Who doesn’t love a good inspirational sports movie? And for Americans, what better vehicle for delivering this feel good hit than the national sport? We love seeing the underdogs beat the odds, players that seem to be past their prime make a comeback, and young men with no prospects transform their lives.
If you are a fan of the genre, you have probably seen most of the big-name football films. But you might not have seen this full list of inspirational football movies and revealing documentaries currently available on Netflix.
Also check: Boxing movies on Netflix
The 4th Company (2016)
IMDB Score 6.4/10
Prison movie meets football movie, this is no The Longest Yard (also on this list). This movie takes a bleak look at prison life in Mexico in the 1970s. For one inmate, the only glimmer of hope in his unhappy prison existence is the possibility of playing on the prison’s famous football team. He soon gets more than he bargained for, as he realises that they are not just a team of football players, but a team of enforcers for some of the prison’s most dangerous inmates.
Career High (2015)
IMDB Score 5.1/10
This movie looks at a powerhouse Texas high school football team in the 1980s. However, it does not focus on their activity on the field. Rather it looks at racial tensions in a small town and the impact that the bad deeds of some ‘untouchable’ football players has on the team, and the community. Will their actions cost them their future, and should they?
IMDB Score 7.1/10
In this excellent film Will Smith plays a doctor who discovers the impact of the thousands of concussions that football players receive over their careers has on their brain and their mental health. Set in a time when football players and their families had no answers as to why players’ behaviour might change dramatically, Smith’s Dr Omalu must fight the machine that is American football to bring this information to light. This film shows real empathy for the struggles of many players after the game.
Facing the Giants (2006)
IMDB Score 6.7/10
A slightly different take, this is a Christian sports drama, directed by and starring Alex Kendrick with a supporting cast composed of volunteers from the Sherwood Baptist Church. It focusses on the importance of faith to many sportsmen, and shows how one football coach uses faith to transform the attitude of his team and put them on the path to potential glory.
Friday Night Lights (2004)
IMDB Score 7.3/10
Before the series became a breakaway cult hit, Billy Bob Thornton starred in this move about what happens in a small Texas town when the high school football team’s best player goes down with an injury. Of course, this is a town full of adults who define themselves in terms of their relationship to this team, making them obsessed with its success beyond all reason. Naturally, it is up to Thornton’s football coach to help the team, and the town, deal with the fallout.
The Game Plan (2007)
IMDB Score 6.2/10
This is yet another Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson comedy where he plays a hard man whose life gets turned on its head. In this movie, he plays a professional quarterback who discovers that he has an eight-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. He struggles to find space for this child that he never wanted in his life, but when circumstances threaten to take her away, he realises just how important she is. Predictable but enjoyable.
Happy Valley (2014)
IMDB Score 7.1/10
This documentary turns away from the glamour and the heart of football, and looks at the worst aspects of college football fandom. It centres on the case of Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State defensive coordinator that was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse in 2011. Despite the horrific nature of the abuse, many fans rallied around the program and its head coach Joe Paterno, who it is implied was aware what was happening. Just how much are people willing to sacrifice for a winning team?
IMDB Score 7.1/10
Based on a true story, Mark Wahlberg stars as Vince Papale, a substitute teacher who, after hitting rock bottom, unexpectedly finds himself playing for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1976 to 1978. Over the course of the movie he struggled to win acceptance from his fellow players, and find the confidence to believe that he belongs on the team. Greg Kinnear does a great job as the Eagle’s supportive coach.
Last Chance U (2016-)
IMDB Score 8.5/10
A short series rather than a movie, it is still well worth a watch. The docuseries looks at the East Mississippi Community College Football team, one of the most unconventional and unrecognised, but most effective, college football programs. We get a look at what sets the program apart, and the hardships that the players need to ensure in order to pursue their NFL dreams.
The Longest Yard (2005)
IMDB Score 6.4/10
Very different from the other football prison film on this list, this film stars Adam Sandler as a former professional quarterback who finds himself in prison, and forced to form a team of inmates to play against the guards. Burt Reynolds, who played Sander’s character in the original 1974 version of this movie, stars as the inmates’ coach, and the cast also features several former and current professional athletes including the likes of Terry Crewes, Michael Irvin and Brian Bosworth.
A Triumph of the Heart (1991)
IMDB Score 7.5/10
NFL running back Ricky Bell was predicted to be one of football’s rising stars, and was the first player selected in the 1997 draft. Unfortunately, he died prematurely in the prime of his career at the age of 29 from a disease which affected his skin, muscles and tissues. This movie starring Mario van Peebles tells Bell’s story. Peebles’ excellent performance, coupled with uncommonly good on-field footage, makes this tear jerker worth the watch.
IMDB Score 6.9/10
Based on a true story, in this film we see small-town football coach Harold Jones, played by Ed Harris, befriend a young mentally challenged man nicknamed Radio, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., after he is tormented by Jones’ own players. Jones supports Radio to build his life and find a place within the community, while teaching his students, and the community at large, to look beyond surface impression and see the true value that people offer.
Remember the Titans (2000)
IMDB Score 7.8/10
If the fact that this movie stars Denzel Washington is not enough to add it to your list, it is also produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. It is based on the true story of an African-American coach, Herman Boone, and his attempt to integrate the Williams High School football team in Virginia in 1971. This film delivers a strong social message and somehow creates a richer world that we see in many sports movies.
IMDB Score 7.8/10
Rather than following a successful football team and exploring why they are so good, this documentary focuses on a historically inept inner-city high school team in Memphis. Before 2009, the team had been playing for 110 years, and never won a playoff game. The documentary follows a volunteer coach and three of the teenage players during their notable 2009 season. Less about what happens on the field, it focusses on what football means to these men and for their future.
The Waterboy (1998)
IMDB Score 6.1/10
The second Adam Sandler entry in this list, it tells the story of Bobby Boucher, an immature man living his dream by providing water for his college football team. After he is unceremoniously fired, he gets his own back by becoming a hard-hitting player on a rival squad. While far from serious, it has a nice mix of comedy and heart, and I love seeing Fairuza Balk (yes Dorothy in Return to Oz and the crazy one in The Craft) in any movie.