American football is a sport that has never been too lucky with us. In the last forty years, various teams have been born on the national territory, and some of these have achieved good results on a continental level, but this discipline has never managed to get out of the niche in which it is confined.
Considered too “American” and complicated, it also suffers from the competition of rugby which, although very different in the rules, in recent years has had a good media success and has “cannibalized” possible fans.
A SPORT LOVED BY HOLLYWOOD
Yet this sport would have various credentials for a breakthrough. Especially because he is “pumped” if we can say so, by Hollywood, which has dedicated some memorable films (and TV series) to him. If you think about it for a moment, it is difficult to find a recent film dedicated to football (if not moving outside the American market), while with football there are several, related both to sport in and of itself, and to cheering, betting, high school and university teams and so on.
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Indeed, there is such an abundance that it is sometimes difficult to identify films that emerge above the group. We have chosen five that, from the 70s to today, seem to us that have managed to capture more than the others the spirit of this sport made of sweat and talent, strength and speed. Here they are.
Table of Contents
- 1 1. Brian’s song
- 2 2. Rudy – The Success of a Dream
- 3 3. Jerry Maguire
- 4 4. The Taste of Victory – United we Win
- 5 5. Friday Night Lights
1. Brian’s song
A moving and true football story
We have just said that football movies have made this sport known even in lands like ours, light years away from that discipline, but let’s start the list by at least partially denying this assumption.
One of the best works on the subject is in fact Brian’s Song, a film that unfortunately is very difficult to find in Italian. On the other hand, it has its age (it came out in 1971) and above all, it was not launched for theaters but made for TV.
Despite the shortage of media, the film is very beautiful and worth a look at. The story is that of Brian Piccolo, a Wake Forest University player who discovers he has cancer shortly after turning pro.
He will find solace in friend and teammate Gale Sayers, a black guy who plays like him for the Chicago Bears. The plot is taken from a true story – Piccolo died at 26, just a year before the film was made – but it is also interesting how he handles the racial issue, which was very “hot” at the time.
James Caan and Billy Dee Williams
In addition to interpreting the two protagonists were two young actors destined for a radiant careers. Piccolo is in fact played by James Caan, in his first leading role before being chosen, the following year, for The Godfather.
Sayers is instead played by Billy Dee Williams, later made famous by the Star Wars saga (he was Lando Calrissian ) and other subsequent films.
2. Rudy – The Success of a Dream
When willpower can do everything
Rudy – The success of a dream, another beautiful film about American football that has not had great success in Italy is not even on DVD.
Fortunately for you, however, in this case, it is possible to see it in streaming on various platforms, waiting for a possible new publication for the home video market. Again, this is a biopic based on a true story.
The story told is in fact that of Rudy Ruettiger, a boy who between the 60s and 70s ardently tried to enter the University of Notre Dame and play for his prestigious football team.
Just 1.68 inches tall and weighing only 75 kilos, he was definitely underpowered for the giants who played on the team, and in fact, no one wanted to give him a chance. He was also barred from entering the school by the entrance exam, which he was unable to pass due to undiagnosed dyslexia.
The only, very important presence
Regardless of everything, Ruettiger persisted for years, eventually making it to college and finding space on the reserve team.
In the end, he also had the opportunity of a lifetime, that is, due to various defections he was called up to the first team and took the field for a few seconds in a game that became epic because it ended with him making a tackle on the opposing quarterback and he was carried off the field in triumph by his companions.
Written and directed by Angelo Pizzo and David Anspaugh, the couple who had created the beautiful basketball movie Hoosiers seven years earlier, the film starred Sean Astin. That is the little Mikey from The Goonies and the Sam from The Lord of the Rings.
3. Jerry Maguire
The sports attorney and the football player
After two films you’ve probably never heard of, we come to something more famous. Jerry Maguire was in fact one of the blockbusters of 1996. Costing 50 million dollars – due to the presence of a star of the first magnitude like Tom Cruise, at the time at the height of popularity -, he earned almost 300 million worldwide.
And it also took off the career of Cameron Crowe, author of both the screenplay and the director, who had already convinced with Singles but who was still missing a hunchback at the box office.
The story is that of a sports attorney, Jerry Maguire, who, following a crisis of conscience, is fired from his agency and tries to set up his own business.
In the new adventure, which should be marked by a greater focus on ethics and customers, only an athlete follows him, football player Rod Tidwell. Meanwhile, Jerry’s personal relationships are also in crisis, while he seems to be born of the tender with the only remaining collaborator, Dorothy.
Director and actors
The film mixes love and sport, motivation and ethics, and it does so by managing to never fall into the pathetic.
On the contrary, she manages to dose emotions very well, showing herself cynical when needed and tender at other times.
Thanks to Crowe, of course, who was able to manage the script well, but also to a well-assorted cast of actors. In addition to the aforementioned Cruise, a still unknown Renée Zellweger, Cuba Gooding Jr. (also awarded with an Oscar), and the child Jonathan Lipnicki, later the protagonist of Stuart Little, were also in the game.
4. The Taste of Victory – United we Win
Sport as an engine of integration
We opened with a 1970s movie that mixed football and racial issues, but we’re ready now to get back to it. Because in that decade American football was one of the main drivers of integration, bringing to the fore black athletes who were able to collaborate with their white teammates.
From this point of view, one of the most famous and striking stories is that of the TC Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, told in the film The Taste of Victory.
In 1971, a black coach, Herman Boone, was hired in that high school. The hiring of him was not the daughter of a real conviction of the Council, but of the desire to “give a sop” to the African-American community.
So much so that the executives intended to fire the coach at the earliest opportunity. In reality, Boone – assisted by former white coach Bill Yoast – managed to put together a mixed team of African Americans and Caucasians (the first at the high school level in Virginia) and to arrive, among a thousand ups and downs, until the victory of the state tournament.
A warm climate
The film allows itself some license with respect to the historical reality of the facts but is faithful in telling the dangerous and “hot” climate of those years. Above all, he manages to mix sports and sociology, motivational speeches, and portraits of adolescence while remaining fast and captivating.
Thanks to above all to the producer Jerry Bruckheimer, an experienced veteran, but also to the good cast. The protagonist is in fact a convincing Denzel Washington, but among his young students, there is also the Donald Faison of Scrubs and Ryan Gosling.
5. Friday Night Lights
High school tensions and the state tournament
We conclude with a recent film, from 2004, which, despite its limited budget, had such critical and public success that it gave rise to a TV series. We are talking about Friday Night Lights, directed by Peter Berg and also based on a true story.
In fact, at the center is the dream of a high school team from Texas – the Odessa Panthers – to win the state tournament.
In itself, the team does not seem to have what it takes to get that high. Despite the unbridled cheering of the town, they seem to lack physical strength and size. The coach Gary Gaines decides to bet everything on the only true champion, the runningback Boobie Miles, while the other players remain a bit in the shade.
The injury that the star needs, however, forces everyone to change their strategy, and after some difficulties the team begins to mesh.