The 27 Best Movies About Football

Looking for a football movie binge? We put together a list of the best football movies of all time:

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Football movies for kids and adults

1. “Little Giants” (1994), PG.

Little giants, football movies

Rick Moranis and Ed O’Neill star in this family-friendly comedy as the O’Shea brothers. O’Neill’s Kevin is a former football star and successful business owner in their Ohio hometown. Moranis’s Danny is the younger brother who never starred as an athlete and never quite made it in business. When their Pee Wee football teams square off, bragging rights for the family are at stake.

Why we love it

For a kids’ movie, there’s a lot of game action and details that any football fan would appreciate.  Plus, the kid actors who play for Moranis are just funny enough to keep the adult laughing while the kids can find themselves in at least one of the characters on the team.

2. “Remember the Titans” (2000), PG. Denzel Washington, Will Patton.

best football movies, remember the titans

Based on a true story. In suburban Virginia, in 1971, an African-American named Herman Boone (Washington) is chosen to be head coach when two high schools integrate. The white players, loyal to their own head coach, Bill Yoast (Patton), resent the change. But Boone is the man for the job and he and Yoast learn how to make it work while also forging the players into a powerful team.

Why we love it

While there’s plenty of football action, the real story here is how the teammates accept one another, accept their situation, and lead the town and the newly-integrated high school by example. It’s a powerful story about how sports teams truly become a family.

3. “Rudy” (1993), PG. Sean Astin, Charles Dutton, Ned Beatty.

Rudy football movie

Based on a true story. Rudy Ruettiger, played by Astin, is a steel-mill kid from Illinois, in the early 70s, who dreams of playing college football, but not just anywhere. He wants to play at national powerhouse Notre Dame, who just happens to be the favorite team of his football-crazy family.

But far from being a prized recruit, Rudy doesn’t have the grades, the size, the speed, or the attention of anyone on the Notre Dame campus, academically or athletically. But, his persistence and hard work give him his shot for one moment of glory.

Why we love it

Primarily, Astin’s likeability pretty much forces you to root for the guy. Even his own family roots against him over the course of the movie, and you can see the heartbreak in his eyes through one setback after another. You want this guy to get his shot, and when he does, even the most grizzled football fans will have to fight back a tear or two. This has one of the most rewarding ends of a sports movie you will ever see.

4. “Invincible” (2006), PG. Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear.

Based on a true story. Vince Papale (Wahlberg) is a 30-yr-old bartender in Philly who loses his teacher’s job and becomes a bartender to survive. He clearly is the best player on his weekend sandlot team and manages a tryout with the Philadelphia Eagles and head coach Dick Vermeil (Kinnear).

Wanting to turn over every rock for talent, Vermeil gives Papale his shot with the Eagles team in 1976.  Papale’s incredible story wasn’t a one-year wonder, as he played three seasons and excelled on special teams.

Why we love it

We love it because every guy who ever played football wonders if he could hang with the pros. Papale actually got a shot and took full advantage of it, thereby living the dream for pretty much every football fan in America. And, Wahlberg looks the part of an undersized guy with the high motor who can make this kind of dream become reality.

5. “We Are Marshall” (2006), PG. Matthew McConaughey.

Based on a true story.  In one of the biggest tragedies in American sports history, the majority of the Marshall Thundering Herd football team and coaches perished in a plane crash in 1970. Jack Lengyel (McConaughey) is chosen as the new head coach in charge of rebuilding the program the following season. Aided by the few surviving coaches and players, Lengyel rallies the university, the town, and even the NCAA to re-create the program from the ground up.

Why we love it

As emotionally charged as the subject matter is, it’s also a great glimpse into the emotional toll that even attempting the comeback of the program had on all who participated. It proves that sometimes progress can be shown in ways that the scoreboard and win column will never accurately reflect. It’s a gut-wrenching, but fascinating look behind the scenes of the human spirit overcoming tragedy.

6. “The Express” (2008), PG. Dennis Quaid, Rob Brown.

Based on a true story. Ernie Davis (Brown) was the first African-American player to win the coveted Heisman Trophy.  The movie focuses on the relationship between Davis and Coach Schwartzwalder (Quaid, in another appearance on this list) as a talented Syracuse team tries to overcome racial problems in American society and within its own locker room.

Why we love it

This is a glimpse into what African-American players had to overcome in order to follow their athletic dreams during this crucial time in American history. Also, any football fan would welcome learning a little about Jim Brown (Davis’s teammate) during his college days as well.

Football movies for Teens and Adults

7. “All the Right Moves” (1983), R. Tom Cruise, Craig T. Nelson.

Cruise plays Stefen Djordjevic, a senior football player at fictional Ampipe High School in a gritty, western Pennsylvania steel town. Stefen, on the verge of signing a football scholarship, clashes with his overbearing Coach Nickerson (Nelson) and seemingly throws his future away.

Why we love it

The town in this movie is one of the characters. Always cloudy, rainy, and miserable-looking, these steel town players practice and play in the mud, which seems symbolically linked to the life of the men in the town’s steel mills, where likely all of the players will end up eventually.

Also, the football action in this movie looks like high school football action, not a bunch of actors bumping into each other faking actual football skills. The camera puts you right into the misery with the players on the sloppy fields of a typical high school football season.

8. “The Longest Yard” (1974), R. Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert.

Football themed movies

This is a favorite among a lot of football fans. Reynolds plays Paul Crewe, a disgraced former pro quarterback who ends up in prison. The prison just so happens to have a highly competitive team made up of prison guards. Warden Hazen (Albert) believes that Crewe should put together a team of prisoners to give his prison guard team a tough game, but Crewe declines.

Hazen figures out a way to coerce (okay, blackmail) Crewe into doing it anyway, setting up the showdown game where things aren’t totally legit thanks to Hazen. Crewe has to figure out a way to stay true to his players, keep the warden happy, and somehow redeem his own past.

Why we love it

Two words: Burt Reynolds. The most charismatic star of the 1970s actually played college football and you can tell in the football scenes that Burt knows his way around a football field. Several former pro football players portray prison guard players, but not many of today’s football fans will likely realize it. Despite the age of the movie, this has aged quite well, which would lead you to believe there was no need to remake it. But…

9. “The Longest Yard” (2005), PG-13. Adam Sandler, Burt Reynolds.

So, both movies make the list for pretty much the same reasons. Sandler takes over the Paul Crewe role from Reynolds, but the fun here is that Reynolds also stars and slides into the role of Coach Scarborough, who helps Crewe assemble and train his team of prisoners.

Why we love it

Former pro football players again portray the guards, and a few pro wrestlers put on the gear as well. Also, this version of the movie turns up the laughs thanks to several of Sandler’s co-stars from the comedy world, which is to be expected. Luckily, instead of being an afterthought, Reynolds figures into the plot heavily in the big climactic game, which is a treat for fans of the original.

10. “Varsity Blues” (1999), R. James Van Der Beek, Jon Voight, Paul Walker.

best movies about football

Lance (Walkers) is the star quarterback on his Texas high school football team. Mox (Van Der Beek) is his aloof backup who seemingly doesn’t care much for the game. Both join their teammates enjoying life as players for the ultra-successful Coach Kilmer (Voight), who rules his team and pretty much the school and town as well.

During what appears to be another promising season, Lance is lost for the season and a reluctant Mox steps in to lead the charge towards football glory yet again for a town, school, and coach who all prioritize winning over just about anything else.  Mox intends to do it his way, clashing with Kilmer all the way.

Why we love it

The player’s party every weekend. They have hot cheerleader girlfriends. They play bone-crunching football against other football-obsessed Texas towns in front of packed stadiums. In other words, this movie reminds a lot of football fans of their own memories from high school—a pretty accurate description of football life in a small town.

11. “The Best of Times” (1986), PG-13. Robin Williams, Kurt Russell.

After dropping the game-winning touchdown pass for his hometown Taft more than twenty years ago, mild-mannered Jack Dundee (Williams) still obsesses over losing the game against arch rival Bakersfield. In an attempt to rejuvenate his marriage, his life, and the life of the whole town, plus re-write history, Jack convinces his former star quarterback Reno Hightower (Russell) to re-play the game.

Why we love it

Written by Ron Shelton, who also wrote “Bull Durham,” “Blue Chips,” “Cobb,” and “Tin Cup” among other sports movies. Probably every guy who ever played a sport has dreamed of having a “do-over” game. Here we see it play out with guys in their thirties trying to get back together, get back in shape, and take just one more shot at a big victory. Russell is totally believable as a former high school star who might still have some magic in his right arm.

12. “North Dallas Forty” (1979), R. Nick Nolte, Mac Davis.

Set in the football-crazy city of Dallas in the 1970s, Nick Nolte plays a wide receiver at the end of his career, trying to keep his playing time. Mac Davis plays his teammate and star quarterback who leads the team in completions, touchdowns, parties, and women. Together they attempt to hold their team together and play well enough to bring home another championship.

Why we love it

Based on the novel by Peter Gent based on his playing days with the Dallas Cowboys of the 1970s era. Even though fictional, the scenes off the field are what make the movie interesting. What are the team meetings like? What are the team parties like? Are some of the players as wild in their personal lives as they are on the field? How do the players spend their free time? (Look for the hunting scene).

13. “Semi-Tough” (1977), R. Burt Reynolds, Kris Kristofferson, Jill Clayburgh.

football movies

Two best friends are pro football teammates and enjoying the single life except for one problem: they are both possibly in love with the same woman, who happens to be the daughter of the team owner. A few years after playing Paul Crewe, here Reynolds steps into the role of Billy Clyde Puckett (a running back) in a much more comedic role as he observes Kristofferson and Clayburgh spark a romance in the middle of the season.

Why we love it

Okay, it’s a bit dated but that is part of the charm. One of the themes of the movie involves Kristofferson trying to “find himself” via self-help programs that were as popular in the 1970s and 1980s as they are today. Reynolds spends the whole movie making fun of it all.  And, as a bonus: Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) is in it.

14. “Friday Night Lights” (2004), PG-13. Billy Bob Thornton.

top football movies

Based on a famous non-fiction book that follows a high school football season in Odessa, Texas, home of the Permian High Panthers. Is there any better plot device than a football season? Witness the highs and lows of the team, their coach (Thornton, who seems totally believable), the players, and their families.

Why we love it

Yes, it’s based on a real story, but we love it because it was filmed in West Texas in a lot of the actual locations from the book. Plus, the actors seem like a real football team and the football action seems authentic.

Thornton reminds us of a lot of high school football coaches, who try to balance perhaps what’s best for the players with the pressures of entire towns and schools obsessed with winning at all costs. It all just feels so authentic in this one.

15. “The Replacements” (2000), PG-13. Keanu Reeves, Gene Hackman.

Hackman is a coach who needs players during a pro football strike in the 1980s. Reeves is a quarterback who thinks his playing days are long over. Can they lead a bunch of misfits to some sense of respectability, even if for a few games as “scabs?” A much better movie than expected when it was released.

Why we love it

Who wouldn’t want to see John Wick play quarterback, right? And, it’s Gene Hackman as a coach who doesn’t take the easy way out and portrays the head coach as the hard-ass old taskmaster. Hackman’s portrayal of Coach McGinty is much more nuanced, which is why he’s Gene Hackman, right?

16. “The Program” (1993), R. James Caan, Omar Epps.

National powerhouse college football teams recruit from all over the country, which means teams deal with a lot of different personalities. James Caan plays Coach Winters, who built a champion that has fallen on tough times. It could be his last season unless he turns things around.

Why we love it

We love it because this one shows the dark side of major college football, that side that we all know is there. Drinking, breaking the law, steroids, grades, and the pressure on everyone to win are some of the things portrayed in the movie. Plus, Halle Berry.

17. “Draft Day” (2014), PG-13. Kevin Costner, Jennfier Garner, Denis Leary.

Costner, the king of sports movies, plays the draft guru for the Cleveland Browns. Garner plays his girlfriend who also works there as the salary cap expert. On draft day, Costner needs a big haul of quality players to rebuild his team.

He has the number one pick in the draft. Drama with his girlfriend and with his head coach (Leary). He has drama with the fans and with his owner. It’s going to be an interesting draft.

Why we love it

We love it because it’s Kevin Costner, who knows his way around a sports movie. The N.F.L. draft is one of the backdrops never really explored in a football movie, and this one nails the pressure on everyone involved. Plus, it uses the actual N.F.L. draft footage, teams, and personalities to give a much more authentic feel, which football fans will love.

18. “The Blind Side” (2009), PG-13. Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron.

Based on the real-life story of Michael Oher, a homeless teenager in Memphis who has endured a traumatic life so far. He is taken into the home of the Tuohys, led by Leigh Anne (Bullock), who sees the potential in Oher and opens her home to him, enrolls him in a prestigious prep school, and puts him on the football team. Football gives Oher his outlet for a life that he could only dream of before.

Why we love it

We love it because even though it doesn’t have the best football scenes, it’s still a real story about a real guy who overcame incalculable odds to make it in professional football. It focuses on the relationship between Leigh Anne and Oher, and that’s okay with us. Stick around during the credits for the real footage of Oher’s life on and off the field with the Tuohys.

19. “Gridiron Gang” (2006), PG-13. Dwayne Johnson, Xzibit.

Based on a true story. Johnson plays Sean Porter, a former football player and counselor at a juvenile detention center, who realizes his inner-city kids need a second chance and football can give it to them. He and assistant coach Malcom Moore (Xzibit) start a team from the ground up to give the teenagers under their care some discipline and tough love that they can carry outside the gates of their facility.

Why we love it

It shows that a universal message of how sports can transcend a lot of negative factors in the lives of young people who just need direction. Filmed early in his acting career, Johnson, a former player himself, gives a solid portrayal of a guy who saw victories that weren’t necessarily on the scoreboard for the teenagers in his care.

20. “Everybody’s All-American” (1988), R. Dennis Quaid, Jessica Lange.

A Louisiana State University All-American in the 1950s (Quaid) can’t find success in life after pro football ends. Maybe the most well written and directed movie in this entire list. It covers all the highs and lows of the relationship between Quaid and his wife (Lange) as his career starts, reaches its peak, and ultimately ends.

Why we love it

Like many movies on the list, it offers a look behind the curtain of major college and pro football. It also shows us the impact of such careers on the players as well as their loved ones. It also shows the scary side of what happens to the players after the game finally ends.

21. “Wildcats” (1986), R. Goldie Hawn.

A woman (Hawn) coaches an inner-city high school football team. What else do you need to know? Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes play two of her players. It’s a comedy. Just watch it.

Why we love it

Even in 2019, with all the social progress since this movie filmed, it’s still not very likely to find a woman head coach over an all-male, high school football team. Hawn was one of the funniest performers of her era, so just watch the movie.

22. “The Waterboy” (1998), PG-13. Adam Sandler, Kathy Bates, Henry Winkler, Jerry Reed.

The water boy for a major college football team turns out to be a tackling machine. The only problem is that he’s actually the waterboy and his overprotective mother doesn’t even want him to play the game.

Why we love it

We love it because Sandler enlists Winkler and Reed to play rival football coaches. We love it because Bates plays his back-swamp, Cajun mama who hates “the foosball.” We love it because Sandler gave Bobby Boucher to football fans all over the world.

23. “Leatherheads” (2008), PG-13. John Krasinksi, George Clooney.

One of the few movies set during the old leather helmet era of football. Clooney recruits Krasinski, a college football and war hero, to his team in order to save a pro football league from financial ruin.

Why we love it

Any movie based in the early days of professional football deserves our attention. Just seeing the game’s genesis is interesting enough to make this one interesting. Some will like the fact that Renee Zellweger plays the love interest between Clooney’s and Krasinski’s characters.

24. “Johnny Be Good” (1988), R. Anthony Michael Hall, Uma Thurman, Robert Downey Jr.

Hall plays Johnny, the most sought-after prep quarterback in the nation. Colleges will do almost anything to lure him to their teams. How does all the recruiting affect his relationship with his girlfriend (Thurman), his best friend (Downey, Jr.) and his family?

Why we love it

All football fans suspect that the very best high school football players probably go on some pretty wild and tantalizing recruiting trips. We get to see Johnny tour the country and see all the colleges roll out the red carpet for him. So, yeah, it’s probably based on true stories then, right?

25. “Any Given Sunday” (1999), R. Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx, Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz.

Quaid (on the list again) plays Cap Rooney, an aging but legendary quarterback in the Miami pro franchise. When he’s knocked out due to injury, Willie Beamen (Foxx) leaves the bench and uses his athleticism and gunslinger style to energize the team.

Pacino plays old school coach Tony D’Amato, who clashes with Beamen and has to decide if his way is better than Beamen’s off-the-cuff style. To complicate matters, Diaz inherited the team from her deceased father and would like nothing more than to fire D’Amato and start over with a new coach.

Why we love it

The plot actually represents some elements pulled straight from N.F.L. headlines. Younger coaches every year take head coach positions in pro football, and it makes all of us wonder how the older coaches hang in there in the age of analytics and fast-break offenses. Here we see how it might be playing out all over the league, behind the scenes.

26. “Concussion” (2015), PG-13. Will Smith, Alec Baldwin. Based on a true story.

If you follow football at all, you know the toll that concussions have played in post-career brain damage for many former players. Here Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovers the connection between football injuries and what we now know as CTE.

Why we love it

We love the sport of football and we also know that players, especially professionals, pay a heavy price over the years and years of contact. This movie does a great job of carefully explaining just how much damage the sport can have on a human brain.

It’s also interesting to see how much opposition is thrown Omalu’s way when he decides to publicize his findings. What would you expect from a multi-billion dollar industry, right?

27. “Necessary Roughness” (1991), PG-13. Scott Bakula, Hector Elizondo.

great movies about football

When fictional Texas State loses all its scholarships, it has to recruit players willing to play without scholarships. So, of course, you field a team full of misfits who have nothing to lose. They have a quarterback in his thirties (Bakula), a female kicker (Kathy Ireland), and a faculty member plays on the line (comedian Sinbad). Think of it as the college version of “The Replacements.”

Why we love it

Like a lot of sports movies, part of the fun is to pick out all the actors who portray players. This movie boasts Sinbad, Rob Schneider, Jason Bateman (who doesn’t love Jason Bateman?), as well as the swimsuit model Kathy Ireland as the hottest kicker ever.

Did we miss your favorite movie about football? Leave it in the comments below…

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