As a relatively niche film genre, football documentaries are often surprisingly good. Of course, sports fans will need little convincing of the merits of these sorts of movies; but for the cinephiles who wouldn’t generally choose to watch films like this, we’re going to present three of the best in the field.
The Best That Never Was
Let’s kick things off with The Best That Never Was. We’ve started with this picture because it presents something really quite different and is not what anyone expects: NFL stars that never quite made it. This one is a great choice for both those who enjoy following the ups and downs of players’ careers through the latest NFL news, and those who just love a gripping story.
Released in 2010 and directed by Jonathan Hock, this documentary tells the tale of one Marcus Dupree. As an exceptionally promising running back, Dupree should have had a glittering professional career. Indeed, as a college player he was the stuff of legend. However, for one reason or another, things didn’t quite work out as expected. This documentary provides a fascinating insight into a rarely explored region of the game and provides something that really stands out from the standard offering of football films.
Staying with the college football theme, the 2009 release The U presents the Miami Hurricanes during the 1980s – the most extraordinary period of the team’s history. As a side playing “with a chip on their shoulder”, as one player explains, they were full of an extreme, and often very ugly kind of aggression. Whilst, undeniably, this added a certain spice to the games and made for some very exciting moments for spectators, it also created a great deal of negative press and controversy.
Directed by Billy Corben, this documentary nicely conveys the spirit of the era. It also manages to provoke much thought without being too dry about it. You’ll come away questioning the nature of competition, the value of that traditional, gentlemanlike brand of good sportsmanship and the real cost of winning in the game of football, and indeed life itself.
Our final choice is a true classic and does what this genre of film does best by raising the spirits and offering profound inspiration. Directed by Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin, this picture from 2011 follows a group of young men nobody really believed could achieve greatness (good trailer here).
The Manassas Tigers, a high school football team from Memphis, are in a sorry state, both on and off the field, until coach Bill Courtney comes onto the scene. Through hard work, determination and a lot of heart, he turns the team around and teaches them the importance of character in the face of defeat. Focusing on the lives of the players as much as what happens during play, picking up on their troubled backgrounds, we are taken on an interesting journey with this movie that certainly isn’t forgotten in a hurry.