Ah yes, Super Bowl Sunday. And the Philadelphia Eagles are not involved. Sigh. I suppose I can try to create some sort of vested interest (nice to see an NFC East team in the big game, plus "David & Goliath" is always fun to watch), but the truth is that I'm mostly looking forward to all the new movie commercials. Don't get me wrong; I freaking love (American-style) football, but the Super Bowl seems more like pre-packaged spectacle than an actual gridiron battle. (Give me an Eagles / Redskins game any day!) And so, logically, my thoughts turn to movie-land...
Ask someone to name a great baseball movie and you'll get nine different answers. Ask someone to name a great (American-style) football movie and you'll get nine puzzled expressions. But while the NFL waits for something as lyrical as a Natural or a Field of Dreams, there's definitely some solid football flicks out there. And by "football," I mean "not soccer."
Any Given Sunday (1999) -- It's garish and indulgent and more than a little scattershot, but Oliver Stone's pulpy exposé of the American Football Machine is pretty undeniably entertaining.
The Longest Yard (1974) -- Long before it became a flat vehicle for Adam Sandler and Chris Rock, The Longest Yard was a rough, tough, and admirably gritty prison/football flick from Robert Aldrich. Try watching the two flicks back-to-back and you'll plainly understand why (and how) most remakes suck.
Semi-Tough (1977) -- Burt Reynolds returns to the gridiron (alongside Kris Kristofferson and Jill Clayburgh) in this underrated rom-com about two pro players and one cool girl. Plus it's funny. I expect a remake by 2011.
Friday Night Lights (2004) -- What could have (easily) been just another tale of hayseeds and pigskins turned out to be one of the most energetic, honest, and unexpectedly exciting sports flick in five years. The TV spin-off isn't half-bad, either!
North Dallas Forty (1979) -- Nick Nolte and Mac Davis star in this rather raunchy (but seriously amusing) semi-memoir of the early-'70s Dallas Cowboys. Plus it's got Dabney Coleman and Charles Durning, which automatically makes it good. I expect a remake by 2013.
The Best of Times (1986) / Wildcats (1986) -- A pair of very formulaic sports comedies that are salvaged with effortless grace by their lead actors. The first one is about a nerdly Robin Williams who longs for another shot at high school glory, the second one is about a plucky little Goldie Hawn who takes over a gruff and vulgar football squad. Both fun flicks, both with a small dash of actual heart.
Rudy (1993) -- What Hoosiers is to basketball, what The Natural is to baseball, what Tron is to ... Tron, David Anspaugh's Rudy is complete and total formula from beginning to end -- but it's presented with such sweetness and energy, one can easily forgive all the familiar stuff. And yes, I still get a little teary-eyed at the end. Every damn time. Damn you, Rudy!
Special mention: David Seltzer's Lucas (1986) is only tangentially "about" football, but dang it's a sweet little movie.
Honorable Mention: Everybody's All-American (1988), Jerry Maguire (1996), Brian's Song (1971), Invincible ( 2006), Remember the Titans (2000), Knute Rockne, All American (1940), All the Right Moves (1983), and (if you love the silly stuff) Necessary Roughness (1991), The Waterboy (1998), The Replacements (2000), The Program (1993), and Varsity Blues (1999). (Oh, and a choice few scenes from M*A*S*H, Forrest Gump and Flash Gordon!)
Anyway, enjoy the big game!