There is nothing like the game of football, with all due respect to those who would argue that futbol is more their cup of tea. Whether it’s college or pro, Saturdays and Sundays during the fall and winter months are chock-full of both, and fans all over the world are glued to their television sets for a stretch of five-plus months, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
And now that winter is behind us, football fans are looking forward to training camps, exhibition games, and, of course, the debut of the 17-game regular season. As a matter of fact, the oddsmakers are already dealing their NFL lines for the first week of the regular season with the Dallas Cowboys traveling to Tampa Bay to meet Tom Terrific and the defending Super Bowl champs as the season opener. The Bucs are favored by 6 ½ for those who like to make a wager from time to time.
But we are still months away from even watching an exhibition game so let’s sate our appetites by talking about the five best football movies of all time. This is the definitive list so there is no room for debate. These cinematic gems have been vetted by the world’s greatest film critics and any opinions to the contrary are heresy! Here, for your consideration, are the top five greatest pigskin classics of all time.
- Rudy (1993) – If you haven’t seen Rudy, go to your nearest Blockbuster and rent it! Oh, that’s right, Blockbuster is no longer a thing but back in 1993 when this movie was made it certainly was and there were long lines of people trying to rent this instant classic once it went to video. The movie is based on the true story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettigera, played impeccably by Sean Astin, a small-town kid growing up in a family that worked at the local steel mill and worshipped Notre Dame football. Rudy’s dream was to attend Notre Dame and suit up as a member of the fighting Irish. Unfortunately, his grades were not elite and his athletic skills were barely mediocre. But perseverance and determination can get you almost anywhere and if you don’t believe it, watch Rudy. Just make sure to have a box of tissues nearby, because, well, it’s pollen season don’tcha know.
- The Blind Side (2009) – This is another sublime cinematic wonder based on the true story of former NFL offensive lineman, Michael Oher. Oher was a poor, African-American kid who was brought up in a broken home with nowhere to go and was adopted by an upper-class white family who raised him from his teen years until he accepted a full boat to play football at the University of Mississippi. Sandra Bullock played Oher’s adopted mother, Leigh Anne Tuohy, and she just kills it. Not surprisingly, Bullock scored an Oscar as Best Actress and raked just about every other award that year for her stellar performance.
- Jerry Maguire (1996) – If you’re a Tom Cruise fan, you will watch this movie repeatedly. If you’re not, you will begrudgingly enjoy the character he plays, Jerry Maguire, a slimy sports agent who has an epiphany and decides to strike out on his own and play it straight. And while Cruise is at his dreamy best, the scene-stealer is Cuba Gooding Jr. who plays Rod Tidwell, Jerry’s biggest client and an All-Pro wide receiver who not only catches touchdowns but whose larger-than-life personality scored big at the box office. Don’t miss this one.
- We Are Marshall (2006) – This is another football flick based on a stunningly devastating true story. It depicts the aftermath of Marshall University, and particularly its football program, after the 1970 plane crash that killed 75 people, including 37 members of the football team, five coaches, three training staff members, as well as 25 boosters, and the five-person flight crew. It’s easy to dismiss this as a downer movie but just give it time and you will see a masterful performance by Matthew McConaughey as he plays new head coach, Jack Lengyel, brought in to calm the waters and rebuild the program. It’s a feel-good story about the power of the human spirit overcoming a soul-crushing event.
- Draft Day (2014) – Although this was made only seven years ago, there is no doubt it would attract more eyeballs at the box office if it were made today due to the meteoric rise in interest regarding the NFL Draft. Kevin Costner plays GM, Sonny Weaver Jr., who is trying to rebuild the Browns and has the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. Who he chooses will chart the course of the franchise for years to come. This is a must-see for draftniks but will probably fall short with audiences who are not familiar with the nuances of the NFL’s annual college meat market.