Fall is almost here and that means it’s almost time for the best season of the year — football season! And all joking aside, as everyone gears up to spend some time in the bleachers or at a tailgate, or maybe just watching at home on one of our picks for the best TVs we’ve tested, there’s never been a better time to sit down and watch a football movie while you’re waiting for the game to kickoff.
Especially since there are some football movies out there that are pretty good. Some may be more serious than others, but every movie on this list is picked not just because it’s a good football movie, but because it's a good movie in general.
So without further ado, here’s a list of football movies you can watch right now, all available on the best streaming services out there.
Heaven Can Wait
Given the final pick (no spoilers!) it may be shocking to say that Heaven Can Wait is the most ridiculous movie on this list but I promise it’s true. This 1978 comedy stars Warren Beatty as Joe Pendleton, a quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams who is unexpectedly taken to heaven by his guardian angel, known as The Escort (Buck Henry).
Unfortunately, it wasn’t actually time for Joe to go to heaven, so he’s sent back down to Earth into the body of Leo Farnsworth. What ensues is a screwball comedy that was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Actor (Beatty), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Warden as Max Corkle) and Best Supporting Actress (Dyan Cannon as Julia Farnsworth). The football is almost ancillary, but there’s enough football in Heaven Can Wait to call it a must-watch football movie.
Watch on Paramount Plus
“You complete me.” It’s one of Jerry Maguire’s several iconic lines and no football movie list would be complete without Cameron Crowe’s 1996 masterpiece. The movie stars Tom Cruise as the titular Maguire, a sports agent who has become increasingly disillusioned with the business. This causes him to speak out about his complaints… which promptly gets him fired. All his clients ultimately leave him but one — Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.)
Aside from the football, which there’s plenty of, Jerry Maguire really stands out as a romantic drama. Maguire’s romantic relationship with Dorothy Boyd (Renée Zellweger) is a core component of what makes the movie so great, but so is his growing personal relationship with Tidwell. It’s what ultimately leads to Cruise and Gooding Jr. both being nominated for Oscars for their performances, with Gooding Jr. winning for Best Supporting Actor.
Watch on Peacock
Friday Night Lights
While the TV series Friday Night Lights is, deservedly, regarded as one of the best sports dramas on TV or film, the movie that preceded it two years earlier shouldn’t be overlooked. Both are based on the 1990 H.G. Bissinger book Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream which covered the 1988 Permian High School Panthers football team on their path to winning the Texas state championship.
Starring Billy Bob Thornton as Permian Panthers head coach Gary Gaines, Lucas Black as quarterback Michael "Mike" Winchell and Derek Luke as star running back James "Boobie" Miles, Friday Night Lights is rightfully praised for the deep dive into Texas high school football that it takes you on over 118 minutes, as well as its exception soundtrack featuring Explosions in the Sky. Some argue that it ultimately doesn’t critique the culture of Texas high school football enough, particularly compared to the book, but even then most rate it highly.
Watch on Prime Video (free with ads)
For the longest time, Brian’s Song was the gold standard for sports films, let alone football movies. Frankly, it still is one of the best sports movies ever made, even if some great ones have followed since. So it may surprise you that this was originally an ABC Movie of the Week and not a theatrical release, though it eventually did make its way to theaters.
Brian’s Song is based on the real-life friendship between Chicago Bears teammates Brian Piccolo (James Caan) and Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams). I don’t want to spoil too many of the emotional beats of the film, but it covers a wide range of life’s realities from racial tensions to health scares. There’s plenty of football, but it's the relationship between these two men that will have it forever remain in your head once you watch it.
Watch on Tubi (free with ads)
When putting together this list, one thing was clear from my Tom’s Guide colleagues — I needed to include Rudy. Starring Sean Austin before he became a hobbit, Rudy is based on the real-life story of Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, a blue-collar Cathlotic who grew up dreaming of playing for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team.
Whether or not Rudy ever gets on the field, well… you’ll need to watch to find out. But despite some moments of the movie being overly dramatized, Rudy remains an inspirational film about persevering against all odds to accomplish your dreams, no matter how badly they're stacked against you. It may even help you get through some tough moments this NFL season, like when your fourth-string quarterback gets knocked out of the NFC championship game so you have to put in the third stringer who doesn’t even have a functioning throwing arm (sadly for Niners fans like me, that’s also a true story).
Watch on Paramount Plus
Remember the Titans
Remember the Titans is, you guessed it, based on a true story. That’s honestly a common theme in a lot of the best football movies. And like those other movies Remember the Titans does take some liberties to amp up the drama. But that doesn’t diminish the end product, which tells the story of T.C. Williams High School football coach Herman Boone’s integration of the school’s varsity football team.
It also doesn’t diminish the excellent performance of Denzel Washington, who plays Boone in the movie. And he’s not the only familiar face in Remember the Titans. The movie also features a young Ryan Gosling before his star turn in Barbie as well as a young Donald Faison (of Scrubs fame) and a young Hayden Panettiere (Nashville). It’s a roster loaded with talent that makes this movie one of the best football movies ever.
Watch on Disney Plus
When I say I’m saving the best for last, I mean it. Aside from maybe Any Given Sunday, which unfortunately is only available through video on demand, The Replacements is my favorite football movie of all time. That’s because before there was John Wick, or even before there was Neo, there was quarterback Shane Falco of the Washington Sentinels played by the one and only Keanu Reeves.
The Replacements is actually based on the true story of the 1987 NFL strike which culminated in the now Washington Commanders winning Super Bowl XXII, but only very, very loosely. Rest assured, this is no inspirational tale of real-life heroes, but instead just a scrappy bunch of misfits coached by Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman). It’s far from the most prestigious or acclaimed movie on this list, but after watching it you may just find it's your favorite.
Watch on Peacock