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Movies & TV

01st Feb 2015

Superbowl XLIX: What is the best American Football movie of all time?

Any Given Sunday is one of the greats

Tony Cuddihy

We can all agree that there has never been a great soccer-based movie (unless you count Escape To Victory, which we do), but American Football is a different story.

There’s something about the college quarter-back, the cigar chomping coach and the utter showmanship that makes it perfect for the big screen, and ahead of the Superbowl XLIX we take at the good and the great of the gridiron genre.

The Longest Yard

Any film with a central character called Paul ‘Wrecking’ Crewe is alright by us. Also, who doesn’t love Burt Reynolds? That’s right, we’re talking about the 1974 original and definitely not the lazy Adam Sandler reboot (or ‘Mean Machine,’ the association football version starring Vinnie Jones – that was total muck).

Varsity Blues

Is it just us or was this not terrible? Even though it’s pretty much a less successful rip-off of tribute to Friday Night Lights.

Somehow, this is now 16 years old. Watch out for a young Paul Walker alongside yer man from The O.C. (it was Dawson’s Creek, you dipstick! – Ed.)

Oh, and Amy Smart, who was responsible for several confused feelings in a young JOE’s unspeakables.

The Last Boy Scout

This writer was threatened with defenestration by Paul Moore if I didn’t include The Last Boy Scout, which sees Bruce Willis in full John McClane mode as the actual football plays second fiddle to the kind of buddy buddy shoot-’em-up that Hollywood did moderately well in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

The Waterboy

Now you’re talking. One man’s pure stupidity is another man’s pure joy as Adam Sandler plays Adam Sandler in this slightly better than typical Adam Sandler vehicle.

It’s a gridiron Happy Gilmore with a bit more heart, and we can’t help but think of it every time we here the letters E…S…P…N.

Jerry Maguire

A film that veers dangerously close to rotting your teeth given how saccharine it becomes every time Renee Zellweger pops up on screen, this is still one of our favourite American Football films for one reason alone.

Rod Tidwell.

Cuba Gooding Jr. deservedly bagged the Oscar for his portrayal of the money hungry running back with a heart of gold beneath the swagger. Tom Cruise is also brilliant as the eponymous agent.

Any Given Sunday

The last great Oliver Stone film (let’s be honest, everything since this 1999 cracker has been moderate to downright f**king dreadful) starred Al Pacino as the coast of a fictional NFL team that loses its ageing quarter-back (Dennis Quaid) to injury and is forced to blood arrogant rookie Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx in his breakthrough role).

As our own Conor Heneghan says, if one more GAA side rips off Pacino’s team talk he’s going to do some serious damage…

…but it’s still great.

Friday Night Lights

The resounding vote in the JOE office as to the best American Football film of all time. The book, by H.G. Bissinger, was a masterpiece and so is Peter Berg’s film about the impact of a college football team on the local town.

The characters make this, from Derek Luke’s Boobie Miles to Garrett Hedlund’s Don Billingsley to Billy Bob Thornton’s nuanced Coach Gaines, they’re all brilliantly written.

Coach Gaines’ version of the Any Given Sunday teamtalk isn’t half bad either…


In the original draft of this piece we forgot to remember Remember the Titans… The journalist who wrote the piece has been called before a special gathering of the JOE management and had all chicken wing privileges revoked for the month of February.

Proper order too.

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