Ranking the Top 16 Football Movies

The Program
The Best football movies from the last 30 years.

The College Football season is almost here, and personally, I’ve waited long enough.  Every year, in the weeks leading up to the first kickoff in early September, I find myself seeking out any and all football movies to help me get through the “dog days” of July and August.  I can sit through just about any Football movie, but there’s no doubt that there are a few that stand out above the rest.  Now, it’s been done many times before, but while sitting through this year’s batch of football movies, I decided to make a list of my favorite Football Movies. To keep things simple, I made myself one rule… the movie had to be made within the last 30 years (sorry to all you “The Longest Yard” and “North Dallas Forty” lovers out there).
There are a couple movies that I’m pretty biased to…. “The Program” is my personal favorite movie, but I know that generally, most people wouldn’t rate it the best Football Movie.  To keep myself in check, I made a small rating system to even out the odds for the other films. To start things off, I made a list of what I thought were the 16 best Football movies.  I then made four categories:
  1. My vote: Ranked the movies from 1st to last.  Giving 16 points for my favorite, down to 1 point for what I thought was the worst.
  2. General Football fans: I created a poll on 4 college football message boards, I also posted a poll to the fans and followers of Hog Database on Facebook and Twitter.  Those results were added together exactly like my vote (the movie with the most votes received 16 points and so on…).
  3. Film Critic: I used Roger Ebert’s reviews when available and rewarded points based on his star system. Each 1/2 star would earn the movie 2 points… so a **** movie would earn 16 points.
  4. General Movie Fans: I used the IMDB.com user rating for each movie.  The highest rated movie received 16 points….. you get the picture.
There are 16 points possible in each category so a perfect score would be 64 points.  Now for the results…

#16 – Little Giants

Summary: Kevin O’Shea (Ed O’ Neil) is an early retired Football Star, who now coaches a pee-wee league team. When Kevin excludes his niece, Becky O’Shea (dispite her being the best player), she convinces her dad Danny O’Shea (Rick Moranis) to coach a pee-wee team, and beat Kevin’s team. Danny accepts in an attempt to show Urbainia that Kevin is not invincible, and that there is another O’Shea in town. Danny picks a team of players that have never been given a chance, and Danny no-longer wants to be Second Best. - Source:  IMDB

“Rank | Points”

Me Polls Reviews IMDB Total
10 | 7 13 | 4 * | 4 14 (5.6) | 3 18 Points

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#15 – Leatherheads

Summary: Clooney plays Jimmy “Dodge” Connelly, captain of a struggling professional American football team in the 1920s (circa 1925), the Duluth Bulldogs. Dodge is determined to save both his team and pro football in general when the players lose their sponsor and the league is on the brink of collapse. He convinces a college football star, Carter “the Bullet” Rutherford, to join the Bulldogs, hoping to capitalize on Carter’s fame as a decorated hero of the First World War (like Alvin York, he single-handedly captured a large group of German soldiers).

In addition to his legendary tales of combat heroism, Carter has dashing good looks and unparalleled speed and skill on the field. As a result of his presence, both the Bulldogs and pro football in general begin to prosper…. - Source: Wikipedia

“Rank | Points”

Me Polls Reviews IMDB Total
15 | 2 16 | 1 *** | 12 10 (6.1) | 7 22 Points

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#14 – The Waterboy

Summary: 31-year-old waterboy, Bobby Boucher is constantly tormented by the team he works for until he is fired by the coach. He then finds a new coach to work for. Here he finds a new talent, tackling people by pretending they’re making fun of them. Soon, he becomes the best linebacker in college football, but he must keep it secret from his overprotective mother. – Source:  IMDB

“Rank | Points”

Me Polls Reviews IMDB Total
11 | 6 5 | 10 * | 4 13 (5.7) | 4 24 Points

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#13 – Radio

Summary: Football coach Harold Jones befriends Radio, a mentally-challenged man who becomes a student at T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, South Carolina. Their friendship extends over several decades, where Radio transforms from a shy, tormented man into an inspiration to his community. – Source: IMDB

“Rank | Points”

Me Polls Reviews IMDB Total
16 | 1 15 | 2 *** | 12 7 (6.9) | 10 25 Points

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#12 – The Best of Times

Summary: Robin Williams plays Jack Dundee, a thirty-something banker obsessed with what he considers the most shameful moment in his life; the moment that he dropped a perfectly thrown pass in the final seconds of the 1972 high school football game between Taft and their arch-nemesis, Bakersfield.

Since that game in 1972, Jack has found it impossible to forget his fumble. He works for his father-in-law, a.k.a. The Colonel, Bakersfield’s biggest supporter, at his bank, and is reminded by him almost daily, that it was his clumsiness and inability to catch a football that lost Taft its one chance for glory by finally beating Bakersfield, and how Taft would never do it again. – Source: Wikipedia

“Rank | Points”

Me Polls Reviews IMDB Total
4 | 13 12 | 5 *.5 | 6 15 (5.5) | 2 26 Points

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#11 – The Replacements

Summary: When the NFL’s Washington Sentinels goes on strike, the team’s owner, calls former NFL coach Jimmy McGinty out of retirement to coach a rag-tag team of replacement players to finish the season’s last four games. Stage left Shane Falco the team’s captain for the duration of the season is forced to shape up the misfit players whom include convenience store guard, gangster rapper brothers, former sumo wrestler, a Welsh “football” player called “The Leg”, a deaf player, a convict on a work-release program, and a tough SWAT leader. Meanwhile Falco strikes up a possible romance with the team’s cheerleading captain Annabelle Farrell. – Source: IMDB

“The Replacements” was left off the list for the message board polls, but had so many complaints that I awarded it 3 points per comment to help even things out.

“Rank | Points”

Me Polls Reviews IMDB Total
14 | 3 6 | 11 ** | 8 8 (6.1) | 8 30 Points

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#10 – Necessary Roughness

Summary: Due to NCAA sanctions, the Texas State University Fightin’ Armadillos must form a football team from their actual student body, with no scholarships to help, to play their football schedule. With fewer players than most teams, the makeshift team must overcome obstacles that the best teams in the country couldn’t deal with. Using a 34 year old quarterback, a female placekicker and a gang of misfits, Ed “Straight Arrow” Genero must take his team to play the number one Texas Colts. – Source: IMDB

“Rank | Points”

Me Polls Reviews IMDB Total
8 | 9 9 | 8 *** | 12 15 (5.5) | 2 31 Points

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#9 – The Express

Summary: This biopic focuses on the relationship of Ernie Davis (1939-1963), a gifted African-American athlete, and his coach from 1958 to 1962 at Syracuse University, Ben Schwartzwalder (1909-1993). Schwartzwalder recruits Davis with the help of All-American running back, Jim Brown. The civil rights movement is gaining steam; Davis experiences prejudice on campus, in town, and on the field, sometimes from teammates. How he handles it and how he challenges Schwartzwalder to stand up for his players provide a counterpoint to several great seasons that lead first to a national championship and then to the Heismann Trophy. – Source: IMDB

“Rank | Points”

Me Polls Reviews IMDB Total
12 | 5 14 | 3 *** | 12 4 (7.1) | 13 33 Points

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#8 – We Are Marshall

Summary: On the evening of November 14, 1970, Southern Airways Flight 932, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 which Huntington, West Virginia’s Marshall University chartered to transport the Thundering Herd football team to Greenville, North Carolina via Stallings Field in Kinston, North Carolina and back to Huntington, clipped trees on a ridge just one mile short of the runway at Tri-State Airport in Ceredo, West Virginia and crashed into a gully. The team was returning from their game against the East Carolina University Pirates — a 17–14 loss. There were no survivors. In all, 75 people lost their lives. The dead included the 37 players, head coach Rick Tolley and five members of his coaching staff, Charles E. Kautz, Marshall’s athletics director, team trainer Jim Schroer and his assistant, Donald Tackett, 22 boosters, and five crew members… – Source: Wikipedia

“Rank | Points”

Me Polls Reviews IMDB Total
13 | 4 8 | 9 ** | 8 4 (7.1) | 13 34 Points

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#7 – Varsity Blues

Summary: In small-town Texas, high school football is a religion. The head coach is deified, as long as the team is winning and 17-year-old schoolboys carry the hopes of an entire community onto the gridiron every Friday night. In his 35th year as head coach, Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight) is trying to lead his West Canaan Coyotes to their 23rd division title. When star quarterback Lance Harbor (Paul Walker) suffers an injury, the Coyotes are forced to regroup under the questionable leadership of John Moxon (James Van Der Beek), a second-string quarterback with a slightly irreverent approach to the game. “Varsity Blues” explores our obsession with sports and how teenage athletes respond to the extraordinary pressures places on them. – Source: IMDB

“Rank | Points”

Me Polls Reviews IMDB Total
7 | 10 3 | 14 ** | 8 12 (6.0) | 5 37 Points

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#6 – Invincible

Summary: In the sumer of 1976, 30-year old Vince Papale is having a tough run of luck. He’s been working as a supply teacher for two days a week but has just found out that his job has been eliminated because of budget cuts. His wife gives up on him saying he’ll never amount to anything and asks for a divorce. He works as a bartender and plays football with his friends. When the the new coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Dick Vermeil, announces that he will hold open tryouts for the team, Vince reluctantly decides to give a try. In an almost unheard of feat, he manages to make the team and enjoyed a three year career as a professional football player. Based on a true story. – Source: IMDB

“Rank | Points”

Me Polls Reviews IMDB Total
9 | 8 11 | 6 *** | 12 4 (7.1) | 13 39 Points

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#5 – Any Given Sunday

Summary: An aging football coach finds himself struggling with his personal and professional life while trying to hold his team together. A star quarterback has been knocked out of the game and a naive football player replaces him only to become exposed to the world of sports and become a danger to himself and to his players. Meanwhile, the coach finds himself constantly at battle with the team owner’s money and power hungry daughter intent on moving the team out. – Source: IMDB

“Rank | Points”

Me Polls Reviews IMDB Total
3 | 14 10 | 7 *** | 12 8 (6.6) | 9 42 Points

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#4 – The Program

Summary: The ESU Timberwolves are entering a season with high expectations after two disappointing seasons. The film begins with a loss to end the prior season, along with the school president putting pressure on Sam Winters to win this coming season or face a possible firing. Quarterback Joe Kane spends the Christmas bowl season with his alcoholic father and brother, while NFL prospect Alvin Mack gives his mother a present to go with the new house she will soon have when he turns pro. The film then follows the recruiting of Darnell Jefferson, a highly rated running back, and his eventual commitment to ESU. – Source: Wikipedia

“Rank | Points”

Me Polls Reviews IMDB Total
1 | 16 4 | 13 *** | 12 10 (6.1) | 7 48 Points

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#3 – Friday Night Lights

Summary: A straight arrow coach leads his team to the 1988 Texas state semifinals in the west Texas city of Odessa, where high school football is king. Expectations of classmates, coaches, family, and community members exact a toll on the athletes central to the story. Economic and racial undertones pervade this adaptation of H.G. Bissinger’s book by the same name. – Source: IMDB

“Rank | Points”

Me Polls Reviews IMDB Total
6 | 11 5 | 12 ***.5 | 14 3 (7.2) | 14 51 Points

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#2 – Remember the Titans

Summary: Suburban Virginia schools have been segregated for generations, in sight of the Washington Monument over the river in the nation’s capital. One Black and one White high school are closed and the students sent to T.C. Williams High School under federal mandate to integrate. The year is seen through the eyes of the football team where the man hired to coach the Black school is made head coach over the highly successful white coach. Based on the actual events of 1971, the team becomes the unifying symbol for the community as the boys and the adults learn to depend on and trust each other. – Source: IMDB

“Rank | Points”

Me Polls Reviews IMDB Total
5 | 12 1 | 16 *** | 12 1 (7.5) | 16 56 Points

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#1 – Rudy

Summary: Rudy grew up in a steel mill town where most people ended up working, but wanted to play football at Notre Dame instead. There were only a couple of problems. His grades were a little low, his athletic skills were poor, and he was only half the size of the other players. But he had the drive and the spirit of 5 people and has set his sights upon joining the team. – Source: IMDB

“Rank | Points”

Me Polls Reviews IMDB Total
2 | 15 2 | 15 ***.5 | 14 2 (7.3) | 15 59 Points

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I started Hog Database (originally called Razorback Legacy) in April 2005 as an Arkansas Razorback photo archive. It has grown into a site covering all aspects of Arkansas Football. Follow me on Google+ or on Twitter @HogDatabase.

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