Friday Night Lights (2004) and Remember The Titans (2000) are two very different kinds of films. One is a gritty, often difficult look at the harsh realities of growing up in a small town in Texas with the weight of the world heaped on your shoulders by everyone around you. And one is a feel-good story about a football team overcoming adversity and racial prejudice to win some football games.
I’d forgotten how dark Friday Night Lights could be. The crazy thing is, the film even papers over some of the darkest elements found in the book the film is based on. In Friday Night Lights, life isn’t fair. The players on the team are there to entertain or fulfill the wishes of the grownups around, from coaches to parents to boosters to fans. Futures are gambled on football games.
By the time we get to the end of Friday Night Lights, we get a happy-sad ending. Permian lose the state championship, but it appears that the loss comes with growth from the players involved.
The story of Friday Night Lights is certainly a compelling one. There really is nothing like Texas High School Football. It’s like visiting Mars. Of course, that world spawned possibly the greatest non-fiction sports book ever written, what could win our best football movie bracket, and one of the greatest television shows of all time.
Remember The Titans, on the other hand, is a much happier affair (spoiler alert: despite actually ending with the death of a major player on the team).
What Remember The Titans has over Friday Night Lights is those goosebumps moments. It has “Left Side, Strong Side!” and Will Patton’s “Another Yard!” speech. And Denzel Washington is great in it, much stronger than Billy Bob Thornton in Friday Night Lights (although the roles are completely different and Thornton is good in the role).
In the end, football is a game played between two teams of players. So, I will end this debate with the two teams. With this in mind, Remember The Titans is the clear winner. The players on the Titans are far more memorable than Friday Night Lights. Remember The Titans has Ryan Gosling, Wood Harris, and Ethan Suplee. Ryan Hurst is memorable as Gerry Bertier. Donald Faison and Gosling are great as comedic relief.
Having seen both films again recently, I instantly remembered (no pun intended) the Titans and had a much harder time remembering the characters in Friday Night Lights (I spent a large portion of the movie wanting Vince Howard to show up).
For this reason, Remember The Titans should win. It was always going to win. Let’s watch this runaway train continue on to the championship.