and must be played out to the fullest. He follows his dreams of attending Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana and wishes to play for the Fighting Irish but faces challenges in achieving a firm grade point and learns he has dyslexia. This is a film that you cannot help but love because it not only tells the story of someone overcoming odds and rising to the occasion but holds an irresistible inspirational message for all ages. Sean Astin quite possibly gives the best performance of his career as young Rudy with a ton of heart and strength as he articulates that pain felt when you feel you’ve reached the end; the struggle we all make to get to our goals. Rudy’s dream is more than just about football – it’s a moving illustration of just how far one can go when they aspire to their dreams.
Memorable Quote: Pete (Charles S. Dutton): "Well, you know what my dad always said? Having dreams is what makes life tolerable."
Available on DVD
The Waterboy (1998)
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kathy Bates, Henry Winkler and Fairuza Balk
Running Time: 90 minutes
Bobby Boucher loves his job and thinks providing water to tired and dried out athletes after university football practice or games is life’s greatest calling. Sure he gets ridiculed and is the target of jokes and humiliation but Bobby, in his all his simplicity takes it. When he gets fired for no other reason but sheer incompetence, his pent-up anger provides for him the chance to prove he’d be a valuable asset to the team. The film is hilarious and provides pure Adam Sandler humour with a character that stutters and is warm-heartedly cute. It’s a goofy story with genuine laughs from well-rounded quirky characters such as Mama Boucher played by Kathy Bates, who is rather protective of her 32-year old son and lives in the swamp and a down-on-his-luck, coach played by Henry Winkler who is has random as they come. This is a feel good film that will have you cheering and laughing from start to finish. It’s a film that can appeal to all of us with his offbeat underdog tale.
Available on DVD
Navy Blue and Gold (1937)
Starring: James Stewart, Robert Young and Lionel Barrymore
Running Time: 93 minutes
Based on the novel by George Bruce, Navy Blue and Gold tells the story of three buddies, Truck, Richard and Roger who go through rigorous training in Annapolis, Maryland. Truck (James Stewart) is an exceptional football player but gets kicked off the Navy’s varsity team because of allegations that he entered school under false pretences. He fights to acquit the charges, asserting that he altered his applications over a misunderstanding years ago that involved his father. However, he needs to clear his name soon as the upcoming game between Navy and Army approaches. The three young men need to be quick in their actions in order to hold true to the Navy’s traditions of honour and loyalty and not only will they be able to stay in school then but they might just win the big game! The film was a box-office hit at the time of its release and is a charming sentimental story with light comedic elements from the golden era and is highly enjoyable. The highlight of this film is seeing a young and barely known James Stewart, all idealistic about the Navy and its traditions; that twinkle in his eye when he performs – you can see how he became one of the greatest actors of our time, early on.
The Blindside (2009)
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron and Kathy Bates
Running Time: 129 minutes
Based on the real life story of football player, Michael Oher and the book, The Blindside: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis, The Blindside tells the story of a homeless and traumatized young boy from a broken home and bad neighbourhood. He is soon taken in by a caring woman and her well-to-do family with hopes that the young boy can fulfill his true potential with their help. While living with them, Michael and the family discover they are more alike and come to insightful self-discoveries of their own, realizing they each inspire one another. While he faces the challenges of a new environment and genuine attention from a family that cares, works hard both in school and playing football and with the help of his coaches, a tutor and new family, becomes an All-American offensive left tackle and currently plays for the Baltimore Ravens. The film became a critically acclaimed hit in 2009 and for good reason: it's a feel-good film that raises your spirits and makes you think that there is good out there in the world. The film also garnered Sandra Bullock the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal as the tough as nails, Leigh-Ann Touhy.
Memorable Quote: Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock) - "Michael, I want you to have a good time but if you get a girl pregnant out of wedlock, I will crawl into the car, drive up to Oxford and cut off your penis."
Available on DVD
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., Renee Zellweger and Bonnie Hunt
Running Time: 139 minutes
This might just be every other woman’s favourite football movie: just enough football and just enough romance with just enough Tom Cruise. Jerry Maguire is the story of a sports agent who one day has an ethical epiphany regarding the treatment of their clients and after writing a new company mission statement and expressing that thought, he is fired. He decides to put his new found philosophy to the test, becoming an independent sports agent with the help of Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellweger), a single-mother who just wants to be inspired and soon discovers he has only one athlete to handle – well, the only athlete that will have him: wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.); a football player who feels he deserves more respect and attention. The film became a major box-office success bringing in more than $270 million worldwide with a budget that took only $50 million to make. The film is sweet and charming, the way any Cameron Crowe dramedy is ever constructed. The elements of comedy, romance and sports mesh well with great chemistry amongst the actors and Tom Cruise is at his peak, in top form with this film. It’s not a film about football – it’s about the people within the life of football and it’s touching, romantic and funny. There are many football related cameos and it’s done most tastefully and isn’t over the top.
Memorable Quote: Sign in locker room - "Success consists of simply getting up one more time than you fall."
Available on DVD
Knute Rockne, All American (1940)
Starring: Pat O’Brien, Ronald Reagan and Gale Page
Running Time: 97 minutes
This touching bio-drama chronicles the legendary Notre Dame football coach, Knute Rockne who revolutionized the game with his play of the backfield shift of the “Four Horsemen”. The film follows Lars Knutson Rockne (Pat O’Brien) as he leaves Norway for America in search of a better life for him and his family and settles in Chicago. Knute grows fascinated with football and years later, enrols at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana where he excels in chemistry and football. After graduation, he decides to stay at the university to teach chemistry and coach football but soon discovers a warm passion for coaching and makes it his life’s work. Knute starts coaching half-back freshman, George Gipp (Ronald Reagan) and story takes a turn from there. Knute Rockne, All-American is a classic tale of overcoming challenges and rising to personal victories while still believing in yourself and the abilities we all have within us.
Memorable Quote: Father John Callahan (Donald Crisp): "Who can say for certain what a man was really born to do? That’s God’s will. Someday, Knute will find his right place in the world, and when he does, whether it be science or not, I have a feeling it will be the one he was meant to do."
Available on DVD
Remember The Titans (2000)
Starring: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Wood Harris, Ryan Hurst
Running Time: 113 minutes
Remember The Titans tells the true story of newly appointed African-American coach, Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) and the high school team he coaches with an assistant coach, Bill Yoast (Will Patton) on their first season as a racially integrated unit. The film is inspiring and showcases the hardships and challenges African-Americans faced at a time when the United States was shifting attitudes towards segregation and realizing, we’re all the same when it comes down to heart: we all have similar passions and aspirations that drive us to a common goal. It’s a great film with wonderful performances from the cast, particularly the students who have to learn to build an unyielding trust with one another in order to play right and along the way, naturally form friendships.
Memorable Quote: Carol Boone (Hayden Panettiere): Sometimes life is hard for no reason at all.
Available on DVD
Horse Feathers (1932)
Starring: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx and Thelma Todd
Running Time: 68 minutes
The Marx Brothers are known for their quick quips and slapstick humour and this film is nothing short of brilliantly hilarious. The film revolves around college football and a game rivalry between fictional colleges, Darwin and Huxley. Horse Feathers finds Groucho Marx playing Huxley College’s new president, Quincy Adams Wagstaff and his son, Frank, played by Zeppo Marx, tries to convince his father to recruit professional football players in order to help Huxley’s team win their championship. Chico Marx plays an “iceman” known as Baravelli who delivers ice and bootleg liquor as Harpo Marx plays another “iceman” and a part-time dogcatcher. Both are soon enough mistakenly recruited to Huxley’s football team and admitted to the college as students! Put all these quirky characters together and you get some pretty random humour mixed chaos and sharply witty dialogue with perfect comic timing: a recipe for a great comedy. The climax of the film has one of the greatest football scenes in cinematic history as the four protagonists play it out, complete with a horse-drawn garbage wagon ridden like a chariot.
Memorable Quote: Professor Wagstaff: “You know you’ve got the brain of a four-year old child and I bet he was glad to get rid of it.”
Available on DVD
The Replacements (2000)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Gene Hackman, Jon Favreau and Brooke Langton
Running Time: 118 minutes
The Replacements follows a fictional NFL team called the Washington Sentinels as they go on strike and a former coach who comes out of retirement to coach a rag-tag team of replacements players to finish the season’s last four games. Led by formerly famed NFL coach, Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman), recruited is the once hot prospect, Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves) who is to help the coach build a team, unfortunately full of misfit players who include a convenience store guard, gangster rap brothers, a former sumo wrestler, a gambling Welsh “football” player, an excellent football player who just happens to be deaf, a convict on a work-release program and a rough SWAT leader. The team faces challenges of communicating and getting along while Shane strikes up a romance with the team’s cheerleading captain, Annabelle (Brooke Langton). The film is funny and has its moments and sure, it’s a simple storyline but it’s still fresh and you can’t go wrong with Gene Hackman. Keanu Reeves is quite good in this movie too and you might just find his role charming and well done.
Memorable Quote: John Madden: “According to the Sentinels, it says Ray Smith is – hey, that’s weird. No college given, no high school. It just says he’s been a resident of the state of Maryland for the last two years and two months and that he likes to embroider.”
Available on DVD
We Are Marshall (2006)
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Matthew Fox, Ian McShane and David Strathairn
Running Time: 124 minutes
Based on true events, We Are Marshall tells the inspiring story of a how a small town in West Virginia during the early 70s struggled to restore their community after one of the worst disasters in the American sports history. For this community, Marshall University’s football was more than just a sport – it was a way of life for many but while traveling back to Huntington after a game in North Carolina, thirty-seven members of Marshall’s football team plus coaching staff and team boosters were killed in a plane crash. Those left behind tried to cope with the loss of their loved ones while finding hope and strength in the leadership of the new young coach, Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) who was firm on rebuilding the university’s football program and helping to heal a community with Marshall coach, Red Dawson (Matthew Fox) who never made it on the plane. The film is a tear-jerker with sincere performances from the leads, along with a solid and warm supporting cast from the likes of David Strathairn, Robert Patrick, Kate Mara and Kimberly Williams-Paisley. There's a real emotion felt in this movie that is articulated well with each actor; there's the shock of loss, the struggle of moving forward and the failures and joys of what tomorrow holds. It's a good film and one that the whole family can watch.
Memorable Quote: Jack Lengyel: “One day, not today, not tomorrow, not this season, probably not next season either but one day, you and I are gonna wake up and suddenly we're gonna be like every other team in every other sport where winning is everything and nothing else matters. And when that day comes, well that’s, that’s when we'll honour them.”
Available on DVD
- The Best of Times, 1986
- Friday Night Lights, 2004
- Varsity Blues, 1999
- The Express, 2008
- Leatherheads, 2008
- The Longest Yard, 1974
- Brian's Song, 1971
- Invincible, 2006
- All The Right Moves, 1983
- Any Given Sunday, 1999
- The Game Plan, 2007
- North Dallas Forty, 1979
- Wildcats, 1986
- Jim Thorpe: All-American, 1951
So whatever your plans for Superbowl Sunday, whether you're watching the game with friends or not, be sure to grab a few awesome snacks, cozy up on the couch and make it an evening all for yourself and enjoy another year of the NFL's Superbowl!
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