The irony is while I don’t care to watch football, I do enjoy football movies. Watching sports is not my cup of tea, but I sure love a good movie.
While I’m not a huge football fan, it’s wildly popular. On average, 18.6 million people watched Monday Night Football on NBC in the United States. An astonishing 111.3 million people watched the Superbowl LI (in 2017).
No wonder many great football movies have been made over the years. It has a huge built-in audience. You can bet your bottom dollar that football fans will show up to watch a good football movie.
It’s been loved in the United States for almost an entire century and is watched every week by millions and millions of ravenous fanatics. People attend the games, paint their faces, drink too much beer and root for their team to the fullest, believing full well that their cheers affect the outcome. Football is beautiful and movies that properly encapsulate what football is about, or what the culture surrounding it is like are a great opportunity for fans to further delve into the atmosphere for their favorite sport.
What makes a good football movie?
Is it a great story about a team overcoming adversity? Is it the tale of a player’s redemption? Or perhaps is it a movie which tells the story of the community around the football team and the people behind the stars who make it happen? The truth is, all of these can make for a great football movie, as long as the story is honest and well portrayed. Football fans are some of the most loyal and earnest fans in the world and will only accept the best from their favorite teams, players, coaches and even their movies. This list will try to honor the tradition and celebrate the twenty-five best football movies of all time, starting from worst and ending with the number one.
Here’s our list…
25. Johnny B. Goode
Johnny B. Goode is an absolute classic and beloved by all who grew up in the nineteen-eighties. Not only does it star the one and only Anthony Michael Hall, but it is also a great movie which even features a guest appearance by the “punky QB”, Jim McMahon.
The movie is about a star high school football quarterback trying to decide which school he would like to attend in the fall. He must debate between all of the top schools in the nation, which is a feat that is more difficult than it may appear initially.
The official Rotten Tomatoes score gives the “Tomatometer” a zero percent, but that number hardly does the film justice. The film is a well-told story, however, is somewhat dated and a tad over-the-top. Despite this, it’d be hard to justify not placing it in the top twenty-five.
24. The Game Plan
The Game Plan is a fun film centered around a star quarterback played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. His life is suddenly changed in ways he could never have fully prepared for when a daughter he was unaware of suddenly shows up on his doorstep and he finds himself suddenly a single parent.
The official Rotten Tomatoes score gives the “Tomatometer” a twenty-nine percent. While this is not a great score by any stretch of the imagination, anyone who knows anything knows that it’s far from a terrible score from the notoriously strict and often very critical website.
The movie is fun and will make most people tear up a bit as it pulls on the audience’s heartstrings with perfect grace. It’s a must watch for anyone who loves football or family movies. It’s a requirement for anyone who loves both!
23. Draft Day
Draft Day is a movie which centers around the general manager of an NFL team who has a tough decision on his hands. He has the number one overall draft pick in the NFL draft and must pick the right person, knowing full well that his job could be on the line if he drafted the wrong player.
Kevin Costner does a great job playing the protagonist and this shows with the Rotten Tomatoes score giving the film a sixty-percent. The movie is a well put together film and should be watched by anyone who loves football, especially those that are fascinated in the NFL draft.
22. North Dallas Forty
North Dallas Forty is a classic. The movie stars the one and only Nick Nolte, as well as the timeless Mac Davis. The film tells a version of what it was like to be on the Dallas Cowboys in the early seventies, as explained by the tell-all book it was based on, written by Peter Gent.
The movie is funny and incredibly entertaining. The chemistry between Nick Nolte and Mac Davis is timeless, which is made apparent by the glowing eighty-seven percent score given to it by Rotten Tomatoes. Calling the film a classic might even be an understatement, although the proper word might not exist…timeless, perhaps.
Semi-Tough is a movie which came out in nineteen-seventy-seven and still manages to hold up today. It stars former football star, Burt Reynolds, as well as the great Kris Kristofferson. The movie is a funny tale of two men falling for the same trap, a beautiful rich girl.
The movie is a great experience and will keep the audience entertained from start to finish. It will make one laugh, even if the plot may be somewhat played out. Rotten Tomatoes even gives the movie a great score, grading it an eighty-eight percent rating.
20. Jerry Maguire
“Show me the money!” Everyone knows that line, and Jerry Maguire is the movie which gave that to us. The movie is the story of a multi-million-dollar sports agent who has a sudden change of heart. After deciding that he didn’t like the way his agency was run, he starts his own agency, only to lose all of his clients except the prolific character played by the great Cuba Gooding Junior whose tagline will be yelled out until the end of time.
The movie was given an eighty-three percent by Rotten Tomatoes and the score is well deserved. The story of Jerry’s disinterest in the world he once loved is very understandable and his love story with his receptionist and her son is one that will never be forgotten. After all, this is what gave the other classic and unforgettable line, “You had me at hello.”
Concussion is the story of the doctor who first discovered C.T.E. The movie tells his story as he faced countless adversities attempting to make the football world aware of the dangers associated with the sport and its connection with the disorder.
The movie features an incredible performance by Will Smith that will leave the audience yelling at their television and finding themselves moved to tears. The film was rightfully rewarded by Rotten Tomatoes, who gave the film a fifty-nine percent rating.
18. The Blind Side
The Blind Side is a football classic. The movie stars Sandra Bullock, a suburban mom who loves football. She discovers a young homeless man named Michael Orr and decides to let him move into their home. They then discover that Michael has a great talent for football as he becomes a great offensive lineman.
The movie is an absolute must-watch. The film will make an audience cry, as well as scream out in joy watching Michael learn how to become a great athlete and get a football scholarship for college. While the Rotten Tomatoes score cannot be found (the page is down currently), IMDB gives the movie a well-deserved seven-point-seven out of ten.
17. The Longest Yard (Remake)
Despite the movie being a remake and bringing very little new to the story, the 2005 version of the film is a must-watch. The movie follows Adam Sandler’s character, who lost his NFL career due to a scandal as he finds himself in prison for a series of dumb decisions. After making an agreement with the warden, he decides to play quarterback and help a ragtag group of memorable inmates play the guards in a full-contact football game.
The movie is incredibly funny, filling its cast with memorable comedians such as Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, and Joey Diaz. The movie only scored a thirty-one percent on Rotten Tomatoes, however that rating is a tragedy. The film is too fun and entertaining to not watch.
Leatherheads is a very unique football movie. Whereas most football movies are set in modern times, or the recent past, Leatherheads takes place at the beginnings of professional football. The story follows the team’s captain and coach as he tries to get professional football into the mainstream.
The movie was rated a fifty-two percent by Rotten Tomatoes. However, the movie is funny and smart, providing great insight into the old days of football. It’s a must-watch for any football or history fan.
15. The Express
The Express is the biopic of one of the most important football players of all time, Ernie Davis. The movie tells the story of Ernie and his brave journey to become the first black football player to win the Heisman trophy.
The movie is well made and will make the audience cheer, jeer, and perhaps cry at times. The cast is wonderful and the movie was well-received. The Rotten Tomatoes score is unavailable as the page is down, but IMDB gave the film a seven-point-three out of ten.
14. Little Giants
Little Giants is a children’s football movie classic. The story revolves around the rivalry between a jock and his geeky younger brother who compete through coaching two youth football teams. The jock may have the best players, but the geeky brother teaches work ethic and heart to try and overcome the odds.
The film scored a thirty-six percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but deserves higher. It’s fun, funny, incredibly entertaining and the cast is likable as could be.
13. Gridiron Gang
Gridiron Gang is the story of a probation officer at a detention camp who forms a football team as a means of teaching work ethic and effort to his inmates. They manage to find teams to play against and fight adversity to become a competitive team and prove they aren’t just thugs.
The movie only scored a forty-three percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but this doesn’t do it justice. The film has heart like few else and will get an audience absolutely pumped.
Radio tells the tale of a mentally challenged young man who inspired a high school football team to achieve great things. Cuba Gooding Junior gives an absolutely incredible performance that is truly Oscar-worthy, yet the movie somehow failed to achieve with critics. The film was only given a thirty-six percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but is still a must watch.
11. The Waterboy
The Waterboy tells the tale of a young man coming out of his shell and joining his local college football team. He must face adversity and grow into a man, leaving his mother’s strict rules behind and finding himself along the way.
The film is hilarious and an absolute classic. Adam Sandler does a wonderful job and the movie, although the critics at Rotten Tomatoes only gave the movie a thirty-five percent, which defies all explanation.
10. The Longest Yard (Original)
The original Longest Yard tells the exact same tale as the remake. However, the movie feels a little more grounded in reality and Burt Reynolds gives a sterner performance as the protagonist. The film is still celebrated and scored well, with IMDb giving it a seven-point-one out of ten (the page for it on Rotten Tomatoes is also down somehow.)
9. We Are Marshall
We Are Marshall tells the tragic tale of a school dealing with one of the worst hands of fate that could befall it. Virtually the entire team, as well as most of the coaching staff is killed in a plane crash and it’s up to the new coach to come in, recruit and attempt to keep the school’s spirits up, fighting through the tragedy.
The film scored a forty-nine percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie will give an audience inspiration for days and have everyone wanting to scream “We are Marshall” right along with the players.
8. Varsity Blues
Varsity Blues tells the tale of the kids in a small football powerhouse town dealing with an abusive coach and attempting to win every ear no matter what. With a twist of fate, the protagonist is suddenly thrown into a starting position and must become the person he never wanted to be.
The movie scored a forty-percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but is unforgettable. The characters are likable, and the coach is easy to hate. The movie very easily establishes who is right and who is wrong in the dynamics and leaves no room for error.
7. The Replacements
The Replacements is a story about what happens when an NFL team goes on strike. Rather than canceling the season, the owner hires an interim coach who recruits interim players. The ragtag team of misfits must try to win and prove themselves worthy of playing professionally.
The movie scored a forty-one percent on Rotten Tomatoes, however, it is full of heart, and fun. It’s impossible to not enjoy the film and all of the cast do wonderful jobs.
6. Brian’s Song
Brian’s Song tells the tragic real-life tale of Chicago Bears player, Brian Piccolo discovers he is dying. His friendship with Gale Sayers is the main theme of the film and the movie will absolutely make a tough person weep. The movie scored a seven-point-six on IMDB (Rotten Tomatoes page was down) and is an all-time favorite for most football movie fans.
Invincible tells the tale of Vince Papale, a thirty-year-old who managed to make it onto the Philadelphia Eagles after a walk-on tryout. The movie is a true story and tells a story that is impossible not to be compelled or inspired by. The film was well received, earning a seventy-two percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
4. Any Given Sunday
Any Given Sunday is as classic and traditional of a football movie as any. The movie is about an enigmatic and troubled head coach attempting to urge his team to victory and keep his job as his new owner tests him along the way. The movie is regularly replayed on television and earned a respectable fifty-one percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
3. Remember the Titans
Remember the Titans tells the tale of a high-school in the south integrating during the 1950’s. The team initially has trouble dealing with racial tensions but manages to overcome them as they come together to become a team. The movie earned a seventy-three percent on Rotten Tomatoes and is a movie that will make a person laugh, cheer, jeer, cry, and even think.
2. Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights is an absolutely great film. The film stars Billy Bob Thornton as the head coach and tells the story of a small-town Texas football program’s quest to win state, as their parents’ generation had. It’s a heartbreaking story of loss, the weight of expectations, and the harshness of life for some who find themselves with only one way out of their poor town.
Rotten Tomatoes score gives the “Tomatometer” an eighty-one percent which is well deserved. The movie will make an audience cheer, yell, jeer, and perhaps even cry. It’s an absolute must-watch and a forever classic.
FYY, the TV show is epic. I’ve watched every episode on Netflix… binge watched that sucker.
Rudy is an absolute classic, and the greatest football movie of all time. The movie tells the story of a young man with little talent, but an unbelievable burning desire and work ethic to become a member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. He refuses to take no for an answer and works his way into becoming part of the team. The movie scored a seventy-eight percent on Rotten Tomatoes and is a movie any football fan cannot afford to miss. It has everything; tragedy, redemption, virtues, hard-work, pain, love, and passion. The movie is everything a football fan could possibly be looking for in a football movie.
What’s your favorite? Leave a comment.