Release Date: 2004
First Saw It: I didn’t see it in the theater, I thought the trailers looked awful. When it came out on DVD, my college roommate convinced me to watch it. When the film ended, my jaw hit the floor. Wow.
What Drew Me To See It: As I said, it was constant prodding from my roommate. I think Miracle even came out the same year. I didn’t know it was possible to get two sports movies of that caliber in one calendar year.
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Lucas Black, Derek Luke, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund
They Were Also In: Connie Britton played Coach Gary Gaines’ wife in the film, but only has one scene of significance. Britton would go on to play the wife of Coach Eric Taylor in the Friday Night Lights series. Her presence was certainly more felt on the show.
Cameo Shout Outs: The real life Boobie Miles shows up during the coach’s final halftime speech, and stands right next to Derek Luke who played Boobie Miles in the film. Roy Williams (former NFL wide receiver) also pops up as an opposing coach. He played football for Permian in real life. I drafted Roy Williams in my fantasy league the following year. He didn’t do very well.
Director: Peter Berg
The Best Performance: There’s a lot to choose from, even Tim McGraw’s harsh performance as Don Billingsley’s drunk dad. Many will disagree with this, but I’m going with Lucas Black as the quarterback Mike Winchell. I found this character absolutely fascinating. When you watch any football movie, the quarterback is always portrayed as the cocky, confident leader who gets all the ladies. Mike Winchell is anything but these things. He holds the entire weight of the world in his face, and Black played it flawlessly.
The Supporting Scene Stealer: In what may be among my top twenty movie scenes of all time, Boobie Miles (Luke) finally realizes his football career is over. The set-up is subtle, but crushing. He watches garbage men load the truck from across the street. Then he cleans out his locker, including posters of cars he planned on buying once he got that big NFL contract. And then Peter Berg kicks you right in the gut – he completely breaks down in his uncle’s car. It’s one of the most powerful and tragic scenes you will ever see in a motion picture.
The Moment to Remember: It’s a shame Peter Berg hasn’t come close to directing anything near the quality of Friday Night Lights, but his direction in this movie is absolutely brilliant. I knew this was based on a true story, and I guess some of the facts were changed around, but whatever, I don’t care. The final play of the State Finals as Winchell tries to rush in the touchdown is a sports scene that belongs right up there with the final bell in Rocky. It’s that well done.
The Memorable Quote: “Do you feel 17?” -Don Billingsley
The Groan Moment: Some of Garrett Hedlund’s acting leaves a lot to be desired.
Why I Can’t Stop Watching It: I didn’t get to talk about half the stuff I love about Friday Night Lights. Aside from the Boobie Miles scene, this movie is littered with emotionally charged moments. We got the big “be perfect” halftime speech, the constant pressure all the townspeople put on Permian, and of course Billingsley’s dad giving Don his ring at the end. Aside from Rocky, this is the greatest sports movie ever made. And if I can stress one aspect about this film above all others, it’s the score. Wow. A band called Explosions in the Sky composed the music, and it’s one those film scores that is truly legendary.