Movie Review
Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights poster
By Greg Ward     Published October 16, 2004
US Release: October 8, 2004

Directed by: Peter Berg
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton , Derek Luke , Jay Hernandez , Lucas Black

Running Time: 117 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $61,188,085
It is an extremely accurate portrayal of how hard a sport it really is, both physically and emotionally.
I have never been a fan of football. As a kid, I would find myself lost in the conversations about the NFL held by my classmates. Everybody would be so excited to watch the Super Bowl because they made bets on who was going to win; I just watched it for the commercials.

?Friday Night Lights? is the kind of film that makes me want to become a football fan. It is an extremely accurate portrayal of how hard a sport it really is, both physically and emotionally. We see how seriously both these players and supporters of the game take the sport; to these people, football is not merely a game, but a way of life.

Billy Bob Thornton is Coach Gary Gaines, a dedicated football coach of the Permian High Panthers. In Odessa, Texas, the residents eat, sleep, and breathe high school football. They close down their shops early and put everything else aside just to see their beloved Panthers. We see conflicts on and off of the field, as the pressure to become the champions builds.

The performances in this film are full of emotion and honesty. Billy Bob Thornton shines as Coach Gaines, a man so dedicated to what he does that he makes his job his life. He cares about each of his players and wants nothing but for them to be the best football players they can be. Thornton makes Gaines out to be the most determined coach I have seen in any sports film; he adds a charm that makes me want to have him as a coach. In the film?s conclusion, we feel what he is feeling and it?s as if we know him personally. Thornton has the unique ability to play any character and make it work, and there is no actor more suited for this role.

The teenage actors are at the top of their game. Lucas Black, Derek Luke, and Garrett Hedlund take the characters they play to an emotional level that I never thought possible with actors their age, especially in a movie about football. When they are out on the field practicing and playing the game, we can feel the intensity of what they have to go through. There is one scene where a player makes a mistake that costs the team big time. We see the player crying in the locker room, repeating ?I?m sorry!? over and over again. This is an extremely emotional moment for the team, played out so well that I actually felt like crying. It was as if we were watching real teenagers instead of actors.

Tim McGraw is quite a surprise. Since I am not a country fan I am not familiar with his music. However, I know he has a future in acting if he chooses that path. His performance as a drunk, pressuring father is gripping and intense. Towards the beginning of the film, his son makes a mistake at practice and McGraw runs out on the field and embarrasses him in front of his fellow teammates. During this scene, I felt as if I wanted to jump in the screen and tell him how horrible he was being to his kid. As a dedicated film buff, I have seen many performances of drunken parents, but McGraw?s is near the top of the list.

I have also seen many films about football, but none that are as engaging as ?Friday Night Lights?; in fact, ?Lights? is the best I have ever seen. Never before have I cared so much about the outcome of a team, and it felt as if every game played onscreen was live, with the audience being the crowd to cheer them on. At least, I know I was cheering them on, perhaps a little louder than I should have at a movie theater.
Greg's Grade: A
Greg's Overall Grading: 25 graded movies
Share, Bookmark
'Friday Night Lights' Articles
  • Craig's review A-
    October 11, 2004    We really begin to care about these characters, and what's even more striking is that their story becomes a powerful and heart-wrenching piece of work. -- Craig Younkin
  • Crowd Report: "Friday Night Lights"
    October 9, 2004    From what I saw with the 10:10 show I was at, it?s looking like a $5 - 6 million Friday gross. -- Lee Tistaert
  • Friday Box Office Analysis (10/8)
    October 9, 2004    With generally positive reviews in its favor and attracting young and middle aged viewers, Friday Night Lights benefited from its wider appeal, as well as from the limited, intriguing options in the marketplace. -- Lee Tistaert