This week Aaron Eckhart is leading an underdog team in My All American, and while the film's true story has been receiving praise, there's a wealth of great films about America's favorite sport. Making it to championship, here are the top ten football movies.
Friday Night Lights
A classic underdog story set right within the heart of Dallas, Friday Night Lights is a great story of a team overcoming the economic hardships of their town, led by a powerhouse performance from Billy Bob Thorton as head coach Gary Gaines. While Thorton's performance is notable for conveying the realism of leading the high school sport, the movie is also a testament to the abilities of the entire cast, which excellently captures the sensibilities of camaraderie and teamwork.
We are Marshall
We are Marshall tells the true story the events following the tragic 1970 plane crash that killed 37 Marshall football players and the attempts to rebuild the program. It's a somber and deeply moving story, and Matthew McConaughey's performance as the new coach Jack Lengyel is deeply inspiring, making it one of his best roles.
One of the most recognizable football stories in cinematic history, Rudy is a great true story that translates naturally to the big screen. Sean Astin delivers a great performance as Daniel E. 'Rudy' Ruettiger, a small teenager determined to make it as an athlete. Astin is charming and instantly likeable in the lead role, and the audience's investment in him makes the story even more thrilling, and the conclusion all the more effective.
Another true story, Invincible covers two of the essential elements of a great football story: team rivalry and the unexpected hero. A story like this is naturally susceptible to melodrama, but Invincible does a great job at capturing the grit of the sport, and the hardships overcome by Mark Wahlberg's Vince Papale.
Films about those with disabilities are tough to crack, but Radio is a great example of the universal love of football. Cuba Gooding Jr. is great as the titular Radio, a mentally challenged man whose love of football helps him overcome hardships. Ed Harris's role as the passionate coach who takes Radio under his wing is equally as powerful.
As with any genre, football movies are subject to parody, and The Waterboy is one of the greatest sports comedies. Adam Sandler as Robert Boucher, the waterboy who becomes a player for a college football. Sandler's whimsical, eccentric behavior gives the film a completely unique take on the sport.
A different take on football films, Draft Day is the story of the backstage drama of the football draft, following Kevin Costner's Sonny Weaver and his attempts to rejuvenate the Cleveland Browns by getting the best players. The smart writing make for an intriguing back and forth that examines the individual players and the efforts it takes to rebuild a football team from the ground up.
A romance film with the background of football management, Jerry Maguire uses football as a common ground for its characters, including Tom Cruise's titular sports agent, Renne Zellweger's mousey clerk and Cuba Gooding Jr.'s Oscar winning role as the egotistical football player determined to make it big. Though the actual sport has little time onscreen, the message of its universal quality, and getting to see the film's character bond over the sport is a rewarding experience.
Remember the Titans
The best stories are those that can touch on greater issues, and Remember the Titans masterfully explores the racial prejudice present in a high school football team. Not only does the racial healing relate to the themes of teamwork, but the performances by the cast, specifically Denzel Washington's Coach Herman Boone, have significant character arcs that reflect the changing times.
The Blind Side
In the end, the best football film is the one that relates the most to why the sport is so popular. The Blind Side is the story of how anyone, regardless of social status, can become an athlete through hard work. The story of Michael Oher, a homeless African-American man who becomes an NFL first draft pick, is an inspiring journey, and the film is a humorous and human look into what it takes to make dreams come true.