As Super Sunday nears and we prepare for our yearly celebration of crass commercialism, it's easy to forget there's a sporting event involved--it's the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Green Bay Packers (we had to ask too). So in choosing a list of the top five football movies, we had to think back to the days when Up With People was still producing the Super Bowl's halftime entertainment show, before Michael Jackson changed the scope of ratings possibilities and his sister's nipple caused a crackdown on broadcast procedures and multiple performing artists.
All of the following films represent a time when the Super Bowl was still about the game.5. Brian's Song
The 1971 television Movie of the Week was later screened in theaters due to the successful ratings on ABC, but it didn't stay on the big screen for long. The story of doomed Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo (James Caan, pre-Godfather
) and his friendship with teammate Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams), who helped Piccolo through his struggle with terminal cancer,Brian's Song
still manages to jerk dude tears. In the late '60s, players were segregated by race for hotel room assignments. The Bears' team captain changed the policy, though, and Piccolo and Sayers were the first players given an interracial assignment. Though also based on a true story, 2009'sThe Blind Side
showed that football + race is still a hitmaking combo for mainstream America.4. Heaven Can Wait
Warren Beatty gets taken to heaven by mistake in this 1978 romantic comedy with a Super Bowl backdrop (and a terrific cast). Joe Pendleton (Beatty), a backup quarterback for the L.A. Rams, is about to make a run for the Super Bowl when he has a horrible accident, ends up among the clouds and convinces the bumbling angels (James Mason and Buck Henry) to send him back to Earth as a millionaire. Joe somehow manages to buy the Rams, fall in love with Julie Christie and win the Super Bowl. Another body-switch snafu happens; Joe has his memory erased and spends the rest of his life as a winning quarterback. The film has a bold disregard for reincarnation theory, but it's good football satire and a rom-com like they don't make anymore.3. Friday Night Lights (2004)
Not only one of the top five football movies,Friday Night Lights
is also ranked 37 onEntertainment Weekly
's list of the Best High School Movies. If you don't know, it's the story of the Permian High School Panthers (of Odessa, Tx.) run for the state championship in 1988. They lost. A hit TV series ensued.2. North Dallas Forty (1979)
Nick Nolte and country singer Mac Davis star as players for a fictional Dallas pro-football team who're known for their partying ways. Nolte's on the outs and addicted to painkillers; the coach is oblivious to the real feelings of his players; and no one seems to know whether professional football is a business or a game. Still a better exploration of pro football politics than Oliver Stone's overwroughtAny Given Sunday
,North Dallas Forty
remains the best semi-autobiographical football film on the list--it was written by real-life Dallas Cowboy Peter Gent.
Notable line: "All you coaches are chickenshit cocksuckers! You're all chickenshit cocksuckers!"1. All the Right Moves (1983)
Hear us out, because this was the early-'80s, pre-Scientology Tom Cruise movie to see. After 1982'sGoin' All the Way
, Cruise finally got to display his serious and idealistic side as a high-school football prospect who dreams of scoring a scholarship and a ticket out of his blue-collar, Western-Pennsylvania hometown. It had a great supporting cast (Craig T. Nelson, Chris Penn and an impressive Lea Thompson), a gritty look from cinematographer Jan DeBont, and Cruise was perfectly cast as a confused, betraying, guilty, cocky, self-righteous, apologetic teenager. He's been trying to live up to this role ever since.
Honorable mentions: Wildcats Semi-Tough