North Dallas Forty (1979) Poster

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This is a biting and uproarious look at the world of pro football.
Deckard-1626 September 1998
North Dallas Forty rates as one of the all-time best sports movies ever made and is probably the best football film ever. Peter Gent's excellent novel was essentially a roman a clef about the Dallas Cowboys --America's Team-- of the '60s and 70's. And this movie sticks very close the book only dropping the novel's bloodbath ending. Nick Nolte gives one of his best performances as a world weary receiver facing the end of his playing days and still not wanting to become a full-fledged adult. Mac Davis is wonderfully wise cracking as the quarterback and leader of the team (basically he playing the real Don Meredith). G.D. Spradlin is memorably uptight and tight-jawed as the head coach. The rest of the cast fills out this colorful world of a raucous pro football team very well. It is an antic filled movie that tells a very dark tale of rich owners and rich people treating anybody beneath them like cattle. When one of the cattle happens to be smarter then the rest of the herd and decides to quit playing dumb --Nolte's character-- then that animal is turned away from the herd and is no longer allowed to play anymore reindeer games (if I may mix metaphors). The movie is played broadly but it cynical bite elevates it to a a much higher status as a serious work. Kudos to Ted Kotcheff for his acute direction.
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one of the top 5 football films of all time!
jaxson30 January 1999
and probably my favorite one! written by pete gent, a former dallas cowboy in the 60's, it gives a great look inside the mentality of professional football ... especially in dallas during the landry years. i enjoyed this film because i played ball at the college level in the early 70's, and i feel it's the most realistic portrayal of the emotional seesaw that a football player goes through.

the film shows what happens in a society where professional athletes are idolized, and the things they can get away with ... but at a cost! it portrays how the professional athlete must constantly look for new ways to achieve a "high", whether on the field, with drugs, sexually, or just by "cutting loose". the problem is that each high gives way to when you either make a mistake on the field, or come down from the "off-the-field" high.

if you were a football fan in the 60's-70's, you can just see the dallas cowboys in this film! mac davis does a wonderful characterization of don merideth, and g.d. spradlin's coach just reeks of tom landry. and nolte does a magnificent job in one of his earliest works.

please, take some time and watch this film. the videotape version is obviously much better than the tv version ... you lose a lot of the reality otherwise. please, if the first-run shelf is empty, take the time to check out this film. you won't be disappointed.
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My Favorite Sports Movie
carmine-giglio16 July 2006
When this movie first came out (late 70's), I was still in high school and very naive as to the behind the scenes machinations of professional football. This movie was ahead of its time in its depiction since no other movie on professional football had ventured into this area exposing drug use, both off the field casual usage and to get players on the field, and indifference of ownership and coaching staff to players feelings and thoughts.

Nick Nolte was exceptional as Phil Elliot, the wide receiver whose character was based on Pete Gent, a wide receiver with the Dallas Cowboys who authored the book (North Dallas Forty) the movie was based on. He is a free spirit with little regard for authority but undoubtedly cares about his performance on the field. He cannot play by the rules because he doesn't make them. Mac Davis was great as quarterback Seth Maxwell, the jaded athlete who knows how to "bend" the rules to remain in good standing with the team.

Supporting cast, especially GD Spradlin as the coach modeled after Dallas Cowboys coaching genius Tom Landry, was excellent. If you have 2 hrs and want to catch a well-acted, well-written movie on the reality of professional football, then catch this flick. It preceded such films and Stone's Any Given Sunday, but its content is very relevant to football 30 years later.
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The best sports movie ever?
Hermit C-210 May 1999
'ND40' is my favorite of all the sports movies I've seen. It's both a dark and funny look at professional football, succeeding on both levels, with special emphasis put on the way the pro machinery chews up players and spits them out. There's no doubt who the fictional North Dallas Bulls are supposed to correspond to in real life, and the Dallas Cowboys were none too happy with either the book or the movie. For the rest of us it is first-class entertainment.

The movie abounds with great performances. Nick Nolte is superb as the aging wide receiver, weary in spirit and broken of body. His independence and declining skills are threatening his usefulness to the team. G.D. Spradlin gives one of his usual excellent performances playing the team's amoral head coach. It's the type of role he seems almost to have a patent on.

Some actors in this movie, I suspect, are doing the best work of their careers. Mac Davis plays the fun-loving quarterback who is serious about keeping his position both with the team and the ladies, and knows all the tricks, whether it's before, during, or after the game. Steve Forrest is the millionaire owner who wants nothing in the world more than a Super Bowl championship team. And Bo Svenson and former pro player John Matuszak are a couple of linemen who play by the same rules on the field and off.

It's a complex movie with so much going on in some scenes (just like a football game) that it deserves to be seen more than once. One small quibble: the big game was obviously not filmed before an audience. That doesn't detract too much from the overall picture, but a viewer is aware of it.
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Excellent blend of comedy and drama in underrated film
rosscinema28 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Some have said that this is the best film about football ever made and they may be right but at the center of this film is a solid performance by the lead. Story is about a fictional football team from Dallas, Texas where we see cold hearted management and players that must endure incredible amounts of pain to be able to play. Phillip Elliott (Nick Nolte) is a veteran wide receiver who has gone through many operations and walks with a limp and must take assorted pain killers not to play football but to just be able to get through the day. His only friend is quarterback Seth Maxwell (Mac Davis) and together they smoke pot and drink beer and that's during the training for a game! Elliott has to sit on the bench and only makes rare appearances in games and this makes him angry but he puts up with the cold hearted rantings of Coach Strothers (G.D. Spradlin) while waiting to play.


Elliott meets a nice woman named Charlotte (Dayle Haddon) who doesn't like football but together he is able to talk about his dreams of building a ranch. Finally after a star player gets injured Elliott is told that he is going to start in an important game but come game time coach Strothers has changed his mind. During the game Elliott gets to play and does very good but a few days later management has decided his future with the team.

This film is directed by Ted Kotcheff who was a pretty good director during the 1970's but he couldn't hold on to his success and has basically directed television ever since. The film works on two levels and the first is the way that it shows how players are used by both coaches and management. Just before the big game they trick their star player into using a pain killer which also means that the starting player that's taking his place will be screwed. But it's the performances that really make this film work from the supporting roles to Nolte's lead. Mac Davis wasn't known as a good actor when this was made but he's good here as the quarterback who knows how to play the game (Not football) and keeping his players cool. Nolte's performance I think is one of his most underrated and while he physically may not exactly look like a player he perfectly embodies an individual who has sacrificed his own body to play the game. Nolte's natural wit and sarcasm are of good use here but what really shines through is how jaded he has become of the system. The scene where his girlfriend wakes up in the middle of the night and catches him trying to crack and twist his pain ridden body back into place has become a near classic and if anyone wants to know what it's like to be a football player than they can watch that scene. Does the script go over the top? Probably, but I'm not convinced that it's by much as we have all heard stories about what goes on during and after games. Very entertaining film has only a few minutes of actual game playing because it's emphasis is on the players and their manipulation and that in itself is an achievement but none of that would matter without Nolte's rock solid performance.
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Back to the future
Sack-327 January 2001
I hadn't seen ND40 since it first opened, but I always remembered it as my favorite football movie. Since my friends are sick of me comparing every football movie to it, I decided to make sure I was still right after 20 years. The movie holds up remarkably over the years. Sure, lots has changed--making the movie a humorous period statement. The bad hair, the bad polyester clothes, and cigarettes everywhere. The coach actually has to tell the team to put out their cigarettes five minutes before the big game!

On substance, the movie is still right on the mark. The addiction to pain killers, the crippling effect of the game, and the effect the game has on the players personal lives all ring true today. Although we try to unsuccessfully bury some of those problems today, they sneak out anyway in Bret Favre's pain killers or OJ Simpson's arthritis.

One problem: if Nolte really is the best receiver on the team with the best hands in the league, why isn't he playing? I can hypothesize reasons, but the writer/director could have made the reasons more obvious.

9 stars out of 10
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Wait till you fathom the good part
Steve Pulaski3 February 2014
The opening shot of Ted Kotcheff's North Dallas Forty is a tense and memorable one. It shows the aging and exhausted Phil Elliot (Nick Nolte), passed out in his bed and awoken by a blaring alarm clock. Elliot is slow to get up, every move being a slow one that clearly causes a searing amount of pain. He lumbers to the kitchen to get a beer before stumbling to soak in a bathtub. Punctuating this scene are brief little clips from last night's football game, where Elliot was met with several rough, polarizing blows to every part of his body. Interrupting this scene's quiet, almost meditative atmosphere are Elliot's loudmouth friends, clearly intoxicated, who want to go out and cause a ruckus with their shotguns.

What we see in the first few minutes of North Dallas Forty are what we never see in sports - the morning after the game. The physical pain rather than the heated press conferences or celebratory events in the locker. Because we see the lead character in such a vulnerable, often powerless light despite being a very good football player is why North Dallas Forty is so skilled on its feet as a film. It explores where other films would dim their focus. It fully embraces and boldly depicts in element where other screenwriters' knees would buckle under the weight and pressure of the story, especially for the time. Written by a trio of thoughtful and thoroughly ambitious people - Peter Gent, Kotcheff, and Frank Yablans - the film manages to be less entertaining and sensational, like a typical sports film, and more heartbreaking and an often immersing watch.

We set our sights on Elliot, who is becoming greatly dissatisfied with the way the NFL operates (his team is the fictional North Dallas Bulls, which mirror the Dallas Cowboys, FYI). He loathes the way managers and coaches treat their players like cattle, constantly emphasizing their flaws and not their advantages, and justifying their ungrateful, smug comments on poor performance as methods of tough-love. Elliot knows the organization is out to make money and injuries, long-term trauma, and player wellbeing are the least of their concerns. Through Elliot's dissatisfaction, however, he becomes heavily dependent on painkillers, alcohol, and other pills of sorts to keep his mind right. Just before a big game that determines the Bulls' playoff fate, Elliot's leg, which is experiencing hellish pain, is given a shot of a mysterious substance. What was it? What are its effects? Why is it being used? Who cares, "the whole thing's numb," Elliot states.

The film is held together not only by the competence of its writer but by Nolte's tremendous talents as a character actor and performing. He articulates with a touch of sensitivity and years of craft the agony and despair many aging athletes likely experience. For instance, consider Super Bowl XLVIII, which took place yesterday and ended with the Seattle Seahawks winning 43 - 8 over the two-point favorite Denver Broncos, led by Quarterback Peyton Manning, who is already thirty-seven years old with years of professional experience under his belt. I wouldn't want to feel what that man has felt waking up, especially now, nearing forty with the albatross of having numerous neck surgeries conducted. Watching the Super Bowl last night, I could only imagine how he not just him but many of those players wake up with severe pain in their bodies - pain that will likely carry over to their older years and maybe even cripple them as time goes on. All for a game that will be out of the immediate mindset of even the most heartened-fans in no more than two weeks or so.

On a final note, the promotional poster/home video release images for North Dallas Forty are criminally misleading ones, showing two football players, one dousing himself with water, the other hoisting his helmet while they both lounge in two cowboy boots with two woman grappling to get at them on both sides of the boots. The image at hand denotes a fun sort of rabble-rousing, Animal House-style entertainment which is completely absent from the film. This is not the film you will see, and the marketing campaign has shamefully misrepresented the film to consumers if their sole-exposure to the film is by looking at the film's promotional poster or home video cover.

Starring: Nick Nolte, Mac Davis, and Charles Durning. Directed by: Ted Kotcheff.
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Brilliant 70's football film, great fun
leestallion5510 April 2006
Seen this movie a few times on TV and it is a superb football film. Nick Nolte is excellent as the gruff and rough guy with lots of problems on and off the football field. Being in the 70's makes it even better and more realistic. Made in a time when men where men and sports meant more than money, a lot more. Sex, booze, knocking heads and blood & tears is what make these players happy! Good, fun all round film with great thought put into the story especially when entering Nolte's problems with team management/owners. As we all know deep rifts and problems occur between sports players and club owners but we never get to really know the truth and what goes on in the boardroom and player meetings. This film gives us a little make look at what could or should I say happens! I enjoyed this film very much,love the music, great characters and a good story. A winner all around.
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Best football movie ever
caa82118 August 2006
This movie is the best "football" film ever made. Along with "The Natural" - baseball, and "One-on-One" - basketball, these are an outstanding trilogy of the three best pictures representing our primary American sports, and all have interesting multi-dimensional stories as well. Pete Gent was a maverick in his NFL career, but it would seem his alter-ego, Phil (Nick Nolte), while possessing this same nature, is significantly more accomplished in his pro career (even if on the coach's "secondary list" in the film). Gent played six years, 48 games, with only 68 overall receptions and four touchdowns. These numbers and his yardage (his average per catch was pretty good) would comprise a good single season's stats.

The primary "athletes" in the film - played by Nolte, Davis, Matuszak and Svenson are realistic, interesting, tough and bawdy. Matuzsak's distinguished career was as a defensive end, and Svenson also possesses more of the physical characteristics of a defensive lineman. The fact, though, that they played offensive linemen in the film was obviously a necessity to the drama - both off- and on-field, where all four prime leads had to be on-screen simultaneously. As I mentioned in commenting on "One-on-One," where the great G. D. Spradlin was the basketball coach - coupled with this film, he wins the award of the "all-time horse's ass coach" hands-down. Durning was hilarious as the vacuous assistant coach. Anyone familiar with Gent and Tom Landry can see that Spradlin's coach Strothers is modeled - at least in part - from the latter. Although similar in appearance, and more "professorial" than most coaches, and probably often a bit distant -- Landry did not seem to possess the extremely negative traits displayed by Strothers. In the film, with the level of talent Nolte's "Phil" possessed, it is unlikely he'd have been as neglected by the coach as depicted, even in view of Strothers' compulsive devotion to his computerized statistics, and distaste for Nolte's persona. I suspect that this relationship has similarities to Gent's with Landry, but, again, Gent in real life was not as productive or talented as Nolte on film.

Steve Forrest was excellent as the smarmy, wealthy team owner, and Dabney Coleman as his even smarmier, completely unctuous younger brother. {Has anybody, EVER, in the history of the motion picture industry (t.v., too), done "smarmy" or "unctuous" as well as Dabney???} This one's a "10" for both sport and drama.
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This IS the NFL Today!
joeventuraa21 May 2014
Listening to the Colin Cowherd Show on ESPN and Kyle Turley was on. He was getting into the drug use in the NFL and now wants the NFL to pay-up.

I saw this in 1979 with two friends I worked with at a hot dog place. They were both going to USC to play football. This movie was an insight to the reality of sports...and it was 1979. Nothing has changed! Why is this movie so significant? If you listen to Turley's arguments, he acts as if this is something new. Like anything else, nothing is new. You want women, money, and a lifestyle that says, "Live for today" then you can't whine about the consequences. The NFL sees you as a product. That's news to you?

Every professional athlete should have to watch this movie before signing any contract. You show this to any high school athlete, and like the guys I saw it with going to USC, they will say, "So...that's not gonna happen to me." Great movie!
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Makes a point that has been made better elsewhere
bob the moo14 November 2003
Phillip Elliot is a wide receiver for the North Dallas Bulls. He is approaching the end of his career and ravaged with injuries, which he needs medication to cover the pain enough to play. The coaches want 100% to win games and win the season, but do the owners see the people inside the uniforms?

Written by ex-player Peter Gent this film wanders between love for the game and admiration for the players and the flip side where the players are overpaid little boys in men's bodies who are seen as disposable by club owners. This wandering happens for most of the film, mostly due to the fact that the plot seems to be wandering all over the place with little to do. When it actually focuses on the dealings of the club owners and the sacrifices the players have to make, it is pretty interesting – even if it does what many other sports films have done better.

The central point about owners seeing the players as just another piece of equipment owed by the club is pretty well made, but it is confused by the plot wandering a little bit. The ending is designed to back up this central point, but the circumstances come out of nowhere and the ending doesn't really ring true and isn't as strong a conclusion as it should have been. The film also struggles to condemn either the sport or the players, seeming to be annoyed with bosses more than anything else. The players are clearly childish and irresponsible, violent men but yet the film weakens on that point after hinting at it, likewise the film condemns part of the game but then happily indulges in big game action near the end of the film.

Nolte is pretty good, but he also seems a little unsure about whether his character loves the sport or hates everything about it except the game. Support players simply play victims or childish thugs. The reason for Haddon's love interest is beyond me but Durning and Spradlin give good support as coaches.

Overall this is an interesting film, which is strongest at the start and end, the middle section lacking structure and focus. The message it is trying to get across applies much more today than it did back then, but has been made better and in more enjoyable total films than this. Still an interesting watch for the most part though.
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has the feel of authenticity
SnoopyStyle17 December 2014
Phil Elliott (Nick Nolte) is a worn out wide receiver for the North Dallas Bulls professional football team in the 70s. It's crazy parties, drugs, sex, and alcohol. Seth Maxwell (Mac Davis) is the popular quarterback. Jo Bob Priddy (Bo Svenson) is a dumb wild lineman. Phil meets Charlotte Caulder (Dayle Haddon) at a party but she's not happy to be there. He rescues her from Jo Bob with a lot of help from Seth. Coach Strother thinks Phil isn't serious enough. Team executive Emmett Hunter (Dabney Coleman) is dating Joanne Rodney but Phil is actually sleeping with her. Johnson (Charles Durning) is the assistant coach. Phil is constantly threatened with the CFL. His body is all worn out and the trainer gives him 'B12' shots. Somebody mysterious is after him.

Based on the novel by Cowboys wide receiver Peter Gent, this has the feel of authenticity. It's not quite a spoof with few outright laughs. Nick Nolte is terrific as the weary player. The story is a bit scattered. It could be even darker and more intense.
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The Pain of Football at the Highest Levels
Hitchcoc26 December 2016
My foremost memory of this film is Nick Nolte's character trying to get out of bed on Monday morning. He's been around the block many times and his body has taken an incredible toll. He is a pass receiver and when we see game film, we see him getting hit on nearly every play, even when a pass was not thrown his way. Mac Davis, known more for his singing, is the quarterback of the Cowboys, who are the darlings of the whole country (personally they always made me sick). He is the prototype of Dandy Don Meredith. He is everything that a child's image of a football player should not be. I can't really get into what happens except it is all about what an NFL player is into. Of course, in order to play at a high level, the league looked the other way as steroids were pumped, Novocain was injected, pills were popped, and wild parties and drinking abounded.
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Honest and straightforward account of the lives of football players.
Scott LeBrun17 September 2015
"North Dallas Forty" can rightfully take its place among the greatest of sports based movies. It's an intelligent, unflinching look into the world of professional (American) football, and the assortment of characters that inhabit the world. There's no need for flashy filmmaking here; the drama is strong enough to carry the story, along with some completely authentic performances. People unfamiliar with this movie will note that there's not necessarily a lot of game action; the concentration is on the action taking place off the playing field.

The pivotal character is Phillip Elliott (Nick Nolte), a weary seen-it-all veteran of the game, a top notch receiver conscious of all the punishment that his body has taken over the years. Phillip knows the game very well, but he's not too interested in playing a different sort of game, with the hard-driving coaches (G.D. Spradlin and Charles Durning) and the greedy team owner (Steve Forrest). Fortunately, he does have one good friend: star quarterback Seth Maxwell (singer Mac Davis).

This is scripted by director Ted Kotcheff ("First Blood"), producer Frank Yablans, and author Peter Gent, who wrote the semi-fictional novel on which the movie is based. Based on the Dallas Cowboys team of the early 1970s, it takes its time telling the story, contrasting the more philosophical and low key nature of Phillip with gung-ho defensive players like O.W. Shaddock (real life football star John Matuszak) and Jo Bob Priddy (amusing live wire Bo Svenson). We feel completely sympathetic towards Phillip, and can also practically feel the pain that he experiences after every game. There are several key emotional scenes, especially towards the end.

Nolte is excellent in the lead role, and as one can see, the supporting cast is full of rock solid actors (also among them is Dabney Coleman as Forrests' younger brother). Nolte and Davis have very fine chemistry and one can buy them as friends. Dayle Haddon, as a love interest for Nolte, isn't terribly effective because she comes off as just too aloof.

Compelling material, even for people who aren't necessarily football fans.

Eight out of 10.
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Dated but still relevant, and very entertaining.
plex11 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of those films people rarely talk about, so a lot of people, especially those under 40, have never heard about. Unless I am wrong, this is the 1st film that introduces the darker side of pro football and NDF does it extremely well on both as commentary and as a film. If you ever thought sports were "just a game" then this film will flip that viewpoint on its end. The casting is odd yet superb. Mac Davis ( yes, the Country Music crooner and ace songwriter) as the sagacious jaded insider QB could not have been better played. He and Nick Nolte's presence is dominating and multi-dimensional. Dayle Haddon is the ultimate love-interest for Elliot. You get it from all angles in this film: from the team's owner, the doctors, the players, the coaches, the social cling-on's, and the uninformed bystanders. Truly a well balanced piece of film making, that to this day, still will casts some negativity in the minds of the football fan. Great lines in this film:[ Elliot to Maxwell] " You know everything, don't you?" [ Maxwell] " That I do poot.... that I do"// [ Shaddock to Coach Johnson] " Every time we call it a game, you call it a business, and every time we call it a business you call it a game!!"// [ Elliot to Coach Strothers] " You are right about one thing, B.A., it IS time to put away childish things." Please read other quotes listed here. Films that are cutting-edge as this one, also tend to be time-sensitive, and NDF is no exception as some things will undoubtedly seem old-hat to most viewers, but there is still plenty of meat left on the bone to make seeing this a priority. Don't pre-judge it as just a sports film, its much more, deeply moving, just in a very different way than say Rudy, Hoosiers, Field of Dreams, or Pride of the Yankees. Don't miss the opportunity to see this one.
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Maciste_Brother14 April 2004
Professional football was all the rage in the 1970s and a phenomenon Hollywood recognized. Several football movies were made in the 1970s (and some non-football movies, like ROLLERBALL) which were inspired by the violent sport's massive popularity. NORTH DALLAS FORTY was made to satiate the thirst of avid football fans to see what they weren't been shown on regular television broadcast: drugs, violence, sex and cursing. So ND40 basically plays like a voyeuristic behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in a professional football team. My favorite such scene is the party at the beginning. But in this context, the film looks positively dated. The fact that there are almost no African American football players in the team should tell you how dated it is. And the idea that a player is being hounded by the team's owner because he's too much of a rebel reeks of that silly and ubiquitous anti-establishment theme seen in too many movies of the 1970s.

The actors do what they have to do with the script. Most of it is forgettable. Dayle Haddon (remember her?) looks like Sylvia Kristel's frosty sister. And Nick Nolte and Mac Davis basically play themselves. BTW, it's nice to see that Nick Nolte looks as bad in this 1979 film as he does (25 years later) today.
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North Dallas Forty
Coxer9927 May 1999
Gritty, realistic look at the win-at-all-cost business of pro football. Nolte is especially engaging as an over the hill wide receiver who rebels against goading coach G.D. Spradlin. Davis, Svenson and Charles Durning all add fine support to this very real story.
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One of the best sports films ever.
jkd15-18 May 2008
Ruby was inspiring and Brians song was a tear jerker. ND40 was just a great movie.

Nolte is a great actor period. Down and out in Beverly Hills, 48hrs, Cape Fear and The Deep. Just a few of his many great roles. Sad to see him in some of his worst times. Though they should be forgiven due to his great contributions to film.

The movie is about a receiver in the NFL and his conflicts with people and the team he plays for. A person that comes to realize that the damage to his honor and soul, not to mention his body are not worth the price anymore and his struggles to come to grips with this.

This was before free agentry.

Great scenes follow this movie throughout. If you haven't seen this movie, make some time and watch it.
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Captures some of the insanity
RNMorton31 December 2002
Pete Gent's North Dallas Forty was a great book about the fear and desperation of being a marginal football player in the NFL, even if it's outlook on sex, drug use and authority seems rather sophomoric and dated now. The movie faithfully follows the book most of the way, although the sex and drug abuse is significantly toned down in the movie. Nolte captures the rebelliousness of wide receiver Elliott/Gent, while Mac Davis, in a true casting coup and career performance, does a great turn as the Dallas quarterback Maxwell/Meredith. For those keeping track, both Gent and Meredith ended their careers in 1968, Meredith when he was at the top of his game. Hmmmmmm.
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kapengwe1415 May 2007
This is an outstanding take on the 1970s NFL, back when it was a game of characters and passion, not the current business-like "No Fun League".

Kudos to the writer/director. They smoothly mix bawdy comedy and drama. And they include many minor scenes that help round out the supporting characters. Several characters come across as stereotypes early on, but they are full-fledged individuals by the end of the movie.

John Matuszak's "business or game?" rant near the end belongs in the sports movie hall of fame.

Highly recommended.
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Cynical but hilarious
JasparLamarCrabb11 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
If it weren't for SLAP SHOT, this would probably be the most cynical sports movie ever made. Ted Kotcheff's version of Peter Gent's book casts Nick Nolte as a not quite over the hill pro football player struggling through the morass of corporate politics, crazy team- mates and myriad injuries. It's a great performance and he's well matched with Mac Davis as team quarterback and best friend. Few stones are left un-turned in this seedy look at the lives of professional athletes. While SLAP SHOT portrayed hockey players as foul-mouthed, tooth-less goons, the football players here as seen as drug-addled sex maniacs who lust after woman AND B12 shots with equal aplomb. Davis has many of the film's best lines, espousing much crackpot southern wisdom fitting just about every insane situation ("gross is when you go to kiss your grandpa good night and he sticks his tongue down your throat"). The outstanding supporting cast includes Charles Durning, Dabney Coleman, Bo Svenson (hilarious as the hot-headed Jo Bob Priddy), John Matuszak, Steve Forrest, G.D. Spradlin and Dayle Haddon as Nolte's level-headed love interest.
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Better football through chemistry
"Better football through chemistry" is a line of Nick Nolte's as he's being shot up with painkillers before the big game. When I first saw this in 1979, I found it amusing; now I find it prophetic. Sure it has it's sexist moments, but those are mere reflections of the times. The theme is that of abuse. These are modern gladiators, and we watch this sport as did the Romans. It's our bread and games. The new findings that NFL teams sent injured players into games full of drugs gives this film new meaning. Head injuries now show concussions that were untreated, and old players now have addictions and crippling arthritis. This was an amusing movie in it's day, but it's not as funny anymore.
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A Retrospective Critique of a Very Good Film, and Ideas for a Sequel
brtndr6 December 2012
I was 11 years old living in Texas, and therefore a huge football and Cowboy fan when 'North Dallas Forty' was originally released in the summer of '79. So, like a lot of fans of 'America's Team' in Texas, and across the country, I was extremely angered and offended when I first heard that a major Hollywood movie was released that was a scathing indictment of not only the Dallas Cowboy's, but professional football as well. And, I vowed then, to never ever watch that blasphemous film that dared criticized the sacred sport of football and its most important team.

I guess, I was in a rather sacrilegious mood one day when I decided to watch 'North Dallas Forty' on cable 15 years after the movies original theatrical release. And, to my surprise, I became a big fan of the movie. Watching it every chance that I could when ever it was rebroadcasted.

Unfortunately, I think the window for a potential sequel which continues the story line of Nick Nolte's character (Phil Elliot). Or, at least one of the main characters of the original film. Like Mac Davis's colorful character Seth Maxell/Don Meredith for example closed sometime in the mid-late 80's.

Therefore, I'm recommending a 'North Dallas Forty' reboot that's based on ex-Cowboy player Thomas Henderson's '87 autobiographical novel "Out of Control: Confessions of an NFL Casualty" as the main source material for a sequel to 'North Dallas Forty'.

For those of you who don't know? Thomas Henderson was the extraordinarily athletic and media-darling strong side linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys from '75-'79. Who was on the cover of Time Magazine in January of '79 for an article on Super Bowl 13. But, was later released the next season from the Cowboys in November of '79 for erratic play due to drug abuse. Then wound up playing in only a few games with other NFL teams until retiring after a career ending neck injury in '81.

So, in other words, he was at the pinnacle of success in the NFL just 7 months prior to North Dallas Forty's original release in August of '79, and at its lowest depths just 3 months afterwards.

And, let me tell you, the stuff Thomas Henderson covers in his personal account of his experience in the NFL, makes 'North Dallas Forty' controversial indictment of the Cowboy's organization and professional football as a whole, look like a white wash by comparison.

Most of the events in Thomas Henderson's book take place during the mid-late 70's, just before the over-the-top deifying worship of football players and professional athletes in general began in the 80's by means of new cable channels like ESPN and HBO for example. That served to heavily augment the local sports news and talk radio that already existed at the time, along with national magazine articles commenting on games and sports celebrities leading up to national TV broadcasts of the games of the week. Eventually growing into the constant bombardment of sports media entertainment monster that exists today.

So, one can perhaps imagine that the mine field of problems and worldly temptations that players are constantly confronted with, and have to negotiate through to maintain not only an athletic career, but a normal sense of humanity has only increased exponentially as a result of their athletic accomplishments since Peter Gent's or Thomas Henderson's NFL careers in the 60's and 70's.

The cinematic version of Thomas Henderson's "Out of Control" can also serve as an explanation for why celebrated athletes on all levels get themselves caught-up in so many controversial and tragic events ranging from the goofy, love myself behavior of Terrell Owens, to drug overdoses of young athletes in professional and collegiate sports, to murder convictions. That is if the modern mass-media actually had an interest in educating the public about the people and the sports organizations that they worship?(which, apparently they don't)

So, to sum up, I think you could still have a sequel to North Dallas Forty by staying true to the overall theme of the movies scathing indictment of the NFL, its players, coaches and the owners directly involved in putting on the weekly gladiatorial show.

Along with an indictment of the over-the-top mass media coverage that's responsible for over-hyping the importance to gigantic proportions the sporting events, without providing one iota of "REAL" insightful information concerning the actual day-to-day operations of the organizations and athletes themselves.

And, if someone was to use Thomas Henderson's "Out of Control" as the main source material for a kind of sequel to "North Dallas Forty"? Then I imagine the movie beginning with an over middle aged ex-NFL star who played for a franchise in Dallas, TX as the main character. Who, after being the keynote speaker of an anti-drug and alcohol seminar is listening to a sports talk radio program, or watching a TV satellite channel debating (ad-nausem) the most recent "controversial" conduct by the latest and greatest batch of sports celebrities. Causing him in turn, to reflect on his own conduct during his professional career back in the day.

Sort of like, "The Raging Bull" meets "Any Given Sunday". And, I hope that you're listening Hollywood?!? After all, I'm giving away these great ideas for free.
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Pro-Football: A Down and Dirty Look
dougdoepke4 January 2011
Fine sleeper film, very much a reflection of iconoclastic 1970's. Seldom has corruptive nature of professional sports been on more vivid display than here. Pro football (and others?) comes across as supremely exploitative of players, with millionaire owners collecting the reflected glory. Sure, the money is good as is the lure of easy women, while all the adulation is hard to resist, but the cost comes high as battered and bruised Nick Nolte finally figures out. Emphasis throughout is on obvious physical toll, but inner toll proves equally devastating. Team quarterback Mac Davis's sly character and coaching staff's slimy ploys illustrate that inner rot in sometimes subtle fashion.

Davis's understated performance provides memorable glimpse of intelligent man trapped by own weaknesses. Also one of Nick Nolte's most natural performances in both a brilliant and unorthodox career. His Phil Elliot may not be as clever as Davis, but the love of the game is truer, helping him finally see through the clouds of hype. But where oh where was director Kotcheff when beleaguered non-actress Dale Haddon so clearly needed help. Her one and only expression, paralyzed fear, almost brings down the entire film. Was the casting of this ex-Playboy playmate Hugh Hefner's price for assistance with the production?

Thanks Peter Gent for the gutsy expose' and Frank Yablans for bringing it to the screen intact. (After all those Monday evenings on TV, who could ever think of Tom Landry, Don Meredith or straight-laced Roger Staubach the same way again.) (Then too, fans might check out 1949's "Easy Living", a less caustic but also revealing film on the earlier days of pro football.) All in all, the screenplay of North Dallas is one of the best from the period -- humorous, savvy, and richly ironic -- the final boardroom scene arguably among the most compelling of any on sports. It's also one of the best arguments for getting athletics out of all those cathedrals of cult worship and back into neighborhood sandlots where they belong.
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