NFL Films: 5 Decades of Sports Cinema

Scenes from the films that turned football into epic drama

In 1966, the father-son duo of Ed and Steve Sabol created a film that would transform the way Americans experienced sports. They Call It Pro Football was a feature-length motion picture inspired by Hollywood: Its elegant camerawork and rich musical score transformed an ordinary game into an epic story. As Rich Cohen writes in the October Atlantic:

The bloody fingers of the lineman, the clouds of breath on the cold, clear day, the chewed-up turf.... It was all there, crystallized, perfected. If Steve showed it to kids on a Friday, they’d be in their yards early the next morning, the narrator’s voice running through their heads as the receiver ran the hook-and-ladder: “His range carries him into heavy traffic, or through the shifting dangers of a broken field … Men on the run, measuring their survival by the twist of a shoulder.”

Today, NFL Films is a massive production company with hundreds of titles to its name. From a fanciful fable about Joe Namath to a recent portrait of Tim Tebow, here are some highlights from the company's half century of documenting and mythologizing football.


Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she edits digital features.

Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors at a world-class life sciences lab are trying to change the way people think about their health.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Video

Just In