Page 2's Top 20 Sports Movies of All-Time

OUR COUNTDOWN: 20 | 19 | 18 | 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1

No. 11: North Dallas Forty (93 points)

Year released: 1979.

Cast: Nick Nolte, Mac Davis, Charles Durning, Dabney Coleman, John Matuszak.

What we like: From the opening scene, when Phillip Elliott (Nolte) struggles to get out of bed and limp his way into the bathtub the morning after a hard-hitting game, we get an up-close look at the brutal world of pro football -- which was especially unique for 1979; Davis is great as Seth Maxwell, the fictional version of Don Meredith -- he swaggered just right in those cowboy boots; gorgeous, doe-eyed Dayle Haddon scores as Nolte's shy and mysterious love interest; and Peter Gent's philosophy of football (and life) comes through in some of the dialogue: Phillip: "Jo Bob is here to remind us that the biggest and the baddest get to make all the rules." Charlotte: "Well, I don't agree with that." Phillip: "Agreeing doesn't play into it."

What we're willing to overlook: "North Dallas Forty," the movie, isn't nearly as good as Gent's novel of the same title; Davis didn't swagger just right in his cleats.

The Tooz's "Everytime I say it's a game, you say it's a business. Everytime I say it's a business you say it's a game," is still reverberating in my head. -- Page 2 columnist Ralph Wiley

I can't separate the content and quality of it as a movie from how it hit me the first time I saw it when I was a kid. It knocked me out, made me realize the world was nastier (in both good and bad ways) than I'd ever known. Nolte and Davis have the perfect, busted-up swagger going, too. -- Page 2 columnist Eric Neel

It had one of the best sports movie villains of all-time, maybe the best: G.D. Spradlin was near-perfect as the Tom Landry-like character. Almost as good as he was as a Nevada Senator in "The Godfather." -- Page 2 columnist Ralph Wiley

The best look at football ever. It still fascinates for its attitude, acting and life lessons about how brutal, yet compelling football is. The first film to treat football as the No. 1 sport in America and not some college game. Page 2's Hollywood insider, Jeff Freedman

Hysterical moments. Nice subplots. Same jerk coach from "One On One." -- Page 2 columnist Bob Halloran

Click here to go on to our No. 10 sports movie of all-time


The full list of our Top 20, plus explanation of the voting

Page 2 Goes To The Movies

Email story
Most sent
Print story

espn Page 2 index