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Football films to put you in the mood for the Big Game

The big-screen TV has been delivered and calibrated, the kegs of beer are properly chilled and the grill is primed and ready to flame on at a moment's notice.

The only detail that remains is how to fill those long, empty hours between now Sunday's Big Game. One possibility is to put that new plasma/LCD set to use and spin a couple of football-movie DVDs to get everyone in the proper mind-set. Even those four or five people who don't care about the Super Bowl will watch a good movie that just happens to be about football.

Here, in no particular order, are some recommendations for some pigskin flicks _ from raunchy and profane to sentimental and inspirational _ to tide you over until Sunday. Our only requirement when compiling the list was that the movie is readily available on DVD:

"North Dallas Forty" (1979): Based on the bestselling novel by a former Dallas Cowboy wide receiver, this deeply cynical comedy provides an insider's view of professional football and its less-than-family-friendly aspects while celebrating the spirit and tenacity of its players (including Nick Nolte and Mac Davis).

"Any Given Sunday" (1999): Like "North Dallas Forty" for a new generation, Oliver Stone's warts-and-little-else NFL expose features an all-star cast, including Al Pacino as the Miami Sharks' head coach, Cameron Diaz as the team's owner, James Woods as the prescription-doling team doctor, and Jamie Foxx, Dennis Quaid and L.L. Cool J as some of the players.

"Brian's Song" (1971): Known to reduce even the most stoic guys to blubbering tears, this fact-based drama about the friendship between Chicago Bears running backs Brian Piccolo (James Caan) and Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams), and Piccolo's subsequent death from cancer, proves football fans can be sensitive types, too.

"Remember the Titans" (2000): Football is second only to baseball as fodder for inspirational stories, and few football movies are as inspiring as this fact-based drama about the 1971 team at the newly-integrated T.C. Williams High School, coached by Denzel Washington.

"Jerry Maguire" (1996): A football movie even football widows can enjoy. As much of a romantic comedy as it is about football, but it still climaxes with a Very Big Game, and Cuba Gooding Jr.'s performance as the showboating wide receiver Rod Tidwell won him an Oscar.

"Friday Night Lights" (2004): Before the current (and excellent) TV show, there was this excellent adaptation of H.G. Bissinger's nonfiction account of a small Texas town's obsession with the local high school football team. For a good double feature, check out 1983's "All the Right Moves," in which Tom Cruise plays a high school football star butting heads with his coach (Craig T. Nelson), who would go on to play a much funnier, nicer variation of the character in the TV sitcom "Coach."

"The Longest Yard" (1974): Forget the recent Adam Sandler remake and stick with the original, in which Burt Reynolds leads a team of prison inmates in a game against their sadistic guards, resulting in what has to be the lowest, dirtiest football game in movie history.

"Rudy" (1993): Before he was traipsing all around Middle Earth or making life miserable for "24's" Jack Bauer, Sean Astin earned a cult following for his performance as Daniel E. "Rudy" Reittinger, who refused to listen when everyone he told him he was too small to ever play college football.

"Everybody's All-American" (1988): Another female-friendly football flick, this one charting three decades in the lives of a college football star (Dennis Quaid) and his wife (Jessica Lange). Schmaltzy as hell, but goes down surprisingly well when accompanied by beer and pretzels.

"Heaven Can Wait" (1978): In his last true box-office smash, Warren Beatty plays a Los Angeles Rams quarterback who is prematurely sent to heaven by an overzealous angel but returns to earth in the body of a millionaire, buys the team and keeps on leading them toward the Super Bowl.

"The Replacements" (2000): During a football strike, a retired coach (Gene Hackman) is drafted back onto the field to lead a team of scabs (including Keanu Reeves, Orlando Jones, Jon Favreau and Rhys Ifans).

"Invincible" (2006): Utterly predictable, yet surprisingly engaging retelling of the amazing story of Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg), who landed a permanent spot on the Philadelphia Eagles roster during an open tryout session intended to generate free publicity for the team.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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