The 10 Best Football Movies, Ranked

From ‘Remember the Titans’ to ‘Rudy’ and ‘Friday Night Lights, these are the best football movies of all time.

Varsity Blues

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Varsity Blues

Movies and sports will forever be tied together and that's not changing anytime soon. When you think about the drama of sports, it's paired perfectly with the bright lights of Hollywood. This is especially true with football and movies about football. Where else can you find such drama? 

The thrill of rooting for an underdog to do the impossible. The unpredictable twists and turns that will have your stomach in knots. Few things can match the emotions and rollercoaster of football, but over the years, Hollywood has, at times, perfectly tapped into that sensation. Sports movies will always be a thing, but there's just something different about football films. 

From an all-time comedy like Adam Sandler's The Waterboy to Oliver Stone's dark and twisted look at the sport in Any Given Sunday, football movies just hit different. The range of the genre is unmatched when it comes to sports movies, with a number of classics dropping over the years. Now, with the NFL finally back, the Complex Sports team has ranked the 10 best football movies of all time. Sit back and get ready to argue, but be warned, if you can't rap every word of "My Name Is Willie" by Willie Beamen, there's no need to proceed. Sorry, but not sorry. 

10. Brian's Song

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Are you even a real person if you haven't cried during the last scene of Brian's Song? The ultimate tearjerker football film and a reminder how cruel life can be. This 1971 classic tells the true story of Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo, who became friends during their time with the Chicago Bears. It's easily the oldest movie on the list, but it still holds up today and will have you bawling like a baby during any re-watch. Brian's Song is so good that even Packers fans will end up rooting for the Bears after watching. —Zach Frydenlund

9. The Replacements

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Shane Falco might be the GOAT fictional movie QB. From cleaning bird shit off boats to leading his team to glory. The Replacements is a gloriouis film that holds up to this day. It has everything you want from a football film with some great comedic moments and also ranks high with actors you forgot were in the movie. Like honestly, who remembers that Jon Favreau was in this? What a gem. And don't even get me started on Keanu Reeves in this film? Man has classics, but his portrayal of Shane Falco is high up on the list. Do yourself a favor and rewatch this football classic, ASAP. —Zach Frydenlund

8. Rudy

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Rudy does a lot of things that good movies do. It’s got an incredible soundtrack, slowly builds real stakes, has an imperfect hero, and outside of one or two characters, avoids one-dimensionality. It’s about the American Dream: Notre Dame, we’re told, is for rich kids, smart kids, and great athletes. Rudy is none of these things. Can he get there anyway? 

That aspect of the story is timeless, but large parts of the movie are not. At one point a coach literally says that the value of walk-on players is that no one will care if they get hurt or not. It’s a love letter to what college football was, and what many wish it to be today. I’m not sure we want to have heroes who succeed by being able to get their brains and bodies bashed for extended periods of time anymore. 

The moments that linger with me involve Rudy’s dad: when he announces to the guys at the mill he runs that his son will attend college, and when he sets his eyes on the field of Notre Dame Stadium for the first time. It’s not overdone, and it works. —David Zavac

7. The Program

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Growing up, my cousin and I watched the hell out of The Program. We might’ve let that VHS tape rock until that VHS tape popped. Thing is, revisiting this film over 25 years later, it truly holds up. Sure, the acting and melodrama can be a bit cookie cutter (the three main storylines seem to arc at the exact same times), but when it comes to the football? Not many films can touch the realism depicted here. Hard-hitting, The Program takes you on the field, not just during drills, but during a number of memorable shit-talking exercises. More importantly, the film highlights what’s wrong with college football programs across the country—including doping, players taking money, the corners being cut for student-athletes at these institutions, and more—that makes this film just as important in 1993 as it is today. —Khal

6. Little Giants

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Man, this is bringing it back. If you and your friends didn't all get together on a Sunday morning and pop Little Giants into the VCR, then what were you even doing? Ice Box was the original enforcer in the middle and you'd have to convince me that Danny O'Shea wasn't a better coach than Vince Lombardi. Talk about a true underdog story. This is a film that even if you're not a kid, you'll enjoy. Some fantastic 90s nostalgia built around a fantastic football film that tells the story of the underdog Giants overtaking the superior Cowboys. Also, if you didn't do pullups in your room after watching this, you weren't really about that life. While doing the rewatch for this list, I also remembered how much of a boss Rick Moranis was back then. Man had classics and walked away on top like Barry Sanders. Salute. —Zach Frydenlund

5. Friday Night Lights

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I’ve never been able to get a full read on this movie, and it may be because it’s filmed like a straight-news examination of the costs and benefits of Odessa, Texas’s love affair with high school football. The movie methodically covers the price of the game on relationships, bodies, and the peace of mind of football on the community, but just when it gets to a devastating moment, it tends to pull back. 

There’s the moment where a drunk, abusive dad throws his championship ring out the window, only for his son to track it down. There’s the moment where the quarterback, who bears the burden of a difficult home life and endless debilitating hits, somehow smiles at the end of the film, as though the whole experience was worth it. Perhaps that’s the point. The costs of the game are well-known to its participants, but the son can’t give up what it means to his dad. And the quarterback can’t escape the fact that the thrills of the sport, body blows included, will stay with him forever. I suppose we can’t either. —David Zavac

4. The Waterboy

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Four might feel like a high ranking for The Waterboy, but it might be too low for a film that serves as a prescient warning about the importance of water management and hydration in a 21st century ravaged by climate change. 

Okay, maybe not. Waterboy scored just 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, but a lot of the reviews admitted, grudgingly, that this was an entertaining movie. On a rewatch, it IS entertaining. Kathy Bates is given free range as Bobby Boucher’s mom to do whatever she wants, and Fairuza Balk is hilarious as Vicki Vallencourt, Bobby’s law-challenged girlfriend. The actual football scenes are well-choreographed while staying true to the ridiculous fun of the plot. 

Look, at the age of 31 I’m not going to go out of my way to watch this movie. If it’s on tv though, there’s a lot worse ways to get nostalgic and remember when Rob Schneider was funny. —David Zavac

3. Remember the Titans

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The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Remember the Titans, starring Denzel Washington as Herman Boone, the African American football coach who integrated the T. C. Williams High School football team in 1971. Facing opposition from the community, as well as their own inter-team issues, the film shows how hard work and perseverance can bridge many gaps, primarily those among the black and white students at the time. Truly inspirational, and one of the most heart-warming films on this list, it’s dope to see that, while football is one of the biggest sports in the world, it can also help bring people together. The lessons these students learned going to war together on the field manifested themselves in their regular lives. Powerful, memorable film. —Khal

2. Any Given Sunday

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Any Given Sunday might have been a bit too real for the NFL's liking, but it really is an elite film. Oliver Stone's intense look at professional football features defining performances from Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, LL Cool J, and plenty more. Watching this movie as a kid and not knowing much about what happened in football outside of on the field was an eye-opening experience. There's so many classics senese in this movie, but I'll never forget the Willie Beamen music video clip when he's on top of the world. Jamie Foxx absolutely bodied this role. Few, if any, football movies have been able to capture the sport like Any Given Sunday. This was a harsh and brutal look at a barbaric sport that people love. It undisputed classic. —Zach Frydenlund

1. Varsity Blues

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Texas and high school football. The two have been tied together since the beginning of time, so why wouldn't Varsity Blues be No. 1 on this list? It is the essential football movie. You have just about everything in this movie to make it great. Romantic love triangles? Check. Hilarious party animal WR? Check. God-loving family who only care about faith and football? Check.

Bud Kilmer should go in the Hall-of-Fame for worst football coaches ever. What a dick. Also, go ahead and put Mox in the Hall-of-Fame for being a Texas QB who doesn't actually care about football and just wants to leave his small hometown and live his life. This film absolutedly holds up to this day and I'm pretty sure if the characters were real, Charlier Tweeder would have gone onto a illustrious career with the New England Patriots. He was the first Julian Edleman, TBH. Of course, this movie also reminds us just how great Paul Walker was as an actor. I dare you not to tear up when he gets hurt early in the film. 

Plain and simple, Varsity Blues was a film that delivered on every aspect. It's a great football movie, but also perfectly captures the wildness of youth doing whatever they want when they're the "jocks" living it up at a high school dedicated to football success. I'll never forget the shock of them going to the strip club and seeing their teacher dancing on stage from the first time I saw this film. A legit jaw-dropping scene. All in all, that's what Varsity Blues is. Jaw-dropping scenes built around a bunch of high school football players trying to keep it together while playing for a manica head coach who will do anything to win. Sounds like Texas and high school football, to me. —Zach Frydenlund

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