'Rudy' Turns 25: The 25 Best Football Movies Of All Time, Ranked

The classic sports movie "Rudy" is returning to theaters across the nation, 25 years after its original release. USA TODAY

Everybody needs a guy like Rudy Ruettiger, on their team or just in life. Who cares about Tom Brady when there are dudes like Shane Falco? And on draft day, always remember: Vontae Mack, no matter what.

The best of all sports-movie subgenres, football films have given us great characters – real and fictional – and a bunch of awesome cinematic moments in everything from screwball comedies to real-life narratives.

The 1993 film "Rudy" falls squarely in the latter category, with Sean Astin suiting up as the famous Notre Dame walk-on. For the 25th anniversary of the most underdoggy underdog story, let's rank the 25 best football movies of all time. (Sorry, "Brian's Song" fans: We're only counting theatrical releases, not made-for-TV weepers.)

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George Clooney (left) and John Krasinski are 1920s footballers vying for the same woman's affections in "Leatherheads." (Photo: MELINDA SUE GORDON/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS)

25. 'Leatherheads' (2008)

Square-jawed team captain (George Clooney) recruits a talented World War I hero (John Krasinski) to be the 1920s-era Duluth Bulldogs’ saving grace, but they both fall for the same newspaper reporter (Renee Zellweger). Like a not-as-good “Bull Durham” with more mud and helmets.

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A bullied college waterboy (Adam Sandler, with Henry Winkler) finally gets in the game as a football wunderkind in "The Waterboy." (Photo: JON FARMER/TOUCHSTONE)

24. 'The Waterboy' (1998)

Cajun accents and “high-quality H2O” flow in this guilty pleasure with Adam Sandler as a dimwitted mama’s boy and college football wannabe who turns into a force of nature on cleats when he gets ticked off enough.

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James Van Der Beek (left) and Paul Walker are quarterbacks at a competitive Texas high school in "Varsity Blues." (Photo: DEANA NEWCOMB/PARAMOUNT PICTURES)

23. 'Varsity Blues' (1999)

When an all-state high school quarterback (Paul Walker) gets injured, his backup (James Van Der Beek) learns the positives of Texas football celebrity (popularity, girls and strip clubs!) and the negatives (the wrath of Jon Voight’s cruel coach).

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Billy Bob Thornton (center) is the fiery coach of the Permian High squad in "Friday Night Lights." (Photo: UNIVERSAL STUDIOS)

22. 'Friday Night Lights' (2004)

Let's be honest: The "Friday Night Lights" TV show is better than half this list, but the film adaptation of H.G. Bissinger's novel about Texas high-school football is noteworthy for its authentic obsession with the game and Billy Bob Thornton's thorny, win-at-all-costs coach.

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Rob Brown (left, with Omar Benson Miller and Dennis Quaid) stars as Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy and the subject of "The Express." (Photo: CHUCK HODES/UNIVERSAL)

21. 'The Express' (2008)

Syracuse running back Ernie Davis (Rob Brown), the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy, gets the biopic treatment in an inspirational story with more than a touch of melancholy (since leukemia cut his playing career and life short).

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Dwayne Johnson plays the quarterback dad and Madison Pettis is his daughter in "The Game Plan." (Photo: RON PHILLIPS/DISNEY)

20. 'The Game Plan' (2007)

If you didn't know Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was a big ol' softie, this highlight of his family-friendly phase features the former Miami Hurricane as a cocky pro quarterback who has to learn a whole new playbook when he finds out he has an 8-year-old daughter.

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George Plimpton (Alan Alda, right) is a Sports Illustrated writer who gets a tryout with the Detroit Lions in "Paper Lion." (Photo: EVERETT COLLECTION)

19. 'Paper Lion' (1968)

A master of participatory journalism, George Plimpton (Alan Alda) has the idea to go to a pro team's training camp and attempt to make the team, but the Detroit Lions are the only ones to bite. While his teammates (like all-star Alex Karras) come around to digging him, his one game as a quarterback is disaster. (Three plays, negative 41 yards!)

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Mark Wahlberg stars as a Philadelphia bartender who gets a shot at football glory with the Eagles in "Invincible." (Photo: RON PHILLIPS/DISNEY)

18. 'Invincible' (2006)

Mark Wahlberg always looks like a dude in good enough shape to play some ball, and in this true-life tale, he also rocks some serious 1970s style as a Philadelphia bartender who manages to surprise everyone when he goes to an open tryout for his beloved Eagles and makes the squad.

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Sean Astin portrays Notre Dame football player Rudy
The rousing sports drama "Rudy" (starring Sean Astin as the ultimate underdog) turns 25. To celebrate, here's a list of the 25 best football movies of all time. CAN REDIN/ASSOCIATED PRESS>FullscreenGeorge Clooney (left) and John Krasinski are 1920s footballers vying for the same woman's affections in
25. "Leatherheads" (2008): George Clooney, left, and John Krasinski are 1920s footballers vying for the same woman's affections. MELINDA SUE GORDON/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS>FullscreenA bullied college waterboy (Adam Sandler, with Henry Winkler) finally gets in the game as a football wunderkind in "The Waterboy."
24. "The Waterboy" (1998): A bullied college waterboy (Adam Sandler, with Henry Winkler) finally gets in the game as a football wunderkind. JON FARMER/TOUCHSTONE>FullscreenJames Van Der Beek (left) and Paul Walker are quarterbacks at a competitive Texas high school in "Varsity Blues."
23. "Varsity Blues" (1999): James Van Der Beek, left, and Paul Walker are quarterbacks at a competitive Texas high school. DEANA NEWCOMB/PARAMOUNT PICTURES>FullscreenBilly Bob Thornton (center) is the fiery coach of the Permian High squad in "Friday Night Lights."
22. "Friday Night Lights" (2004): Billy Bob Thornton, center, is the fiery coach of the Permian High squad. UNIVERSAL STUDIOS>FullscreenRob Brown (left, with Omar Benson Miller and Dennis Quaid) stars as Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy and the subject of "The Express."
21. "The Express" (2008): Rob Brown (left, with Omar Benson Miller and Dennis Quaid) stars as Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. CHUCK HODES/UNIVERSAL>FullscreenDwayne Johnson plays the quarterback dad and Madison
20. "The Game Plan" (2007): Dwayne Johnson plays a quarterback dad and Madison Pettis is his surprise biological daughter. RON PHILLIPS/DISNEY>FullscreenGeorge Plimpton (Alan Alda, right) is a Sports Illustrated writer who gets a tryout with the Detroit Lions in "Paper Lion."
19. "Paper Lion" (1968): George Plimpton (Alan Alda, right) is a Sports Illustrated writer who plays quarterback for the Detroit Lions. EVERETT COLLECTION>FullscreenMark Wahlberg stars as a Philadelphia bartender who gets a shot at football glory with the Eagles in "Invincible."
18. "Invincible" (2006): Mark Wahlberg stars as a Philadelphia bartender who gets a shot at football glory with the Eagles. RON PHILLIPS/DISNEY>FullscreenTom Cruise plays a high school football hero wanting to escape his working-class Pennsylvania town in "All the Right Moves."
17. "All the Right Moves" (1983): Tom Cruise plays a high school football hero wanting to escape his working-class Pennsylvania town. ERIC MEOLA/20TH CENTUTY FOX>FullscreenA disgraced ex-football star (Damon Wayans, left) and a private eye (Bruce Willis) dig up shady shenanigans while investigating a murder in "The Last Boy Scout."
16. "The Last Boy Scout" (1991): A disgraced ex-football star (Damon Wayans, left) and a private eye (Bruce Willis) dig up shady shenanigans while investigating a murder. WARNER BROS. PICTURES/SUNSET BOULEVARD/CORBIS VIA GETTY IMAGES>FullscreenCollege professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff (Groucho Marx, left) gets ready for a play with his football team (including Zeppo Marx, Chico Marx and Harpo Marx) in the big game against a rival school in "Horse Feathers."
15. "Horse Feathers" (1932): College professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff (Groucho Marx, left) gets ready for a play with his football team (including Zeppo, Chico and Harpo Marx) in the big game against a rival school. UNIVERSAL STUDIOS>FullscreenA coach (Gene Hackman, left) and an unlikely star quarterback (Keanu Reeves) head up a motley gridiron crew in "The Replacements."
14. "The Replacements" (2000): A coach (Gene Hackman, left) and an unlikely star quarterback (Keanu Reeves) head up a motley gridiron crew. RON PHILLIPS/WARNER BROS./BEL AIR PICTURES>FullscreenNick Nolte (center) is a wide receiver who leads a hard-living football squad in "North Dallas Forty."
13. "North Dallas Forty" (1979): Nick Nolte, center, is a wide receiver who leads a hard-living football squad. PARAMOUNT PICTURES>FullscreenAn aging quarterback (Scott Bakula) makes the most of his chance at college football in "Necessary Roughness."
12. "Necessary Roughness" (1991): An aging quarterback (Scott Bakula) makes the most of his chance at college football. PARAMOUNT/EVERETT COLLECTION>FullscreenCoach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) integrates a high school football team in Virginia in "Remember the Titans."
11. "Remember the Titans" (2000): Coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) integrates a high school football team in Virginia. TRACY BENNETT/WALT DISNEY PICTURES>FullscreenBurt Reynolds starred in the 1974 football-themed film "The Longest Yard."
10. "The Longest Yard" (1974): Burt Reynolds stars an incarcerated quarterback who has to lead a jailhouse gang in a game against the guards. Handout>FullscreenWarren Beatty is a pro quarterback who gets a second chance at life in "Heaven Can Wait."
9. "Heaven Can Wait" (1978): Warren Beatty is a Los Angeles Rams quarterback who gets a second chance at life. PARAMOUNT/GETTY IMAGES>FullscreenCuba Gooding Jr. plays Rod Tidwell, a second-tier wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, and Tom Cruise is his agent, the title character of "Jerry Maguire."
8. "Jerry Maguire" (1996): Cuba Gooding Jr., left, plays Rod Tidwell, a second-tier wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, and Tom Cruise is his agent. ANDREW COOPER/COLUMBIA/TRISTAR>FullscreenAl Pacino is a pro coach who tries to quell the tensions of bickering teammates (Jamie Foxx and LL Cool J) in "Any Given Sunday."
7. "Any Given Sunday" (1999): Al Pacino is a pro coach who tries to quell the tensions of bickering teammates (Jamie Foxx and LL Cool J). ROBERT ZUCKERMAN/WARNER BROS.>FullscreenHarold Lloyd is a young college kid who joins the football team to be popular in "The Freshman."
6. "The Freshman" (1925): Harold Lloyd is a young college kid who joins the football team to be popular. THE HAROLD LLOYD TRUST/NEW LINE>FullscreenFootball prodigy Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is adopted by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sanda Bullock) in "The Blind Side."
5. "The Blind Side" (2009): Football prodigy Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is adopted by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sanda Bullock). RALPH NELSON/WARNER BROS.>FullscreenMarshall football coach Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) gives an inspiring speech in the 1970s-set "We Are Marshall."
4. "We Are Marshall" (2006): Marshall football coach Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) gives an inspiring speech in the 1970s-set drama. FRANK MASI/WARNER BROS.>FullscreenKevin Costner stars as the embattled general manager of the Cleveland Browns in "Draft Day."
3. "Draft Day" (2014): Kevin Costner stars as the embattled general manager of the Cleveland Browns whose job is in question on the first day of the NFL Draft. DALE ROBINETTE/SUMMIT>FullscreenGeorge Gipp (Ronald Reagan, left) is the star halfback for Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne (Pat O’Brien) in 1940's
2. "Knute Rockne, All American" (1940): George Gipp (Ronald Reagan, left) is the star halfback for Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne (Pat O’Brien). AMPAS>FullscreenSean Astin (left) and Jon Favreau in 1993's
1. "Rudy" (1993): Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin, left, with Jon Favreau) hits the books and the gridiron to realize his dream of playing for Notre Dame. FATHOM EVENTS>Fullscreen

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    17. 'All the Right Moves' (1983)

    Before he felt the need for speed, Tom Cruise was all about picking off passes in one of his earliest film roles. He plays a high school defensive back who sees football as a way out of his working-class Pennsylvania steel town, gets on the bad side of his coach (Craig T. Nelson) and, surprisingly, dates a marching band member (Lea Thompson).

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    A disgraced ex-football star (Damon Wayans, left) and a private eye (Bruce Willis) dig up shady shenanigans while investigating a murder in "The Last Boy Scout." (Photo: WARNER BROS. PICTURES/SUNSET BOULEVARD/CORBIS VIA GETTY IMAGES)

    16. 'The Last Boy Scout' (1991)

    This nicely over-the-top action film teams a disgraced quarterback (Damon Wayans) and an L.A. private eye (Bruce Willis) to investigate shady dealings involving legalized gambling. The bonkers opening is a highlight, with a rockin' "Monday Night Football"-type intro and a guy in a drug rage shooting his way into the end zone mid-game.

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    College professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff (Groucho Marx, left) gets ready for a play with his football team (including Zeppo Marx, Chico Marx and Harpo Marx) in the big game against a rival school in "Horse Feathers." (Photo: UNIVERSAL STUDIOS)

    15. 'Horse Feathers' (1932)

    The Marx Brothers hit the field for one of their classic comedies. Groucho Marx stars as the new president of Huxley College, who attempts to sign on two pro players to help beat rival Darwin University but ends up getting a pair of bootleggers instead. High jinks ensue, including a hilarious scene in the Big Game with a scampering dog and a chariot chase. 

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    A coach (Gene Hackman, left) and an unlikely star quarterback (Keanu Reeves) head up a motley gridiron crew in "The Replacements." (Photo: RON PHILLIPS/WARNER BROS./BEL AIR PICTURES)

    14. 'The Replacements' (2000)

    When the Washington Sentinels go on strike, a disparate squad of schmoes takes the field instead of the usual players. Now at quarterback and No. 1 in your hearts: Keanu Reeves' Shane Falco, who's still trying to move on from an epic Sugar Bowl meltdown when he was a college All American.

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    Nick Nolte (center) is a wide receiver who leads a hard-living football squad in "North Dallas Forty." (Photo: PARAMOUNT PICTURES)

    13. 'North Dallas Forty' (1979)

    The only thing that may be crazier than the actual football life is this satirical comedy-drama that has more to do with a hedonistic existence than play-action passes. The North Dallas Bulls are led by a constantly blitzed receiver (Nick Nolte) who has a greater interest in sex, drugs and alcohol than in the game itself. 

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    An aging quarterback (Scott Bakula) makes the most of his chance at college football in "Necessary Roughness." (Photo: PARAMOUNT/EVERETT COLLECTION)

    12. 'Necessary Roughness' (1991)

    Oh, no, Texas State University's football program got shut down! No worries with no scholarships, since the Fightin' Armadillos find success fielding a group of misfits, including a talented 30-something freshman quarterback (Scott Bakula), a brainiac defensive lineman (Sinbad in his best role ever) and a female kicker (Kathy Ireland) with no patience for on-field misogyny.

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    Coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) integrates a high school football team in Virginia in "Remember the Titans." (Photo: TRACY BENNETT/WALT DISNEY PICTURES)

    11. 'Remember the Titans' (2000)

    Part civil-rights drama and part inspirational sports flick, "Titans" cast Denzel Washington as a coach who has to get white and black kids all in the same page when he takes over the team at desegregated T.C. Williams High. Come on now, who wouldn't want to play for Denzel? (Also of note: Young Ryan Gosling!)

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    Burt Reynolds played an incarcerated quarterback in "The Longest Yard." (Photo: PARAMOUNT)

    10. 'The Longest Yard' (1974)

    If you're still mourning the loss of Burt Reynolds, dig into one of his best film roles ever as Paul "Wrecking" Crewe, an ex-pro baller convict tasked with leading a jailhouse squad (aka the "Mean Machine") against a group of villainous guards put together by a nasty warden (Eddie Albert).

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    Warren Beatty is a pro quarterback who gets a second chance at life in "Heaven Can Wait." (Photo: PARAMOUNT/GETTY IMAGES)

    9. 'Heaven Can Wait' (1978)

    Football is the framing device for this romantic fantasy about L.A. Rams quarterback Joe Pendleton, who wins the starting job, then dies in a traffic accident while biking home (thanks to angelic error). Because he wasn't supposed to croak yet, though, he gets a second chance at life and love in the body of a murdered industrialist.

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    Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Rod Tidwell, a second-tier wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, and Tom Cruise is his agent, the title character of "Jerry Maguire." (Photo: ANDREW COOPER/COLUMBIA/TRISTAR)

    8. 'Jerry Maguire' (1996)

    Oh, sure, there's the whole "You complete me" lovey-dovey romance, if you're into that sort of thing. But then there's the bromance: Cuba Gooding Jr. won a best supporting actor Oscar for playing uber-confident Arizona Cardinals wideout Rod Tidwell, who shouts "Show me the money!" and becomes best pal to his struggling agent (Tom Cruise).

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    Al Pacino is a pro coach who tries to quell the tensions of bickering teammates (Jamie Foxx and LL Cool J) in "Any Given Sunday." (Photo: ROBERT ZUCKERMAN/WARNER BROS.)

    7. 'Any Given Sunday' (1999)

    Oliver Stone gave us the next crazy level up from "North Dallas Forty" with the on- and off-field drama of the Miami Sharks, from their embattled high-profile coach (Al Pacino) to the insanely talented third-string quarterback (Jamie Foxx) to the star running back (LL Cool J) who doesn't like others getting in the way of his spotlight.

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    Harold Lloyd is a young college kid who joins the football team to be popular in "The Freshman." (Photo: THE HAROLD LLOYD TRUST/NEW LINE)

    6. 'The Freshman' (1925)

    Even back in the 1920s, nerdy kids went to extremes to be popular. Harold Lloyd is the title rookie who gets to Tate University looking for football glory and maybe a girlfriend, too, and quickly becomes the resident tackling dummy in a template for sports and college comedies that followed.

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    Football prodigy Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is adopted by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sanda Bullock) in "The Blind Side." (Photo: RALPH NELSON/WARNER BROS.)

    5. 'The Blind Side' (2009)

    Sandra Bullock won a best actress Oscar for this charming biopic about Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a very large foster kid in Memphis whose life is turned around when he's taken in by a caring couple (Bullock and Tim McGraw) and finds he's really good at protecting quarterbacks. 

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    Marshall football coach Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) gives an inspiring speech in the 1970s-set "We Are Marshall." (Photo: FRANK MASI/WARNER BROS.)

    4. 'We Are Marshall' (2006)

    Tragedy is at the heart of this film about Marshall University and the 1970 plane crash that killed most of the football team. Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) is hired as the new coach of a new batch of players that help the town and school recover but never forget their loss.

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    Kevin Costner stars as the embattled general manager of the Cleveland Browns in "Draft Day." (Photo: DALE ROBINETTE/SUMMIT)

    3. 'Draft Day' (2014)

    An exciting and quotable film about the wheeling-and-dealing of the NFL Draft, focusing on a Cleveland Browns general manager (Kevin Costner) whose job hinges on his picks. Look out for a pre-"Black Panther" Chadwick Boseman as linebacker prospect Vontae Mack, who has one of the all-time goose-pimply sports-movie moments when he's drafted. 

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    George Gipp (Ronald Reagan, left) is the star halfback for Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne (Pat O’Brien) in 1940's "Knute Rockne, All American." (Photo: AMPAS)

    2. 'Knute Rockne, All American' (1940)

    The old-school biopic casts Pat O'Brien as the Notre Dame player-turned-coach, though it's future President Ronald Reagan who steals the movie with his role as Fighting Irish halfback George Gipp and his famous deathbed line to "Win one for the Gipper." Unfortunately, it's a loss today because the true victor of this list is ...

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    Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) came out triumphant in the ending of "Rudy." (Photo: FATHOM EVENTS)

    1. 'Rudy' (1993)

    As rousing as any "Rocky" film – and pretty much any movie, period – this thing has you all in through the journey of Sean Astin's "5-foot-nothing, 100 and nothin'" squirt as he wins the hearts of not only the audience but also his Notre Dame teammates. By the time he hits the field in the movie's climax, you'll be ready to joyously tackle somebody, too.

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    RUBY-CTIT-CT442
    Sean Astin mades sports-movie magic in 1993's "Rudy" as Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, the Notre Dame football player who pulled off a miracle sack the only time he was allowed to suit up for a game.  Sean Astin made sports movie magic in 1993's "Rudy.">FullscreenRudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) played his heart out on Notre Dame's practice squad.
    Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) played his heart out on Notre Dame's practice squad. VAN REDIN/TRISTAR PICTURES VIA AP>FullscreenRudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) and his tutor D-Bob (Jon Favreau) go over school work in
    Rudy (Astin) and his tutor D-Bob (Jon Favreau) go over school work in "Rudy." Favreau's "Swingers" co-star Vince Vaughn also appeared in the film. FATHOM EVENTS>FullscreenRudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin), next to a Notre Dame player in the film, was considered too small to play college football.
    Rudy (Astin) was considered too small to play college football, as you can see from the guy he's with. FATHOM EVENTS>FullscreenJon Favreau starred as the supportive tutor D-Bob in "Rudy."
    Jon Favreau starred as the supportive tutor D-Bob in "Rudy." FATHOM EVENTS>FullscreenRudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) came out triumphant in the ending of "Rudy."
    Rudy (Astin) came out triumphant in the end of "Rudy" with a sack in the waning seconds of the only game he ever played. FATHOM EVENTS>FullscreenRudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) gets in his final game at Notre Dame in "Rudy."
    Rudy (Astin) gets his one and only shot in his final game at Notre Dame in "Rudy." FATHOM EVENTS>FullscreenRudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) puts on his game jersey in "Rudy."
    Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) puts on his game jersey for the first time in "Rudy." His sack made for Hollywood sports legend. FATHOM EVENTS>FullscreenRUBY-CTIT-CT1582
    When "Rudy" came out, Sean Astin was only 22.  Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) suited up for glory in his final game at Notre Dame.>FullscreenDaniel "Rudy" Ruettiger in 2009.
    Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger (in 2009) still gets teary when he watches the movie about his life. "Even though I know Sean Astin is going to make that tackle, I still get emotional. Because he made it," says Ruettiger. "And that tells me the movie still works." KYLE TERADA/US PRESSWIRE>Fullscreen

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      Source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/entertainthis/2018/10/11/rudy-25th-anniversary-25-best-football-movies-all-time-ranked/1581047002/

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