It’s that time of year again, where the titans of football duke it out on a green battlefield to prove, once and for all, who the greatest of all time is. (For at least a year, that is.) It’s the time for movie studios to release their most anticipated trailers and companies that specialize in booze or sugar to release funny and/or sentimental commercials that usually involve animals. It’s the time for over paid artists to dazzle us with prerecorded tracks and confetti, while athletes are backstage getting the juice or deflating their balls. Allegedly.
Yes, ladies and gents, it’s time for the Super Bowl. The holiest of holy days for a large portion of America. Where huge sums of people will stuff their face with pizza and wings while simultaneously chearing for their favorite team to win and the other team to violently lose.
It’s a religion to some, a tradition to most and a distraction to all. Say what you will about its entertainment value but at the end of the day, it helps most people forget about their problems for at least a couple of hours. It distracts us from our day-to-day troubles and more importantly, it brings people together.
Whether it’s a tail gate party or a neighborhood get together, it brings communities together. Just like how a theater brings strangers together under one roof, football is an important distraction. Let’s celebrate both distractions with this list of the Top Five Most Underrated Football Movies.
5. Black Sunday
While not dealing with the sport directly, Black Sunday is a fantastic thriller that makes the most of its Super Bowl setting. The plot is simple: the Black September terrorist group devise a plan to blow up a Goodyear blimp hovering over the Super Bowl stadium and American and Israeli intelligence officers race to prevent the catastrophe.
Lumped in with other disaster themed films of the era (Earthquake, The Towering Inferno, Rollercoaster, Etc), Black Sunday sacrifices an all star ensemble for bleak, realism. Gone are C list actors mugging for the camera and in their place is a plot that is more relevant today than it was 40 years ago.
With powerhouse performances from Shaw and Dern, Black Sunday may not be the best football movie but it’s definitely one of the best thrillers of the 70’s.
4. Quarterback Princess
In the early 80’s, there was a slew of films centered around female athletes. Blue Skies Again, Gregory’s Girl, Hockey Night, The Miracle of Kathy Miller, Personal Best, Heart Like a Wheel, and Quarterback Princess. You would think America would take the hint that women want to play sports but much like the most stubborn of mules, progress only happens at a snails pace.
You can try and move it along faster with a carrot but that’s not always a guarantee. But I honestly don’t know what the metaphorical carrot in this scenario is. I have no idea why female athletes get paid less or why women’s sports aren’t as popular. I don’t know what we can do to move this mule but thankfully we have films like Quarterback Princess that are slowly inspiring change.
3. The Freshman
Before Rudy and Lucas proved “it’s not the size of the player on the field, it’s the size of the heart of the player”, there was The Freshman.
Credited as the world’s first sports film, The Freshman is one of the silent ages greatest comedies. Harold Lloyd plays Harold “Speedy” Lamb who recently arrived at college and is desperate to become popular. While the other aforementioned underdogs are into football because of their hearts, Speedy is into it because jocks equal popularity and popularity equals women.
The humor is derived from the fact that he’ll do anything for popularity which inevitably leads to the climactic football game which is right alongside Lloyd’s previous stunt from Safety Last! as his crowning achievement.
2. Harvard Beats Yale 29-29
A documentary that drives from end zone to end zone, delivering touchdown after touchdown. Equal parts informative and exhilarating, this film is one of the most energetic documentaries I’ve ever seen.
That is until Tommy Lee Jones shows up. Every time they cut to an interview with him, the film immediately loses momentum. I’ve seen hostages read ransom notes with more enthusiasm and they also have guns pointed at their heads. The most famous person on the doc is by far the weakest element.
Not including his garbage interviews, the film is perfect. But don’t take my word for it, David O. Russell claims that this is one of his favorite films.
So you have to love it. Or he’ll throw shit at you. Just ask Lily Tomlin.
1. Big Fan
Don’t let the genetic poster fool you, this film is anything but uplifting. Most sports films deal with an up-and-coming athlete trying to make it or the drama that happens behind the scenes but Big Fan goes in the complete opposite direction. It’s not about an athlete or a manager ala Jerry Maguire, It’s about a fan.
Patton Oswalt plays Paul Aufiero, a New York Giants football fanatic. He eats and breaths the Giants and wants nothing more than for his team to go all the way.
One night, after harmlessly shadowing (following him from strip club to strip club) his football idol all night, Paul works up the courage to ask him for an autograph. Thinking he’s a crazy stalker, the football player beats Paul almost to death.
He is now faced with the dilemma of turning a blind eye to what happened or pressing charges against his favorite player, likely causing his team a division title.
It’s a solid enough plot but the lions share of credit belongs to Oswalt. His performance is truly fearless. It would’ve been easy to portray Paul has a one note cliche but Oswalt creates a character that is not only painfully real but exists when the camera stops rolling.
It’s an incredibly underrated performance in an insanely under seen gem. Which is why it gets my vote for the Most Underrated Football Film Ever Made.