8 Top Grossing Football Movies of All Time
Football season is more than half over, so it’s almost time to start thinking about the playoffs. Or the draft, if you’re a fan of a team who hasn’t had a spectacular season so far.That sounds depressing, so why not pass the time by watching all of these films? Once you’re done, it’ll be about time to prepare yourself for the postseason.
Take a look at the eight top grossing football films of all time, unadjusted for inflation:
8. Varsity Blues – Paramount Pictures ($52.9 Million)
Paramount Pictures’ football drama Varsity Blues came out in 1999 and stars James Van Der Beek, Amy Smart, Paul Walker, and Jon Voight. The film tells the story of a small-town high school football team and the pressures of performing in a football-obsessed community.
Budgeted at an estimated $16 million, the film performed better than expected making $52 million at the domestic box office despite mixed reviews from critics. And if you’re like me, you probably remember the film best for slow motion shots set to “My Hero” by the Foo Fighters.
But all jokes aside, something about the film ultimately connected with audiences and many aspects of the film went on to become a part of the pop culture lexicon.
7. Invincible – Walt Disney Co. ($57.8 Million)
One of the more recent films on this list, Walt Disney Co.’s Invincible came out in 2006 and stars Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear, and Elizabeth Banks. The film is based on the true story of Vince Papale who played for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1976 to 1978 after catching the attention of coach Dick Vermeil at an open tryout.
With a budget of $40 million, the film’s box office take of almost $58 million didn’t make the film a big winner financially, but movie-goers and critics generally enjoyed the film. Robert Wilonsky of Village Voice wrote, “One of the few satisfying sports movies in which the foundation built upon a heap of clichés holds strong,” and Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune said that, “There’s a sugar coating to the way Papale’s story unfolds, but not so much that you’ll spoil your dinner.”
6. Friday Night Lights – Universal Pictures ($61.2 Million)
Universal Pictures’ football drama Friday Night Lights arrived in theaters in 2004, starring Billy Bob Thornton, Derek Luke, and Jay Hernandez. The film was based on Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream written by H. G. Bissinger and tells the story of the 1988 Permian High School Panthers football team and their run towards the state championship.
The film later spawned a television series of the same name that ended in 2010 and there are now talks of a movie based on the TV show. As many onlookers have humorously pointed out, that will mean that the new film will be based on a TV show, that was based on a film, that was based on a book. It almost sounds like the plot to Inception.
But as far as the raw numbers go, Friday Night Lights made $61 million at the box office on a budget of $30 million. The film is also one of the most critically acclaimed films on this list with many critics commending the film on not only its portrayal of football, but the overall dissection of small-town America. The late Roger Ebert wrote at the time that, “The movie demonstrates the power of sports to involve us; we don’t live in Odessa and are watching a game played 16 years ago, and we get all wound up,” giving the film 3.5 out of 4 stars.
5. Any Given Sunday – Warner Bros. ($75.5 Million)
Released on December 22, 1999, the Warner Bros. football drama Any Given Sunday is probably the most serious film on this list. Directed by Oliver Stone with an ensemble cast including Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, and Jamie Foxx, the film depicts a fictional professional American football team, the Miami Sharks, and the turmoil surrounding the team both on the field and behind the scenes in ownership.
With a production budget of $55 million, Any Given Sunday went on to make $75 million domestically and $24 million in foreign markets — an impressive number given that football films generally garner under 5 percent of their total gross outside the United States. Any Given Sunday got a mixed reception when it was released in 1999, with some critics saying that while it had great moments, it wasn’t up to the standard of Stone’s previous efforts.
J. Hoberman of Village Voice, for example, wrote that the film felt like “A Visual Concussion.” And while he meant that negatively, other critics seem to indicate that the experience that Hoberman is keying in on is a positive. “One of the few football movies that really puts you in the action, conveying the ferocity and trauma of the game,” Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune wrote. While the reviews at the time show a huge discrepancy between critics, the film has garnered somewhat of a cult following in more recent years, with many calling it one of, if not the greatest football movie ever made.
4. Remember the Titans – Walt Disney Co. ($115.6 Million)
Arguably the feel-good movie of this list, Disney’s Remember the Titans came out in 2000 and stars Denzel Washington. Along with the backing of Disney and the box office draw of Washington, the film was also produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Remember the Titans tells the true story of an African-American coach who who tries to introduce a racially divided team at the T. C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia during the early 1970′s.
Remember the Titans ended up making $115 million domestically, along with a foreign total of $21 million. The film ended up being a huge financial success for Disney as the film’s budget was estimated to be about $30 million. While some critics felt that the film was too sentimental, the greater majority felt that the film ultimately didn’t fall victim to over-sentimentality.
Andrew O’Hehir of Salon wrote, “Taken on its own terms, it’s an agreeable entertainment, solidly crafted, wonderfully acted and often genuinely moving,” while A. O. Scott of the NY Times wrote, “Remember the Titans is similarly solid; its satisfactions are time-tested, a little worn but nonetheless durable.” The general consensus among viewers seems to be that, while the film is sentimental, who cares?
3. The Longest Yard – Paramount Pictures ($158.1 Million)
The Longest Yard is a remake of the 1974 film of the same and stars Adan Sandler, Chris Rock, and James Cromwell. The film is the story of a disgraced former professional quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers in prison who is forced to form a team of prison inmates to play football against the prison guards.
The Paramount-backed football film ended up making $158 million domestically and $32 million at the foreign box office — good thing too, because the film had a budget of $82 million. Among other top rankings aside from football films, The Longest Yard also ranks number one on the list of remakes and number two in sports comedy.
The critics had a mostly negative reception of the film, with most writing that the film was not as good as the original. “If you’re thinking of seeing it, and you’re old enough to drive (or even read this), do yourself a favor and rent the original instead,” Carina Chocano of the Los Angeles Times wrote. However, Roger Ebert explained that, “The Longest Yard more or less achieves what most of the people attending it will expect.” The film’s box office gross also might have benefited from some fans of the next film on this list.
2. The Waterboy – Walt Disney Co. ($161.4 Million)
Released in 1998, The Waterboy was a hugely lucrative hit for the studio and is one of Adam Sandler’s top-grossing films. The film tells the story of Bobby Boucher, a socially inept waterboy, who single handedly takes the South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs to the Bourbon Bowl with the help of some pent up rage.
The Waterboy made $161 million domestically and $24 million on the foreign market for a total of $185 million. The film’s budget? Only $23 million. The film is also number one sports comedy of all time and had the following rankings for the year in 1998 — number five at the box office overall, third highest opening weekend, and second-highest grossing PG-13 film.
While The Waterboy had a pretty terrible reception with critics, it didn’t matter at a time when Sandler had considerable box office pull. Who doesn’t have at least five quotes from this movie always stocked up in the back of their head? Is the movie vapid? Yeah. But you can’t tell me you don’t leave it on when it comes on the television.
1. The Blind Side – Warner Bros. ($255.9 Million)
The most recent film on this list is also the most lucrative — something which also brings up a discussion on inflation, but that’s another story. Released in 2009, The Blind Side stars Sandra Bullock, who later won Best Actress at the Oscars, and tells the true story of Michael Oher and his journey from an impoverished upbringing to his adoption by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, and finally his journey towards the NFL.
With a domestic gross of $255 million, The Blind Side obliterates the competition — the film even managed to make $53 on the foreign market where most viewers probably don’t understand what football is. The kicker, though, is the budget for the film — $29 million. That means that the film made over ten times its budget. That there is a winner. Reviews for the film are generally positive, although some critics take issue with the film being overly sentimental. David Fear of Time Out New York also touches upon the bigger issue that many had with the film, writing, “It’s just blinkered middle-class pandering at its most shameless.”
But the overall views of the film are mostly positive. “Another uplifting and entertaining feel-good, fact-based sports drama,” Joe Leydon of Variety writes. And Lou Lemenick of the New York Post writes, “What makes The Blind Side a Thanksgiving treat is director Hancock’s subtle touch and admirable refusal to yield to sports movie clichés, something he did previously with The Rookie and Remember the Titans.”