1. “Jerry Maguire”
The football element: Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) is a sports agent, whose clients include Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr. in his Oscar-winning role).
Why you might like it anyway: It’s really a romantic comedy about Jerry and Dorothy (Renée Zellweger). She completes him. He had her at “hello.” Jerry’s career as a sports agent sparks his nervous breakdown, but it’s ultimately a love story. Also a showcase for Jonathan Lipnicki’s preciousness.
2. “The Blind Side”
The football element: Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock, who won an Oscar) adopts Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a troubled young man who eventually ends up playing for the Baltimore Ravens.
Why you might like it anyway: Even if you’re not familiar with the career of the real Michael Oher, you can still appreciate the story of the bond he forms with Leigh Anne. The film focuses largely on the integration of Michael into the family and the surrounding community.
3. “The Waterboy”
The football element: Bobby Boucher (Adam Sandler) is an awkward water boy who soon becomes the star player of the South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs. There’s a lot of kicking.
Why you might like it anyway: It’s one of Adam Sandler’s more entertaining and heartfelt comedies. Bobby’s story is about overcoming adversity — football is only one aspect of that. Plus, great performances from Henry Winkler and Kathy Bates!
4. “Little Giants”
The football element: It’s about competing pee-wee football teams. In many ways, Little Giants is the classic underdog sports movie, with the lesser team beating the odds.
Why you might like it anyway: They’re just kids! Even if the football talk doesn’t interest you, there’s plenty to enjoy about the rag-tag team of misfits who make up the Pee-Wee Cowboys. You might even learn a little bit about sportsmanship, which is more important than the rules of the game.
5. “Heaven Can Wait”
The football element: Joe Pendleton (Warren Beaty) is a back-up quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams who dies and enters the body of a rich industrialist, then buys his old team.
Why you might like it anyway: When a character dies and enters the body of another man, the whole football thing is kind of a sidenote. Yes, there is a plot about Joe helping the Rams get to the Super Bowl, but whatever. Buck Henry plays a guardian angel.
6. “Varsity Blues”
The football element: Mox (James Van Der Beek) is a high school back-up quarterback in a Texas town that cares too much about football. Think Friday Night Lights, if that makes you feel better.
Why you might like it anyway: There’s no way around it — Varsity Blues is a football movie. But it’s also a ’90s teen classic, starring the Beek in his most heavily accented role. Add the infamous whipped cream bikini scene and you’ve got a must-see flick.
7. “Brian’s Song”
The football element: This is the true story of Brian Piccolo (James Caan) and Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) of the Chicago Bears. They share a strong friendship, which helps Brian as he faces terminal cancer.
Why you might like it anyway: Terminal cancer. Brian’s Song is a serious tearjerker — maybe you don’t care about football, but you at least care about crying, right? And it’s all very moving, more than you’d expect from a ’70s made-for-TV movie that aired on ABC.
8. “Silver Linings Playbook”
The football element: Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper, who is up for an Oscar) bonds with his father Pat, Sr. (Robert De Niro, also nominated) over the Eagles. A pivotal bet hangs on their game against Dallas.
Why you might like it anyway: Silver Linings Playbook is up for Best Picture this year. It resonated with audiences, many of whom probably don’t follow the Eagles. It’s really a film about broken people finding a connection. That’s always more fun than sports.
9. “Against All Odds”
The football element: Terry Brogan (Jeff Bridges) is an aging football player released by his team, the Los Angeles Outlaws (not real!) He gets involved with a dangerous man who wants him to find Jessie (Rachel Ward), daughter of the Outlaws’ owner.
Why you might like it anyway: Sex and murder get more screentime than football. The fact that Terry is a football player and Jessie the daughter of a team owner is really only a means to get their lives intertwined. Well, that and James Woods as the menacing Jake Wise.
10. “Air Bud: Golden Receiver”
The football element: It’s about a dog playing football.
Why you might like it anyway: It’s about a dog playing football.
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