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North Dallas Forty (1979)
My Favorite Sports Movie
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.