Friday Night Lights (2004)

Action, Drama, Sport
Billy Bob Thornton, Jay Hernandez, Derek Luke, Lucas Black
Based on H.G. Bissinger's book, which profiled the economically depressed town of Odessa, Texas and their heroic high school football team, The Permian High Panthers.
An acute survey of the football-obsessed heartland that succeeds as both a stirring drama and a rousing sports movie.
  • Universal Pictures Company:
  • PG-13 Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 08 Oct 2004 Released:
  • 18 Jan 2005 DVD Release:
  • $61.2M Box office:

All subtitles:

Trailer:

Excellent Look at a Small Town's Football Madness10/10

To be honest, I went to this movie primarily to see Christian Kane, but the reviews had been excellent. I expected a cross between All the Right Moves and Remember the Titans, but it was nothing like the second, which was about two coaches forced to make their teams blend into one while avoiding racial problems. There were elements of All the Right Moves, though, as several of the young men expressed their desire to get out of Odessa through football, but the movie focused on several of them rather than just one. Its best companion piece in my opinion is the Texas Cheerleader Murder, which shows the same football madness from the other gender as they will do anything to be cheerleaders!

Billy Bob Thornton was excellent as the coach, facing pressure on all sides to win the state championship. An excellent touch was the large number of for sale signs on his lawn after his team was blown away in the game following Boobie's injury. The community put pressure on the boys as well, everyone who owned a state championship ring from prior years pushing them in the kids' faces. Tim McGraw was a revelation as Brian's abusive father, and the actress who was Mike Winchell's mother gave a brilliant performance.

All of the young actors were excellent, especially Derek Luke as the unfortunate Boobie. He made the audience feel his pain and frustration. Lucas Black, who had done such a marvelous job in American Gothic, has a face that reflects his pain as he faces all of his tribulations, which include the pressure of suddenly becoming the team's best hope when Boobie is out and of having a mother with mental and/or emotional problems. Every one of them is a gem.

The cinematography was outstanding, and the shots of the town and the bleak surroundings certainly demonstrated why the kids wanted to get away. Despair hung in the air, with people clinging to their moments of glory as the only happy days of their entire lives. This was its primary likeness to All the Right Moves, although the hated home town was a Pennsylvania steel town (Johnstown, PA, which I escaped from myself), not a Texas prairie city.

And what made things even more intense was that this was a true story. Showing the boys' fates at the end was an excellent conclusion.

And Christian Kane? I knew he only had a cameo, as he had told Peter Berg that he'd love to be in the movie and would take any part there was. He was the man in the restaurant/bar who asked Mike Winchell if he'd take a picture with him & his kid. He was long-haired, unshaven, and, to be honest, if I'd seen him this way first, I'd never have given him a second look. He did a good job as a "good ole boy," though!
The Best Sports movie ever made8/10

This movie was phenomenal in every way. It had incredible performances under a great director with a fantastic story to back it up.

It tells the story of a high school football team in Texas through the course of their 1988 season. Billy Bob Thorton played the coach of the team and give the best performance I've ever seen him give. The film was directed by Peter Berg who gave it a unique film style. He managed to tell this story in a very beautiful way.

Tim McGraw gives a great debut performance of an ex-high school football player who has become the drunken abusive father of one of the players currently on the team. He was almost unrecodnizable in this role and he portrayed it well. He, and the rest of the cast for that matter deserve a lot of credit.

This is the only football film I have ever seen that has done justice to what it feels like to play football in high school. I played under Friday night lights myself, that time of my life ended just a year ago and it still holds fresh in my memory. And because of that I can tell you how accurately this film portray's the sense of brotherhood and friendship that is felt by every team, at least every good football team.

Whether you ever played under Friday night lights yourself or not anyone should be able to appreciate this film.
A review by a football player9/10
"Gentlemen. The hopes and dreams of an entire town are riding on your shoulders. You may never matter more than you do right now. It's time."—Coach Gary Carter addressing his team.

For years, the Buzz Bissinger's book "Friday Nights Lights" has been proclaimed as the greatest football book ever written. The story is about the 1988 Permian Panthers from Odessa, Texas. In the book, Bissinger illustrates how much high school football effects a town in West Texas that has basically nothing to live for. Almost everyone in Odessa is poor, train tracks divide the town the white and black communities and the school system is below average, yet on Friday Nights (as the tag-line of the movie says) "Hope comes alive".

The thing that I like most about the movie was the it didn't go away from the book too much and the movie tried to imply the same themes as the book did. Anyway, let's get to the actual movie now.

Unlike most sports movies where the viewer is spending about two-thirds of the movie trying to figure out who all the characters are, "Lights" actually does a good job in identifying all the characters. For example, you will know who "Boobie" Miles is (the Panthers' star running back) right when the movie starts. Another unique thing about "Lights" is that when watching, it feels like the viewer is watching a documentary, because movie does a great job on including detail on the attitude the town and players carry throughout the story and highlights from EVERY game are shown (something that never happens in sports movies).

The characters in "Lights" make the movie great, especially "Boobie" Miles (played by Derek Luke). Boobie is not only the best runner on the team, he is probably the best running back in the state. On one play, he broke three tackles and burned two other defenders. The only thing that faster than his legs is...his mouth. He makes Terrell Owens and Freddie Mitchell look modest. Whenever a member of the media talks to him, he proclaims that he is God gift to football and how God made Boobie beautiful and all that junk. When asked about his grades he replies "I'm an athlete, I make straight A's". Boobie is obviously not smart, when he was reading one of his recruitment letters from the University of Southern California, he sounded like a five-year old. Football and his uncle L.V. are the only two things that Boobie has going for him.

The main character of the movie is Coach Gary Carter (played by Billie Bob Thornton). Coach Carter's job is not an easy one. Throughout the movie, he is constantly bugged by boosters and supports telling him that he should imply this scheme or this player should play this position, Coach Carter just ignores them, but he knows that expectations are very high in Odessa (especially if they are the favorites to go the Texas Bowl).

Another character(s) that make the movie great is Don Billingsley (played by Garrett Hedlund) and his father Charles (played by country superstar Tim McGraw). Don probably feels the pressure of playing for the Panthers more than anyone because his dad as on a state championship team for the Panthers and his dad is also an alcoholic. During the first practice of the season when Don fumbled the ball, Charles came running out of the stands and when yelling at his son about "some little fumble". Don is ashamed by his father which is why he probably the biggest playboy on the team as well. However, Don is one tough kid (as evident in the final game).

Football is the only thing that Odessa cares about, after a loss a person calls-in a local radio station to say "there's too much learning going on at that school!" On Friday Nights, all the businesses are closed, the Ratliff Stadium (where the Panthers play) is packed an hour before kickoff and everyone is wearing black and white.

The game scenes are the best part of the movie. Some of the hits are so hard, it would put Terry Tate to shame, especially in the final game of the story. That game scene was the best I have ever saw because it captured everything that goes on during a football game (trash talk, adjustments, dirty play, emotion, etc.) Where does Friday Night Lights among football movies? Personally, I think it's the best football movie of all time. I have played football for nine years and I have seen about every single football movie ever made and I will have to say that this film truly captures what football REALLY is. If you are a sports fan, you will love this movie.

GRADE: 9.5 out of 10.

FOOTBALL GRADE: TOUCHDOWN with the 2-point conversion
A sports movie worthy of non-sports people9/10
This movie is not what you might expect. It is not your typical sports movie, where a disparate team comes together to triumph over adversity as the music swells with a dumb sense of pride. This is a movie about people, kind of like Seabiscuit that way, except less happy and with no horses.

This movie is about Odessa, a medium-sized town in Texas with no economy and nothing to do besides obsess about high school football. It is a town where they pay the football coach twice as much as their teachers, where a boy's best chance out is to get a football scholarship to a faraway college, and where these boys are under so much pressure to win because the town seems unable to succeed at anything else.

A movie like this depends on its actors, because it is a character drama at its core. Much noise has been made of Billy Bob, and how he gives a great performance, and this is very true, but he is not the only star in this movie. The boys all do a great job too, especially Lucas Black. I have never noticed this actor before, but he is so intense as Mike Winchell that he makes you really feel for him. The other boys, including Derek Luke and Jay Hernandez, are also note-perfect.

There is a great moment at the end, after their final game, when they talk about what they are going to do next. They haven't graduated yet, but it is already over for them. There is a sense that nothing else matters. Subtitles tell us what happens to everyone. It is sometimes funny, often tragic, and always ironic, and you leave the movie feeling like you've met some new people who are very real.
The Real Varsity Blues5/10
This is a very dark sports movie. It's about fanaticism, the great weight of importance certain people place on sports. Sports fans often regard their teams as extensions of themselves. In "Friday Night Lights," the entire town of Odessa, Texas collectively puts their town's reputation on the shoulders of a high school football team. It's basically the same exact plot as "Varsity Blues," except a serious version of high school football in small town Texas.

One thing the movie does extremely well is taking hackneyed plots of the individual players (because it's all been done before) and putting them all in the background. So the plots play out not in a cheesy, inspirational, in-your-face way. Instead, they are just there with only as much attention as the viewer wants to put on them. The great aspects of sports are enough to keep us interested and makes the movie incredibly real.

The only character whose plot is really focused on is Boobie, the cocky running back who is injured and tries to defy his own injury. This is a plot in sports movies that has been focused on somewhat - the injured player. But never before has the pain been so real and so powerful.

This movie is heart-wrenching. Sports movies usually have so many moments of redemption and cheesy happiness that often feel false. This movie only has one such moment and it is incredibly powerful. Nothing about this movie is Hollywood. Billy Bob Thorton gives a great, understated performance as the coach, a man who is simply internal, who can do nothing but sit back and watch events unfold, knowing full well the impact that each game has on himself and his family. All the actors playing the football players do a good job, especially the guy who plays Boobie.

Don't expect this movie to uplift you. But it will show you an interesting side of sports you may have never considered. And, in the end, it shows exactly what is great about sports, and it has nothing to do with winning or making a career out of the game. It's about giving all you have for a teammate.