Some may say that this 1996 Tom Cruise movie is not really a football movie. The truth is it is partly a comedy, partly a romantic drama, and partly a sports movie.
Cruise, who plays sports agent Jerry Maguire and Renée Zellweger, who plays Dorothy Boyd, McGuire’s assistant and eventual girlfriend, are outstanding together. Then throw in the exceptional performance of Cuba Gooding, Jr. who plays the character Rod Tidwell, a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, and all of a sudden you have a hit.
This movie received very good reviews and was up for numerous awards in various categories. And the viewing public loved it as well. By all standards this movie was a tremendous success.
Since this movie centers on the relationship between the sports agent and his football playing client, we have no qualms about considering this a football movie. The movie had a real “feel-good” aspect to it and there were several great quotes that came out of this movie as well. Tidwell’s “show me the money”, Maguire’s “you complete me” and Dorothy’s “you had me at hello” all have become iconic phrases that serve to enhance the appeal of this movie.
So, with all that said, we think that “Jerry Maguire” is very deserving of the #5 ranking on our list.
This movie has it all. A compelling story, a lovable character in Michael Oher, played by Quinton Aaron, and a “lovely” character in Leigh Anne Touhy, played by Sandra Bullock.
Oher’s story is well documented, and you would be hard pressed to find a real football fan who does not know about it. But, to recap nonetheless – you have a big easy-going African-American kid who is essentially homeless. He is taken in by the well-to-do Touhy and her family and eventually Touhy and her husband adopt him. With their encouragement his grades improve, and he begins playing football in high school, with a little help from Touhy in getting him to be more aggressive and learning the importance of protecting the quarterback’s “blindside”. He then goes on to star at Ole Miss and is eventually drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens.
Only in Hollywood do you get that kind of the story, right? That stuff doesn’t happen in real life. But, apparently it does. This 2009 movie was as remarkable as the story itself. The film was critically acclaimed. It got an Academy Award Best Picture nomination and Bullock won the Academy Award for Best Actress.
The movie simply tugged at your heart strings. Even though you may have known the full story and knew how things turned out, you still found yourself rooting for the kid as you watched this movie. That, in a nutshell, explains why “Tthe Blind Side” ranks high on our list.
This 1971 TV movie starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams is a classic. From an artistic production standpoint, it probably isn’t in the same league as “The Blind Side”, although for the time frame in which it was made it was very well received by the critics. But if “The Blind Side” tugged at your heart strings, then this one just plain ripped them out!
The movie of course depicts the unlikely relationship and bond that formed between Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo, Chicago Bears running backs in the mid-to late 1960s. Sayers was the star and Piccolo was his very capable backup.
At a time when a lot of racial tension existed in the country, Piccolo and Sayers forged a strong friendship. In what was pretty much unheard of at the time, the two of them roomed together when the Bears were traveling on the road.
When Sayers suffered a serious knee injury part way through the 1968 season, Piccolo stepped in as the lead running back for the Bears the rest of that year. In the subsequent off-season, Piccolo pushed Sayers to rehab his knee. While some people questioned whether Sayers would be able to come back from such serious injury and be productive, he most definitely proved them wrong by running for over 1,000 yards in that 1969 season. Sayers credited Piccolo for helping him to return to form that year.
Sadly, during that 1969 season, Piccolo was diagnosed with cancer. Sayers won the Comeback Player of the Year Award that year and in his acceptance speech, he dedicated the award to Piccolo, who by that time was hospitalized. He died the following summer.
We came to appreciate their relationship, their struggles, and their love for one another. And the movie brought that all home for us in that final flashback scene where we see Sayers and Piccolo racing through a park in their sweats with the iconic “Brian’s Song” theme song playing. If we hadn’t cried before then, there was no holding back with that ending.
So yes, real men do cry. And tear jerkers get rated high on our list.
Denzel Washington and Will Patton starred in this 2000 movie about the integration of an all-black school with an all-white school in Alexandria Virginia in 1971. The racial tension that obviously was created with the merging of the two schools into one, T.C. Williams (the Titans), provided the backdrop for this movie.
If you can put aside the fact that the portrayal of Alexandria and the greater Northern Virginia area as being an extremely racially segregated area was far from accurate, you need to view this movie storyline for what it was – a great movie storyline. The makers of this movie took that storyline and kept us well entertained for two hours. But rather than use it to make some political statement, they used the storyline to show us what can be accomplished when different people can come together focused on one central goal.
There are so many scenes and underlying story lines in this movie to lead us to that conclusion. Some of those would include, the willingness of the previous head coach, Bill Yoast (Patton) to take on a subordinate role to the newly appointed African-American head coach, Herman Boone (Washington), the friendship forged by the team co-captains, the way that Boone and Yost challenge each other over their respective handling of the African-American players on the team and the willingness of players to put skin color aside and make sacrifices for the greater good of the team.
And who can forget the inspirational speech delivered by Coach Boone during that early morning run on the Gettysburg Battlefield. Even the weakest among us might have been willing to run through a brick wall after hearing that speech!
While it did not receive rave reviews from many of the so-called experts, the film was immensely popular with moviegoers. And it was with us also – enough so to warrant the #2 ranking on our list.
Not even close in our book. This 1993 film is the ultimate “feel-good” movie. “Rudy”, is a movie that embodies that indomitable spirit that we all like to think we have.
It’s based on the life of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, the kid who came from a working class family living in Joliet Illinois. Rudy, (played by Sean Astin) always had the dream of playing football for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. While he certainly had the heart to do it, he clearly lacked the physical skills and attributes necessary to realize that dream.
But Rudy refuses to give up on the dream. Overcoming numerous obstacles and rejections he finally gets admitted to Notre Dame and then begins his quest to try and become a “walk on” for the football team. Against long odds, he is able to accomplish that and he becomes a member of the practice squad.
He keeps at it, always with the hope that the coach will allow him to make the “dress roster” for one home game before he graduates. However, after a coaching change, it appears that Rudy will never get to experience that thrill of running out of the tunnel onto the field.
By this point, we have started to watch this movie as if we have became Rudy. We experience the challenges that he faces along the way, we absorb the practice beatings along with him and we feel the mounting disappointment during that senior year when each week he checks the posted “dress roster” but never finds his name on the list.
Cut to the scene that takes place just before the final home game of Rudy’s senior season, when we see Notre Dame players file into the coach’s office and put their jerseys on his desk, asking him to let Rudy have it, and we begin to feel it. The emotions start to bubble up. Now, throw in the pregame locker room scene, the arrival of Rudy’s parents and brother at the game, plus the leading of the team out onto the field, and we are pretty much at a full boil.
And then it starts. Ruuudy! – Ruuudy! – Ruuudy! Soon he’s out running around on the field and unbelievably he gets a sack on the final play of the game. Then he is carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates as we listen to that very moving theme music. If that didn’t get things bubbling over and have tears running down your cheeks, then you really do need to check to see if you have a pulse.
In our judgment, the escalating buildup to this climactic ending, that really started from the first scene of the movie, is what makes this movie so great. While other movies have some great dramatic endings, we don’t think any of them nailed it the way this movie did. So for that reason, we believe that “Rudy” is most deserving of our #1 ranking for the best football movie!