American football, the most popular sport in the USA, attracts a crowd of sports lovers, from stadiums to some of the best football movies on big screens. The highly spirited sport rose to fame in the last 20th century and even grabbed the attention of the silver screen. It’s not just a game.
It is a whole lot of entertainment that can bond an entire family within a space to pour the passionate love for football and the best football films. Furthermore, some real-life stories, unique team strategies, behind-the-scenes football stories of high school sports players, and a lot of dramas in the game eventually made it into the pop culture industry. There are so many options for football films to choose from but don’t get confused.
Be popcorn-ready with this list of the top 35 best football films that have inspired people for over a decade.
List of Top 35 Best Football Movies of all Time–
35. Remember the Titans
Remember the Titans Review:
Based on a true story, starring Denzel Washington as the coach Herman Boone, Remember the Titans is probably the best football film of all time, according to football fans. In the movie, a high school team is playing for the first time as a racially integrated team and an African-American man, Herman Boone, is the newly appointed coach.
The film brilliantly portrays everything from racially heated conflicts between black and white team members to their ultimate harmony and team spirit, adding some controversies and sacrifices.
- Remember The Titans Director: Boaz Yakin
- Remember The Titans Cast: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Donald Faison, Nicole Ari Parker.
34. Friday Night Lights (2004)
If you only know about the series, you are wrong. There is a film even before the television series came out, which is indeed one of the best football films on the list.
Friday Night Lights Plot:
The film is about the Texas city of Odessa and the high school football team. Coach Gary Gaines struggles to lead the Permian High School Panthers team. Still, he inspires everyone with his speech as they rise and play ahead in the state championship.
- Friday Night Lights Director: Peter Berg
- Friday Night Lights Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Garrett Hedlund, Derek Luke, Lucas Black, Jay Hernandez, Tim McGrew.
33. Any Given Sunday
Any Given Sunday Plot:
Any Given Sunday, one of the best movies, it portrays the actual struggles of sports and fame. Miami Sharks’ football team loses consecutive matches, and their veteran coach Tony D’Amato struggles with personal problems. Meanwhile, he has a fallout with the young team owner.
The star-studded film also has some cameo appearances by former American football players and a coach.
- Any Given Sunday Director: Oliver Stone
- Any Given Sunday Cast: Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx, James Woods, LL Cool J, and more.
32. Brian’s Song
Brian’s Song Plot:
This television film talks about the friendship between two unlikely football players defying their racial backgrounds. Chicago Bears football player Brian Piccolo and his teammate Gale Sayers is the first interracial teammates who were two irritable people but eventually became good friends. The film ends with a moving scene capturing the growing friendship inside and outside of football.
- Brian’s Song Director: Buzz Kulik
- Brian’s Song Cast: James Caan, Billy Dee Williams, Jack Warden
31. Gridiron Gang
Gridiron Gang Plot:
Dwayne Johnson, as Sean Porter, is completely determined to make the teenage inmates’ life better by teaching them football. He works at a juvenile detention center, picks out some of the kids, and decides to make a football team to give meaning to their lives, making them disciplined and responsible. The football story took inspiration from the real-life story of the Kilpatrick Mustangs.
- Gridiron Gang Director: Phil Joanou
- Gridiron Gang Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Xzibit, Kevin Dunn, Leon Rippy, Jade Yorker.
30. North Dallas Forty (1979)
North Dallas Forty Plot:
A brutally realistic football satire movie of an American professional football team, North Dallas Forty deals with the worst part of football. It is based on the novel by former NFL player of the Dallas Cowboys, Peter Gent. A veteran past catcher’s refusal to be part of the team’s “family” stirs up everyone.
- North Dallas Forty Director: Ted Kotcheff
- North Dallas Forty Cast: Nick Nolte, Mac Davis, Charles Durning, Dayle Haddon, Bo Svenson, John Matuszak
29. The Blind Side
Sandra Bullock stunned everyone with her brilliant performance in The Blind Side, winning her an Academy Award for Best Actress.
The Blind Side Plot:
In this biographical movie, Leigh Anne and Sean take in a big homeless kid, Michael Oher, after watching his wretched background. They found his talent in football, and, with the help of his new family, Oher overcame academic difficulties and finally became an All-American football player.
- The Blind Side Director: John Lee Hancock
- The Blind Side Cast: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Lily Collins, Jae Head, Kim Dickens, and more.
28. Varsity Blues
Varsity Blues Plot:
Set in a small town in Texas where football is the way of their life, the high school football players are under constant pressure to win every match because losing is not even an option. In the coming-of-age film, the high school star quarterback fell into a dreadful injury, losing him a football scholarship. He had to be replaced with the backup quarterback and obey the order of the overbearing coach.
Varsity Blues has drama, adolescent romance, and lots of controversies.
- Varsity Blues Director: Brian Robbins
- Varsity Blues Cast: James Van Der Beek, Paul Walker, Jon Voight, Ron Lester, Scott Caan, Amy Smart.
The biographical sports film, Concussion, starring Will Smith deals with a football-related head injury. A forensic pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, thoroughly researched the brain damage-related disease mostly suffered by professional football players. However, the National Football League tries to suppress the data on concussions. Dr. Omalu still tries to make awareness of the disease.
- Concussion Director: Peter Landesman
- Concussion Cast: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Arliss Howard, Paul Reiser.
26. The Longest Yard
The Longest Yard Plot:
This football comedy, The Longest Yard, occurs in prison. When a former quarterback star ends up in jail, a football fanatic warden asks him to make a team of prisoners, challenging him to play a football game against the correctional officers. The Longest Yard comedy film has three different remakes. One of them is a 2005 movie starring Adam Sandler.
- The Longest Yard Director: Robert Aldrich
- The Longest Yard Cast: Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, Ed Lauter, Mike Conrad.
25. Jerry Maguire
The next film is about a football agent rather than a football team.
Jerry Maguire Plot:
Jerry Maguire is slightly based on Leigh Steinberg, who was a sports agent. After being fired from his job, Maguire tried to do things independently and became an independent agent. He had only one client, Rod Tidwell, who wanted a better contract. However, his resolution came to fruition, and they became best pals.
Overall, it is a great movie with a great romance and a box office hit. Cuba Gooding Jr. even won the Oscars for Best Supporting Actor.
- Jerry Maguire Director: Cameron Crowe
- Jerry Maguire Cast: Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., Renée Zellweger, Kelly Preston, Jerry O’Connell
24. Draft Day
Draft Day Plot:
Revolving around the time of the NFL Draft, Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. is in a huge dilemma for the NFL draft, with family issues in the back of his mind. He has to choose the number one draft pick between a talented linebacker with family issues or a prominent quarterback.
- Draft Day Director: Ivan Reitman
- Draft Day Cast: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Sam Elliott, Chadwick Boseman.
23. We are Marshall
We are Marshall Plot:
When a plane crash shatters the lives of the Marshall University Football team and coaches, the surviving members must get over the grief and start anew. Matthew McConaughey played the role of new coach Jack Lengyel, who has the greatest responsibility of rebuilding the team and motivating the entire community of the small town. Coach Lengyel takes responsibility and devotes himself to leading the new team of young players.
The moving story of the football film is also based on a true story.
- We are Marshall Director: McG
- We are Marshall Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Matthew Fox, Anthony Mackie, Ian McShane, and Kate Mara.
The most inspiring football movie of all time, Rudy, tells the story of a boy who is unfit for football. Rudy dreams of becoming a football player at Notre Dame, despite lacking both athletic ability and grades.
With true determination and hard work, he proves that anything is possible. This film tells the real-life story of Dan “Rudy” Ruettiger, which inspires generations, making it one of the greatest sports movies of all time.
- Rudy Director: David Anspaugh
- Rudy Cast: Sean Astin, Ned Beatty, John Favreau, Charles S. Dutton, Lili Taylor, Robert Prosky.
21. All the Right Moves
All the Right Moves Plot:
Tom Cruise as Stefan Djordjevic is already a star footballer on his high school team. He is desperate to get a college scholarship and escape from his economically depressed small Pennsylvania town. Soon after, a heated conversation with his coach ruins everything and he got kicked out, endangering the chances of his scholarship. Now he must fight and protect his future.
- All The Rights Director: Michael Chapman
- All The Rights Cast: Tom Cruise, Craig T. Nelson, Lea Thompson, Charles Cioffi.
Based on the true story of Vince Papale, Invincible deals with the story of a 30-year-old bartender who went on to become a football star. He is devastated after separating from his wife. Still, his life completely changes when fate gives him a chance to follow an open tryout for Philadelphia Eagles. Truly an inspiring story of an NFL star who was not a high school football player.
- Invincible Director: Ericson Core
- Invincible Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Elizabeth Banks, Greg Kinnear, Michael Rispoli.
19. Facing the Giants
Facing the Giants Plot:
The Christian drama sports movie, Facing the Giants tells us that no matter what happens, never lose faith. Shiloh Christian Academy coach Grant Taylor is on the verge of losing his job as his football team doesn’t have any progress in winning any matches.
While facing myriads of problems, he resolved to come back. Taylor motivated his players to face the giants of fear and failure with maximum effort and to have faith in everything. Things started to change as they began winning games.
- Facing the Giants Director: Alex Kendrick
- Facing the Giants Cast: Alex Kendrick, Shannen Fields, Tracy Goode, James Blackwell, Bailey Cave.
18. The Program
The Program Plot:
There are hardly a few football films that truly portray the background of what football players go through in their lives. The Program tells the story of major university football players from different backgrounds who had to deal with pressures in their college life. Romance, using steroids, alcoholism, and many more that you can expect from a football movie.
- The Program Director: David S. Ward
- The Program Cast: James Caan, Halle Berry, Craig Sheffer, Omar Epps, Kristy Swanson.
17. American Underdogs
American Underdogs Plot:
Last year’s most anticipated football film, American Underdog, is about the inspirational background of NFL star Kurt Warner. Kurt always dreamt of becoming a star footballer and playing in the Super Bowl. Just when his dream was collapsing, he lost hope.
Started working in a grocery store, stocking shelves. During this dark time, the only person that stayed beside him was Brenda, his then-girlfriend and later wife. With the support and encouragement of Brenda, his coach, and his teammates, he began to rise.
It was only a matter of time before he became a two-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl champion, and Hall of Fame Quarterback.
- American Underdogs Director: Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin
- American Underdogs Cast: Zachary Levi, Anna Paquin, Dennis Quaid, Ser’Darius Blain, Dennis Quaid, Chance Kelly.
16. The Express
The Express Review:
Another real-life-inspired football film is on the list. This time, it is about the first African American Football player to win the Heisman Trophy, Ernie Davis. The film reflects on racism and discrimination in sports in the civil rights era. What is best in the film is the inspiring coach and player relationship.
If you miss the late actor Chadwick Boseman, you should watch him in his film debut, The Express.
- The Express Director: Gary Fleder
- The Express Cast: Rob Brown, Dennis Quaid, Omar Benson Miller, Clancy Brown, Aunjanue Ellis, Chadwick Boseman.
The sports comedy Leatherheads portrays the football rivalry between two friends, starring George Clooney and John Krasinski. Set in 1925, when a professional football team is on the verge of collapsing, the determined captain of the Bulldogs convinces a college football star who is also a war hero to join the team. Complications arrive when both fall for the same person, a reporter.
Ensuing more drama and conflicts, the two play against each other in two opposing teams. The most interesting thing about this movie is that they originally portrayed the gameplay of that time and the equipment used, like leather helmets, instead of the thick solid helmets currently used. Clooney acted and even directed this film.
- Leatherheads Director: George Clooney
- Leatherheads Cast: George Clooney, John Krasinski, Renée Zellweger, Jonathan Pryce.
14. The Freshman
The Freshman Plot:
Next up on the list is the classic silent comedy sports movie starring Harold Lloyd. Lloyd’s one of the most successful films, The Freshman, tells the story of an awkward college freshman. He goes to Tate University and wants to be popular and impress the girl he likes.
But instead, he becomes the butt of the joke. Later, he joins the football team, unaware of his position, but ultimately, he becomes the hero.
- The Freshman Director: Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
- The Freshman Cast: Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Brooks Benedict, James Anderson.
In the hate-mongering community of Birmingham, Alabama, filled with racial tensions and hatred, Tony Nathan and other black footballers joined an all-white football team at Woodlawn High School in 1973. The head coach tried his best to unite the black and white football team, but they repeatedly clashed with each other. But when an outsider came and talked about faith, prayers, and love, the whole community revived and overcame the hatred.
It is one of the recent most inspirational football films based on the true stories of Tony Nathan and Tandy Gerelds.
- Woodlawn Director: Erwin Brothers
- Woodlawn Cast: Sean Astin, Caleb Castille, Nic Bishop, Sherri Shepherd, Jon Voight, C. Thomas Howell.
12. Undefeated (2011)
Best sports documentary on the list, Undefeated, documents the scenes of the North Memphis Manassas High School football team that had the curse of never winning a playoff game. A new coach, Bill Courtney, helped the underprivileged players of Manassas Tigers, boosting the team’s morale. They finally won a playoff match, breaking the curse of 110 years of losing streaks.
The documentary film even gained an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Award.
- Undefeated Director: T. J. Martin and Daniel Lindsay
11. The Waterboy
The best comedy football film is all you could ask for. Starring comedy star Adam Sandler, The Waterboy is a pure enjoyment that will make you laugh and awe-inspire you with the gameplay and winning performances.
The Waterboy Plot:
31-years-old Bobby Boucher Jr. is a waterboy for the college football team. After discovering his unique talent in tackling ability, the coach asks him to join the team, and later, he becomes a star player.
- The Waterboy Director: Frank Coraci
- The Waterboy Cast: Adam Sandler, Kathy Bates, Fairuza Balk, Jerry Reed, Henry Winkler.
10. Little Giants
Little Giants Plot:
Warner Bros. distributed the film Little Giants a family sports comedy movie about the pee wee rivalry of two brothers. When Danny’s daughter failed to qualify for Kevin’s local football team Pee-Wee Cowboys, because she is a girl, Danny made his team of misfits.
The rivalry begins between the former pro football player who coached the “Pee-Wee Cowboys” and his brother. He coached the “Little Giants” of misfits.
- Little Giants Director: Duwayne Dunham
- Little Giants Cast: Rick Moranis, Ed O’Neill, Shawna Waldron.
9. Necessary Roughness
Necessary Roughness Plot:
It is a huge mess when some misfits come together to play football. Still, they must overcome every obstacle to defeat the star football team. The violation of NCAA rules resulted in banning the previous powerful football players and coaches from playing for Texas State University.
Now the new coach, Ed “Straight Arrow” Genero, is responsible for making a new team of Fightin’ Armadillos without any athletic scholarship. The new team of oddballs includes a female placekicker, a 34-years-old quarterback, a brainiac defensive lineman, and some more misfits.
- Necessary Roughness Director: Stan Dragotu
- Necessary Roughness Cast: Scott Bakula, Hector Elizondo, Robert Loggia, Harley Jane Kozak, Sinbad, and more.
8. Paper Lions
Paper Lions Plot:
As a sportswriter, George Plimpton has to fulfill his job for Sports Illustrated. He had the idea of joining a professional football team’s training camp. All the other teams denied joining him except the Detroit Lions. He hid his true identity, and his disaster attempt as a quarterback brings the worst for the NFL team.
The classic sports comedy is the adaptation of George Plimpton’s non-fiction book.
- Paper Lions Director: Alex March
- Paper Lions Cast: Alan Alda, Lauren Hutton, Joe Schmidt, Vince Lombardi, Alex Karras, and more.
7. The Replacements
The Replacements Plot:
When the Washington Sentinels team hit the football league with a players’ strike, the team owner asked the retired NFL coach Jimmy McGinty to coach the new players. McGinty coaches a ragtag group of talents to finish the season’s remaining games. He recruits Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves), former All-American quarterback of Ohio State who couldn’t get over the loss of the Sugar Bowl.
- The Replacements Director: Howard Deutch
- The Replacements Cast: Starring: Keanu Reeves, Gene Hackman, Brooke Langton, Orlando Jones, Jon Favreau.
6. Heaven Can Wait
Heaven Can Wait Plot:
A Los Angeles Rams quarterback, Joe Pendleton, is ready and determined to play in the Super Bowl, but he meets with an accident. His guardian angel mistakenly takes away his soul from his body before he even dies. Joe’s earthly body is already cremated, so they put him in the body of a murdered industrialist. Still obsessed with football, he returns to the playground.
This hilarious, heartwarming sports comedy got nine nominations for the Academy Awards.
- Heavens Can Wait, Director: Warren Beatty, Buck Henry
- Heavens Can Wait, Cast: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, James Mason, Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon, and more.
— MrKurtLovesMovies (@YourThinMan) February 13, 2022
5. Knute Rockne, All American
Knute Rockne, All American Plot:
The 1940 biographical sports movie tells the story of Knute Rockne, the legendary coach of Notre Dame. Knute and his Norwegian family emigrated to America in 1892 and attended Notre Dame University, where his football career started. After graduation, he started coaching the players in a school.
Under his training, there was a huge surplus of brilliant football players like George Gipp and the Four Horsemen. He is well known for his innovative football tactics and his motivational speeches. Undoubtedly, he is one of the best football coaches in history. They devoted their whole life to developing football careers.
- Knute Rockne, All American Director: Lloyd Bacon
- Knute Rockne, All American Cast: Pat O’Brien, Gale Page, Ronald Reagan.
Radio is a beautiful unlikely friendship story of football coach Harold Jones and the mentally disabled 23-year-old boy Robert ‘Radio’ Kenedy. Coach Jones, after meeting Radio, immediately became friends. He used to take him to football practices and involved him in many activities.
However, some players and their parents think of him as a distraction. Jones took it upon himself to care for this boy, who even joined the school to finish his formal education. With Jones’ care, Radio became a fine gentleman everyone started admiring.
The film took inspiration from a Sports Illustrated article based on the true story of T. L. Hanna High School football coach Harold Jones.
- Radio Director: Michael Tollin
- Radio Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr., Ed Harris, Alfre Woodard, Debra Winger, Sarah Drew.
3. The Longshots
The Longshots Plot:
The film is about the real-life story of Jasmine Plummer. She is the first female quarterback in the Pop Warner football tournament. Ice Cube played her uncle, who first observed her talent and coached her to become a star footballer.
- The Longshots Director: Fred Durst
- The Longshots Cast: Keke Palmer, Ice Cube, Dash Mihok, Tasha Smith, Jill Marie Jones, Matt Craven.
2. The 5th Quarter
The 5th Quarter Plot:
When the 15-year-old Luke Abbet, the popular football and lacrosse player of a high school, died in a car accident, his older brother couldn’t overcome the loss. The older brother, Jon Abbet, almost gave up playing football but thought his brother would never want that, so he started motivating himself. Wearing his brother’s number 5 jersey, Jon leads the Wake Forest Demon Deacons football team to an unexpectedly successful season.
The film is also based on the true story of the Wake Forest football team.
- The 5th Quarter Director: Rick Bieber
- The 5th Quarter Cast: Ryan Merriman, Aidan Quinn, Andie McDowell.
1. The Junction Boys
The Junction Boys Plot:
It is a television sports film that tells the story of coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s rigorous coaching style of Texas A&M College football players. Set in 1954, Bear takes his students on the scorched plain and makes them push their limits to train hard. Only a few survived till the end.
Although the topic is inspiring, the film went through some controversies for misrepresentation. Based on the book by Jim Dent, the television film aired on ESPN in 2002.
- The Junction Boys Director: Mike Robe
- The Junction Boys Cast: Tom Berenger, Fletcher Humphrys, Ryan Kwanten, and more.