Last Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Minnesota Vikings 38–7 to qualify for the Super Bowl. It's the first time the Eagles will be in the Super Bowl since 2005, when the Patriots, who they will be playing again this February 4th, defeated them. It’s the perfect setup for a sports movie: plucky underdogs get a second chance to defeat the reigning champions (the Patriots have played ten Super Bowls, more than any other team in the NFL).
Even if you don’t really care about football (I confess to having no idea how the rules of the game work), it’s a pretty exciting moment to be in Philly. In preparation for the big game, here are some football flicks (that aren't Invincible because that one is too damn obvious) to get you in the mood to drunkenly attempt to climb Crisco–swabbed telephone poles or drive an ATV up the Rocky Steps. Just try not to run into a subway pillar, please.
If you haven’t already, you should definitely watch Friday Night Lights, the 2004 film adaptation of Buzz Bissinger’s 1990 non–fiction book of the same name. The film follows a high school football team in Texas, tracking the lives and relationships of the players and their families, and their tiny town’s love for the team, as they progress to the Texas state championships. The film has also been readapted by its director Peter Berg into a TV show. If you have time, you should read the original book as well—its author actually teaches an advanced journalism class at Penn.
Though slightly less strictly a “sports movie," Jerry Maguire is also mandatory watching for your pre–Super Bowl spirits and generally for life. It’s one of Cameron Crowe’s best films where he manages to control his tendency towards sappiness to produce a funny, touching movie about a cocky sports agent (Tom Cruise before he came out as a Scientologist/couch jumper) who gets fired from his agency and falls in love with Dorothy (Renée Zellweger), a single mother, along the way.
Cuba Gooding Jr. won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor as ebullient Cardinals wide receiver Rod Tidwell, forever altering the landscape of American colloquialism with the line “Show me the money!” from the film, which also produced iconic lines like “You had me at hello.” And it’s a football movie! One of Jerry Maguire’s two climactic scenes is a Monday Night Football game between the Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys. The other scene occurs at a support group for divorced women, and the stakes are high in both—no spoilers though. Watch the movie.
After wiping away the tears you shed during Jerry’s declaration of love to Dorothy and/or Rod’s nail–bitingly close call during the football game, you might want to switch to a pure comedy to lighten things up: The Longest Yard, either in its original 1974 iteration, starring Burt Reynolds, or the 2005 remake starring Adam Sandler. Choose wisely: you will be judged. The plot revolves around a former quarterback who organizes a group of prison inmates into a football team to play against the prison guards. There’s even a British remake, Mean Machine, which switches the sport to the more culturally–apt soccer (aka real football, I’ll fight you on this).
Once your sports movie fix is satisfied, gear up for the Super Bowl: stockpile alcohol, buy some Eagles gear, and make sure all your Monday homework is finished, because there’s no way you’re doing it the night before. Here’s hoping to an underdog victory—if only because it’ll make a great movie.