Saturday, February 5, 2011

'Super Bowl of Movies: The 10 Best Football Movies'

'Super Bowl of Movies: The 10 Best Football Movies'

Being a huge football fan and nut, the Super Bowl is like a holiday to me as it is for others. Even if you don't have a rooting interest in the game there are the commercials, gambling on who will score first, how long the National Anthem will take to be performed, etc. It is a celebration of the sweat, tears, drama, violence and thrill of a sport that is full of strategy and excitement. There are over 50 football movies but to me it is easier to pick great football movies as opposed to baseball movies. It seems there are much more great baseball movies to choose from so it gets hard to pick the best. I googled up football movies and saw a lot I forgot about. Sorry but "The Replacements" and "Unnecessary Roughness" are entertaining but not truly great football movies and "The Blind Side" gets to be weaker the more I think about it. That is fantasy land and I am picking football movies that deal with the true grit of the game and true strategy. Sure some on my list can seem to be phony in spots but they are great because they love the true nature of football. Some of my picks are not just focused on professional football. They deal with high school and college football also. The non professional football players don't have that money motivation so sometimes there is more heart and drama. Without further ado here are my picks for the ten best football movies.

10. All the Right Moves (83) (R)

Director: Michael Chapman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Lea Thompson, Craig T. Nelson, Chris Penn

This is a movie that can sometimes be cheesy but I was struck with how serious and dramatic the movie gets. This movie with Tom Cruise, right before he would become a star, packs a little power. I was in high school when this was released and it captures high school football and the pressures of it very well. There is always that pressure on these kids from small towns to want to get out and become somebody and that first step is getting to college. I love Craig T. Nelson's tough coach who I thought made a lot of sense in his point of view. Stefan is like a lot of high school players who think they know everything. He has some arrogance to him but learns really fast that the grown ups might just know what is best for the kids. By the way, this movie takes place in Pittsburgh, home of the Steelers.

9.) Semi-Tough (77) (R)

Writer: Walter Bernstein
Director: Michael Ritchie
Starring: Burt Reynolds, Jill Clayburgh, Kris Kristofferson, Robert Preston

This is really not the best football movie but it knows it's subject to at least look realistic. The reason I like this movie is because it is an entertaining love story about friendship. I also like the appeal of the main stars here and it shows how great the late Jill Clayburgh could be. A lot of people haven't seen this movie but it is a lot of fun and amusing to see how football was portrayed in the 70's.

8.) Heaven Can Wait (78)

Writers: Buck Henry and Elaine May
Directors: Warren Beatty and Buck Henry
Starring: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Jack Warden, James Mason, Dyan Cannon, Charles Grodin, Buck Henry

This smash hit of the 70's is a great love story first and foremost and it is one of the only movies on my list that deals with winning the Super Bowl. Warren Beatty was at the top of his form as Joe Pendleton who accidentally gets taken away from his body by an angel. He then has to find his way back in another body to win a Super Bowl for his Los Angeles Rams. The movie is a great screwball comedy, the football game is dramatic and the feel of the movie is old fashioned. It mixes the classic screwball comedy of the 30's with modern football dramatics.

7.) Rudy (93) (PG)

Writer: Angelo Pizzo
Director: David Anspaugh
Starring: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Charles S. Dutton, Ned Beatty, Lili Taylor,
Vince Vaughn

You would have to be a really cynical person with no heart not to love this inspiring movie. I hate Notre Dame and even I was choked up watching this movie and cheering for Daniel E. 'Rudy' Ruettiger. Sean Astin is great as Rudy and the movie knows how to push the right buttons. It is like football's version of "Hoosiers" which is fitting since they both have the same director. This has the right mix of Hollywood corn and the pure, unabashed spirit of football and the ultimate underdog.

6.) Friday Night Lights (04) (PG-13)

Writers: David Aaron Cohen and Peter Berg based on novel written by Buzz Bissinger
Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Lucas Black, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund, Derek Luke,
Connie Britton, Jay Hernandez

This captures the pressure and craziness of high school football in Texas flawlessly. The movie is full of high drama, energy and great performances. Even better is the television adaptation which is in my top 5 television dramas of all time. Every episode is like a small movie and I have cried during so many episodes. The chemistry between Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton is magic and the movie has the most realistic depiction of marriage I have ever seen. So actually this spot belongs to the show but there would be no show without the movie.

5.) Everybody's All American (88) (R)

Writer: Thomas Rickman Based on novel written by Frank Deford
Director: Taylor Hackford
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Jessica Lange, Timothy Hutton, John Goodman, Patricia Clarkson

This is the most under rated football movie and if you like pure, old fashioned Hollywood corn you must check this out. Dennis Quaid again gives an under rated performance by one of the most under rated actors of my generation. This is a highly entertaining look at a college football legend in Louisiana whose rough transition to the pros is a great strain on his marriage. Quaid and Jessica Lange are great together as Gavin Grey and Babs, a true old fashioned Hollywood couple. This is more fantasy than realistic but it is a lot of fun and there is also a great early performance by John Goodman.

4.) Lucas (86) (PG)

Written and Directed by David Seltzer
Starring: Corey Haim, Charlie Sheen, Keri Green, Winona Ryder, Guy Boyd, Jeremy Piven

If you have not seen this movie I urge you to seek it out right away. This is not only a great movie about football, it is a great love story and easily one of the best movies about high school. Also for underdog, inspiring sports movies this puts "Rudy" to shame. The late Corey Haim, in an outstanding performance, is so wonderful as Lucas, a high school nerd who is very small for his age. He falls in love and tries to make the high school football team to win over a popular cheerleader who has eyes for the star quarterback. This leads to one of the most inspiring and heartfelt endings I have seen in any sports movie. If you have a heart you will get swept away, be on your feet cheering and you will be crying your eyes out. Charlie Sheen and Keri Green are also great here and look for a young Jeremy Piven and Winona Ryder. A great job by my mom's high school classmate and Highland Park native David Seltzer.

3.) Brian's Song (71)

Writer: William Binn Based on book "I am Third" written by Gale Sayers and Al Silverman
Director: Buzz Kulik
Starring: James Caan, Billy Dee Williams, Jack Warden, Shelley Fabares, Bernie Casey,
Abe Gibron, the Chicago Bears players as themselves

If you are a Bears fan and a fan of tearjerkers this has to be high on your list of the best football movies. James Caan and Billy Dee Williams are outstanding as Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers. They have great chemistry and you believe that they are really great friends. This is inspiring and heartbreaking and as a Chicago Bears fan I feel great pride in this movie.

2.) The Longest Yard (74) (R)

Writer: Tracy Kennan Wynn
Director: Robert Aldrich
Starring: Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, Ed Lauter, Michael Conrad, James Hampton,
Harry Caesar, Mike Henry, Richard Kiel, Pepper Martin, Bernadette Peters,Ray Nitschke

This and "Slapshot" are the funniest sports comedies in cinema history. The movie is also one of the best prison movies ever made and Burt Reynold's best movie. I was amazed at how great the football strategy was here and it has one of the best endings and games I have ever seen in a sports movie. The movie is extremely funny, raunchy and violent and it will get you in such a great mood before the big game Sunday. This is one of the movies that made me want to become a film maker. This movie is pure excitement and pure adrenaline and the cast is all wonderful. It was a shame that Adam Sandler had to desecrate this classic with his horrible remake. This movie has been copied to death since it came out back in the 70's. There would be no "Slapshot" and there would be no such great football movie as my #1 pick without this classic.

1.) North Dallas Forty (79) (R)

Writers: Ted Kotcheff, Frank Yablans and Peter Gent based on his novel
Director: Ted Kotcheff
Starring: Nick Nolte, Mac Davis, Charles Durning, G.D. Spradlin, Bo Svenson,
John Matuszak, Dabney Coleman, Brian Denehy

This is my pick for the best football movie because even 30 years after it's release it is extremely topical and relevant. This movie is based on the Dallas Cowboys of the early 70's but deals with a fictional team. Nick Nolte and Mac Davis, yes Davis could actually act, are great and very believable here as football players. This movie is so relevant to today's football especially with the lockout in danger of becoming a reality for next season. It realistically shows the battle between players and owners with honesty. Also the way that the coaches and owners deal with injuries here is a dire foreshadowing on what has become the serious subject matter of concussions in today's football. The way Nolte's receiver takes a pain shot for his injured leg also reminds me of what Jay Cutler had to endure in the NFC title game this year. There is a powerful moment where a player reluctantly gets a pain shot for a hamstring injury, can't feel his leg and on a certain play comes up hurting the leg and getting seriously mangled. So this movie has dated very well and besides being compelling dramatically it is also extremely funny. It is raunchy, hilarious and Bo Svenson and John Matusak are wonderful as two offensive linemen who have some great scenes with Durning's assistant coach. Also wonderful are the realistic football scenes and a truly classic villain in G.D. Spradlin's head coach inspired by Tom Landry. There is an amazing speech at the end given by John Matusak against the coaches and how they treat the players. Also the movie ends with a tense meeting between Nolte and the owners. The movie winds up being deep and profound and it knows it's subject and it still holds up today. I actually am going to watch it again right now to get me in the mood for tomorrow.

So that is my list and I know there will be some who think I have gone nuts to put "Everybody's All American" and "All the Right Moves" on my list. So either on here or on facebook feel free to agree or disagree and give me your favorite picks also.

1 comment:

  1. What about "Son of Flubber" with its floating football game? Just saying ... Seriously, great list, Vince!