The NFL is back. Games officially began last Thursday, and we got a full slate of action on Sunday. It’s a glorious time of year that is starting to make 2020 a little brighter. And if all that action on Mondays, Thursdays, and Sundays from the NFL, and almost every other day from the college teams also playing, isn’t enough, we have film to turn to. For this week’s Binge Watch, I’m looking at some Gridiron classics.
Before I get started, let me talk about the film not on this list—Friday Night Lights. I love Friday Night Lights, the TV series. It was five seasons of pure delight led by Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. It’s in my list of favorite series of all time. The movie, well it was OK. I know my colleague at the Music City Drive-In, Jacob, loves the movie. And I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I just didn’t love it. So, below, are some movies I like better, or at least find more interesting.
The thing about football movies, too, is that they come in a lot of different styles. I’ve highlighted three—the weepies, the comedies and the ones that compel me.
Remember The Titans (2000)
About: This one features Denzel Washington and tackles numerous themes, including focusing on a new coach tackling leading a racially integrated squad. This one is based on a true story, and it’s hard to believe it’s already 20 years old.
Brian’s Song (1971)
About: Another true story, this one about the Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) and his teammate Brian Piccolo (James Caan). It’s about their friendship and the tough hand dealt with Piccolo as he contracts a fatal illness. This one was re-made in 2001 but, trust me, stick with the original.
We Are Marshall (2006)
About: Another true story—I guess we found the common thread with this group of Weepies. This one is about the Marshall team that was lost in a plane crash, and the coaches who helped re-build. With Matthew McConaughey and Matthew Fox leading the way, I thought this was emotionally engaging and inspiring. It was one of my favorites the year it was released.
The Blind Side (2009)
About: This is yet another film based on a true story about a family, led by a fierce matriarch, who takes in a young man that goes on to become an NFL Star. Michael Oher played for the Ravens, among other teams, and was a solid player. This movie is probably best known for landing Sandra Bullock an Oscar, and it’s pretty good. I find it funny, emotionally engaging, and fun to watch. Mock me if you must.
Necessary Roughness (1991)
About: This one is a bit of a blast from the past, and maybe it’s not incredible. But I like it in the same way I always enjoyed Major League from a baseball standpoint. This is about a small college trying to compete, and they turn to Scott Bakula to QB the team. Sinbad makes an appearance, and Kathy Ireland is the team’s kicker. The gruff coaching team of Hector Elizondo and Robert Loggia is the icing on the cake.
The Replacements (2000)
About: You can’t top a film that features Gene Hackman as the coach and Keanu Reeves as the starting quarterback. This one is about replacement players brought in during a pro football strike and features a professional team in Washington. Hackman is great and inspirational as the coach, but it’s Reeves as Shane Falco that’s iconic to me. I loved this movie and I think it still holds up.
The Ones That Compel Me
Any Given Sunday (1999)
About: I’m going to say the two movies in this group, I won’t defend. You like them or you hate them. Although, as I say that, I don’t love or hate this movie. It did create an incredibly uncomfortable theater-going experience when I convinced my family to see it on Christmas Day and I was sitting between my mother and 16-year-old sister while the world’s most graphic locker room sequences played on a larger-than-life screen. I also think this film has some mediocre football action on the field. But Jamie Foxx is great as Willie Beamen, and Al Pacino is solid as the coach. This movie is iconic for a few reasons, and it seems no list of watching classic football films would be complete without it.
Varsity Blues (1999)
About: Apparently 1999 was a magical time for football movies. I won’t try to defend this, but I will just say that I love Varsity Blues. It’s probably my go-to when someone asks me what my favorite football movie is. It doesn’t exactly paint a flattering picture of high school sports in Texas, but James Van Der Beek is solid in the lead role and there were some iconic moments, and some fun music. This was a must during my Dawson’s Creek days, but that’s a tale for another Binge Watch.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.