Super Bowl XLVII is happening this Sunday between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. This promises to be a great game with powerful storylines such as the brother versus brother match-up between head coaches Jim and John Harbaugh, as well as Ray Lewis’s magical postseason finale as he ends his career. That got me thinking about other great football storylines that we’ve seen in the movies. Most of these have the added bonus of being based on real life events. Without further ado, I give you my personal favorite football movies of all time.
6. The Waterboy
Say what you want about Adam Sandler now, but his films during the 90s were fantastic. With the great supporting cast of Henry Winkler and Kathy Bates, The Waterboy is the hilarious tale of a socially inept 30 year-old who becomes the star linebacker of a little-known college after getting made fun of his entire life, eventually leading them to a championship bowl game.
The Waterboy, in my opinion, is one of Sandler’s best works. It’s got a perfect balance of classic Sandler comedy and slapstick with a fun and, at times, touching story. If you like football movies or good comedies, then this one is worth watching again and again.
Great Sports Moment: All of Boucher’s big hits are pretty fun to watch, but my absolute favorite is when the opposing quarterback begs him to not hurt him as Bobby begins gearing up to sack him.
Invincible tells the inspired-by-a-true-story tale of Vince Papale, a 30 year-old bartender who walked on to the Philadelphia Eagles roster after the new head coach offered open tryouts before the 1976 season. While the film does take some creative licenses, it gives us an inspirational tale about a real guy who did what many claim was impossible. If you’re an Eagles fan, then it’s even better.
Even after he passes the first round of tryouts for the Eagles, it only gets harder as he goes up against current players and the Eagles’ owner who all want him off the team. But with true grit and determination, he proves that he has what it takes to be in the NFL, inspiring a whole city along the way.
Great Sports Moment: On Papale’s first NFL play, it looks like he is going to be the hero … but then gets knocked silly by an opposing football player. It’s great because despite this embarrassment and disappointment, he picks himself up to keep on playing. Despite all the doubters, Vince Papale does eventually become a true Philadelphia Eagle hero.
4. The Little Giants
There were a bunch of sports movies made in the 90s (see The Mighty Ducks, The Big Green, etc.) based on the idea of a rag-tag bunch of kids coming together to create a team for a given sport. At first they are terrible and hilarious, but as the movie progresses it they become very good and are still hilarious. The Little Giants follows this pattern and we’re all better for it.
I must have watched this movie 100 times as a kid, but who can blame me? Rick Moranis leads his team of misfits to a championship pee-wee football game against his former-football-star-turned-coach brother, Ed O’Neil, and his #1 rated team. Things don’t look good for our Giants until a roadside breakdown of a bus full of NFL stars and coach John Madden gives our pint-sized heroes the confidence and edge they need.
Great Sports Moment: 5 words: The Annexation of Puerto Rico.
Click the link and go to 6:20 to see the famous play. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBIPadHsEvs
3. The Blind Side
I couldn’t not include The Blind Side as it is one of the few football films to not only win an Oscar (Sandra Bullock won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role), but also to be nominated for Best Picture. This is another movie that was inspired by real events. It tells the real life story of Michael Oher, a 17 year-old African-American orphan who gradually becomes a member of Leigh Anne Touhy’s family after befriending her diminutive son at a Memphis, TN high school. With the support of Leigh Anne and the Touhy family, “Big Mike” Oher overcomes the hardships of his personal life and becomes a football star at high school. With their love, he works to bring his grades up to get into a Division I college on football scholarship.
This is the movie that made America fall in love with Sandra Bullock, but it’s also a great football movie that tells the inspiring rise of current Baltimore Ravens (bonus points!) tackle, Micheal Oher. It was the feel-good hit of 2009 and proves that like in many sports movies, it’s not just about the game.
Great Sports Moment: When Leigh Anne tells Michael that he should think of his teammates as his family because he would do anything to protect his family. This leads to Michael obliterating the intruding defenses when they try to get in on the offensive line and becoming a football star.
2. Remember the Titans
During the 1970s a lot of schools had to deal with racial integration by allowing African-American students to go to school with Caucasian students, and Remember the Titans showcases that amid football crazy and State championship contender, T.C. Williams High. Denzel Washington plays coach Herman Boone who becomes the head coach of an integrated team in a town with many racial tensions. He must work together with the white former head coach that he supplanted to bring his team together. This team camaraderie creates unexpected friendships that carry the team through hardships expected and unforeseen.
I may just love this film so much because it came out when I was a junior in high school amidst my own alma mater’s football pandemonium, but it could also be because this movie has such a good soundtrack. Bonus for the ladies: it also stars a young Ryan Gosling.
Great Sports Moment: After discovering that the refs are purposely making bad calls to make sure the Titans lose so Coach Boone gets fired, Coach Yoast gives one of the best sports speeches in movie history.
If you like football and you like movies, or if you just like movies, then you have watch Rudy. It’s the classic true story of Daniel “Rudy” Reuttiger and how he would stop at nothing to play football for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Despite his struggling academics and his small stature and relative lack of football prowess he works his tail off to be a part of the team and play in at least one game. As one of his coaches notes, despite all his setbacks, Rudy shows more heart on the practice squad than any of his scholarship and All-American players.
Rudy has continually been ranked as one of the greatest sports films of all time as well as one of the most inspirational films of all time. Since it came out in 1993, it has been universally revered amongst groups of sports-nuts men.
Great Sports Moment: When Rudy finally gets to play in a game during the final home game of his senior year. He gets in during the final few plays and sacks the opposing teams quarterback to then be hoisted on his teammates shoulders as they exit the stadium amid fan pandemonium. It may be the ultimate sports movie moment.