Top 10 College Football Movies Ever
10. The Waterboy (1998)
At one point or another, we could all use some “tackling fuel.”
Adam Sandler’s turn as 31-year-old, Cajun mama’s boy Bobby Boucher was by no means Academy Award material. But it was 90 minutes of shameless fun. You know, back when all of Adam Sandler’s movies were shameless fun instead of drivel like Jack and Jill.
And if sports fans are guilty of one thing, it’s an appreciation of big hits. That they are punctuated in this movie with a Sandler war cry that screams “I’ve had enough!” make them even better upon delivery.
Memorable Scene: Lawrence Taylor (of all people) telling his football campers that they should not smoke crack.
9. Necessary Roughness (1991)
One look through the cast on IMDB will make you say, “Really? They were in Necessary Roughness?” at least 3-4 times.
You have Hector Elizondo — most famous for “Chicago Hope” — as the head coach. Scott Bakula as a 34-year-old quarterback. Jason Bateman and Sinbad as some of his teammates.
And of course, an in-her-prime Kathy Ireland amidst her 13 straight appearances in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Wise choice by director Stan Dragoti to make her the most talented member of Texas State’s Fightin’ Armadillos.
Memorable Scene: Ireland’s rebuttal to “Welcome to football!”
8. The Express (2008)
Ernie Davis’ story is one of the most heartwarming and heartbreaking in college football. Overcoming racism en route to the first Heisman Trophy win for a black player, only to die suddenly shortly after his Syracuse career.
Rob Brown was a good fit for this role. After all, his breakout role was as a high school basketball player in Finding Forrester. And Dennis Quaid, for his limited abilities, did an admirable job portraying Davis’ blue collar-yet-progressive coach Ben Schwartzwalder.
Added bonus: Chelcie Ross as the wet blanket assistant coach/supporter. He nails that part every time.
Memorable Scene: Davis’ team agreeing to not eat at a segregated restaurant following their triumph in the Cotton Bowl.
7. We Are Marshall (2006)
It’s nice to see Matthew McConaughey take a break from slacking off in rom-coms without his shirt and get back to the dramatic stuff that first put him on the map. (It seems like a long time ago, but his breakout role was A Time to Kill.)
As Jack Lengyel — the man tasked with leading Marshall football out of the ashes of a tragic plane crash — McConaughey puts his penchant for being a natural salesman to good use. He’s equal parts hopeful and inspirational.
Matthew Fox — taking a break from “LOST” — is a good foil as Red Dawson. And two years before co-starring in The Hurt Locker, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty demonstrate that they need to be in more movies.
Throw in some eye candy (Kate Mara and January Jones) and you have a solid, uplifting movie.
Memorable Scene: Lengyel’s pregame speech at the cemetery before Marshall’s game against Xavier. Silver lining from a coach never sounded so inspiring.
6. The Junction Boys (2002)
Die-hard Tom Berenger fans will give us a lot of grief for this, but we only know him for two roles: Jake Taylor in Major League and Major League II and Bear Bryant in The Junction Boys.
After we saw the lattermost, we swore that Berenger was born and raised in the Deep South. There is no way he could have nailed that part otherwise. (Berenger is in fact from Chicago.)
For a movie airing on basic cable (ESPN), they did a good job of portraying the suffering that can only come from holding minicamp during a Texas drought. And ladies, take note: This was the U.S. debut of Ryan Kwanten, better known as Jason Stackhouse from True Blood.
Memorable Scene: The end-of-movie reunion at Junction, when the aged “survivors” from the ’54 team present Bryant with a ring and thank him for, you know, nearly killing them. Because men back then were men!
5. Everybody’s All-American (1988)
While most college sports movies — heck, most sports movies — savor the opportunity to portray the uplifting moments, this Taylor Hackford flick was brave enough to show what happens when those moments stop.
Gavin Grey (Dennis Quaid) is an LSU star, the campus golden boy in the Golden Era of campus golden boys. Going steady with the most beautiful girl (Jessica Lange) at school, adored by one and all. He has it all.
Until graduation comes. And while he enjoys success as a pro football player, it’s not the same as being a demigod in Baton Rouge.
Memorable Scene: Grey’s return to LSU 30 years after his 1950s heyday, only to be overshadowed by the current team as it runs back onto the field for the second half. There’s palpable devastation on Quaid’s face when his moment is stolen from him.
4. Knute Rockne, All American (1940)
This movie is old enough that the legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg played himself. So old that the actor who played the title character, Pat O’Brien, was born in the 19th century.
It was because of this film that Ronald Reagan went by “The Gipper” for the rest of his life — even after he gave up acting to go into politics.
And as advertised in the trailer, audiences get to “see the spectacular screen debut of the world-famous Notre Dame choir!”
Memorable Moment: The “Win One for the Gipper” Speech. The biggest reason why this movie is No. 3 on the list.
3. The Program (1993)
In terms of insanity, this movie has everything.
James Caan - best known as Sonny Corleone - as the head coach of a major program. A cocky running back (Omar Epps) who fulfills every college-aged male’s dream by dating his hot tutor (Halle Berry). A functionally illiterate star middle linebacker played by Duane Davis – the son of a Hall of Fame defensive end (Willie Davis).
Most memorably, you have Andrew Bryniarski as the suddenly bigger Steve Lattimer. Bonus points for Bryniarski for another college football movie, as he also starred in Necessary Roughness two years before.
Memorable Scene: When Lattimer makes the starting defense. Anybody at any level of football who makes starting anything should use the phrase “Starting defense: Place at the table!”
2. Something for Joey (1977)
Shame on us for forgetting about Something for Joey, the true-life story about Penn State Heisman-winning RB John Cappelletti and his younger brother, Joey, who suffered from lukemia and later died of the disease three years after his big brother clutched the bronze statue in 1973.
Cappelletti’s tearful acceptance speech about his brother after winning the ‘73 Heisman is one of the most famous speeches in sports history and showed all that is right with college athletics for a change.
The TV movie made a year after Joey’s death didn’t hit the big screen but was certainly worthy of a Hollywood film. Starring Steve Guttenberg, the film has an extraordinary 7.7 rating on IMDB and is full of comments from people talking about how the film brought them to tears.
1. Rudy (1993)
Anybody who tells you that a movie other than Rudy is No. 1 on this list — or anybody’s list of top college football movies — has been sleeping under a rock their entire life.
Where to begin? There’s the theme song “Take Us Out” (you know the one), the brainchild of veteran composer Jerry Goldsmith. The lushness of Notre Dame’s campus which makes you wonder why you ever chose to go to college anywhere else.
It’s also unintentionally hilarious that the scholarship player Rudy showed up in practice, Jamie O’Hara, was none other than Vince Vaughn — making his big-screen debut.
Memorable Scene: Rudy getting carried off the field. We get goosebumps watching it every time.
And don’t forget Fortune’s (Charles S. Dutton) “five-foot-nothing, a-hundred-and-nothing” pep talk to Rudy after he briefly quit the team. Anytime you need to count your blessings, just watch that scene.