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Few things are better than a good sports movie - well, except for actual sports.
However, with nearly all of our favorite sports canceled or on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak, that really isn’t an option for the foreseeable future.
We did get a little taste of normalcy over the weekend with the NFL Draft, even if the social distancing-friendly format served to remind us of the looming possibility of a suspended or at least significantly altered football season this fall.
For now we’ll just put that horrifying scenario to the side and think positive football thoughts. While nothing beats actual live football, a good football movie may be the next best thing.
So without further ado, here are the top five football movies you should be watching while you wait for live sports to return to your life.
1. Rudy (1993)
A classic underdog story about Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger’s unlikely quest to play football for Notre Dame despite being small and slow and not a particularly good student.
Rudy grows up idolizing Notre Dame football just like his father and can recite Knute Rockne’s famous "fight fight fight" speech on command. When his friend Pete dies in a steel mill explosion Rudy decides to quit work and follow his dream.
Like with any underdog story, Rudy’s path to living out his dream is paved with setbacks and inevitably overcome obstacles. Like with many movie adaptations of real life events, there are many liberties taken with the facts.
For example, the famous scene with Notre Dame players laying down their jerseys to get coach Dan Devine to play Rudy didn’t happen. Devine in fact wanted to play Ruettiger and did so without much prodding.
The "Rudy" chants that started on the sideline before Rudy entered the team’s last game didn’t actually happen, and according to Joe Montana, who played on that Fighting Irish team, the players that carried Rudy off the field "kinda playin’ around."
Also, Rudy’s older brother in the movie didn’t actually exist and neither did Fortune, the head groundskeeper at Notre Dame who provides him with a job and a place to sleep, as well as some dramatic inspiration.
Still, the movie is incredibly inspiring and emotionally affecting even if only about half of it actually happened.
"My whole life, people have been telling me what I could do and couldn’t do. I’ve always listed to ’em, believed in what they said. I don’t wanna do that anymore."
WHERE TO WATCH: Free on AMC with a subscription, rent for $2.99 on Prime Video or VUDU, buy for $12.99 on Apple TV.
2. Friday Night Lights (2004)
Out of the three most well-known Friday Night Lights properties, which include the NBC television show of the same name and the Buzz Bissinger book it was adapted from, the movie may be the least well-regarded.
It’s still pretty damn good. The movie stars Billy Bob Thornton as Gary Gaines, the head coach of the Permian High School football team in Odessa, Tex.
It follows the fortunes of Gaines and several of his players through the 1988 season, including star running back "Boobie" Miles, quarterback Mike Winchell, and fullback Don Billingsley.
It fully captures the atmosphere and intensity of Texas high school football and does a much better job of portraying what actual football looks like than most other football movies.
"Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down because you told them the truth. And that truth is you did everything you could."
WHERE TO WATCH: Free on Cinemax with subscription, rent for $2.99 on Sling or $3.99 on VUDU and Apple TV, buy for $11.99 on Prime Video.
3. Remember the Titans (2000)
The movie tells the (somewhat) true story of the T.C. Williams high school football team and its 1971 state championship winning season.
The school is integrated and African-American coach Herman Boone is named the new head coach, replacing Caucasion coach Bill Yoast, who stays on as Boone’s assistant.
The film explores the racial tensions of the time with football serving as a bridge to close the cultural divide between players, coaches, and fans, eventually culminating in the most dramatic of wins in the Big Game.
Like Rudy, there are some major dramatic licenses taken with the facts. In reality, Alexandria, Va., schools were integrated in 1965 and T.C. Williams was created by merging three racially integrated schools, and all of the teams they played that season were racially integrated as well.
The Titans also were way more dominant in real life than they were in the film, outscoring their 13 opponents 357-45 with nine shutouts, winning the state championship 27-0 over Andrew Lewis High School instead of George C. Marshall High School as depicted in the movie.
Still, the movie is extremely entertaining and feel-good in a very Disney sort of way. As family-friendly football movies go, you probably won’t do any better.
"We will be perfect in every aspect of the game. You drop a pass, you run a mile. You miss a blocking assignment, you run a mile. You fumble the football, and i will break my foot off in your John Brown hind parts and then you will run a mile. Perfection. Let's go to work."
WHERE TO WATCH: Free on Disney+ with a subscription, rent for $2.99 on Apple TV or Prime Video or $3.99 on VUDU.
4. The Waterboy (1998)
If you’re interested in a decidedly less sentimental journey, I couldn’t recommend The Waterboy highly enough.
The movie stars Adam Sandler as Bobby Boucher, a stuttering simpleton who works as the water boy for the University of Louisiana football team and is constantly bullied by the players.
Bobby is eventually fired and becomes the water boy for the South Central Louisiana State Mud Dogs where he is also bullied until he eventually snaps and knocks out the team’s quarterback.
He then becomes a linebacker on the team over the objections of his insane, super-religious mother, channeling his pent-up rage and unleashing it onto the Mud Dogs’ opponents.
The movie is incredibly, almost indescribably stupid, and also extremely funny.
"I am not what you would call a handsome man. The good Lord chose not to bless me with... with charm, athletic ability... or a fully functional brain."
WHERE TO WATCH: Rent for $2.99 on Apple TV or $3.99 on VUDU, buy for $17.99 on Prime Video.
5. Any Given Sunday (1999)
Oliver Stone directed this movie about a fictional professional football team called the Miami Sharks featuring aging coach Tony D’Amato, played by Al Pacino, and meddling owner Christina Pagniacci, played by Cameron Diaz.
There’s also Jamie Foxx as hotshot quarterback "Steamin’" Willie Beaman, LL Cool J as star running back Julian "J-Man" Washington, and James Woods as the unscrupulous team doctor Harvey Mandrake.
The movie also features real-life football legends like Lawrence Taylor and Jim Brown, along with cameos from the likes of Dick Butkus, Warren Moon, and Johnny Unitas.
It’s probably the most realistic portrayal of pro football, even if somewhat sensationalistic, and has arguably the best-staged football scenes of any movie ever. It also features perhaps the best pre-game coach speech in movie history.
"On any given Sunday you're gonna win or you're gonna lose. The point is - can you win or lose like a man?"
WHERE TO WATCH: Rent for $3.99 on Prime Video or VUDU.