Sports movies are a deeply emotional part of our culture. Oftentimes, sports seem like movies already, so the story is simply waiting to be told on the big screen. And college football has been known to produce a remarkable story or two.
The overall number of college football movies is small by comparison, but there's definitely some quality. From documentaries to comedies and stories based on real events/players, here are the college football movies that every fan should see -- at least during the summer months before college football kicks off again.
Remember, these are college football-centric movies. "Varsity Blues," while awesome, would not qualify, for example.
10. "The Blind Side": As is customary, I'm going to start this list by completely breaking my own rule in the sentence above. But it's for a good reason. "The Blind Side" is technically a high school football movie about former Ole Miss and current NFL offensive lineman Michael Oher. However, there are major college football elements woven into the plot -- from the NCAA enforcement arm to a bumbling high school coach that's supposed to be current Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze. The best part of the movie is when Oher is recruited by a number of SEC coaches. Cameo appearances include Nick Saban when he was at LSU, Ed Orgeron when he was at Ole Miss, former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, former South Carolina coach Lou Holtz and former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville. The acting chops on some of them are surprisingly good, but then again, #crootin is basically acting anyway.
9. "The Waterboy": Somehow, somebody convinced Kathy Bates to play Adam Sandler's mom in a movie co-starring Henry Winkler as a clueless, apprehensive football coach -- an actual anti-cool to his Arthur Fonzarelli -- for the fictional University of Louisiana. It was a true casting Hail Mary. Oh, and there's an offensively stereotyped backwoods Louisiana assistant coach who sounds like Ed Orgeron on Novocaine. Sandler does his weird voices thing as a waterboy turned 5-star linebacker -- which, whatever -- and Rob Schneider provided a catch phrase ("You can do it!") that annoyed the sin out of us for the following few years. The movie had a couple of yuks. 5/10, would not feel the need to watch again on TBS.
8. "We are Marshall": The 1970 plane crash that killed 37 members of the Marshall football team along with coaches and boosters is college football's single greatest tragedy. That the program was able to rebuild itself is miraculous. The story of that rebuilding process is definitely worth telling. But the movie itself is ... hokey. Matthew McConaughey -- -- plays up the melodrama, and not in the good way.
7. "The Express": Another another true college football story. This one centers around Syracuse running back Ernie Davis -- the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. The movie tackles more than just Davis' football career, as it intertwines more socially relevant topics like racism and discrimination within the sports arena and on college campuses. However, the very social issue the movie focuses on is also the source of the film's biggest criticism. Namely, there's a historical inaccuracy involving a non-existent night game at West Virginia in 1959. Still, "The Express" is an overall solid movie of one of college football's pioneers.
6. "The Program": The 1993 James Caan movie about the fictional ESU Timberwolves dives into more serious matters than football, including performance-enhancing drug use and the overall pressures of being a student-athlete at high levels of football. The whole thing is a little bit cliche as it touches on major points, but at least there was some depth to the numerous characters the plot followed.
5. "Pony Excess": I knew SMU cheated. A lot of people know SMU cheated. The NCAA handed down its most severe sanction of all, the Death Penalty, because SMU cheated. But, holy crap, SMU cheated. "Pony Excess" was a complete peeling back of the proverbial curtain into the university's willingness to break NCAA rules in the name of winning football games, the investigation of said violations and the fallout that ruined the program for decades. Even if you know what happened with SMU, "Pony Excess" is an eye-opening look into one of the most egregious NCAA cases.
4. "Rudy": The jersey scene never happened. The crowd didn't chant. OK, fine. I can suspend some disbelief and even swallow a couple of outright lies in the name of drama. The fact that Rudy Ruettiger was hit with securities fraud years later takes
a little a lot of shine off the whole feel-good story as well. But Hollywood loves the underdog, even if college football doesn't. And, holy hell, Rudy took a lot of literal and figurative hits in this one. I spent most of the movie feeling genuinely bad for the guy despite knowing all that I know now. So, mission accomplished?
3. "Necessary Roughness": This entertaining movie certainly stands on its own merit, but in the interest of full disclosure, I'm biased. The fictional Texas State Fightin' Armadillos -- not to be confused with the very real, modern day Texas State Bobcats -- wore North Texas green (whatever shade that was at the time) and game filming took place at Fouts Field in Denton (an all-time dump). Other than Mean Joe Greene, being the visual inspiration for a movie loosely based on SMU's blatant cheating is the best thing to ever happen to UNT football.
2. "The U": This is one of ESPN's better 30 for 30 films. "The U" documents the sudden and unforeseen rise of the Miami Hurricanes football program under former coaches Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson. It's masterful storytelling by director Billy Corben of a program that is uniquely enigmatic. In the height of its success, Miami was entertaining as hell, cocky and hated by many. "The U Part 2," "Pony Excess" and "Ghosts of Ole Miss" were excellent college football docs as well, but "The U" is one of 30 for 30s premier films spanning any sport.
1. "Knute Rockne, All American": The American cinematic classic gave us Pat O'Brien as Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne, Ronald Reagan as Geoge Gipp and the famous "Win just one for the Gipper" line. Even today, this movie is so full of rich history that it stands the test of time. No sports movie list of any sort is complete without it. A truly iconic sports movie in every sense.
Honorable mention: "Brian and The Boz," "The Best That Never Was," "The U Part 2," "Johnny Be Good," "Everbody's All-American," "The Comebacks."