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The List: The Top 20 football films

- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 2, 2012

In honor of the college, high school and the NFL seasons that are now upon us, The List this week looks at the top 20 football movies.

  • 20. Necessary Roughness (1991) — An undermanned Texas college football team is penalized into near-extinction for NCAA recruiting violations. The players salvage their pride fighting on with a squad of volunteers and retreads. Hector Elizondo and Robert Loggia are cast as coaches.
  • 19. All The Right Moves (1983) — Tom Cruise plays a high school quarterback desperate for a scholarship who clashes with his headstrong coach (Craig T. Nelson) in a dying Pennsylvania steel town.
  • 18. Varsity Blues (1999) — An amusing sports comedy-melodrama about a Texas high school football team that rises to liberate itself from a tyrannical coach. James Van Der Beek of "Dawson's Creek" plays the leader of the insurgents, a backup quarterback given the opportunity to salvage a season.
  • 17. The Waterboy (1998) — In this gridiron farce, Adam Sandler is a 31-year-old mama's boy named Bobby Boucher who emerges as a demon linebacker for a small-college team in his native Louisiana after being urged to stand up for himself by his coach (Henry Winkler).
  • 16. Jim Thorpe: All-American (1951) — Burt Lancaster plays versatile American Indian athlete Jim Thorpe, who came from obscurity to reach college stardom at Carlisle as football player, eventually winning gold medals at the 1912 Olympics in the pentathlon and decathlon.
  • 15. The Replacements (2000) — Remotely suggested by the strike-shortened NFL season of 1987, the film conjures up the Washington Sentinels, a contemporary team that responds to a late-season players' strike by recruiting a gallant batch of replacements, quarterbacked by Keanu Reeves and coached by Gene Hackman.
  • 14. The Blind Side (2009) — This is the true story of Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher. Born in the slums of Memphis, Tenn., "Big Mike" is taken in by the wealthy Tuohy family. Guided by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), Oher (Quinton Aaron) finds a new sense of self and a scholarship to Mississippi.
  • 13. Friday Night Lights (2004) — Billy Bob Thornton is cast as a high school football coach in a football-crazed town teeming with second-guessers. A star player is injured and quarterback (Lucas Black) has other things on his mind, as he can't overcome his grief over his mother's deteriorating mental state. The average sports fan will love this film.
  • 12. Brian's Song (1971) — This made-for-TV movie is an award-winning classic in which a young James Caan plays Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo as he battles with cancer.
  • 11. Undefeated (2011) — A documentary about the Manassas Tigers, a high school football team from an impoverished neighborhood in Memphis that's coming off a yearlong losing streak. No one thinks they can win a game except volunteer coach Bill Courtney, a local business owner.
  • 10. Rudy (1993) — A charming tearjerker about Notre Dame walk-on Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin). The son of a steelworker from Joliet, Ill., Ruettiger worships Notre Dame football and finally gains admission to the school after prepping at a neighboring junior college. He makes a token appearance for the Fighting Irish in the last home game of the 1975 season and is carried off the field by his teammates.
  • 9. Horse Feathers (1932) — The four Marx Brothers star in this film that centers on a college football game. Groucho is cast as the new president of Huxley College who seeks professional players in order to win the contest. Somehow, Chico, a bootlegger, and Harpo, a dog catcher, end up on the team. ESPN ranked the climax of the film as one of the greatest football-related scenes in movie history.
  • 8. The Express (2008) — Dennis Quaid plays coach Ben Schwartzwalder in this true story of Ernie Davis, the first black Heisman Trophy winner, who died of leukemia before his professional career even started.
  • 7. Remember the Titans (2000) — Denzel Washington plays coach Herman Boone in this Disney production that extols the championship season of 1971 at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria. The movie depicts how a football team helps heal racial wounds that redistricting brought when black and white students came together under one roof.
  • 6. Invincible (2006) — Mark Wahlberg plays Philadelphia native Vince Papale, who experiences the ultimate sports fantasy when he goes to an open tryout for the Philadelphia Eagles and wins a spot on the team in 1976. It's a great Cinderella story while taking a few liberties with the truth: Mr. Papale actually ran track at college, did play semipro football and got picked during a private tryout.
  • 5. Any Given Sunday (1999) — Dennis Quaid plays a battered veteran quarterback, and Jamie Foxx is his heir apparent in this raucous and bombastic Oliver Stone film. Al Pacino plays a weary coach who is a disciple of Vince Lombardi, while NFL great Lawrence Taylor is comfortably cast as a linebacker.
  • 4. North Dallas Forty (1979) — Tom Landry's Dallas Cowboys were loosely characterized in this movie starring Nick Nolte and Mac Davis. The film takes a brutally realistic look at the pro game.
  • 3. Heaven Can Wait (1978) — Warren Beatty plays a quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams who after dying comes back to life in the body of a wealthy tycoon and wants to play football again. In real life, Beatty was a lineman at Washington-Lee High School, where he was nicknamed "Mad Dog."
  • 2. The Longest Yard (1974) — In this prison pigskin comedy, Burt Reynolds is cast as former pro quarterback sentenced to prison. Mr. Reynolds is encouraged to redeem himself by leading a squad of inmates to victory in a bruising exhibition game between inmates and guards.
  • 1. Knute Rockne - All American (1940) — The boyish Ronald Reagan secured stardom portraying Notre Dame football player George Gipp. The film earned him the nickname "The Gipper," which he dusted off during his political career to great effect.

Compiled by John Haydon
Source: The Washington Times, IMDb and RottenTomatoes.com.

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