Five Great Football Films

Drew Dietsch

The Super Bowl is upon us and we have our chips and dip at the ready. But, how to spend the day before the big game? Or what about those of us who aren’t so crazy about Pigskin Toss? That’s a nickname for football, right? For you, we offer up five films that will make a football fan out of the staunchest indoor kid.

The Longest Yard (1974)

Avoid the Adam Sandler remake at all costs. The 1974 original is a bare-knuckle beast of a film, anchored by a defining performance by leading man Burt Reynolds. His anti-hero Paul Crewe is a despicable ex-quarterback who ends up in prison under the eye of even more despicable guards. The warden decides to stage a football game pitting the inmates against the guards, and the result is one of the most intensely funny sequences in film history. Though the movie is ostensibly a comedy, it’s got loads of dramatic heft and endearing characters that elevate it far above an easy chuckle-fest. Many of the actors, including Reynolds, were former football players and lend a level of authenticity to the actual game that makes it as enthralling as anything you’ll see from Peyton Manning or Cam Newton. – Drew Dietsch

Semi-Tough (1977)

Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson are an amazing onscreen team that never really did anything past Semi-Tough. The duo plays Shake and Billy who serve as players for a fictional Miami NFL team. While football gets attention now and again, the film is more of a satire of the time. Slamming New Age religion, open relationships and the striving for physical perfection got way more focus than any grid-iron action. That being said NFL greats Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Paul Hornung and Joe Kapp got major screen time in this comedy drama. Does anyone else find it odd how football films in the 1970s didn’t focus so much on the actual game? – Troy Anderson

North Dallas Forty (1979)

North Dallas Forty was a bit of a publishing sensation when it stores in the early ’70s. The book was written by a former Dallas Cowboy player who fictionalized aspects of playing with the team in the 1960s. The film was noted for playing up the rampant sex and drug use of the era, as professional athletes became rock stars in their own right. The film glosses over the racial aspects of the source novel in favor of playing up Nick Nolte as a football playing, weed smoking demi-God. Naturally, the writer and former Cowboy wide receiver Peter Gent took issue with the changes. – Troy Anderson

The Last Boy Scout (1991)

Though someone might give us a penalty for including The Last Boy Scout, it’s worth some excessive celebration. This two-fisted action/mystery uses America’s favorite pastime as a kickoff to a cynical buddy comedy that only Shane Black (Iron Man 3Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) could write. Under the direction of Tony Scott (Top GunTrue Romance), the story of washed-up private detective Joe Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis) and his unlikely partnership with ex-quarterback Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayans) is propulsive in all the ways you want from a tongue-in-cheek action flick. The most memorable scene is the opening in which running back Billy Cole (Billy Blanks, remember him?), strung out on PCP, pulls out a gun and kills his opponents in order to score a touchdown. I guarantee nothing that exciting will happen on Sunday. – Drew Dietsch

Rudy (1993)

You knew this had to be here. Easily the most beloved football story of all time, Rudy has become mandatory viewing for anyone with even a passing admiration for the game. Based on the true story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, Rudy is all heart and hope. Sean Astin’s performance as Rudy is the standard for underdogs, and he’s supported by great turns from Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty, and Charles S. Dutton. There’s no other football movie that provides as much inspiration and feel-good warmth than Rudy. It’s a small but powerful tale about personal triumph that encapsulates everything we love about sports. It’s a great way to pregame the biggest display of sportsmanship that the year has to offer. – Drew Dietsch

[This article was first published on Feb 6, 2016]

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