This is the eleventh post in the “The Best Films Set In…” series. The setting can be a place (like Tokyo), a location (like the beach), or a time (like Winter). In these posts I’m going to pick my 5 favourite films that are set in that particular place/location/time and explain why I like them.
In honour of my current sports movie week, this edition focuses on films set on a particular type of field that you’ll find in the USA. They’re in schools, small towns and big cities. These fields are inhabited by big men, in big padding with big dreams. The screenplays aren’t always subtle, but you’ll almost always be emotional by the end.
After the jump, check out my picks for The Best Films Set In…On a Football Field.
Remember the Titans ( Boaz Yakin, 2000)
Based on a true story, Denzel Washington stars as a coach attempting to introduce a racially diverse team in a Virginian high school in 1971. This is not a subtle film – it’s rams home its messages like a player slams a ball over the line, but there’s no denying how inspiring those messages are (I cried both times that I watched it). Great performances and some well shot football sequences help this film rise above its often mediocre script.
This one is technically set more in a prison than on a football field, but I like it so much that I’m just going to overlook that fact. Burt Reynolds plays a former pro football player who is convinced to forms a team of convicts to take on the semi-pro prison guard team. Apart from the fact that Reynolds is all-American handsome in this film, it’s worth watching for the great football sequences – several of the supporting roles were played by former pro footballers. The film won the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy in 1975.
Undefeated (Daniel Lindsay & T.J. Martin, 2011)
Cry me a river. This film….*sob*. I can’t even think about this film without welling up. Winner of the 2012 Academy Award for Best Documentary, the film follows the Manassas Tigers high school football for one season as they attempt to turn around their fortunes after several years of losses. This is more a film about mind over matter and the resilience of the human spirit than it is about football. If you watch this and feel nothing, you’re dead to me. Aside from being an incredibly moving film, it’s also exquisitely photographed and edited.
Any Given Sunday (Oliver Stone, 1999)
This is one heck of an intense film and it’s not just because of the flashy action on the field. What makes this film so crazy, is the politics, the bickering and all the wheeling and dealing that happens away from the side-lines. At almost 3 hours long, the film is a tad bloated and does take the crazy a little far at times, but that’s typical of [more modern] Oliver Stone films in general really. Any Given Sunday features an absolutely mammoth ensemble cast which includes Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, James Woods, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J and Aaron Eckhart
All the Right Moves (Michael Chapman, 1983)
I haven’t seen this film for 17 years and I’m afraid if I watch it again I will discover that it’s actually quite awful. More of it takes place off the field, but this entry is for 12 year-old Sam who stumbled across a football film featuring a baby-faced Tom Cruise and was absolutely smitten with it. This is a film about a small town boy with big town dreams, who hoped that football would be his ticket to a better life. Oh, how I wanted him to have the life he dreamed of. Scarily relatable for anyone from a small town.
Honourable mentions: Rudy, We are Marshall, Jerry Maguire, Friday Night Lights, The Waterboy, The Replacements
Suggestions by others (that I haven’t seen): Brian’s Song, School Ties, North Dallas Forty
What have I missed?