football movie
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18 Greatest Football Movies of All Time, According to Fans and Critics

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Football films can inspire, enrage, or wrestle tears from the eyes of those who watch them. Some are sad and sappy, others are intense and hard-hitting. At their very best, however, football flicks transcend the sport and highlight the greatest features of the human condition: courage, perseverance, integrity, teamwork. Like all art, movies, of course, are subjective. To remove personal bias, Cheapism ranked the best football movies based on their Metascores from the movie review site Metacritic. Here's a look at the gridiron classics old and new that have embedded themselves into American culture — and for all the Ronald Reagan buffs who will be upset that "Knute Rockne All American" didn't make it onto the list, relax. No dig at the Gipper. The film just doesn't have a Metascore.

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The Replacements
Amazon

The Replacements

Metascore: 30
"The Replacements" was panned by critics but loved by movie buffs. The proof is in its bright-green Metacritic User Score of 8.6, which takes some of the sting out of its unfairly miserable Metascore. Yes, the characters are clichéd. Yes, the outcome is obvious. But the tale of a coach tasked with building a football team in just one week to replace striking players is a fun and exciting ride — plus you get Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman at the same time.

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The Waterboy
Amazon

The Waterboy

Metascore: 41
There's a common misconception that Adam Sandler's run of ridiculously premised and ridiculously profitable '90s comedies peaked with "Happy Gilmore." For many, however, Sandler reached his zenith with another sports comedy: "The Waterboy." There's no Bob Barker fistfight scene in the latter like there is in the former, but there are memorable performances from Kathy Bates, Henry Winkler, and a Col. Sanders look-alike. The critics reviled the film about a man-child waterboy whose uncanny ability to lay down bone-crushing tackles elevates him to the status of football star. Like "The Replacements," however, the critics were out of touch with the masses as "The Waterboy" cleans up with an enviable 8.0 User Score. 

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Wildcats
Amazon

Wildcats

Metascore: 41
"Wildcats" doesn't top many best-of lists, and the 1986 comedy certainly wasn't the first to use sports as a backdrop for tackling issues of sexism, racial prejudice, and economic disparity. The ending is predictable and jock-strap humor dominates throughout, as does the familiar football-flick trope of protagonists from different worlds learning that their similarities are more powerful than their differences. Goldie Hawn, however, is dynamite as an upstart coach out to prove that women can do it, too — even a preppy white woman in a poor, urban, minority-majority high school. Also, "Wildcats" stands out as the very first credited movie roles for both Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, which combined is enough to carry the day.

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Remember the Titans
Amazon

Remember the Titans

Metascore: 48
Here, too, a sub-50 Metascore is counterweighted with a standout User Score of 8.5. Denzel Washington dazzles with his usual intensity as the coach of a team in a newly integrated Virginia school. It's a Disney flick, so the heavy, complex subject matter is simplified into a struggle of good vs. bad, but it's an undeniably inspirational saga about sports transcending painful off-field issues. In the end, this isn't "Wildcats" or "The Waterboy," which are throwaway films whose value is subjective. Here, the critics are simply wrong."Remember the Titans" is almost universally regarded by sports movie buffs as a classic.

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Varsity Blues
Amazon

Varsity Blues

Metascore: 50
In"Varsity Blues," a quarterback controversy grips a part of Texas where football is more important than just about anything else. When the starter is hurt, an overmatched backup is forced to take the helm, only to learn that he's expected to carry not just his team, but his whole town on his shoulders. For a flick populated by teen heartthrobs and created by MTV, "Varsity Blues" carries its weight and then some.

Any Given Sunday
Amazon

Any Given Sunday

Metascore: 52
The critics were lukewarm to "Any Given Sunday," although, as with so many others, real-world viewers tend to disagree. Powered by sharp performances from talent like Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, James Woods, LL Cool J, and Jamie Foxx — not to mention a guy named Oliver Stone behind both the camera and the script — "Any Given Sunday" stands near the top of the pack of the blizzard of football flicks that came out in the late '90s. Stone uses the movie as a vehicle to examine modern society through the lens of sports.

The Blind Side
Amazon

The Blind Side

Metascore: 53
Some pilloried"The Blind Side" as a predictable and cliched mistelling of a true story that could have stood on its own two feet — but it's the white savior complex that tarnished the film more than anything else. In the end, however, Sandra Bullock cleaned up, winning the Oscar for Best Actress — "The Blind Side" was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, too — as well as a Golden Globe and SAG Award for Best Actress. The film tells the tale of a rich socialite who takes a consummately talented but homeless and ostracized football star under her wing and into her home. That same year, Bullock also won the Razzie award for "All About Steve" in which she was named Worst Actress and Worst On-Screen Couple (with Bradley Cooper), making her one of the rare celebrities to win an Oscar and a Razzie in the same year.

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We Are Marshall
Amazon

We Are Marshall

Metascore: 53
Matthew McConaughey hams up his drawl as always in the gridiron tearjerker"We Are Marshall," but unlike most of his movies, the studly star manages to keep his shirt on throughout much of the film. It's based on the true story of Jack Lengyel, a coach tasked with the unenviable job of rebuilding the Marshall University football program after dozens of players, coaches, and supporting staff were killed in a plane crash in 1970. Following a familiar theme, regular viewers were much kinder than the critics.


Concussion
Amazon

Concussion

Metascore: 55
This timely and tragic tale tells the story of a doctor who discovered the connection between football and brain trauma only to face the wrath of one of the wealthiest and most powerful organizations on Earth: the NFL. In the well-acted and socially significant film, Will Smith delivers in"Concussion" — as do the script's writers. Like every single film on this list so far, viewers were more impressed than the critics.

The Express
Amazon

The Express

Metascore: 58
"The Express" flopped in theaters, and it's one of the least-known titles on this list. It also happens to be one of the greatest — and certainly most unsung and underrated — football movies ever made. It chronicles the extraordinary life of Ernie Davis and his fight for respect as the first black player to win the Heisman Trophy. Viewers give it a shining 8.2 User Score, which is much more appropriate than the tepid Metascore the critics handle it.

The Longest Yard (1974)
Amazon

The Longest Yard (1974)

Metascore: 61
Although Burt Reynolds returned for the 2005 reboot with Adam Sandler and The Rock,"The Longest Yard" is like the Aretha Franklin hit that came out in the exact same year: Ain't nothing like the real thing. Adored by both critics and viewers alike, the classic football film tells the story of prisoners forced to play against their jailers in a lopsided matchup designed to brutalize the inmates.

Invincible
Amazon

Invincible

Metascore: 63
Blue-collar work ethic. Philadelphia grit. Mark Wahlberg. These are the ingredients that make good football movies great. Like so many gridiron flicks that came before,"Invincible" is based on a true story, but also like the rest, it's based very, very loosely on that truth. Wahlberg plays real-life South Philly hero Vince Papale, a 30-year-old walk-on underdog whose stick-to-it-iveness and never-say-die attitude earned him a spot on the Eagles starting lineup.

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Semi-Tough
Amazon

Semi-Tough

Metascore: 68
Burt Reynolds, once again, brings the noise in the fan favorite — only this time he's flanked by Carl Weathers and Kris Kristofferson."Semi-Tough" is a raunchy, fun satire on the American notion of winning at all costs. It also features a fantastic love triangle that delivers both laughs and sentimentality.

Friday Night Lights
Amazon

Friday Night Lights

Metascore: 70
Billy Bob Thornton shines in this tale about a Texas town's unhealthy obsession with football. Widely considered to be one of the greatest football movies as well as one of the great high school movies and one of the best Texas-themed movies all at the same time, "Friday Night Lights" reminds the viewer that it's the players, not the game that's important.

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Rudy
Amazon

Rudy

Metascore: 71
In any list about football movies, all roads will eventually lead to "Rudy." Depending on who you ask, the familiar story of Sean Astin's Rudy Ruettiger is either a sappy and sentimental romanticization that mangles an otherwise good true story and feeds into the self-aggrandizing mythology of Notre Dame — or it's the greatest football movie ever made. Or the best sports movie ever made. Or the best movie ever made. Love it or hate it, the masses have spoken, and "Rudy" has come to define the spirit of perseverance and heart as the antidote to any and all obstacles. It remains at or near the top of most best-of football-movie lists.

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Undefeated
Amazon

Undefeated

Metascore: 71
One of the longest losing streaks in the history of athletics is broken in"Undefeated." The ultimate underdog story, the film follows the long, sad history of the Manassas squad, who had gotten so used to empty stands and losing records that they actually auctioned off their home games — until a new coach with a new attitude came to town to turn things around. 


Jerry Maguire
Amazon

Jerry Maguire

Metascore: 77
Some accused Cameron Crowe's"Jerry Maguire" of blending sports intensity with rom/com sap for the sake of date-night genre compromise. But the movie is much more than that — and it's much more than "show me the money!" Defined by buzzing chemistry between Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., Regina King, and Renée Zellweger — all of whom deliver career performances at the peak of their careers — "Jerry Maguire" is an Oscar winner that stands the test of time by going far beyond just football with themes like love, greed, loyalty, integrity, and pride.

North Dallas Forty
Amazon

North Dallas Forty

Metascore: 80
"North Dallas Forty" remains one of the most — if not the most — beloved football movies ever committed to film. Metacritic is not Rotten Tomatoes. Climbing to 80 is an impressive feat and one that "North Dallas Forty" earned and then some. The 1979 classic is based loosely — very loosely — on the real-life 1970 Dallas Cowboys and chronicles life as a pro football star in that glorious era. Nick Nolte is at his best, likewise for Bo Svenson and Charles Durning.

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