The Greatest Football Movies of All Time

Few subjects are as inherently cinematic as football. From the spectacle of victory to the drama of defeat, the sport has been depicted on-screen numerous times to varying degrees of success. The recently-released bold film called Concussion, starring Oscar nominee Will Smith, hopes to blow the whistle on traumatic brain injuries suffered by professional players. Here’s a look at five of the greatest football films ever made.

Brian’s Song (1971) Trailer by TheTrailerGal

Brian’s Song (1971)

Though originally made for television, this powerful drama about a talented young running back whose career with the Chicago Bears is cut short when he’s stricken with terminal cancer was so popular that Columbia Pictures eventually released it in theaters. Based on a tragic true story, the film stars James Caan as Brian Piccolo and Billy Dee Williams as his Hall-of-Famer teammate Gale Sayers. A moving depiction of the bonds of friendship, the Emmy-winning Brian’s Song was remade as a TV movie in 2001, starring Sean Maher as Piccolo and Mekhi Phifer as Sayers.

The Longest Yard (1974) – Trailer by Paramount Movies

The Longest Yard (1974)

Burt Reynolds was at the height of his considerable star power when he headlined this raucous comedy about a former pro quarterback whose cocky attitude and mischievous behavior lands him behind bars. Costarring several real-life football players, including Green Bay Hall-of-Famer Ray Nitzschke and former LA Ram Pervis Atkins, The Longest Yard is packed with thrilling action, huge laughs and genuine social commentary. Adding a touch of realism, Reynolds himself played college ball and was drafted by the Baltimore Colts before an injury took him out of contention. Though it’s been remade numerous times, including once with Adam Sandler, the original remains one of the greatest sports movies ever made.

North Dallas Forty (Heróis Sem Amanhã), 1979 – Trailer by Wanessa Lima

North Dallas Forty (1979)

Based on a semi-autobiographical novel by former NFL wide receiver Peter Gent, this perceptive black comedy about the emotional and physical toll the game takes on its players does for football what M*A*S*H did for war. Alternating between raunchy laughs and brutal reality, the film focuses on the misadventures of an aging wide receiver, played by Nick Nolte, whose years of injuries have left him dependent on painkillers to make it through a game. Perfectly capturing the locker room camaraderie of men who pulverize their bodies for a living, North Dallas Forty is as relevant today as it was 37 years ago.

Any Given Sunday – Original Theatrical Trailer by Warner Bros.

Any Given Sunday (1999)

11 years after playing a college football hero who falls on hard times in the underrated drama Everybody’s All-American, Dennis Quaid geared up once again for Oliver Stone’s gridiron epic Any Given Sunday. As an over-the-hill pro quarterback forced to make way for a hot young replacement, Quaid provides dignity and heart to this hard-hitting sports exposé. Cinema legend Al Pacino stars as the beleaguered coach who finds himself going head-to-head with his team’s brash young owner, played by Cameron Diaz. Stone, working with ace cinematographer Salvatore Totino, drops moviegoers directly into the action with some of the most viscerally intense gameplay ever captured on film.

Friday Night Lights (2004) movie trailer by SouthwestCasting

Friday Night Lights (2004)

Football movies are filled with inspirational stories, from Rudy and The Blind Side to Remember the Titans and The Express. Yet none have been more successful at stirring the emotions than this unflinching look at a Texas high school football team, and the small town that adores them. Based on the bestselling non-fiction book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist H.G. Bissinger, Friday Night Lights casts Billy Bob Thornton as a coach whose team is thrown into turmoil when their star player is sidelined by a serious injury. The film’s key sequence is an unforgettable speech delivered by Thornton at halftime, in which he motivates his exhausted players to achieve perfection, not on the scoreboard but in their hearts.