With the various 2020-2021 football seasons now in our rearview, it’s time to add those precious seconds back to the clock and embrace all things football while we patiently count the weeks until football is here yet again. Until then, fortunately, we’ve got plenty of off-season drama to catch up on as there are some fantastic films on HBO Max with football and football players as the central topics.
The movies below show just how powerful the sport can be, both in terms of how it can impact someone’s life, and how it can bring us together as a culture. Even through these challenging times, the drama of life on the gridiron, and the inspiration of the players of today and yesterday can help make things just a little bit better.
Football is Stefen Djordjevic’s only way out of a dying town. His aptitude in sports gives him hope that he’ll accomplish his dream of getting a college scholarship and become an engineer. However, after losing the big game, he and his coach get into a years-long feud, which leads to Stefen’s life spiraling out of control. “All the Right Moves” stars a young Tom Cruise and Lea Thompson and exemplifies the football drama formula. It can be cliché and a little derivative, but it has that unnamable quality that only films from the 1980s and 1990s capture.
“Everybody’s All-American” follows athlete Gavin Grey through 25 years of his life. The film begins in the 1950s when Grey is a beloved NCAA star with Louisiana State University. His life is idyllic – a picture of the American dream. However, his transfer to the NFL as a running back for the Washington Redskins leads to his disillusion. He struggles to find the magic he felt when he was everyone’s hero as a college football star instead of just another pro player.
Dennis Quaid plays a great Gavin Grey, and the always incredible Jessica Lange stars as his girlfriend, and later wife, Babs Rogers Grey. This film wasn’t received well when it debuted in 1988. However, its portrayal of the collapse of the illusion of the American dream hits a lot closer to home now than it did then, and the story is incredibly relevant in today’s climate.
One of the quintessential football dramas is “Friday Night Lights.” This film is based on a true story from the book, “Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream.” It follows the Permian High School football team from Odessa, Texas, as they strive for the state championship. High school football is huge in the United States, and those who grew up in a rural area will likely be reminded of their own experiences when watching this film. It’s a thrilling look at the sport and how much young players deal with and sacrifice in their attempt to be the best.
“Hard Knocks” is a long-running documentary series that follows an NFL team for its training period for the year. It gives an exciting look at the behind-the-scenes inner workings of a professional football team. However, the 2020 season marks a unique departure for the series’ typical format. It follows both the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers as they move into the newly built SoFi Stadium, while also covering the difficulties the teams have had due to the COVID-19 epidemic, and the adjustments the NFL had to make in its wake.
Jim Thorpe is a Native American sports hero, and this 1951 film is a dramatized biography of his life. Thorpe was one of the great athletes of his time, playing professional football, baseball, and basketball. He was also awarded two gold medals in the 1912 Olympic games. As a Native American, Thorpe faced racism, and this film, which was produced pre-Civil Rights-era, actually faces the issue head-on, which was a rarity for a time.
The 123-year long rivalry between the University of Michigan and Ohio State University football teams is legendary. This film is a definitive history of the competition between the two teams from the start until recent times. You don’t have to be a fan of the Buckeyes or Wolverines to get something out of this film, which chronicles a major facet of NCAA history.
Whether you love or hate the New York Jets, any football fan has to respect the illustrious career of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath. This 90-minute documentary follows Namath from his youth in Beaver Falls, PA, to his NCAA career at the University of Alabama, through his NFL career with the New York Jets and Los Angeles Rams and beyond. It’s a great look at Broadway Joe and gives some insight into one of the living legends of American football.
Many pro players leave the NFL and become coaches or commentators, but Nick Buoniconti was not one of those men. The Hall of Famer had a 14 year AFL and NFL career with the Boston Patriots and Miami Dolphins as a middle linebacker. He didn’t rest on his laurels after leaving football, though. He went on to be a lawyer, agent, executive, and a founder of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, one of the leading neurological research centers in the world. The film covers his remarkable life and philanthropy and is an excellent look at one of the lesser praised NFL stars of yesterday.
The 2000 comedy “The Replacements” stars Keanu Reeves (fresh off “The Matrix“) as the quarterback on a team of replacement players who are called in to play on the fictional Washington Sentinels when the regular team goes on strike. The film isn’t too dramatic, it’s a typical late-90s, early-2000s comedy, but the event it’s loosely based on was. The 1987 NFL strike saw a replacement team, playing for the Washington Redskins, win all their games and Super Bowl XXII. It’s a fun movie and a humorous way to pay homage to a part of real NFL history.
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