I like a good sports movie, although it's tricky to get them right; the story might be believable but the action itself can often be quite the opposite. Some sports are very difficult to realistically choreograph to fit the narrative of the script and as such, Boxing and Baseball movies tend to be the most successful. However, there is one other sport that makes the transition just as seamlessly though - American Football. More often than not these movies are highly watchable regardless of your feelings about the sport and with the new NFL season finally upon us, what better way to prepare than to explore the best "Footbah" - as they say in Dillon, Texas - Netflix has to offer.

Friday Night Lights

Let's start in Texas, where director Peter Berg beautifully adapts H.G. Bissinger's book Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team and a Dream. Bissinger followed the Panthers football team of Permian High School for a season in 1988 and ended up submerging himself in the small town of Odessa eventually writing about much more than just a high school sports team. The movie concentrates more on the team while still making it clear how pivotal their position is within the community - dictating opening hours of businesses and the moods of the residents.

In recent years, the hugely successful TV Show (also available on Netflix and a worthwhile investment of your time) inspired by both book and film has possibly eclipsed the quality of this selection, with the cinematography of wide sprawling Texan landscapes and small town store fronts, all soundtracked by Explosions in the Sky all of which combines perfectly to set the scene for a standout cast consisting of Billie Bob Thornton, Connie Briton, Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund and Tim McGraw. The facilities provided to these teenagers, the upwards of twenty thousand spectator crowds and the attention from College scouts, give an indication of the pressure these kids face each week.

Draft Day

Netflix currently only has a limited option of Football films and had the likes of Jerry Maguire or Any Given Sunday been available, then behind-the-scenes drama Draft Day might not have been included in this selection. Having said that, Ivan Reitman's day in the life of a general manager drama is definitely worth a watch. With more access afforded to the production team than ever before by the NFL, the film provides a very good observation to how a team puts together its strategy for acquiring new players ahead of the pre-season. The film follows Sonny Weaver (Kevin Costner), an inexperienced General Manager, as he negotiates his way through media, accountants, parents, agents and players all trying to make sense of the multi-million dollar circus, slash merry-go-round that is the NFL Draft Day. Despite being five months prior to the season, this annual event now draws global audiences which exceed viewing figures achieved by other sport's crown jewel events such as Baseball's World Series; that is how big the National Football League is now. With those in charge of the league (and teams) recognising the pull this kind of insight to the sport achieves - as well as the growing popularity of fly on the wall mini-series Hard Knocks - hopefully it'll lead to more films of this ilk being made in the future.

We Could Be King

On the completely other end of the spectrum to the riches of Draft Day, or the lavish infrastructure featured in Friday Night Lights, this documentary is set in Philadelphia following drastic cuts to education budgets in the city. Out of all my picks, this is the one I recommend the highest. Released in 2014, director Judd Ehrlich follows the fortunes of Martin Luther King high school soon after it announces the merger with a rival school forced to close as a result of the budget crisis. The focus is on the school's football team, The Kings, their 27-year-old volunteer coach and his battle to bring together kids who are used to competing against one another. Poor practice facilities, players getting in trouble with the law and struggling to find motivation while living in impoverished conditions, all contribute to this provoking, heart-warming but ultimately damning indictment of civic funding to inner city schools in the US.


It's easy to forget how well Disney make live action movies when their animation game is obviously so strong, but honestly, this rags to riches true story of Philadelphia native Vince Papale has everything; a cast comprising Mark Wahlberg, Elizabeth Banks Gregg Kinnear and House of Cards' Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) as well as the perfect mix of contextual social struggle, friendship, love and a few laughs. We'll ignore the fact there are some inaccuracies about Papale's career history and his achievements because this is your archetypal feel-good movie, perfect for a Sunday afternoon hangover.

The League

A huge part of the NFL season is the Fantasy League, now a billion-dollar industry in its own right. Americans do fantasy sports very well and have been long before British Tabloids and The Official Premier League site, and although Europe is catching up we're still a long way from incorporating fantasy stats into our main coverage.

Now, on the face of it a sit-com about a group of friends and their fantasy football league might sound about a niche as you could get in a comedy, but to assume that would be a massive mistake. When I started watching The League my interest in the NFL was cursory - my enjoyment of some of the aforementioned films and TV shows as well as the odd Sunday night game on TV and annual struggle to stay awake during the Super Bowl being the extent of my interest. To enjoy The League requires no knowledge of the game, it is a disgracefully hilarious, a tad crude and somewhat lurid representation of competitiveness, one-upmanship, practical jokes and camaraderie between long-term friends. With a cast of rising stars such as Mark Duplass, Nick Croll, Katie Aselton and a reoccurring cast that boasts Jason Mantzoukas and Seth Rogen, imagine Arrested Development meets Friends and Always Sunny in Philadelphia.