Sports films have a way of really reaching us at times. While some movie buffs may prefer action films or thrillers, there’s something about these types of films that speak to the heart and inspire us to strive for new heights in our own lives. Football certainly is the biggest sport in the US, and there have been some incredible moments in cinema over the years as a result of that sporting tradition. Here are five of the best football films of all time.
Draft Day, 2014
When it comes to football films, most follow the standard formula and stay inside the box to some degree. Usually it’s the story of the underdog’s triumph, heartbreaks, and the struggle to overcome the odds and be the best. For this reason, films like Draft Day truly set themselves apart in this cinematic world. Instead of a down and out coach motivating a team, the film follows the action of the Cleveland Browns’ management and the actions and decisions leading up to the NFL draft. This gives us an interesting look into the inner workings of an NFL team, and may certainly help fans understand the reasoning behind the NFL Draft 2021 picks next year.
Any Given Sunday, 1999
The film Any Given Sunday is truly one of the quintessential pieces of football cinema history. It’s an absolutely star studded production including Oliver Stone as director, and lead actors Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, James Woods, and Jamie Foxx. The plot is centered around an aging football coach (Al Pacino) coming to grips with the sport moving past him in his later years. When a young relatively unknown backup quarterback is brought into the game (Jamie Foxx), he has the performance of his life and brings the team into a new era. The result perplexes the head coach, who is at odds with the president and co-owner of the team (Cameron Diaz.) The film feels like a true 1990s movie, and gives a glimpse into the real world politics and selfish nature of this multi-billion dollar industry.
Gridiron Gang, 2006
Based on a true story, Gridiron Gang tells the all too familiar tale of down and out teenagers that need to find a path to redemption, and become better people in the process. Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the film follows a juvenile detention camp officer as he tries to break through to a group of teenage felons that are stuck in a cycle of crime and imprisonment. Being a former college football star, he has the background and expertise needed to form a football team. He believes that the sport will teach these inmates to respect each other and work together, and give them hope for the future. The film is critically acclaimed as one of the best football films of all time, and does a great job at showing realistic football scenes that are pleasantly thrilling, as well as highlighting the dangers of the sport.
Varsity Blues, 1999
In a lot of ways, this is an anti-football film, but what it offers is a sincere heartfelt look into the challenges of highschool and college level athletes and the questions we all have to answer for ourselves. Starring James Van Der Beek, the plot revolves around an academically gifted backup quarterback for a high school in the football-crazy heart of Texas. Once the starting quarterback is injured, an enormous amount of pressure is placed squarely on the shoulders of Van Der Beek’s character, who is at odds with his football-obsessed father. The coach of the team firmly believes in a do anything to win mentality, which is highlighted in the tragic story arc of several players as they are forced by the coach to continue playing through serious injuries. The film may not be a glamorous uplifting film like others in this niche, but it is realistic and emotional and an all around great story.
Friday Night Lights, 2004
In a way that feels in kinship with Varsity Blues, the film Friday Night Lights is the story of a Texas highschool football team and how the sport affects not only them, but their families and communities. Raised in an impoverished city, the players of the Panthers high school team know the pressure is on them to win every game as this is the only thing that gives the residents of this small town any hope. The film is realistic, dramatic without being over the top, and a heartfelt triumph story that will stay with you forever. Overall, the film is considered one of the best football films ever made and a true depiction of what it means to conquer when the odds are stacked against you.