Friday Night Lights (2004)

PG-13 | 117 mins | Drama | 8 October 2004

THIS TITLE IS OUTSIDE THE AFI CATALOG OF FEATURE FILMS (1893-1993)
You may also like these titles from the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, the most authoritative documentation of the First 100 Years of American filmmaking.

Director:

Peter Berg

Producer:

Brian Grazer

Cinematographer:

Tobias Schliessler

Production Designer:

Sharon Seymour

Production Companies:

Universal Pictures , Imagine Entertainment
Full page view
HISTORY

Other than the title, all of the credits appear at the end of the film. The initial cast list differs in order from the cast/character list. The picture begins with the written statement: "The following is based on a true story which took place in West Texas in 1988." Voice-over commentary by radio announcers, hosts and guests is interspersed throughout the film. The picture ends with subtitles explaining the future careers of the film's major characters, noting that Brian Chavez went to Harvard and became a lawyer; Don Billingsley remained close with his father and became an insurance salesman in Dallas; Ivory Christian received a football scholarship and went on to work as a truck driver; James "Boobie" Miles played football in junior college and settled in Texas with his twins; and Mike Winchell played football for a year at Baylor University, then became a surveyer.
       Although all other sources list the running time as 117 minutes, NYT lists 105 minutes. The credits include the written statement: "In memory of Alan J. Pakula." Pakula (1928--1998), who was originally set to direct Friday Night Lights , began his film career as a producer on pictures such as To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ). Later, he directed several award-winning films, including All the President’s Men (1976) and Sophie's Choice (1982). He died on 19 Nov 1998, when a piece of metal tore through the windshield of his car. The end credits thank numerous people and institutions, including the Texas Film Commission, Austin Film Commission, city of Odessa and Permian High School. An end ... More Less

Other than the title, all of the credits appear at the end of the film. The initial cast list differs in order from the cast/character list. The picture begins with the written statement: "The following is based on a true story which took place in West Texas in 1988." Voice-over commentary by radio announcers, hosts and guests is interspersed throughout the film. The picture ends with subtitles explaining the future careers of the film's major characters, noting that Brian Chavez went to Harvard and became a lawyer; Don Billingsley remained close with his father and became an insurance salesman in Dallas; Ivory Christian received a football scholarship and went on to work as a truck driver; James "Boobie" Miles played football in junior college and settled in Texas with his twins; and Mike Winchell played football for a year at Baylor University, then became a surveyer.
       Although all other sources list the running time as 117 minutes, NYT lists 105 minutes. The credits include the written statement: "In memory of Alan J. Pakula." Pakula (1928--1998), who was originally set to direct Friday Night Lights , began his film career as a producer on pictures such as To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ). Later, he directed several award-winning films, including All the President’s Men (1976) and Sophie's Choice (1982). He died on 19 Nov 1998, when a piece of metal tore through the windshield of his car. The end credits thank numerous people and institutions, including the Texas Film Commission, Austin Film Commission, city of Odessa and Permian High School. An end credit for Friday Night Lights states that the film’s soundtrack is available on Hip-O Records/UMG Soundtracks.
       H. G. Bissinger’s book, Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream , was published in 1990 and remained on the NYT bestseller list for 15 weeks. It was later named by Sports Illustrated as the greatest football story ever told. Bissinger, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, spent a year in Odessa tracking the Permian High School football season and becoming part of the community. He then took six months to organize the book before beginning to write. The book frankly portrayed the racial and class issues in the community and the fact that the coach made more money than the principal and the local school district budgeted more money for football medical supplies than for the entire English department. As a result, as Publishers Weekly reported in Dec 1990, Bissinger received death threats and was forced to cancel some personal appearances in Texas. The NYT critic wrote, “In his telling Odessa proves to be a symbol of almost everything wrong with sports in America.”
       As stated in studio press materials, upon the book’s publication, Pakula’s former assistant, Tova Laiter, introduced the property to Imagine Entertainment producer Brian Grazer. Grazer pitched the film to Universal, which acquired the book rights. The project then underwent years of complications, with numerous directors and writers attached at different times. On 7 Nov 1990, DV announced that Pakula would direct and produce the film and mentioned David Ward as a possible screenwriter and Sam Shepard as a star. David Aaron Cohen wrote a script for Pakula that was eventually used as the basis for the final film. According to a Sep 2004 LAT article, Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show (1971), which was also set in rural Texas, was Cohen's inspiration.
       In 1994, Brian Levant worked on another screenplay adaptation, planning to direct it, but according to a Nov 2003 LAT article, "the studio eventually cooled on Levant's version." By Feb 1996, HR stated that Jon Avnet would direct the picture, with Pakula as executive producer. The LAT piece added that Billy Ray wrote a script with Avnet. However, DV noted in Sep 1996 that Universal Pictures had shelved the project, which was “now looking for a new home.” On 15 Aug 1997, a DV article stated that Richard Linklater was in negotiations to re-write and direct. DV noted in May 2002 that after Linklater wrote a script, booked locations and cast football players, Universal "pulled the plug." Then in 1999, director Ted Demme was briefly attached to the film, but his death in 2001 once again delayed the project.
       In late Jul 2003, as noted in Var , Grazer hired Peter Berg to co-write and direct. The LAT article detailed Grazer's initial reluctance to hire Berg, who had turned down previous opportunities to work with Imagine. After Berg asserted his commitment, however, Bissinger, to whom the book rights had since reverted, agreed to a new deal with Imagine. Berg and Bissinger are second cousins and close friends. Berg noted in press materials that Bissinger had showed him the book in galley form before publication, and that as a result Berg had campaigned for years to be allowed to direct the film version. He stated in press materials that his "take on this film is football is combat and these guys are warriors."
       Berg traveled to Odessa every weekend shooting football footage and getting to know the townspeople. At his behest, some scenes were shot at Permian High School, including at the school’s Ratliff Stadium. Most of the film was eventually shot on location in Texas, including in Odessa, Austin and the Houston Astrodome.
       According to the 2004 LAT article, the role of Coach Gary Gaines was originally offered to Tom Hanks. Billy Bob Thornton, who played Gaines, drew from the experiences of his father, who had been a high school basketball coach. Lucas Black, who played “Mike Winchell,” had earlier been directed by Thornton in Swing Blade and All the Pretty Horses… . Berg hired James “Boobie” Miles, one of the football players whose story was told in Friday Night Lights , to play a sideline coach in the film. The film’s pressbook notes that Miles was present for the filming of the scene that recreated the most important moment of his life, in which he broke his knee during a game and saw his football career ruined. Lee Jackson made his feature film debut in Friday Night Lights as Christian.
       Out of a pool of 960 applicants, second unit director and former USC football player Allan Graf picked 260 to participate in a three-day tryout camp in Jan 2004. He eventually chose forty boys to appear in the film. The football unit held a six-week training camp at St. Stephens Academy, playing six hours of football every day. Real-life Permian football trainer Tim O’Connell recreated his job for the production.
       Although the movie hewed closely to the book, some differences emerged. Chris Comer was not highlighted in the book, as he was a junior and Bissinger covered only the seniors. As stated in a 12 Sep 2004 LAT article, in order to receive permission to film in Odessa, Berg had to promise not to portray the town in a racist or stereotypical manner. Therefore, the film’s portrayal of the town differs from that in the book. Because of the omission of Odessa's cultural strife, some critics, including the LAT reviewer, maintained that the film "throw[s] authenticity to the wind in the name of what’s called ‘dramatic purposes.’" Many reviews, however, asserted that the film dealt expressly with racial and class tensions. The Newsweek review read: “[The film] has lots to say about race, class, celebrity, competition and the way dreams can inspire as well as devour the dreamer." The NYT critic stated that “the screenplay fiddles very little with the actual events” and “rarely softens the picture.”
       Reviews in general were positive, and the picture became a sleeper box office hit. Newsweek magazine and AFI named Friday Night Lights as one of the top ten films of 2004. In May 2006, the NBC television network announced that a weekly series based on the Bissinger novel and the film would be on the network's 2006--2007 Prime Time schedule.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
7 Nov 1990
p. 1, 27.
Daily Variety
19 Sep 1996.
---
Daily Variety
15 Aug 1997
p. 5, 38.
Daily Variety
3 May 2002
p. 5, 34.
Daily Variety
12 Oct 2004.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Nov 1990
p. 1, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Feb 1996
p. 1, 33.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 2003.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 2004.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 2004.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Sep 2004.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Nov 2003
Calendar, p. 1, 4.
Los Angeles Times
12 Sep 2004
Calendar, pp. 25-26.
Los Angeles Times
8 Oct 2004
Calendar, p. 1, 18.
Los Angeles Times
18 Oct 2004.
---
New York Times
8 Oct 2004.
---
New York Times
12 Oct 2004
Arts, p. 1, 7.
Newsweek
11 Oct 2004.
---
Publishers Weekly
7 Dec 1990.
---
Variety
28 Jul 2003.
---
Variety
27 Oct 2004
p. 76, 85.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Football players:
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Brian Grazer Production; A Peter Berg Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir/[Football coord]
1st asst dir
1st asst dir, 2d unit
2d asst dir
2d asst dir, 2d unit
2d 2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir, 2d unit
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Co-prod
Co-prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog, 2d unit
Addl photog
Aerial photog
Cam/Steadicam op
Cam op
Cam op, 2d unit
Cam op, 2d unit
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
1st asst cam, 2d unit
1st asst cam, 2d unit
1st asst cam, 2d unit
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam, 2d unit
2d asst cam, 2d unit
2d asst cam, 2d unit
Cam loader
Cam loader, 2d unit
Rigging gaffer
Gaffer, 2d unit
Best boy elec
Best boy elec
Rigging best boy elec
Best boy elec, 2d unit
Elec
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Elec, 2d unit
Elec, 2d unit
Elec, 2d unit
Key grip
Rigging key grip
Rigging key grip
Key grip, 2d unit
Best boy grip
Best boy grip, 2d unit
Dolly grip
Dolly grip
Dolly grip
Dolly grip, 2d unit
Dolly grip, 2d unit
Dolly grip, 2d unit
Dolly grip, 2d unit
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Stills photog
Cam prod asst
Video assist
Video assist, 2d unit
Asst video
24 frame playback
Night lights
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dept coord
Storyboard artist
Storyboard artist
Art prod asst
FILM EDITORS
Addl ed
Assoc ed
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Ed prod asst
Ed prod asst
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Asst set dec
Set des
Set des
Leadman
Prop master
Prop master, 2d unit
Asst prop master
Prop asst
Prop asst
Prop asst, 2d unit
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
On-set dresser
Const coord
Gen foreman
Foreman
Gangboss
Lead scenic
Scenic foreman
Paint foreman
[Paint] gangboss
Standby painter
Key greens
Greens gangboss
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Key cost
Key set cost
Set cost
Set cost
Set cost
Specialty cost
Cost prod asst
Cost prod asst
Cost prod asst
Cost prod asst
Football cost adv
Football cost
MUSIC
Mus prod/Orig mus
Orig mus
Orig mus
Mus ed
Mus ed
Exec in charge of mus for Universal Pictures
Mus rec
Mus contractor
Mus rec & mixed
Mus rec & mixed
Mus preparation
Score rec at
Score rec at
Mus programmer
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd mixer
Sd mixer, 2d unit
Boom op
Boom op
Boom op, 2d unit
Cable/Utility
Cable/Utility
Supv sd ed/Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Co-supv sd ed
Co-supv sd ed
Asst sd ed
Dial ed
Eff ed
ADR ed
ADR mixer
Foley supv
Foley ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Foley mixer
Foley rec asst
Foley rec asst
Sd prod asst
Sd prod asst
Sd prod asst
Dubbing rec
Dolby sd consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Visual eff
Compositing supv
On-set VFX supv
Visual eff supv
Digital prod mgr
Digital FX coord
Visual eff coord
Lead compositor/Inferno artist
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Mont compositing supv
Mont des
Inferno artist
Lead roto artist
Roto/Paint artist
Roto/Paint artist
Roto/Paint artist
Roto/Paint artist
Roto/Paint artist
Roto/Paint artist
Roto/Paint artist
Roto/Paint artist
Photoshop artist
India compositing supv
India prod mgr
VFX ed
Pipeline TD
Sr. VFX supv
Exec prod [visual eff]
Digital intermediate
Digital opticals
MAKEUP
Dept head hairstylist
Hairstylist for Mr. Thornton/Mr. McGraw
Key hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Wig stylist
Head makeup artist
Makeup artist for Mr. Thornton/Mr. McGraw
Key makeup artist
2d makeup artist
Addl makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting assoc
Casting, Texas
Casting assoc, Texas
Casting assoc, Texas
Extras casting
Extras casting
Extras casting
ADR voice casting
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr, 2d unit
Prod coord
Prod coord
Prod coord, 2d unit
Post prod supv
Scr supv
Scr supv, 2d unit
Prod accountant
1st asst accountant
2d asst accountant
Payroll accountant
Post prod accountant
Accounting asst
Accounting asst
Accounting asst
Accounting asst
Exec asst to Mr. Berg
Asst to Mr. Berg
Asst to Mr. Grazer
Asst to Mr. Whitaker
Asst to Mr. Cameron/Mr. Graf/Ms. Aubrey
Asst to Mr. Thornton
Asst loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Loc scout
Loc scout
Loc scout
Loc scout
Loc asst
Loc asst
Loc projectionist
Asst football coord, 2d unit
Asst football coach, 2d unit
Football trainer
Football trainer
Equipment mgr
Prod secy
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Office prod asst, 2d unit
Key set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst, 2d unit
Set prod asst, 2d unit
Set prod asst, 2d unit
Set prod asst, 2d unit
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Transportation capt, 2d unit
Transportation office mgr
Picture car capt
Helicopter pilot
Mr. Thornton's driver
Unit pub
Set teacher
Craft service
Craft service
Craft service, 2d unit
Craft service, 2d unit
Assets mgr
Medic
Medic
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunt double for Derek Luke
COLOR PERSONNEL
Digital film colorist
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H. G. Bissinger (Reading, MA, 1990).
MUSIC
"Grandioso March," written and arranged by Roland Seitz
"Hawaii Five-O Theme," written by Morton Stevens
"Dixie," arranged by Dr. Timothy B. Rhea
+
MUSIC
"Grandioso March," written and arranged by Roland Seitz
"Hawaii Five-O Theme," written by Morton Stevens
"Dixie," arranged by Dr. Timothy B. Rhea
"Sonho Dourado," written and performed by Daniel Lanois, courtesy of 422190 Ontario Inc.
+
SONGS
"Terminator X to the Edge of Panic," written by Carlton Ridenhour, Norman Rodgers and William Drayton, performed by Public Enemy, courtesy of The Island Def Jam Music Group, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
"Wild Side," written by Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx and Vince Neil, performed by Mötley Crüe, courtesy of Masters 2000, Inc., under exclusive license to Universal Music Group, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
"It's Tricky," written by Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels, Jason Mizel and Rick Rubin, performed by Run DMC, courtesy of Profile Records, Inc., under license from BMG Film & TV Music
+
SONGS
"Terminator X to the Edge of Panic," written by Carlton Ridenhour, Norman Rodgers and William Drayton, performed by Public Enemy, courtesy of The Island Def Jam Music Group, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
"Wild Side," written by Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx and Vince Neil, performed by Mötley Crüe, courtesy of Masters 2000, Inc., under exclusive license to Universal Music Group, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
"It's Tricky," written by Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels, Jason Mizel and Rick Rubin, performed by Run DMC, courtesy of Profile Records, Inc., under license from BMG Film & TV Music
"Fool Proof," written by Julius Robinson and David A. Young, performed by Joey Scarbury, courtesy of Uprising Entertainment
"Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," written by Carlton Ridenhour, Hank Shocklee, Eric Sadler and William Drayton, performed by Public Enemy, courtesy of The Island Def Jam Music Group, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
"Nothin' but a Good Time," written by Bret Michaels, C. C. DeVille, Rikki Rockett and Bobby Dall, performed by Poison, courtesy of Capitol Records, under license from EMI Film & Television Music
"Shoot for Thrills," written by Kelly Nickels, performed by L.A. Guns, courtesy of Universal Records, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
"Louie Louie," written by Richard Berry
"Bring the Noise," written by Carlton Ridenhour, Hank Shocklee, Eric Sadler and George Clinton, Jr., performed by Public Enemy, courtesy of The Island Def Jam Music Group, under license from Universal Music Enterprises, contains a sample of "Get off Your Ass and Jam," performed by Funkadelic, courtesy of Westbound Records Inc.
“Got My Mo Jo Working,” written by Preston Foster, performed by Jimmy Smith, courtesy of The Verve Music Group, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
“Barbara Ann,” written by Fred Fassert
“Rock and Roll Part 2,” written by Gary Glitter and Mike Leander
“Just Got Paid,” written by Billy F. Gibbons and Bill Ham, performed by ZZ Top, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc., by arrangement with Warner Strategic Marketing
“New Noise,” written by David Sandstrom, Dennis Lyxzen, Kristofer Steen and Jon Brannstrom, performed by Refused, courtesy of Burning Heart Records/Epitaph
“Welcome to the Terrordome,” written by Carlton Ridenhour and Keith Shocklee, performed by Public Enemy, courtesy of The Island Def Jam Music Group, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
“Jack & Gen,” written and performed by Adam Smalley
“I Wanna Be Your Dog,” written by Ronald Asheton, Scott Asheton, Dave Alexander and Iggy Pop, performed by The Stooges, courtesy of Elektra Entertainment Group, by arrangement with Warner Strategic Marketing
"Seagull," written by Paul Bernard Rodgers and Mick Ralphs, performed by Bad Company, courtesy of Swan Song Inc./Elektra Entertainment Group, by arrangement with Warner Strategic Marketing
"Your Hand in Mine,” “Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean,” “Memorial” and “The Only Moment We Were Alone,” written by Christopher Hrasky, Munaf Rayani, Mark Thomas Smith and Michael Aaron James, performed by Explosions in the Sky, courtesy of Explosions in the Sky
“First Breath After Coma” and “Have You Passed Through This Night?” written by Christopher Hrasky, Munaf Rayani, Mark Thomas Smith and Michael Aaron James, performed by Explosions in the Sky
“A Poor Man’s Memory” and “With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept,” written by Christopher Hrasky, Munaf Rayani, Mark Thomas Smith and Michael Aaron James, performed by Explosions in the Sky, courtesy of Temporary Residence, Inc.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
8 October 2004
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Los Angeles: 6 October 2004
Production Date:
2 February--8 April 2004
Copyright Claimant:
MDBF Filmgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG and Universal Pictures
Copyright Date:
2004
Copyright Number:
Physical Properties:
Sound
dts; SDDS Sony Dynamic Digital Sound; Dolby Digital in selected theatres
Color
Technicolor
Lenses/Prints
Kodak Motion Picture Film; filmed with Panavision cameras and lenses
Duration(in mins):
117
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
41170
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Odessa, Texas in August of 1988, the Permian High School Panthers football team, headed by Coach Gary Gaines, is under intense pressure to reach and win the state championship. All of Odessa is focused on high school football, showering the team with money, attention, devotion and the concurrent obligation to win at all costs. As pre-season begins, the team is confident, despite the players’ overall small size, because of the skill of their star tailback, James “Boobie” Miles. Boobie, arrogant and charismatic, sees football as his ticket out of small-town Texas, and basks in his many college scholarship offers. Even the team's practices are crowded with talent scouts and fans, including Boobie’s adoring uncle L. V. and Charles Billingsley, the father of starting tailback Don. Charlie is a former champion Panther who is disappointed in what he sees as his son’s inability to stand up to pressure. After one uninspired practice, Don brings a girl home, where his drunken father duct-tapes a football to his hands and beats him. The team’s talented quarterback, Mike Winchell, is shy and insecure despite his skill, and is further hampered by his dedication to his chronically ill mother. The man under the most scrutiny, however, is Gaines, who knows he will be forced to move out of town if the team does not succeed, and who stoically accepts the “advice” and vague threats of the town’s rabid fans. The whole town attends the first Friday night game, during which Boobie dominates. When they have a comfortable lead, Gaines replaces Boobie with second-string, junior tailback Chris Comer, but the rookie cannot find his helmet and so Gaines returns Boobie to the field. When ... +


In Odessa, Texas in August of 1988, the Permian High School Panthers football team, headed by Coach Gary Gaines, is under intense pressure to reach and win the state championship. All of Odessa is focused on high school football, showering the team with money, attention, devotion and the concurrent obligation to win at all costs. As pre-season begins, the team is confident, despite the players’ overall small size, because of the skill of their star tailback, James “Boobie” Miles. Boobie, arrogant and charismatic, sees football as his ticket out of small-town Texas, and basks in his many college scholarship offers. Even the team's practices are crowded with talent scouts and fans, including Boobie’s adoring uncle L. V. and Charles Billingsley, the father of starting tailback Don. Charlie is a former champion Panther who is disappointed in what he sees as his son’s inability to stand up to pressure. After one uninspired practice, Don brings a girl home, where his drunken father duct-tapes a football to his hands and beats him. The team’s talented quarterback, Mike Winchell, is shy and insecure despite his skill, and is further hampered by his dedication to his chronically ill mother. The man under the most scrutiny, however, is Gaines, who knows he will be forced to move out of town if the team does not succeed, and who stoically accepts the “advice” and vague threats of the town’s rabid fans. The whole town attends the first Friday night game, during which Boobie dominates. When they have a comfortable lead, Gaines replaces Boobie with second-string, junior tailback Chris Comer, but the rookie cannot find his helmet and so Gaines returns Boobie to the field. When Boobie is hit, he crumbles, and although the doctor fears he has torn a ligament, an injury that would keep him from playing and possibly ruin his entire future in football, Gaines tells the team not to worry. Without Boobie, the team loses the next game 49-6, and the fans, who blame the coach for Boobie’s injury, admonish him to come up with a new plan to win. Gaines exhorts Mike, who feels acutely the burden of fame, to put aside the anxiety of caring for his mother and “get the job done,” promising him that if he accepts the challenge, he can be exceptional. The team next plays Cooper, and although at first the rival team advances, when Comer gets the ball, he proves to be a lightning-fast runner and invigorates his teammates. After the win, Boobie goes to the Midland hospital, where he refuses to accept the doctor’s recommendation that he recuperate further, and instead lies to Gaines that he is capable of playing. The next game is against arch-rival Midland Lee, and if the Panthers win, they will go on to the state championship playoffs. When Midland is winning by seven with only minutes to go, Gaines bows to coercion and puts Boobie in the game, but the boy is immediately tackled and collapses in pain, his knee crushed. The team rallies under Mike’s direction, but they lose in the last seconds. On the way home, Charlie drunkenly kicks out the car windows, excoriates his son and tosses his championship ring out of the car. At the same time, Mike tells Gaines that he feels cursed, and the coach replies that all curses are self-imposed. Because there is a three-way tie for first place, Permian, Cooper and Midland hold a tense coin toss to determine which two teams will go on the playoffs, and Cooper loses. The next morning, Charlie apologizes to Don, explaining that he knows firsthand that this year of glory is all there is to life. Don hands his father his ring and walks away in silence. Soon after, Boobie collects his gear from the locker room, and although he affects his customary cocky attitude, in the car with L. V. he breaks down, sobbing that football is all he has. Permian enters the playoffs, and as they win each game on their roster, so does Dallas-Carter, an all-black, powerhouse of a team. When the two teams are ready to compete for the championship, the coaches gather to discuss the logistics, and the Dallas managers, concerned about racial tension, insist on a neutral stadium and a mixed-race referee staff. They agree to play in the Houston Astrodome, and as the bus leaves to drive there, Boobie arrives, on crutches, and asks to accompany them. The game, which for most of the players marks the climax and conclusion of their football careers, begins, with Dallas taking an early lead. The burly players dominate the Panthers, who return to the locker room for halftime. There, Ivory Christian, typically a quiet, religious boy, delivers a rousing speech, after which Gaines announces that his constant admonition to be “perfect” refers not to whether or not they win but whether or not they extend their strongest effort. Entreating them to think of Boobie, Gaines tells the boys that they are in his heart. The team returns to the field with renewed vigor, lead by a dynamic Mike. A series of spectacular plays put the winning touchdown in their grasp, and with two minutes to go, they move the ball to a mere four inches from the end zone. Gaines calls a special play and Mike, who has been hit repeatedly by Dallas’ defense, struggles to maintain his strength. The entire audience rises to their feet when Mike takes control of the ball and scrambles down the field. As the bell signals the end of the game, he lunges for the end zone, missing by inches. The team, as well as the town, is devastated. On the field, Charlie embraces his son, slipping his championship ring onto Don’s finger. The next day, as the boys gather their gear and take their final leave of the Permian locker room, Gaines begins to prepare the next year’s football roster, unaware that the 1989 team, led by Comer, will have an undefeated season and take the state championship trophy. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.