Every once in a while, some of my friends and I will get into a very passionate debate over which sports movie is the greatest sports movie. There are never any criteria to these arguments, and whenever someone forgets that there are no criteria and attempts to instill some criteria, we shun them and they never speak again until they are needed to back you up in another argument. Did I say we’re all friends?

Anyways, the last argument was about which movie about high school football is king over all others. In my mind, there are only three real contenders with one film on the outside looking in. This is my list in reverse order. You will probably not agree with it. I do not care. Last time I checked, this is still America.

The criterion for this list is simple: all of the films are about a high school football team. That’s it.

Honorable Mention: Radio

What a good movie. The performances are great, top to bottom. I’d probably have it higher up on the list if it weren’t for the fact that the main focus of the movie is the character Radio. The football team is just periphery. I only have it on here because I just don’t think this movie gets anywhere near the recognition it deserves. Cuba Gooding, Jr. pushes all the right emotional buttons for me. You can’t look me in the eye and tell me that you didn’t get a little bit misty-eyed when Radio’s mother died. I know I didn’t. There’s just dust or something floating around in here.

Third Place: Varsity Blues

I’m a fan of this movie, but I think it definitely has its problems. For one, some of the issues in the movie are a little too sophomoric for my liking. Everyone loves when Tweeder steals the cop car, but lets not overlook the felony that he’s sure to face in the near future. We’re being selfish by not thinking about his future when we laugh at that scenario. I think my biggest issue with Varsity Blues is that it can’t figure out if it wants to be a comedy or a drama. The jokes are hysterical throughout, but I am never too involved in the problems of any of the characters. (Side note: props to Billy Bob for pointing out the dangers of concussions a solid 15 years before the NFL decided to do something about it. Way to go, Roger Goodell.)

Second Place: Friday Night Lights

As a film lover, I am willing to concede that this is the best-made film on this list. Aesthetically, it makes me nostalgic for a time and place I will never know. The performances are in large part understated and give way to a more powerful ensemble performance. The story is also immediately magnetic. The football shots are incredibly realistic. It’s great top to bottom. However, there’s just always something missing here for me. There’s just the right amount of detachment for me that I can’t get emotionally involved to the level that I am with all three of the other films on this list. I understand why everyone thinks it’s a great movie, but it just doesn’t check all of the boxes for me, especially not as well as…

First Place: Remember the Titans

Oh, man. Remember the Titans. I could go on and on about this movie. There are so many people that try to convince me that it’s not the best. The football shots aren’t well done. The plot is too predictable. The movie is about social issues and not about football. I don’t care. For one thing, the most powerful moments in the movie all center on football. When he calls the Fake 23 blast with a backside George reverse, I felt like Rev was running that ball like my life depended on it too. Sure, it’s a typical, played out, “good triumphs over evil” moment, but it gets me every time, even 15 years after it came out. I feel like this movie in particular gets to the heart of how much a team can become a family and how a team can overcome anything, even huge obstacles like institutionalized racism. And the soundtrack is incredible, too.


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