When it came out a couple of weeks ago, "Gridiron Gang" shot straight to the top of the box office list. The movie stars The Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson, as football coach Sean Porter.
His team is made up of a bunch of really bad dudes, the ones you pray never come home with your daughter. Well, these juvenile delinquents, of course, miraculously are transformed into all-around good guys and bond together to become a pretty good football team.
Of course, it’s the work of The Rock, the wrassler-turned-action hero, that makes it happen. Wonder if it would have been a quicker turnaround for the punks if the Rock’s assistant coaches included The Undertaker, Triple H and an aging Hulk Hogan?
With The Rock now forever making himself a cinematic legend as a football coach, here are one set of picks for the best high school coaches ever seen on the silver screen.
Denzel Washington (Herman Boone, Remember The Titans, 2000): In the early ’70s, it was big trouble at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., when a white school and a black school integrated. At first, everyone hated everyone else, but Herman got the ship straight and with colorful players like Sunshine, Rev, Petey and Louie Lastik, the Titans won a state title. Petey, the running back, was having "zero fun, sir" when he first met Herman. They all loved him in the end.
Craig T. Nelson (Vern Nickerson, All The Right Moves, 1983): Long before he became lovable Hayden Fox on "Coach," Nelson was the high-strung leader of the Ampipe Bulldogs in football crazy Pennsylvania. Ampipe was pretty good with a young Tom Cruise as the bullheaded defensive star, Stefen Djordjevic. Steff gets kicked off the team after Ampipe loses to hated Walnut Heights, then throws a little trash — no, a lot of trash — on the coach’s lawn. Of course, it’s Hollywood, so it’s a happy ending. Love the scene when Stefen is yelling at Nickerson outside the diner near the end. "You’re not God, Nickerson. You’re just a typing teacher."
Billy Bob Thornton (Gary Gaines, Friday Night Lights, 2004): The true story of the Permian High Panthers from Odessa, Texas. Funny how all these high school cinema stars look like they could play in the NFL. Gaines makes a bonehead move early in the film when he puts star running back Boobie Miles back in late in a blowout win and Boobie blows out his knee. Mostly, Billy Bob just stands around and does nothing. He should have gone into politics. One good piece of trivia: Lucas Black, who plays the quarterback here, also appeared in the 1996 Billy Bob movie "Sling Blade." He played the kid who befriended the dim-witted Karl.
Ed Harris (Harold Jones, Radio, 2003): Another true story, this one about a mentally challenged man who has a relationship with the T.L. Hanna High School football team. He goes by Radio and becomes an inspiration for everyone. The coach, the players, everyone in the town. The great Ed Harris might not be much of a football coach here, but in a movie like this, he doesn’t have to be.
Goldie Hawn (Molly McGrath, Wildcats, 1986): OK, this movie is a stinker. And I’m not just saying that because it’s a woman trying to be a coach. Central High is the school and it needs a new coach. Goldie, who already is the track coach, applies and the principal — the late, great Nipsey Russell — gives her the job. Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes are two of her players and of course, everyone can’t stand her at first. She wins them over, they win the big game and everyone dances and sings at the end.