Best Pro Football Movies? There's a List for That

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Best Pro Football Movies? There's a List for That

We all love lists, and Sports Illustrated’s recent book Football’s Greatest has lots of them, from the best players by position to best teams and stadiums and trades.

But the one that is perhaps the most arbitrary is the Top 10 football movies of all time. How can one assemble such a list and what qualifies for “NFL” vs. general football?

“The list is one of movies as close to the NFL, if not licensed by the NFL, as we could get,” editor Bill Syken said. “It certainly wasn’t as debated as the positions or franchises but our writers definitely had strong opinions either way and we thought it was a good look at movies across genres and across the decades.”

The top ten list included Brian’s Song, a TV movie about Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers, and the original The Longest Yard (the two Adam Sandler football movies, the remake of Yard and The Waterboy, didn’t make the list).

Others on the list were North Dallas Forty (based on the book by longtime SI writer Dan Jenkins), Everybody’s All American (based on the book by another SI stalwart Frank Deford), Jerry Maguire, Paper Lion (another TV movie based on a book by SI contributor, the late George Plimpton), Invincible, Leatherheads, the original Heaven Can Wait (Warren Beatty as a "resurrected" LA Rams QB), and The Replacements (Keanu Reeves as QB before he played a college QB in Point Break).

The shockers not on the list? No mention of The Express (there are plenty of Cleveland Browns scenes), Any Given Sunday (closer to real NFL than North Dallas Forty) or Black Sunday (bombers take over the Orange Bowl and none are Dan Marino). 

A little Necessary Roughness could have been a fit as well, and, although The Blind Side doesn’t get to Michael Oher as a Raven until the closing credits, it clearly is based on Lawrence Taylor’s legendary career-ending hit of Joe Theismann.

Syken said all those were considered. But the one he thought should have made the list?

"Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, as underrated as there is for football scenes and one of my favorites the group voted down.”

Biopics on college legends like Knute Rockne (Knute Rockne - All American) and Frank Cavanaugh (The Iron Major) and Burt Lancaster's portrayal of Jim Thorpe (also an All American), and a personal favorite, Harold Lloyd's The Freshman, all more than 60 years old (some significantly so), probably lost out on the lack of a true NFL connection.

The list has some classics and left a few off, but it certainly doesn’t detract from the great pieces across the NFL that was assembled. Next we need a book about great football musicals. “The Tim Tebow Story” anyone?

Maybe that’s more a drama.

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