North Dallas Forty (1979) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I've always liked this film. Pete Gent, a real professionl football player, wrote the novel, and he knew very well the inner workings of the Dallas Cowboy organization, understood the game, understood the psychology of the players, and he had a wry set of observations about professional team football and the various hangers-on that feed upon it.

I think ol' Pete wrote the truth, and the Nick Nolte character was pretty much his ownself, as we say in Texas. I knew some of the Dallas people he wrote about, and he was painfully accurate. Plus he had a real feel for the poetry of the game and the psychology of the guys who love to play it.

The movie isn't quite as strong as his book because they weren't able to maintain the realism in the actual games. Mac Davis and Nick Nolte weren't exceptionally gifted football players, so they looked like actors playing roles, and not like professional athletes. But the scenes away from the playing field are excellent, and funny, and often touching. It's possibly the most accurate movie ever made about sports, and one of the best.

One of the members at IMDB wrote that it might be the best sports movie ever made. That's a pretty broad topic, which would encompass movies like Chariots of Fire, Hoosiers, Slap Shot, Field of Dreams, Rocky, and The Hustler, and I didn't feel like attacking a topic that broad, so I started to wonder what is the best football movie ever made? Maltin picked this one. In addition to the IMDb rankings, we took a poll on our members' site, and asked their opinions.

The following table summarizes the results.


Mac Davis and Nick Nolte bared their rather untoned butts. Nolte's pubic area was visible in a love scene.

Savannah Smith was seen topless in a love scene.

Another girl was seen topless at a wild party.

  IMDb score IMDb Rank Poll rank
The Longest Yard 7.0 6 1
North Dallas 40 7.2 5 2
Brian's Song 7.5 3 3
Any Given Sunday 6.7 8 4
Rudy 6.9 7 5
Horse Feathers 7.9 1 6
Varsity Blues 6.0 13 7
The Waterboy 5.5 17 8
Jerry Maguire 7.3 4 9
All the Right Moves 5.8 14 10
Wildcats 5.6 15 11
Heaven Can Wait 6.7 8 12
Best of Times 5.5 17 13
The Replacements 6.6 12 14
Remember the Titans 7.8 2 15
Semi-Tough 5.6 15 16
Jim Thorpe - All American 6.7 8 17
Knute Rockne, All American 6.7 8 18

Pretty solid agreement on the top six listed above. The only major difference on the chart is that our lads don't much care for Remember the Titans.

I think IMDb has the order just about perfect if you're talking about "how good a movie is it?". I'd say Maltin has a defendable point, depending on your definition of "best". This isn't the funniest, or most touching, and it doesn't have the most realistic field action, but it is the best at showing exactly what it's like to be on a professional football team. Here are my category winners:

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1. A good enough transfer.

  • Disappointingly, no features at all!

  • Most realistic story - North Dallas 40
  • Most realistic field action - Any Given Sunday
  • Funniest Movie - Horse Feathers
  • Funniest Source Material - Semi-Tough (Movie semi-sucks. Book one of the funniest and raunchiest ever written)
  • Most emotional - Brian's Song (A football movie you can watch with a woman and get laid afterwards.)
  • Most inspirational moment - The Longest Yard
  • Most inspirational overall - Rudy
  • Best performance by a future president - Knute Rockne, All American

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 3.5/4. Maltin chooses this as the best football movie ever made.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.2,
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B.

Return to the Movie House home page