Tap to Read ➤

10 Best American Football Movies of All Time

Rashmi Sunder
For those of you who can't get enough of football, a movie based on your favorite sport is the Holy Grail. And in the history of such movies, spanning more than 90 years, there have been many classic movies that have been made. This story brings you the best American football movies of all time.

Double the Fun!

The movie "Friday Night Lights" was later made into a TV show of the same name that enjoyed the same commercial success, and garnered numerous awards and nominations like its movie counterpart.
American football is one of the most viewed and enjoyed sports in the country, and it is no surprise when film producers bank in on the idea of providing people with entertainment based on one of their favorite games.
They might be based on true stories, showed in a more lighthearted fun manner, or even in a way that can captivate and inspire you, making you fall deeper in love with the game.

So we bring you the list of 10 such movies that have captured the essence of the sport and all its elements in an entertaining form.



Director: Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor

Year: 1925

Starring: Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Brooks Benedict, Hazel Keener, Joseph Harrington, Pat Harmon.
Description: This is a comedy movie that is based on the story of Harold, a boy so taken by his movie idol from "The College Hero" that he imitates his gestures and takes the same nickname. His aim is to be popular, and he thinks he is, but he is secretly mocked by his college mates.
He eventually joins the football team, and proves himself by winning an important game. "The Freshman" was the first movie in history that was based on American football and is credited with bringing the concept into the industry and popularizing it.
It is #65 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs list of 2000, and it was one of the first 50 films to be voted to be preserved in the National Film Registry as a historical piece by the Library of Congress.


Director: Buzz Kulik

Year: 1971

Starring: James Caan, Billy Dee Williams, Jack Warden, Shelley Fabares, Judy Pace, Bernie Casey, David Huddleston, Ron Feinberg, Chicago Bears.
Description: The movie is based on the true life story of Brian Piccolo of the Chicago Bears and his battle with cancer, told through the eyes of his friend and teammate, Gale Sayers.
It is a moving tale of the man, told in a restrained, mature way. It was originally an ABC Movie of the Week, which was later screened by Columbia Pictures owing to its success. It has 8 awards, including the Emmys, The Directors Guild of America Award, PGA Awards, Peabody Award and the TV Land Award, and 14 nominations to its name.


Director: Robert Aldrich
Year: 1974

Starring: Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, James Hampton, Bernadette Peters.
Description: It is another comedy film, and is based on Paul Crewe (Reynolds), a former football quarterback, who is now in prison. He is convinced by a guard, who is a football fan, to start his own prison team to play against the guards. He does so and goes on to win.
The Longest Yard was remade again in 2005 with Adam Sandler playing Crewe and Reynolds playing the coach. It was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Picture-Musical or Comedy, Best Actor-Musical or Comedy, and 2 Golden Globe nominations: Best Supporting Actor for Eddie Albert and New Star of the Year for James Hampton.


Director: Warren Beatty and Buck Henry

Year: 1978

Starring: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, James Mason, Jack Warden, Charles Grodin, Dyan Canno.
Description: The movie is based on the life of Joe Peddleton who plays for the Los Angeles Rams and dreams of playing in the Super Bowl. He meets with an unfortunate accident, and his soul is extracted way before time by an angel.
To make up for the mistake, in the afterlife, a man named Mr. Jordan allows him to choose a new body (his was cremated), upon which he chooses that of a millionaire Leo Farmsworth, who was trying to be killed by his wife, who in turn was having an affair with his secretary.
The two are surprised when he returns alive. He buys the Los Angeles Rams and convinces his old coach to get him back in shape to play. He does so, and in the meantime, he meets Betty, whom he is falling for, but who doesn't like his policies (read: the old Farmsworth). He is killed again by the 2 conspirators.
Thomas Jarrett, another QB for the Rams, also dies on field, and whose body Joe finally takes and wins the match. He meets Betty again, and they seem to be falling in love, with the sense of déjà vu that they had known each other.
The movie has won the Oscar for Best Art Direction, and nominated for the Oscars for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Cinematographer, Best Music, Best Director, Original Score, and Best Writing.


Director: Ted Kotcheff

Year: 1979

Starring: Nick Nolte, Mac Davis, Charles Durning, Dayle Haddon, Bo Svenson, John Matuszak, Steve Forrest, G. D. Spradlin, Dabney Coleman, Savannah Smith Boucher.
Description: The story is based on Peter Dent's novel by the same name. It follows the life of a football team in Texas, which resembles the Dallas Cowboys slightly. It displays the substance abuse and party lifestyle of athletes that was prominent back in those days.
The movie is considered to be part comedy, part drama, and part satire that was bold enough to discuss an important issue that was largely prevalent in the sport back then.


Director: David Anspaugh

Year: 1993

Starring: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty, Charles S. Dutton, Lili Taylor, Jason Miller.
Description: It is based on the true life story of Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, who despite his shortcomings, had always dreamed of playing college football for the University of Notre Dame. He works hard, while battling dyslexia, monetary setbacks, and a lack of panache for playing at such a high level.
He studies hard at Holy Cross College and gets transferred to Notre Dame in his final semester. Then Coach Parseghian allows him to suit up for one game but is replaced in 1974 by former NFL coach Dan Devine.
He doesn't allow Rudy to be a part of the team, but after all his teammates side him by going and leaving their jerseys on the coach's desk and asking him to put Rudy back on, he finally agrees.
After the team leads 17-3 in a game, he is not allowed to play still.
After a chant by the team to put him on, the coach denies and calls for a victory formation, which the other team ignores and scores a touchdown. This allows for Rudy to get back on the team and make the roster of Notre Dame players. He is sent up to play in the final kickoff, where he sacks the Georgia Tech Quarterback.
It is said that he was the only player of Notre Dame to be carried off the field by his teammates (1975) and that there has been no one since. The American Film association has nominated Rudy Ruettiger as Hero in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains, And "Rudy" for Sports film in AFI's 10 Top 10, and is #54 on their 100 Years... 100 Cheers category.


Director: Oliver Stone

Year: 1999

Starring: Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, James Woods, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J, Aaron Eckhart.
Description: Based on the fictional Miami Sharks, it's the story of a team that was once on top, but is now slowly fading away in importance and struggling to make it to the playoffs. The Head Coach Tony D'Amato has a fallout with the new owner of the team and is expected to be succeeded soon by offensive coordinator Nick Crozier.
The story shifts to quarterback Beamen who is disrespectful of the coach and his plays, and sets up his own plays during the playoffs. But his tactics work, and they win three games of the last four. This leads to a growing sense of pride and narcissism. When confronted by the coaches and demoted as a player, he goes into withdrawal.
After seeing his team's performance fall again, he makes amends and is put back on. They win the finals. The clincher comes when D'Amato, who is expected to retire, says he has been asked to coach the expansion team in New Mexico and steals the star QB Beamen to join him, which angers the Sharks' management.


Director: Boaz Yakin

Year: 2000

Starring: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Donald Faison, Nicole Ari Parker, Wood Harris.
Description: Remember the Titans is based on the true life story of the efforts of African-American Coach Herman Boone who forms a team of mixed race into the T.C. Williams High School. Despite their differences, they come together and go on to be undefeated in the season & are slowly accepted by the people. It has won 8 awards, & has 25 nominations in all.


Director: Peter Berg

Year: 2004

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Derek Luke, Jay Hernandez, Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund, Tim McGraw, Lee Jackson, Lee Thompson Young, Connie Britton, Amber Heard.
Description: Based on a book by H.G. Bissinger, it follows the lives of the high school football team and the people of Odessa, Texas who follow them religiously. It covers their runs for the entire season of 1988. It has won the Best Sports Movie ESPY Award and is ranked #37 on Entertainment Weekly's list of Best High School Movies.


Director: John Lee Hancock

Year: 2009

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Kathy Bates.
Description: It is a semi-biographical sports drama film based on the story of Michael Oher, who plays for the NFL team, the Tennessee Titans. It documents his life, starting from his poverty-stricken childhood, to his high school days, his adoption by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy and how he ended up being drafted into the NFL.
He is one of the leading players in the league and in 2014, received a renewed contract for $20 million to play with the Tennessee Titans.
It has won the Oscar Award for Best Actress and nomination for Best Picture, The Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, the Critics Choice Award for Best Actress, the ESPY Award for Best Actress,
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role, People's Choice Award for Favorite Movie Actress, and Teen Choice Awards 2010 for Best Actress and Favorite Drama Movie, and 3 other nominations.
As long as there are sports and movie lovers, there will be movies that bring you the best of both worlds. For now, these are at the top of their list in their respective category for bringing us a different insight into the world of American football.