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Sports Video Vault: The Inspirational Football Films Edition

South Stands Denver | October 8, 2014

“You’re a monster if you don’t have a few tears when Rudy finally gets in the game at the end of the movie. (Spoiler alert)”

We are knee-deep into football season, but there’s always time for a great sports movie or two.

When reality becomes too much, it’s healthy to recharge your mental batteries with stories about a kid named Rudy or a high school team working together to accomplish great things.

Here is a list of movies that will leave a few tears in your eye and root for the underdog again.

If you haven’t seen any of these films, make the time to borrow a DVD from a friend or check Netflix to view these classics.

Here are a few qualifiers about my list. First of all, I haven’t seen every football movie ever made so if you feel that I should watch one of your favorites, please leave a comment. I want to work on a list of new list of football films new to me so any feedback is welcome. I also have several other categories including comedy and over-the-top films.

My Top 5 Inspirational Football Movies:

– Rudy

– Friday Night Lights

– Invincible

– The Express

– Remember the Titans


Rudy (1993)

Rudy is the story of the little football player that could. Most sports fans have a special place in their heart for the most try-hard athlete in sports film history, and this movie chronicles the journey of Rudy Ruettiger as he fulfills a promise to get into Notre Dame and on to the football team.

Rudy must fight through skepticism and ridicule from coaches and All-American players as he gives his all on the practice field. His family is no help either since he has an older brother pawing on his old high school sweetheart and a father who loves Notre Dame Football, but doesn’t believe Rudy will make the team.

You’re a monster if you don’t have a few tears when Rudy finally gets in the game at the end of the movie. (Spoiler alert)


Friday Night Lights (2004)

We all know that football is big in Texas and this is accurately captured with Friday Night Lights. Billy Bob Thornton deserves some kind of award for portraying Permian High School Head Coach Gary Gaines. The bright Friday lights of Odessa are dimmed for Panthers fans when its star running back suffers a career-ending injury, but Gaines finds a way to get the team to rise to the occasion.

The critically-acclaimed movie, based on the novel of the same name, paved the way for a TV series, which some consider to be one of the best dramas in history. One of the most inspiring quotes from the movie deals with the drive for perfection. “Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down because you told them the truth.”



Philadelphia Eagles fans don’t really have much to cheer for, but they can take pride in Invincible: a Rudy-esque film where the underdog player makes the team for more than one play. The movie is based on Vince Papale, a 30 year-old Philly part-time substitute teacher/bartender who tries out for the Eagles and gets an invitation to training camp. He goes through the rigors and new Head Coach Dick Vermeil takes a chance on Papale.


The Express (2008)

The little-known story (at least to me) of Ernie Davis is told in The Express. Action speaks louder than words for Davis, a star running back recruited by Syracuse University and faces racism from within the team and other programs. He carries the Orange to a national championship while winning the Heisman Trophy. But sadly his bright future is cut short when he gets leukemia, but his will earns him a spot as a sports legend.


Remember the Titans (2000)

This Disney flick tackled high school football and prejudice as it chronicles the desegregation of T.C. Williams High School. Two football squads separated by race take a journey to find a way to work together to go “undefeated” during the fever pitch of the Civil Rights Movement.

The movie also includes one of the most overused motivational speeches used by every business retreat in the known universe. And if the defensive coordinator telling his team to make a stand seems corny and borders on the over-the-top, sometimes it’s what you want from a movie.


Next up will be over-the-top football that are football movies, but magnify some aspect of the game to absurd levels. Some movies on list include The Program and Any Given Sunday.

Written by South Stands Denver


This post currently has 2 comments.

  1. Todd Snively

    January 8, 2020 at 12:40 am

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    March 12, 2020 at 3:52 am

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