Sports editor ranks the best football movies of all time, from “Rudy” to “Remember the Titans”
With Super Bowl Sunday right around the corner, I invited Tribune Sports Editor Ashley Conklin to discuss gridiron greats on the big screen. Here are his favorite football movies, ranked from No. 10 to No. 1.
With Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday, what better time to discuss the 10 best football movies of all-time?
You’ll have to forgive me for not seeing “The Blind Side.” That’s why it’s not mentioned here. I hear it’s great and I hope to see it soon.
10. The Program (1993): Everything is out of control at ESU: an alcoholic quarterback, a steroid-popping linebacker, money-giving boosters. Coach James Caan is trying to hold it all together but falters under the pressure of trying to win at all costs at a big-time university.
“The Program” exposes the seedier underbelly of college football and probably hit a lot closer to home when it came out than a lot of people would admit.
9. Invincible (2006): Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg) goes from pickup football games with his buddies to a Philadelphia Eagles tryout to a roster spot as special teams standout with the Eagles in the 1970s. Another “Rocky” in the City of Brotherly Love.
8. We Are Marshall (2006): This film should resonate loudly here because of the 1960s Cal Poly fatal football airplane crash. Matthew McConaughey brings a lot of enthusiasm as new coach Jack Lengyel, who tries to rebuild the Marshall program and honor the memory of those who perished.
7. Friday Night Lights (2004): The movie doesn’t exactly follow H.G. Bissinger’s best-selling book, but it still shows how football rules over everything in Texas and is well acted and directed.
6. Rudy (1993): “You’re 5-foot-nothin’ and a hundred-and-nothin’ and you have barely a speck of athletic ability. And you hung in there with the best college football players in the land for 2 years.’
Thank goodness he did, so we could have the best Notre Dame football movie there is.
5. Jerry Maguire (1996): “Show me the money.” “You had me at hello.” “You complete me.”
Probably the most memorable movie phrases of the ‘90s. Also the finest performances we’ve seen from Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr., who was very deserving of his Oscar.
4. Any Given Sunday (1999): One of Oliver Stone’s greatest films. Perhaps a little over the top, but that’s Stone. The best on-the-field football action I’ve seen in film. Al Pacino makes a great coach and when he delivers his “we heal, now, as a team, or we will die as individuals” speech, I was ready to play for him.
3. The Express (2008): Few black players received football scholarships in the late 1950s, even those going to a northern school such as Syracuse. But the Elmira Express, Ernie Davis, might have been better than his predecessor at Syracuse, Jim Brown, and was the first black Heisman Trophy winner.
Davis (Rob Brown, so good in “Finding Forrester” as Jamal Wallace) was a terror out of the backfield for college defense. Even President Kennedy mourned his death from leukemia at age 23.
2. Brian’s Song (1971): The tug-at-your-heart flick about the NFL’s first interracial roommates — Chicago Bears running backs Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo — and Piccolo’s death at age 26 from cancer strikes just the right chord and never gets sappy. It was remade in 2006 but I’ve never seen it. The original was perfect, so why see the new one?
1. Remember The Titans (2000): I never thought I would pick anything over “Brian’s Song” as the best football movie ever. But the more I see “Remember The Titans,” the more I am convinced this is the greatest football movie ever. Where were the Oscars? Case closed.
The Indianapolis Colts play the New Orleans Saints at 3:25 p.m. Sunday on CBS (KCOY, Channel 12).
Image courtesy of Movieweb.com.
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