The drama of football makes it perfect for the movies! Sports movies are a curious thing. Real sports fans complain that the action sequences are not realistic enough and film fans complain that they don’t care about sports. But none of that has stopped Hollywood from churning out films about a variety of sports over the years.
Football is a popular plot driver when it comes to sports in films – and there have actually been some pretty good ones. Much of the time football is just the background story to the plot. But if you are an NFL fan, or just someone who likes to have a bet on football games, you should make sure that you get around to watching these five.
The Longest Yard (1974)
We start off with a Burt Reynolds classic. The quintessential 70s movie star plays a pro quarterback who has been pulled up for point shaving in the past and ends up in prison after drunkenly stealing a car. While inside, he is forced to organize a team of convicts to take on the guards.
Conveniently disregarding the questionable idea of playing a sport like football inside a prison, this comedy delivers on every level. Even the football scenes are good thanks to a collection of NFL stars of the time starring in the movie. Just make sure you watch this version, rather than the Adam Sandler remake – or the UK version where Vinnie Jones stars as a soccer hard man.
Black Sunday (1977)
Taken from the Thomas Harris novel released a few years earlier, Black Sunday uses football as a backdrop to a story about Palestinian terrorists planning to blow up the Goodyear blimp over the Miami Orange Bowl during Super Bowl X. Bruce Dern plays the Vietnam vet who gets turned to help out the terrorists.
He is the pilot of the blimp who falls in love with a member of the Black September terrorist organization. She manipulates him into potentially murdering thousands. Mossad the FBI get wind of the deadly plot and face a race against time to work out the details and foil the terrorists before it’s too late.
“Most of the best football films are not wholly about the sport…”
Remember the Titans (2000)
This one is a real feel-good film – based on a true story – starring Denzel Washington as a football coach aiming to integrate a high school team in 1970s Virginia. Washington rarely puts a foot wrong and this is generally regarded as one of the best football films ever made.
As black and white players clash as the high school football team is forcibly integrated, Washington navigates the murky racial politics of the time. He also goes up against biased umpires and a rigged system to prevail. The film is told as a flashback from an opening of a group of former coaches and players attending a funeral.
Brian’s Song (1971)
Another based on a true story movie, Brian’s Song was originally a made-for-TV special that elevated itself way above the usual fare of such productions. James Caan and Billy Dee Williams are the two stars, playing NFL players who break down racial barriers to form a strong friendship.
The film is set in the 1960s, when the NFL was still a segregated league. Caan and Williams’ characters actually became the first interracial roommates and the movie follows their friendship up until the death of one of the main stars.
Any Given Sunday (1999)
Oliver Stone gives the business of the NFL his full treatment in an ensemble piece starring the likes of Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz. The movie follows the story of a fictional football team and the coach that battles against the owners as they take a shot at glory.
Pacino gives a very Pacino-esque inspirational speech at one point as the drama builds. He is the coach that is trying to keep the spirit of the game alive and putting his faith in his players. Just about everyone who was anyone in the late 90s stars in this one – as well as a bunch of real-life football players too.