With the Super Bowl looming on Sunday, we thought it was the perfect time to pick our top 10 football movies of all time.
It was harder than we thought so we've added a few quirky honorable mentions. Even then, it was hard to leave out such fondly-remembered pigskin flicks as “Best of Times,” “We Are Marshall,” “The Express” and “Paper Lion.”
But here's the final list we came up with. Feel free to comment and add your choices:
1) “Brian's Song” (1971)
Seriously, would any other film top the list? The true story of the friendship between NFL great Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) and fellow Chicago Bear Brian Piccolo (James Caan) still brings a tear to the eye of the most manly of men. Extra props for a cameo by Dick Butkus as himself.
2) “The Longest Yard” (1974)
Half prison flick and half football movie, this film about an inmate football team led by ex-gridiron star Paul Crewe (Burt Reynolds) taking on a team of sadistic prison guards still holds up. The actual game takes up almost a third of the movie and still packs a punch, thanks to the sharp direction of Robert Aldrich. Look for Packers great Ray Nitschke as one of the guards.
3) “North Dallas Forty” (1979)
Drawn from former Dallas Cowboys player Pete Gent's book about playing for the team in the 1970s, this is a lively, irreverent take on NFL — and one that didn't make the NFL very happy. Nick Nolte steps into the Gent role and Charles Durning is the coach (think Tom Landry). Big props for an appearance by Big John Matuszak of Raiders fame.
4) “Friday Night Lights” (2004)
H.G. Bissinger's best-seller may be the best book ever written about high school football. “Friday Night Lights” is definitely the best movie ever made about high school ball and the culture that goes with it. Director Peter Berg would later go on to produce a TV series based on the book — which is even better than the movie (see below).
5) “Rudy” (1993)
Another true story that gets the tear ducts flowing. It's a well-made tale about the undersized Rudy Ruettiger who overcomes all obstacles to get on the field for Notre Dame. Sean Austin heads a very good cast that also includes Jason Miller as Ara Parseghian.
6) “Any Given Sunday” (1999)
You either love “Any Given Sunday” or hate it. It was made by Oliver Stone, after all. But for all its flaws, it's an entertaining ride through life in the NFL with an A-list cast headed by Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid and — in a bit of type-casting — Charlton Heston as the commissioner of football. Jim Brown pops up as an assistant coach.
7) “Horse Feathers” (1932)
The Marx Brothers and college football. ‘Nuff said. An absolute comedy classic.
8) “All the Right Moves” (1983)
And you thought the Tom Cruise film on this list would be “Jerry Maguire,” right? Nope, we're going with this earlier Cruise flick about a high school football star trying to escape small town factory life. Cruise is very good as the player, Lea Thompson is even better as his girlfriend and Craig T. Nelson is fine as the high school's coach.