Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Football, Fall, and Film - My Favorite Football Movies

Movie poster for "Undefeated"

Autumn is in the air, and that means football! I live in Utah, where football stadiums are graced with views of the Rocky Mountains carpeted in trees turning red and gold this time of year. It is a beautiful sight, and makes for some wonderful evenings watching football. I also like watching football movies.

I just watched the 2012 Academy Award winning documentary, Undefeated.  What a movie! If you aren't familiar with this one, get into the spirit of fall football and catch this uplifting story. Bill Courtney volunteers, that's right, folks, volunteers for six years to coach the Manassas Tigers high school football team in North Memphis, Tennessee. To say that this football program is struggling is an understatement. After the closing of a Firestone factory, this part of town dies. The football team has not won a game in years. Enter Bill Courtney. For some reason not explained in the documentary, he wants to coach this team.  And in six years, he builds a program, and more importantly, he builds young men. 

Coach Bill Courtney (left) on the field.

This film follows Coach Courtney and the players, particularly OC Brown, Montrail "Money" Brown, and Chavis Daniels. All of these young men have struggles. OC has the potential to play college ball, if he can make the grades. Chavis is returning to the team after missing his sophomore year serving time, and Money suffers an injury that takes him out of the game. Will he be able to return before the end of the season? I am not giving any spoilers here, but taking the journey with these kids has some nice pay-offs at the end. Filmmakers Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin do a marvelous job of making the viewer care about these players, this coach, and this team. I found myself pulling for these kids to make it not just in football, but in life, and there were moments when I found my eyes tearing up. At the beginning of the film, Coach Courtney says:
"The foundation has got to be a solid platform that you can stand on and speak to these kids and say this is the way you build yourself. If you build yourself this way and handle yourself this way, and have character, you get to play football. And winning will take care of itself because young men of character and discipline and commitment end up winning in life and they end up winning in football. But when you flip it, and the foundation of what you are doing is football, and then you hope all that other stuff follows, well then you think football builds character which it does not. Football reveals character."
Amen, Coach. And thanks to all involved for giving us this uplifting story!

Can't get enough football? Check out my other favorite football movies (they are all based on true stories).

Movie poster for "The Blindside"

The Blindside tells the story of Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, and how they take Michael Oher out of foster care and him part of their family. It is an amazing story of reaching out to save a fellow human being. Michael experiences stable home and family life for the first time, and is able to get through high school and make it to college with the love and support of this family.  I am always amazed that one family can open their hearts and their home and make such a difference. 

Quinton Aaron portrays Michael Oher in the movie, The Blindside

The movie features the acting talents of Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy and Kathy Bates as Michael's tutor. Oher has spent most of his upbringing in foster care, the son of a mother struggling with addiction. When he is enrolled in a different school, mostly for his athletic ability since his academics are lagging behind, his life begins to change. He is befriended by the Tuohy family, and is eventually adopted by them. Football is a sideline in this tender story. As you may know, Michael Oher went on to play in the NFL. The Blindside is rated PG-13.

Real-life family: Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, Michael Oher, Collins and Sean Jr.

Remember The Titans movie poster

Who doesn't love Denzel Washington in Remember The Titans? This 2000 movie tells the story of coach Herman Boone (Washington) who became the coach of racially segregated T.C. Williams High School in the 1970s. It is a difficult task to integrate the football team, and the story is engaging. Although the movie received mixed reviews, it is an appropriate vehicle to introduce civil rights and racial and social issues in a family setting. It also has some nice football moments. And did I mention it has Denzel Washington? Remember the Titans  is rated PG.

Image from Remember The Titans

The first time I saw Invincible, I remember thinking "these people are always in a bar!" Maybe I was hyper-sensitive to that because I had my kids with me at the time. The movie ran recently on TV, and I found myself watching it again. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this film!

movie poster for Invincible

Invincible tells the story of Vince Papale who, at age 30, becomes a Philadelphia Eagle. The movie version has Papale (played by Mark Wahlberg) as a bartender who rather miraculously impresses the Philadelphia coaches at an open tryout and makes the team. In reality, Papale had been playing semi-pro ball, so making the team in real life was not quite the leap it is in the film. Still, to have a 30 year old achieve his NFL dream when many people would have written him off due to his age is a wonderful story. The likable Greg Kinnear plays Eagles coach Dick Vermeil. Invincible is rated PG.

Mark Wahlberg as Vince Papale in Invincible

Lastly, I liked the movie We Are Marshall. This is a story of rising out of tragedy.

movie poster for We Are Marshall

In 1970, a plane crash killed all 75 people on board, including 37 members of the Marshall University football team, several coaches, trainers, and the athletic director. Football boosters and airline crew members also died. It was a horrible event. According to the film, Marshall University considered suspending its football program after the crash. As you can imagine, losing that many people in your football program would be pretty devastating. However, there were still players on the team (many new players who had not made the trip), and the university makes the difficult decision to hire a new coach and move forward. This movie tells the story of healing and rebuilding in the wake of the crash. Matthew McConaughey stars as the new football coach at Marshall, and Matthew Fox plays his assistant. I found myself rooting for this school and this program to rebuild and get past their grief after this tragic event. We Are Marshall is rated PG.

Matthew McConaughey leads the charge in We Are Marshall

There you have it--my football film picks for this fall! All of these movies are fairly family friendly. The documentary is not rated, and does have some language. But it also has a coach admonishing his players and asking them not to make him mad enough to swear at them again, since he had to go home and pray for forgiveness! All of these movies have positive messages about life, not just football.

What are your favorite football movies?


  1. I have yet to see Undefeated, but I love the rest of your choices!!

    1. Thanks, Annicka! I was able to get Undefeated via Redbox, and it was definitely worth it.

  2. Ahh, I love football season and I loved ALL of these movies

    1. They are good movies, aren't they? Enjoy football season!