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Rating the best football movies

By Charlie McCollum, San Jose Mercury News Published: February 3, 2013
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9) “Invincible” (2006)

Vince Papale was a 30-year-old substitute teacher and part-time bartender who somehow managed to play himself onto the Philadelphia Eagles as a special-teams player under coach Dick Vermeil. At times, it's a little too sugarcoated but for the most part, it manages to be rather effective and affecting, thanks in large part to Mark Wahlberg's performance as Papale and Greg Kinnear's turn as Vermeil.

10) “Remember the Titans” (2000)

An inspiring take on the true story of three Alexandria, Virginia high schools (two white, one African-American) who were forced to merge — and merge their football teams. Denzel Washington is terrific as the black coach is named to head the new team and is faced with the task of overcoming years of racial segregation — at least on the field. It's a little manipulative but it works.

Honorable mentions

Best film involving a Baltimore Raven: “The Blind Side” (2009)

The film is a very softened version of author Michael Lewis' best-seller “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” about Michael Oher who went from living on the streets to being an all-pro lineman for the Ravens. It actually got nominated for an Oscar and won one for Sandra Bullock as the woman who takes in Oher.

Best film involving the Super Bowl: “Black Sunday” (1977)

A very good espionage thriller by master director John Frankenheimer, the film pits Robert Shaw as an Israeli agent against a terrorist team that wants to launch an attack on the Super Bowl, using the Goodyear blimp. Bruce Dern gives one of his classic over-the-top performances as the blimp's pilot. By the way, those are real Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers on the field and Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier show up as themselves.

Best football scene under the influence: “M*A*S*H” (1970)

One of the great scenes in Robert Altman's black comedy about a medical unit in the Korean War comes toward the end with a grudge match football game, played with much dope smoking. The scene is loaded with ex-NFL players including Ben Davidson, Buck Buchanan, Tim Brown, Warren McVea and Fred (the Hammer) Williamson as the immortal Spearchucker Jones. Has to be seen to be believed.

Best TV series about high school football: “Friday Night Lights” (2006-2011)

As good as the movie version of Bissinger's book was, the TV series was better, one of television's best series during its time on the air. It was as much about life in a small Texas city devoted to its football as about the game itself. But the football scenes, particularly in the first two seasons, are surprisingly realistic and you get caught up in the Dillon Panthers' drive for the state championship.

Best TV series canceled by the NFL: “Playmakers” (2003)

“Playmakers,” the first dramatic series ever on ESPN, was as close as anyone has come to a realistic look inside an NFL locker room. But it cut too close to the bone with its sex, drugs and racial tensions. Under pressure from the NFL, ESPN canceled it after 11 episodes. It's worth watching that one season if you can find it.

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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