The Seven Best Football Movies Ever

The NFL regular season starts tomorrow night and football fans can barely contain their glee. 


They've waited out a long, hot summer fraught with player trades, contract negotiations, and the possibility of an owners lockout. They're more ready than ever to cheer on their favorite teams over the next few months.

When they aren't cheering on their respective teams to gridiron glory, pigskin fanatics are known to debate which football flicks are the best. 

Hollywood's certainly produced plenty of films about football over the years, but there are seven that lead the pack ... 

M*A*S*H (1970)
Rundown: While not a football movie per se, the latter third of Robert Altman's award-winning counterculture comedy about madcap doctors running a Korean War-era mobile Army hospital features the surgeons of the 4077th M*A*S*H involved in an equally madcap game of pigskin.
Why it's one of the best: Besides being laced with sexual innuendo, profanity, and drug use (making it firmly a product of the early 70s), the football scenes are filled with some thrilling gridiron action, including a comical come-from-behind win by Hawkeye Piece and company. Johnny Mandel's rousing score makes it even better.
Memorable quote: "All right, bud, this time your fucking head is coming right off!"

The Waterboy (1998)
Rundown: Adam Sandler stars as Bobby' Boucher Jr., an idiot savant who parlays his bouts of animalistic rage into killer tackles on the football field. Despite the demands of his overprotective and god-fearing mother, Boucher helps lead the fictional South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs to glory and the Bourbon Bowl.
Why it's one of the best: Although Sandler made a mint out of playing underachieving manchildren (see: Billy Madison, Big Daddy, et al.) early on in his career, the comedian provides one of his funniest performances, as does Henry Winkler as the wussy SCLSU coach. Plus, the film helped paved the way for other "outsiders as football savants" flicks like The Blindside and Radio and introduced the catchphrase "You can do it!" to the common vernacular.
Memorable quote: "Everything is the devil to you, mama! Well, I like school, and I like football! And I'm gonna keep doin' them both because they make me feel good!"

Jerry Maguire (1996)
Rundown: Tom Cruise plays a sleazy sports agent who gets fired after developing a conscience, strikes out on his own with his only celebrity client, and finds redemption. Cuba Gooding Jr. also stars as Rod Tidwell, a NFL superstar who plays for the Arizona Cardinals.
Why it's one of the best: Besides being the only big screen portrayal of the Cardinals and ASU's Sun Devil Stadium, Cameron Crowe's comedy offers a behind-the-scenes look at the football, as well as great performances by both Cruise and Gooding (who won an Oscar for his performance).
Memorable quote: "Show me the money"

Any Given Sunday (1999)
Rundown: Oliver Stone's fast-paced, hard-hitting football flick features Al Pacino as the head coach of the Miami Sharks, who must deal with an over-demanding team owner (played by Cameron Diaz), and a roster of pompous, overpaid players (including aging quarterback portrayed by Dennis Quaid).
Why it's one of the best: Almost every scene in this award-winner zings with energy and drama, whether it's the realistic plays being unleashed on the football field or the angst-ridden dialogue taking place in either the board room and locker room.
Memorable quote: "On any given Sunday you're gonna win or you're gonna lose. The point is -- can you win or lose like a man?"

Friday Night Lights (2004)
Rundown: Much like any other small town in the Lone Star State, high school football is a major deal in the tiny hamlet of Odessa, Texas. The city's Permian High Panthers have one of the state's greatest programs, but suffers a major setback when their handsome quarterback is injured during the first game of the season.
Why it's one of the best: H.G. Bissinger's bestseller perfectly captures the football fever that grips Texas each and every fall, as does Peter Berg's film version. It has everything that classic high school pigskin films should have, ranging from inspirational speeches to an epic championship win.
Memorable quote: "Gentlemen, the hopes and dreams of an entire town are riding on your shoulders. You may never matter again in your life as much as you do right now."

The Longest Yard (1974)
Rundown: Burt Reynolds plays a former pro quarterback who gets sent to prison for wrecking his girlfriend's car and leads his fellow inmates in a football game against the guards.
Why it's one of the best: Forget watching the miserable 2005 remake starring Sandler and Chris Rock, as the original is a far better film. Reynolds was in full pimp mode (complete with epic sideburns) in this 1970s classic. Numerous NFL greats also star, including Ray Nitschke from the Green Bay Packers and quarterback Joe Kapp of the Minnesota Vikings.
Memorable quote: "The most important thing to remember is -- to protect your quarterback. ME!"

Rudy (1993)
Rundown: Long before he played a hobbit in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Sean Astin starred as the quintessential underdog in this true-life story of Notre Dame football hopeful Daniel E. 'Rudy' Ruettiger.
Why it's one of the best: Football is often times a game of determination, and they don't build players more single-minded than Rudy Ruettiger. High school guidance counselors love showing this movie to help motivate their students, but with good reason: It's an inspiring tale with a crowd-pleasing ending that features the hero getting carried off the field by his teammates.
Memorable quote: "Well, you know what my dad always said, Having dreams is what makes life tolerable."


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