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Five Faves: Best football movies

Let's get fired up for football season and look at the best football movies covering each level of play.

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High school football
RALEIGH, N.C. — The middle of August means a couple things – the start of school and the start of football. Each is highly anticipated by kids and adults alike, often times because they are one-in-the-same.

Football has grown to become America’s favorite sport for its combination of fast-paced action, admitted violence and its accessibility for all ages. And let’s not forget fantasy football and the copious movies.

The movies themselves inspire us, depicting all ages from all walks of society tossing the pigskin on the gridiron – sometimes pristine and painted, sometimes merely a patch of dirt.

So with that in mind, let’s get fired up for the season and look at the best football movies covering each level of play.

YOUTH: Little Giants – Okay let’s be honest, there are only a couple movies really focused on youth football, but Little Giants could make the list among all the best football movies. The underdog storyline is familiar, but hey, it’s a kids movie. And when Icebox, the big bad linebacker – who also happens to be a girl – takes it upon herself to ditch the pom-poms for a helmet and take out the enemy Cowboys, she makes her nerdy father (Rick Moranis) the toast of the town. Even the Carolina Panthers watched the movie. For proof, watch them execute the Annexation of Puerto Rico in a 2011 game against the Houston Texans (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nn4cioLwa30).

HIGH SCHOOL: Varsity Blues – When you think high school football you think Texas, the quarterback and the legendary coach. Check, check and check. A prototypical late-90s teen movie, it reached cult-following status when it first came out and paved the way for the likes of Friday Night Lights. The family drama, the cheerleader-quarterback relationship, the pressures of drugs to win, the coach and his statue and of course the behind-the-scenes parties – it is a perfect blend of Hollywood meets, “I remember when…”

COLLEGE: Rudy – In easily the most flooded level of play depicted in film, Rudy just somehow stands out. Not to take anything away from the likes of We Are Marshall, The Express, Remember the Titans and the continuing list of collegiate classics, but there is something about the Notre Dame allure and the larger-than-life story derived from obscurity. Hard to believe the movie was made back in 1993, but perhaps that adds to its appeal – it’s timeless. It doesn’t boast an all-star cast by any means as the headliners are Sean Astin, Jon Favreau and Ned Beatty. It does however boast a “5-foot-nothing, 100-and-nothing” hero.

PRO: Any Given Sunday – It is tough to find real football movies about real NFL teams (I’m sure the NFL themselves has some say in that). No, I don’t consider Jerry Maguire a football movie, and Heaven Can Wait kind of predates what football has grown into. With Any Given Sunday, you get some real players adding to the realistic action, some well-directed highlight montages, a peek into the millionaire’s lifestyle off the field, and of course, the “Steamin’ Willie Beamon” music video. Plus Al Pacino teaches Cameron Daiz how to be a shark (or is it the other way around?) which is aptly the name of the football team.

STREET BALL: The Longest Yard – Not falling into any of the organized levels of play categories, The Longest Yard (original, not the remake) needs mention as one of the best football movies ever. I’m not saying the remake was unwatchable, but the original is a classic. Burt Reynolds and a group of prisoners taking it to the guards in rebel fashion while still playing the role of the good guys is a perfect inverse plot. And while the movie features former NFLers Joe Kapp and Ray Nitschke they weren’t the only ones with real-life talent. Reynolds himself actually played halfback at Florida State back in the day.

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