By Renato Vieira
Super Bowl Sunday is already a few months in the past and for some no tears shall be shed over missing the clash between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. Although this particular game might not have produced any memorable moments, the sport itself is synonymous with passion, audacity, sacrifice – with an inescapable glory for the winners and gloom for the losers. For those not paying attention, this is a chop-licking recipe for Hollywood to produce football tearjerkers with narratives that hit close to home, or going with comedies that make us wish that some actors went back to their old form (spoiler: “The Waterboy” is on the list).
Here’s a rundown of the best five NFL movies, a sports-movie subgenre that has given some of the most memorable characters and cinematic moments tailored to be passed down from generation to generation. In no particular order, here are our suggestions to hold you off until the start of the football season and NFL bets.
“The Blind Side” (2009)
Sandra Bullock took home the gold when she won the Oscar for her portrayal of a mother who gave a chance at life to Michael Oher, an African-American teenager with a huge talent for football who was being overshadowed by his difficult upbringing. This is a story that follows Oher’s journey from being homeless to attaining stardom in football (picked by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft), only possible when people are altruistic enough to put themselves in uncomfortable moments to help others achieve their true potential and get a second chance at life.
A truly great movie about growth, written and directed by John Lee Hancock, inspired by author Michael Lewis’ best-seller “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.”
“Any Given Sunday” (1999)
“Any Given Sunday” does what many movies should aspire to do: be relevant decades later. This thrilling and fast-paced almost- three-hour movie is a true statement about what the world of professional football really is, with all its raw emotions and “inconveniences” – such as injuries, drugs, all sorts of personal drama and the ever-present corruption. It might not be the most realistic football movie, but it pays its dues with long scenes on the field, instead of the usual quick cuts and highlights.
Oliver Stone directs a cast that includes Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz, all capable of capturing the true spirit of clashing egos and larger than life personalities. And let’s not forget what is considered by many to be the greatest locker room speech ever, delivered by Pacino.
The Waterboy (1998)
Maybe “The Waterboy” hasn’t aged gracefully, mainly because we’re in a time when the consequences of hard-impact sports are being heavily scrutinized, but that doesn’t stop this from being one of the best Adam Sandler movies ever — perhaps only being bested by Sandler’s “Happy Gilmore.”
All it took was a little rage-inducement and a keen eye from coach Klein (Henry Winkler) to get Bobby going from being a ridiculed water boy to a beast of a starting linebacker – taking him all the way to the championship. As a sidelight, we’re presented with cameos from a few NFL legends. If we consider inflation, this is Sandler’s highest-grossing movie!
“Remember the Titans” (2000)
We already mentioned Al Pacino’s passionate locker room speech in “Any Given Sunday” but you simply can’t turn away from mentioning Denzel Washington’s (coach Herman Boone) charisma and authority when driving inspiration into the hearts of athletes, guiding them to become a solid unit. “Remember the Titans” is based on true events and is about overcoming racial prejudice in a high school in 1970s Virginia.
Washington delivers such a great performance that it’s hard to deny this movie as an instant classic, which also packs great football scenes and up-and-coming stars Ryan Gosling and Hayden Panettiere.
“North Dallas Forty” (1979)
Taking inspiration from the 1970s Dallas Cowboys, “North Dallas Forty” doesn’t sugar coat what happens in the world of professional football, on or off the field. We get a glimmer of the treatment of players as disposable commodities, the impact of drugs and sex — the dark culture that surrounds the sport as a whole.
Peter Gent, a former wide receiver for the Cowboys in the 60s, is the author of the source material for this movie, considered now one of the best sports movies ever made, with a great starring turn by Nick Nolte.