Top 5 American Football Films
Here at Average Joes, we love our American Football. So naturally we’ve been having some post-season blues and decided to cheer ourselves up by compiling a list of some of our favourite American Football films of all time in prep for the Draft over the next few days.
We think we’ve compiled something for everyone with tales of struggle and over-coming the odds, as well as films to make you belly ache and maybe even wipe away a tear. So without further ado, here are our Top 5 American Football Films.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (1999)
When a devastating hit knocks quarterback Jack ‘Cap’ Rooney (Dennis Quaid) out of the game, a young, raw and unknown third-stringer is called in to replace him. Having warmed the bench for years because of a string of bad luck stories and character issues, Willie Beaman (Jamie Foxx) seizes what may be his last chance, lighting up the field with a raw display of athletic excellence.
Directed by Hollywood heavyweight Oliver Stone, Any Given Sunday is the quintessential Gridiron movie, with Al Pacino delivering some of the most inspiring speeches ever captured on screen. Football fan or not, it’s impossible to sit through the mammoth 150 minute epic without feeling like you want to charge onto the nearest field and give everything for Coach D’Amato.
With a host of guest appearances from NFL legends and a stellar cast that also includes Cameron Diaz and LL Cool J, Any Given Sunday might be a bit larger-than-life but that makes it one of the most memorable American football films about.
JERRY MAGUIRE (1996)
Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) is a successful sports agent. He has it all with some of the biggest sports stars on the planet as his clients, the respect of them all, and a beautiful fiancée. Until one night he gets verbally abused by one of his client’s son and begins to question his purpose and place in the world. Recording all his thoughts in a mission statement, Jerry feels he has a new lease of life. Unfortunately his opinions aren’t met with the same enthusiasm from his superiors and he’s fired from the agency he helped build. Jerry steps out into the sports business armed with only one volatile but charismatic client Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and the only person with belief in his abilities (Renée Zellweger).
The actual sports scenes in Jerry Maguire are few and far between, and they might even be a tad predictable when they come along, but Jerry Maguire shows the murky moral waters of the sports industry superbly. Cuba Gooding Jr. is in cracking form, and the film, like all great sports films, is about transformation: About two men who learn how to value something more important than money, and about the two women they love who always knew.
REMEMBER THE TITANS (2000)
Set in 1971 Virginia, Remember the Titans tells the true story of a newly appointed African-American coach and his high school team on their first season as a racially integrated unit. Suburban Virginia schools had been segregated for generation until one Black and one White high school are closed and the students are sent to T.C. Williams High School under the federal mandate to integrate. Denzel Washington stars as Herman Boone, the newly appointed Head Coach of the football team as they become the unifying symbol for the community, as the boys and the adults learn to depend on and trust each other.
There are plenty of textbook clichés here: the team is ridden with mutual prejudice, then it starts to pull together; The two coaches’ relationship is first cold, then affectionate; There’s a goofy kid who learns to play, a star who is grievously yet inspirationally hurt in an accident and, of course, a kid who comes off the bench to help win the big game. It’s hard to believe that this is all a ‘true story’, but to be honest, we don’t really care. Its sport sequences are packed full of tension and Remember the Titans does have something truly profound to say.
THE WATERBOY (1998)
31-year-old waterboy Bobby Boucher (Adam Sandler) is constantly tormented by the team he works for until he is fired by the coach and has to find himself somewhere new to distribute his beloved H2O. Upon meeting a new coach (Henry Winkler) to work for, Bobby finds he has talent he never knew he had – the ability to lay the smackdown on the football field. Soon, he becomes the best line-backer in college football, but he must keep it secret from his overprotective mother (Kathy Bates).
The Waterboy isn’t going to be for everyone, but it has us in tears of laughter with some of the best slap-stick you’re likely to see outside the Marx Brothers and it adds something a little different to our list. Plus it has the Fonz!
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (2004)
Another ‘true story’ on our list, Friday Night Lights is based on the H.G. Bissinger’s book and profiles the economically depressed town of Odessa, Texas and their heroic high school football team, The Permian High Panthers. Racially divided and economically dying, there is one night that gives the town something to live for: Friday Night. The Permian Panthers have a big winning tradition in Texas high school football, led by quarter-back Mike Winchell (Lucas Black) and superstar tailback Boobie Miles (Derek Luke).
But when Boobie suffers a career-ending injury in the first game of the season, the town must pick itself up with the help of their inspirational Coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton), who believes that “perfection is being able to look your friends in the eye and know you did everything you could not to let them down”.
For us, Friday Night Lights has everything a sports film should have; great sports action sequences with a great crescendo, plenty of rousing speeches, and something genuine to say. Friday Night Lights has these in abundance and takes a close look at the pressures of being a 17 year old athlete where football is everything and failure will not be tolerated. The film also ended up being made into a similarly spectacular TV show of the same name that’s shown on Sky Atlantic and we cannot recommend it enough.
So there we have it – our Top 5 American Football Films. This sort of list will always divide opinion, so let us know where we’ve gone wrong in the comments below!