Top 3 Football Movies: Ready for Kickoff

Each week(ish), CinemATL Podcast hosts Martin Kelley and Michael D Friedman will be naming our Top 3 picks based on the weekend’s big movie release or event. Keep in mind, these lists are totally based on our opinion, and aren’t supposed to be a definitive list of the “best” movies. If you disagree with our selections, please let us know in the comments section below!


The weather's getting cooler and there's something in the air. Do you smell it? Smells like football! The new NFL season kicks off on Thursday and we've decided to celebrate with our Top 3 Football movies... Hike!

Martin Kelley's Top 3 Football Movies

1. Rudy

Rudy is classic! Maybe it’s just that Sean Astin is classic. How do you not root for him; Lord of the Rings, Goonies but definitely in Rudy! It is the essential underdog tale about a young man “without of spec of athletic talent” who dreams big enough and works hard enough to make the field in a game at legendary Notre Dame.  The football is secondary to the story in this one but what an aura the dream of playing football casts on the film. So, even those who are not football fans can appreciate this gem.

2. Friday Night Lights

Set in the small town of Odessa, Texas this movie recounts the true account of a Texas high school football team that brings hope on Friday nights to the down-on-its-luck community in which they reside.  The movie shows how significant football can be in the lives of the people in small town America. It does so with compassion for the folks who inhabit the towns like this and it’s at times uplifting and tragic. The movie also spawned a well-loved series as well.

3. Jerry Maguire

Yes, it’s the “Show me the money!” movie. Cuba Gooding Jr. won an Oscar for his portrayal of an undersized NFL Wide Receiver with heart and moxie who helps and is helped by his agent who has unwittingly grown a conscience despite the hindrance it might be in the tough business of sports and entertainment. Tom Cruise plays the title character and he falls in love with Renee Zellweger along the way of improbably surviving a career crisis with only one loyal client. Well, that client had the “Quon” and this movie has tons of heart so it’s another that many who don’t know a 1st Down yard marker from a popsicle would be able to enjoy this gem written and directed by the great Cameron Crowe.

Honorable Mentions: Remember the Titans, Brian’s Song, Varsity Blues

Michael D Friedman's Top 3 Football Movies

1. Rudy

Martin kind of stole my thunder on this one... I have a weird affinity for Sean Astin in anything he’s in. But really, he is the heart & soul of this movie. He plays Rudy with such passion and commitment that you have no choice but to get sucked into this tale. When his teammates all line up to turn in their jerseys so Rudy can get a chance at playing, I dare you not to wipe away any tears. Charles S. Dutton is also great in this film, delivering one of the best inspirational speeches ever. (“You’re five foot nothin’, a hundred and nothin’...”)

2. Remember the Titans

Yeah, the movie’s a little predictable and a Disney feel-good film, so you can pretty much check off all the story beats before they even happen. But that’s what makes it so much fun. The best football movies use the game as a metaphor for life, and this one takes on race relations in a well thought out and inspiring way. What really elevates the film, though, are the great performances by Denzel Washington and Will Patton as two head coaches with only one team. Also, look out for early performances from Ryan Gosling, Ethan Suplee, Donald Faison and a extremely young Hayden Panettiere.

3. The Replacements

This one is just a whole lot of fun. Loosely based off the NFL’s replacement players from the 1987 NFL strike, this film tells the tale of a group of average Joes that become NFL stars for a few games. While it was mainly a vehicle for Keanu Reeves as QB Shane Falco, the humor of the story really comes from the supporting cast. Rhys Ifans steals the show as a chain-smoking kicker, while Orlando Jones brings the laughs as a receiver with hands of stone, and Jon Favreau blows up as an unhinged linebacker (ironically, he also plays Rudy’s roommate in my #1 football film).

Honorable Mentions: We Are Marshall, Jerry Maguire, The Program