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Best and Worst Football Movies

College and professional football are underway and to some, this is the start of the best time of the year. To celebrate the return to the gridiron for all you fantasy football nerds, degenerate gamblers and tailgating legends, here’s the best and worst football movies according to TravisMathew.




Say what you will about Notre Dame, but everyone loves an underdog story and this based-on-a-true-story film is one of the best. Sure, the movie takes a few liberties with what may or may not have actually happened during Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger’s time at the University, but by the end of the movie, you’re so emotionally invested and cheering for Rudy to prove to all his doubters that he could achieve his dream of playing for the Fighting Irish.


Remember the Titans

Another inspirational classic, Denzel Washington’s take as a tough Virginia high school coach attempting to integrate his team in 1971 is one of his more underrated performances. The movie not only deals with football, but important social issues like racism and discrimination. If this movie doesn’t do it for you, go take a few laps around field then come back. (Side note: Ryan Gosling was a huge defensive liability as a cornerback. We don’t forget those kinds of things.)


Friday Night Lights

Fans of the critically acclaimed TV show were treated with five seasons of intense drama set in the hotbed of Texas high school football. While the storylines and character development is a lot less, naturally, in the original film version, the movie still touches on several important topics while providing quality silver screen football. We recommend checking out the movie (or read the book), then definitely binge-watch the tv show in Netflix.


Any Given Sunday

Even though the fictional team names (Maine Androids? Seattle Prospects? Chicago Rhinos?) and uniform choices are horrible, the highly-stylized look at the parts of the football that the NFL doesn’t want you to know about (partying by stars, drug use, concussions and painkillers) is, in the end, effective and very entertaining. Bonus points are rewarded for the classic locker room speech given by Coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino).


Brian’s Song

Easily the oldest selection on this list (1971), this made-for-tv tear jerker deserves to be considered a classic sports film, let alone among the top football movies. Another true story, the closeness on-and-off the field between Brian Piccolo (James Caan) and teammate and Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) leaves you with hope of what true friendship and courage is all about. Go ahead and cry it out, we won’t judge you.



The Replacements

Listen, we love Keanu Reeves. But what whatever Hollywood executive decided to greenlight a movie with the concept of Neo playing a professional quarterback should have his or her head examined. Didn’t they see Keanu’s football scenes in Point Break? And while Gene Hackman is great as a high school basketball coach in Hoosiers, he’s downright laughable as a pro football coach in this train wreck.


Any Sandler football movie (The Waterboy, The Longest Yard remake)

We know this is not going to be a popular snub for some of you, but hear us out: The original The Longest Yard from 1974 is a classic and it’s a crying shame that anyone born after 1985 thinks first of the Sandler-Chris Rock-WWE version. Secondly, it took The Waterboy and its ridiculous plot (and even more ridiculous Cajun accents) to turn the Fonz, one of the coolest television characters of all time, into the nutty, bucket-hat-wearing Coach Klein.


Varsity Blues

Varsity Blues took peak James Van Der Beek, who was cashing in his “Dawson’s Creek” residual checks left and right, and decided to make him a high school quarterback. Are you kidding me? Even as a second stringer, Van Der Beek is pushing his physical limitations. The football scenes are laughable and most of the jokes fall flat, just like the concussion-laded lineman every time his head to touched. At least this flick can claim fame to the wonderful Ali Larter whipped cream bikini scene, sort of Generation X’s version of Phoebe Cates’ “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” pool sequence.


The Program

This movie caused a temporary set-back to Florida State football dominance. Here us out on this theory:

  • 1. The movie came out in September 1993…less than four months later, Florida State won their first football national championship.
  • 2. The Eastern State University (“ESU”) from The Program wore the exact same uniform colors as FSU.
  • 3. ESU’s logo, albeit of a Timberwolf, looks like a cross of the FSU Seminole logo and secondary arrowhead logo…no, seriously, look!
  • 4. The movie was directed by David S. Ward and the best player on the FSU team was Heiman Award winner Charlie Ward. Okay, it’s not quite the Lincoln/Kennedy connections, but it still something.

So imagine being a young Pop Warner stud watching the movie and dreaming of playing for Florida State. Those kids 10-13 year olds in 1993 were now on the 2001 Florida State team. And how did that team do? It was the first FSU team in 14 years not to finish the season in the AP top ten and in fact, it took another nine years for the storied program to reach that top ten finish. Short story: only a movie this preposterously bad could derail a national football powerhouse.


Draft Day

Kevin Costner’s resume is filled with great sports movies, like Tin Cup, Bull Durham, and Field of Dreams, so we couldn’t wait for his turn at a football flic. Advertised to be a behind-the-scenes look at the NFL front office, similar to what Moneyball did for baseball, somehow missed the mark on extremely authentic and ended up with extremely unlikely plot points. Having real NFL team names and logos in the movie helped and seeing Adrian Foster play a can’t-miss prospect was nice, but the trade concepts written into the storyline and used as the main point of conflict missed the mark like a Ray Finkle field goal attempt.

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