Warning: There are spoilers beyond this point
One of my favorite movies of all time: Friday Night Lights. I’m not really someone to do movie reviews, but I have watched this movie over 20 times, and I feel I know the movie pretty well. Friday Night Lights came out in October of 2004 and was directed by Peter Berg. It was a adaptation from a book written by H.G. Bissinger.
The movie, as well as the book, shows the story of a high school football team from Odessa Texas and follows them through their run for a 1988 state championship. The movie starts off with the star players of the Permian Panthers heading off to their field to start their year. You find out from the beginning that easily their best player is running back James “Boobie” Miles, played by Derek Luke. The gameplan is clearly geared towards Boobie and his playmaking ability. He has the speed, agility, power, and moves to beat any defender.
Also, you are introduced to several other players on the team: QB Mike Winchell (Lucas Black), other RB Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund), Safety Brian Chavez (Jay Hernandez), and DE Ivory Christian (Lee Jackson III). Everyone jokes that Mike has the easiest job on the team because all he has to do is give the ball to Boobie and his play is over. You also learn that Billingsley has issues with his father, who is played by Tim McGraw. His father was a former player for Permian, who won a state championship. Lastly, Chavez is the brainiac of the bunch. His friends say that football is just a side thing for him because he has Harvard ahead of him and that football is just a game to him.
The Panthers season, however, takes a wrong turn, and everything changes for them. In one of the first games, the Panthers were killing their opponents, and Coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) puts Boobie in for an extra point because backup Chris Comer forgot his helmet. Miles on the play injures his ACL and tears it. Right after the game, you are in the coach’s car while he is listening to the radio. The radio was getting calls on how Gaines should resign or be fired because of his decision to keep Miles in the game.
The team at first could not handle playing without Boobie. Mike Winchell starts playing inconsistently, throwing interceptions and getting sacked. Billingsley and Comer are not used to being key role players on the team and have to try to step up. And now, Coach Gaines needs to bring this team together if they have any chance at even making the state playoffs. The Panthers lose a couple of games after Miles’ injury, but the Panthers find a way to turn it around. Mike Winchell dropped back for a pass, but pocket collapses, and he is running out of time. Comer happens to be a couple of yards in front of him. Winchell shuffle passes the ball to Comer, who takes the ball and sprints to the endzone for a touchdown. This is where the Panthers become the team that everyone expected them to be.
The Panthers come out storming and end up in a three way tie at season’s end. The tiebreaker ends in a coin toss between the three teams, two of them making it to the playoffs. Winchell goes with Gaines to the coin flipping site, and they have a talk about being cursed. Right before Gaines flips the coin, he looks back at Winchell and says, “Ain’t no curses.” That quote is one of my favorites. The Panthers end up making it to the playoffs and from there they win every game making it to the championship game. The problem is that they are playing Dallas Carter, the best team in the state because of their size and athleticism.
The first half is dominated by Dallas Carter. You are thinking ‘There is no way they can beat this team.’ Well in the locker room, Ivory goes on a rant (he is known for barely talking). That is where everything starts to come together. By the end of the game, it is down to the Panthers’ last drive. They are driving down the field, and the team, especially Winchell, are getting hit hard. In one of the huddles, Mike comes in and starts calling the play and takes a deep breath of air. One of his teammates asks, “Hey Mike, you alright?”. Winchell responds, “Yeah man, I’m alright.” Then it comes down to the last play. Winchell gets in the huddle and says probably my favorite part in the whole movie, “This is for the state championship. I love all of ya’ll, baby. I love all of ya’ll.” They hand the ball off to Billingsley, who runs the ball to the one yard line. However, a flag is thrown for holding and the Panthers are put back ten yards and have time for another play. Winchell yells out the play, and snaps the ball. Mike scrambles around and decides to take it himself. He jukes out a couple of people and a big pile forms around the goal line. The ball ends up an inch away from a touchdown, and the Panthers lose the state championship. The players get over their lose and all have to go on with their lives. The movie ends with the main players meeting in the parking lot and talking about football. Winchell is the last one there and takes a football and throws it to a bunch of young kids who are playing football.
Honestly, just writing this makes me want to watch the movie again. The beginning of the movie gets you into the lives of the players and gets you to understand what each player is going through. At the time, I was about 10 years old and playing football as a quarterback. I kept imagining that I would be them when I got to high school. It sounds funny now, but that is how much I liked the movie and was inspired by it. I always wanted to be like Mike Winchell. In one scene, where Winchell and Billingsley walk into the Astrodome for the state championship, I would play that on repeat like five times before moving on. I would imagine my friend and me doing the same thing for a championship one day. Towards the end of the championship game, I was so into the movie, and I got emotional, especially when they lost. It was so heartbreaking. Friday Night Lights, in my opinion, is a must see for football fans, and it is definitely my favorite movie of all time.