This movie sits atop my list for many reasons. First of all, it has good acting. Denzel Washington leads a cast of under rated talent who are very convincing in their roles. Most of the actors don't leave you with the thought, "what movie was that guy in before?". It has realistic looking sports scenes, but doesn't waste the whole movie with shallow, on-field stories. In fact the whole movie addresses a much more vast theme of deep-rooted racism in football in the Southern States. I find this movie to be an easy one to flip on whenever its being played on TV, and can be re-watched all the way through regularly, dredging up the same strong emotional feelings each time.
What I love about this movie is that it was so good at pulling people in, even though its about horse racing, a sport many people don't even have much interest in. It tells a great story of not only a horse, but also a jockey who are underdogs and come from nowhere to accomplish greatness through heart and determination. The reason I would put this movie so high on my list ahead of other great sports movies is that it is so unique to all the others in terms of plot, yet very compelling.
This movie stars Samuel L. Jackson in the role of a coach trying to shape boys who are on a path to getting caught up in trouble with gangs and drugs into becoming upstanding young men instead. The theme focuses greatly on having respect for authority, and more importantly respect for yourself, and taking responsibility for your actions. There is also significant emphasis on the importance of academic excellence, and how this should come before athletics.
4. Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights shines a spotlight on the intense nature of high school football in a small Texas town. It follows the stories of several players who have plenty of trouble off the field as well as on, but more importantly addresses the issue of what happens when a star player has a career ending injury. Lastly, something very unique about this film is that they come up short in the end, and its a stark contrast to the rest of the movie that really shows there is more to life than football.
Mark Wahlberg plays the role of Vince Papale, an average Philadelphia guy who is really down on his luck and is left by his wife. When the Philadelphia Eagles new coach holds football tryouts, he is the one guy who actually has a chance to stick with the team. Constantly being reminded by friends and family that he probably won't get to play, and with teammates reluctant to allow him into their ranks, he manages to overcome the odds and gets a shot. This movie is a true individual underdog story, highlighting that with hard work and heart, even the average guy can grasp greatness with the right opportunity.