With just over a month before the start of the NFL regular season, here is a list of the top five football films to tide you over until the first coin toss in September.
Disclaimer & Honorable Mentions
First, this list will only consist of fictional football films. No films based on or inspired by a true story because, honestly, those films deserve a list of their own. Now that we got that out of the way, here are some honorable mentions:
Necessary Roughness: The worst college football team in Texas recruits a 34-year-old quarterback played by Scott Bakula. Oh, and Kathy Ireland is their kicker. Gotta love the ’90s.
The Longest Yard (1974): This Burt Reynolds-led classic is better remembered for the real-life football player cameos and Reynolds’ era-defining charm than the actual sport of football, but it’s definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.
5. The Longest Yard (2005)
Yes, Burt Reynolds is a far better leading man than Adam Sandler, and yes, the ’05 version of The Longest Yard isn’t as good as its 1974 predecessor, but it isn’t trying to be. The plot, about a self-destructive quarterback forced to throw a game between the guards and inmates to get his sentence commuted, is played for bigger and broader laughs this time around. Great cameos by football player-turned-wrestler Bill Goldberg, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and hip-hop legend Nelly adds an updated feel to the picture. Add in a banging soundtrack, Burt Reynolds playing a tough-as-nails player-coach for the inmates, and some truly laugh-out-loud moments, and you’ve got yourself a mid-2000s comedy that holds up better for a general audience.
4. Varsity Blues
As far as fictional high school football movies go, Varsity Blues is at the top of the list. This 1999 coming-of-age comedy/drama balances funny scenes with a few tense, dramatic moments. The movie is at its best in the final act, with a great speech delivered by Dawson himself that calls on his teammates to best their best selves. To play like gods. But ultimately, when the game is over, when football is over, let it go and move on.
3. The Waterboy
How Adam Sandler managed to get on this list twice is a mystery to be sure, but there’s no denying the fun-filled romp that is The Waterboy. Silly, irreverent, massively quotable (Momma’s Right!) with football hits that sound so devastating you’ll be laughing and cringing at the same time.
2. The Program
The Program is light on the comedy and heavy on the drama and, thankfully, the football as well – with many of the football scenes shot in front of massive crowds during actual college football games. The glitz and glamor of playing for an NCAA Division I school are balanced perfectly with the pain, pressure, and sacrifice these young men go through to be the best. If you’re a fan of college football, this is a must-watch.
1. Any Given Sunday
Robert De Niro, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, and the largest collection of NFL cameos of any movie on this list, Any Given Sunday isn’t just a great football movie, this Oliver Stone-directed film is the football movie. With characters you’d swear were based on the players of today, this movie about a fictional Miami football team in the midst of a transition from the old guard to the new age is both timely and timeless. And if you like football scenes, director Oliver Stone had special camera rigs developed to get you as close to the action as possible.
For more articles on a variety of subjects, be sure to visit The Slate blog.