In honor of Super Bowl XLIX, we’ve put together a list of XLIX movies relating to football. Do whatever you have to do to get your hands on these movies and start your marathon immediately. We haven’t timed it out, but we’re pretty sure this movie playlist will carry you all the way up to kickoff, or at least cover most of the time that would otherwise be spent on inane pregame shows. If nothing else, click on the titles of each of the movies or actors below to get trailers, clips, and Wiki nuggets.
No-Nonsense Football Movies
These are the ones all about football. No muss, no fuss, everything revolves around the gridiron.
1. “Friday Night Lights” – Between the movie, the book, and the TV show, it’s pretty clear what the best examination of Texas football culture is.
2. “The Longest Yard” (original and remake) – Adam Sandler is on my list of people never to support with my box office money, so I’ve never seen his remake of “The Longest Yard.” I have, however, seen the original Burt Reynolds version at least sixteen times and I guarantee it’s superior in every way (I have no idea if it’s superior at all). – Kat Gotsick (Ed. Note: As someone who’s only seen the Sandler version, I can confirm the original is better. – Eddie Strait)
3. “Varsity Blues” – Playing Madden with my brother, he used to bust out a hilarious Johnny Moxon impression whenever someone suggested a play for him to do. At first it was forced, but by the tenth time someone told him to throw it to Javon Walker, “I don’t want your life” became the funniest thing. The movie’s pretty solid too, if you’re into that sort of thing.
4. “The Program” – Roger Ebert said this about “The Program”: ‘By the film’s end, I found myself simultaneously hoping that ESU would win its big game, and that the school would pull the plug on its football program. I guess that’s how I was supposed to feel.’ That 20 year old quote feels especially resonant with every new NCAA scandal.
5. “Crazylegs” – “Crazylegs” is one of the most ridiculous names in all football history. I feel like that nickname should be passed down every five years to keep it fresh. Having recently assumed the crown from Wes Welker, Antonio Brown is making Crazylegs as cool as the OG Elroy Hirsch. We’re now taking bets for the next player to take the throne. Odell Beckham Jr. is the favorite, but Johnny Football could pose a threat if he’s still in the league in three to four years.
6. “The Freshman” – The oldest football-centric movie I could find is “The Freshman,” from 1925, which is also the first year Dick Lebeau started coaching.
7. “The Replacements” – This is the astonishing true story of the 2014 Cleveland Browns. That it came out in 2000 makes this a landmark film of unparalleled proportions.
8. “Any Given Sunday” – Willie Beaman might actually represent the best possible outcome for Johnny Manziel’s career, but there’s a strong chance Johnny learns the wrong lessons from the movie.
9. “All the Right Moves” – Long before Coach dealt with Daubber and Luther Van Dam, Craig T. Nelson faced his toughest task in having to make Tom Cruise into a believable and believably good football player.
10. “Everybody’s All-American” – The tagline for the movie (“Their life story is a love story.”) guaranteed it a spot on this list. With a cast featuring John Goodman, Dennis Quaid, and Wayne “Newman” Knight, the movie is at least equally as good as the tagline.
11. “Leatherheads” – Rick Reilly wrote this George Clooney box office failure. It was a great idea about a mythical, real-life early football hero that’d pickup women at games and then go out boozing and fighting somewhere in Duluth, Minn. Put Clooney in that role, and that should be a smash. I saw it and it was OK, which, unfortunately for the film, was the exact quote tacked onto its promotional posters. – Ramon Ramirez
12. “The Waterboy” – If there’s anybody that looks like less of a football player than Adam Sandler, yet has starred in multiple football movies, I haven’t found them yet.
13. “Knute Rockne: All American” – Knute Rockne, who played and coached at Notre Dame in the 1920’s is credited with popularizing the modern forward pass, where the passer throws overhand, way downfield, and leads the passer so they can catch the ball in stride. He is better known for invoking a dying George Gipp to motivate his team to an underdog victory over Army. And then he himself died in a plane crash. – Kat Gotsick
14. “Necessary Roughness” featuring … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Football is Fun for the Whole Family
Is there anything more American than basking in glorious violence in front of the TV with the people you love most?
15. “The Little Giants” – If there’s one thing both “Necessary Roughness” and “Little Giants” have in common it’s that both are charmers. Both espouse the idea that it’s not about winning, but about rising to the occasion and chugging along and spitting in the face of being the last team anybody ever expected anything out of. Both films chart notions of redemption in specific ways, in “Necessary Roughness” the school is marred by a cheating scandal and they have to rebuild from the bottom up with a motley assemblage of washed up athletes past their prime, lady kickers, Samoan heavies and judo experts. In “Little Giants” it’s a story about brothers competing, as they always have, but ultimately becomes a story of reconciliation. In one scene, gruff Ed O’Neill shares a heart-to-heart with his niece Becky, who has decided to embrace her feminine side much to the chagrin of her father (Rick Moranis). What he says and how he says it really humanizes him, and it proves that we’re only invested in the O’Shea conflict because they’re brothers and we want to see the conflict played out on the grander scale of the field– and thanks specifically to this conversation, we have permission to root with our hearts instead of our heads. I can only imagine that this is what things are like in the Manning household. – Brandon Curtis
16. “Remember the Titans” – I went to see a noon showing of Remember the Titans by my lonesome in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was the only one in the theatre. When Kate Bosworth reached out her hand to shake Woods’, I sobbed loudly. When the Titans won the final, I cried unabashedly. After the funeral, I could barely read the synopses of the players’ lives. When the lights came up, it was revealed that sitting two rows behind me was an elderly black woman. As I walked out I whispered “Left side. Strong side.” She nodded. Just kidding. I walked out quickly, so she wouldn’t call me a pussy. Football movies make me cry. – Josh Klein
17. “Facing the Giants” – The key trait of all family-oriented football movies is that they drum up the inspirational element of the game. Pushing people to be better and more than they thought they can be. “Facing the Giants” is as unabashed in this regard as any. As a faith-based movie, there’s not much room for subtlety, but who needs that when you have the scene with the coach pushing a player to bear crawl “10 more yards” until he’s gone…all the way across the field!
18. “Air Bud: Golden Receiver” – “Air Bud” is the New England Patriots of the movie world. Essentially a dynasty, Air Bud has tried and conquered every sport known to canine. His football triumphs remain the most quintessential. Consider this: is it a coincidence Tom Brady is known as the Golden Boy?
19. “Invincible” – Apparently, the open tryout depicted in the movie was actually employed by the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League team, not the NFL. And also, the touchdown that Vince makes in the climactic first game of the season didn’t count, as per the rules, the ball could not be advanced. But still, it’s hard to screw up a Mark Wahlberg / Greg Kinnear / Elizabeth Banks movie. – Kat Gotsick
Between retiring favorites, brutal losses, and hare-brained conspiracy theories, football can induce tears as well as any movie. Combine the two? Magic. Hope you’re wearing your streak free eye-black.
20. “Rudy” – There’s a bylaw that states all football movies named after a character must try to make you cry above all else.
21. “Brian’s Song” – The rich man’s “Something for Joey” is “Brian’s Song.” The movie’s gameplan works on the field and on your heartstrings.
22. “Something for Joey” – The poor man’s “Brian’s Song” is “Something for Joey,” but not because it jerks any fewer tears. Based on the true story of Penn State running back and Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti, it stars Marc Singer (yes, The BeastMaster) as Cappelletti, and chronicles John’s relationship with his baby brother Joey, who suffered from leukemia. It does not have a happy ending. If you’re especially masochistic, click here to see the last ten minutes of the movie, and some of the best male ugly-crying you’ll ever see. Buy tissues. – Kat Gotsick
23. “Jerry Maguire”
• Cameron Crowe +5
• “You had me at hello.” +5
• Pre-crazy Tom Cruise +7
• Oscar-winning Cuba Gooding, Jr. performance +10
• “Shooow me the moneeeey!” +15
• Adorable Jonathan Lipnicki +30
• Renee Zellweger coming out party -1000
Football Players Can Act Too
The road to the silver screen is paved with chalk and yard markers.
24. Jim Brown – Jim Brown famously retired from football early so as to preserve his brain for line memorization. And let me tell you, as a line memorizer, he was one hell of an action star. His mainstream appeal was undeniable, and he was highly sought out for roles in “The Dirty Dozen,” “100 Rifles,” and “Mars Attacks.” Niche-wise, his blaxploitation films, like “Black Gunn,” “Slaughter,” and “Three the Hard Way” are some of the most iconic of the genre. Jim Brown = badass. – Kat Gotsick
25. Burt Reynolds – Injury kept Reynolds from making the NFL, but he’s arguably the best and/or most famous player that we have. Between “The Longest Yard,” “Deliverance,” “Smokey and the Bandit,” and “Boogie Nights” are more than enough for GOAT status, even if he did star in an Uwe Boll joint.
26. Ed O’Neill – “Little Giants” and “Blue Chips” his sports-movie credibility is established, but the real point of this pick is for Al Bundy, a legendary character whose football life was cut as tragically short as any real person.
27. The Rock – As if this list needed another cheat, this spot honors the contributions of Michael Bay’s “The Rock” along with Dwayne “Perpetually Shiny Homie” Johnson. Between Bay’s trip to Alcatraz, The Rock’s ability to deal with young girls, newfound parenthood, and miscreant youths, you basically have everything you could ever want in a football movie. We just need someone to do the superest of super cuts.
28. Terry Crews – I’ll will take any and every chance to stump for “Idiocracy,” certainly the best movie to appear anywhere on this list. Is it really easy for anyone else to imagine a world with President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho picking up the red phone to call Hale Ceasar and the rest of the Expendables?
29. Howie Long – Between “Broken Arrow,” “Firestorm,” and “#00 Miles to Graceland” Long easily has the most explosive resume on this list.
30. Carl Weathers – His filmography is as lengthy and impressive as it gets. Plus, he makes a good stew from old chicken bones and leftovers.
32. Brian Bosworth – His career in the NFL may have flamed out in a big way, but the world of film turned out to be the perfect place for his outsize personality. If there’s anything on this list that I love more than “The Last Boy Scout” it’s the Boz’s starring vehicle from 1991 “Stone Cold,” in which he gets recruited by the FBI to infiltrate a notorious biker gang led by both Lance Henriksen and William Forsythe. It’s full of explosive stunts, absurd details like the guy getting a beer can shot off his head by a machine gun, and the Boz has a pet Gila Monster or Komodo Dragon (who can tell these days). All I’m saying is there’s more backfield motion on display here than in Boz’s NFL career and, also, it’s a touchdown. – Brandon Curtis
34. Terry Bradshaw – Remember when Matthew McConaughey starred in movies like “Failure to Launch,” a movie most notable for four time Super Bowl winner Bradshaw’s inexplicable nude scene? The only thing TB’s acting career accomplished was proving once and for all what pre-game show watchers already knew: that his face is just as leathery and saggy-cheeked as his ass.
Football Adjacent Movies
Football is so awesome that movies can’t help themselves. These movies have key scenes, characters, or plot points with a pigskin connection.
35. “The Dark Knight Rises” – In a movie of remarkably sound logic, Hines Ward running a kickoff for a touchdown is a bridge too far.
36. “Black Sunday” – “Black Sunday” was the 1970’s version of Bane-destroys-Gotham-Stadium, substituting a female ex-Nazi assassin and a traumatized blimp pilot for Bane, Robert Shaw with an Israeli accent for Batman, the Orange Bowl for Gotham Stadium, Goodyear for Under Armour product placement, and real-life Lynn Swann for fake Hines Ward. – Kat Gotsick
37. “The Last Boy Scout” – While not explicitly a football picture, the sport looms large over the entire affair. The film’s central intrigue involves attempts to legalize sports gambling, a disgraced player’s girlfriend attempts to bribe a team owner to get her boyfriend’s job back, and a general sense that the standards we hold our heroes to on the field are very rarely carried over in real life. The relationships in Shane Black’s impeccably scripted buddy detective movie are rich and prickly, and they burst with an inner life I don’t often see in football films. Bruce Willis’ Joe Hallenbeck is the sort of masochist who pledges his loyalty to things most likely to let him down– his wife, his kid, the partner sleeping with his wife, a senator he slugged once and is now trying to protect from killers, and a drug addled quarterback he once idolized. Damon Wayan’s Jimmie Dix has a body ravaged by football, a pain pill addiction, a dead wife and child, and now a dead girlfriend. Both characters are severely in need of redemptive arcs and they find, in each other, a reason to care again. The funny thing about football and this move makes it clear as much as our own mania with the game does: it isn’t everything but sometimes it’s the reason we lose everything and the last thing we have left to hold on to. – Brandon Curtis
38. “Big Fan” – Patton Oswalt does the unthinkable and makes a diehard Giants’ fan sympathetic.
39. “Horsefeathers” – Football isn’t very far off from being a slapstick farce at times, so we had to make room for the brothers Marx are their shenanigans.
40. “Silver Linings Playbook” – The moment in “Silver Linings Playbook” where Solotano & Maxwell find out they’ve just averaged a 5.0 in the dance contest is actually one of the most joyful moments in competition ever shown. Also? Philadelphia Eagles. – Kat Gotsick
41. “The Faculty” – Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Williamson, Usher, Famke Janssen, Josh Hartnett, Robert Patrick, Elijah Wood, Offspring on the soundtrack; this movie oozes mid-90s cool. The football scene in this movie is so impressively violent. Every tackle results in either a flip or a body writhing on the ground, often going hand in hand. Every bone-crunching hit is met with thunderous applause from the crowd. It’s horrifying and glorying all at once.
42. “Not Another Teen Movie” – The yang to “Varsity Blues’” yin, “Not Another Teen Movie” gets a lot of mileage out of Captain America as a the stereotypical movie quarterback who just happens to be the worst player on every field he steps on.
43. “22 Jump Street” – For a fairly recent movie, “22 Jump Street” might be the movie that highlights the homoeroticism of the game. There’s even a meet-cute on the sidelines. Back pats and ass slaps all around.
44. “Boyz N the Hood” – Football, as it often is, is sometimes what we like to perceive as the saving grace of it all. For a guy like Ricky, we’re told it’s the best chance he has for a life outside of his South Central Los Angeles neighborhood. His dreams, the same ones we all had as a kid playing football, are more tangible than most. And football, for this film, is a hell of a symbol: it’s a gift bestowed upon the favorite son, a link to the father he doesn’t have anymore. And the moment Ricky loses the ball is the movie and (sometimes) football in a nutshell: seasons fade, you can hope, you can dream, and in another life you could have been great, but this is your life. Sorry to be a downer, it’s a great movie but when viewed through the prism of football– you get what you get. – Brandon Curtis
Movies with Random Football Scenes
45. “Wedding Crashers” – Worlds and bodies collide when then superstar Vince Vaughn squared off against future superstar Bradley Cooper in a friendly game of touch football. While Vaughn was getting destroyed, Owen Wilson was busy with his own gameplan. In the end, B Coop and American learned a valuable lesson, discovering what Maryland is about.
46. “Starship Troopers” – “Starship Troopers” had a football scene in it from THE FUTURE where they play on hardwood and you magically gain the power to shoulder-check anybody twenty feet across the field when you have the ball. The ball is also made of Mylar, which we all know is the futurest possible material. And Casper Van Dien plays a wideout who just casually does backflips whenever he feels like it. Like, seriously, Odell Beckham-level acrobatics just because somebody is in between him and a pass. And this is high school footbal, too. Can’t even imagine what the pros are like. In a nod to the future’s defiance of outmoded ideas on gender, the quarterback of one of the teams is played by a badass warrior lady. Conversely, in a nod to the 1990s’ rigid adherence to outmoded ideas on gender, the badass warrior lady would also go on to take off her top later in the film because this is Paul fucking Verhoven we’re talking about. – Robert Inks
47. “Napoleon Dynamite” – We’re all Uncle Rico, trying to throw that ball over a metaphorical mountain.
48. “Jarhead” – Taking a break from the doldrums of boredom in the middle of the desert, Jamie Foxx makes his troops pop on gas masks and play an impromptu football game. For a war movie, it has a really great, nicely choreographed football scene.
49. “The Wedding Ringer” – There’s very little redeeming about this movie, but there is a scene in which Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, and a bunch of other guys that look like they don’t know what a football is play a pickup game against a squad of senior citizens, led by Joe Namath, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, and John Riggins.