With a new NFL season starting up, we take a look at the best fictional quarterbacks in TV and film history.
It’s become almost an annual rite of passage to root against Tom Brady. I mean, look at him, the handsome man who spent a pre-Super Bowl press conference a few years ago rambling on about ball preference. I don’t care how old you are, Brady talking about people preferring “old balls” is pretty hilarious. He won his sixth Super Bowl in 2019, the most ever by any NFL player, and continues to give us reason to root against him by being so damn good.
Brady’s career seems like it’s taken right out of a film script, either a drama about a diabolical ego-maniac so possessed with winning that he’s been creatively cheating for years, or a feel-good-story about a diamond in the rough who caught all the breaks and rose to the pinnacle of his sport. Clearly, we’re a little biased here.
Love or hate Brady, the guy has the leading man look. Brady is the real deal, but we would like to spend the NFL season fawning over more likeable QBs. So here’s our list of the best fictional QBs of all-time.
Joe Pendleton – Heaven Can Wait (1978)
In the film adaptation of Harry Segall’s stage play, Pendleton goes from boxer to quarterback. Pendleton is leading his team to a Super Bowl before he has an accident that gets him sent to heaven and then brought back in the body of a rich, old man. Pendleton’s played by Warren Beatty, who would be just as good at endorsement ads as Brady is.
Paul Blake – Necessary Roughness (1991)
When a Texas university is forced to field a team using only players from the actual student body, the coach calls on Paul Blake, a 34-year old former high school stand out to lead his team. The movie is essentially the college version of The Replacements and Blake is a poor man’s Shane Flaco. But really, who could live up to Keanu Reeves? Anyway, Blake has to adjust to life as a college student and playing with boys who are trying to become young men.
Matt Saracen – Friday Night Lights (TV Show)
Saracen is QB2 until an injury to starter Jason Street sends him out onto the field and into the spotlight. He’s a tough, dedicated kid who fights hard to retain his title as starter. He can air the ball out and manage a game well enough to lead the Panthers to a State Championship.
Vince Howard – Friday Night Lights (TV Show)
Vince Howard is one of those extremely versatile athletes who can kill you with not only the passing game, but also with his ability to scramble and run. Sometimes a bit cocky and hotheaded, Howard nevertheless leads his rag-tag East Dillon Lions to Coach Eric Taylor’s second Texas State Championship victory.
Jonathon Moxon – Varsity Blues (1999)
On Dawson’s Creek, James Van Der Beek played Dawson, an un-athletic sap and his father, Mitch, was a beefy football coach. When ‘Beek took a break from filming the teenage dramedy, he stepped into the polar opposite role in Varsity Blues as the clipboard QB shot into the starting job after his teammate goes down with an injury. His clashing with his head coach causes him to call a few Peyton Manning style audibles and he even has a football-obsessed daddy, too. So many similarities! Maybe the real ratings behemoth should have been “Peyton’s Creek.”
Flash Gordon – Flash Gordon (1980)
We’d like to think the Jets will eventually find a QB that could step up and save the world like fictional New York Jets QB and fellow tow-head Flash Gordon (EDITOR’S NOTE: lot of Jets fan on staff…the miserable creatures). We don’t really get to see his football skill set, but surely Flash has the same cool demeanor that a Tom Brady shows in the pocket.
Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass – Remember The Titans (2000)
It would be a travesty if Remember The Titans was left off any list that has to do with football movies. The real-life Ronnie Bass has come out and said many of the scenes in the movie were fictionalized. But even so, it’s one of those movies from any genre that you can’t help but click away from on a rainy afternoon. Though “Sunshine” wasn’t the stud, do-it-all quarterback that could lead the team by himself, he was a crafty, serviceable player that would even kiss one of his own players to build some unity in the locker room. That’s the sign of a true leader.
Paul Crewe – The Longest Yard (1974, 2005)
Crewe is definitely not as respectable as a Aaron Rodgers or legend like Johnny Unitas. Nor does he sport a mustache like Burt Reynolds (R.IP.). We know Aaron Rodgers would never be caught point shaving or driving drunk, but by the end of the film, Crewe becomes the type of leader that you want to play for. Crewe can also hatch-up some brilliant plays and is reliable for that late game winning touchdown drive. For the later incarnation, we also have the Adam Sandler/Peyton Manning SNL connection. Too bad Sandler wasn’t around for Peyton’s memorable guest turn.
Willie Beamen – Any Given Sunday (1999)
Beamen is brash, cocky and confident. So much so that Beamen went off and shot a music video after only a handful of starts. Sure, star QBs like Brady and Rodgers became endorsement hounds during their careers, but that was well after they became an all-pros. Beamen, like Brady and Rodgers, enjoys an audible or several. But it’s his attitude and risky style of play that would make him an excellent on-field rival.
Alex Moran – Blue Mountain State (TV Show)
Moran has plenty in common with Willie Beamen. He rides the bench, amongst other things (wink, wink), at BMS well. When Moran isn’t partaking in booze-filled Goat House parties or commanding the huddle with a few cheerleaders in the bedroom, he definitely isn’t in the film room. He was probably off sleeping his hangover away somewhere. He’s the anti-Tim Tebow. Despite his willingness to stick to the bench, Moran actually turns out to be a pretty damn good quarterback when he gets the chance to start.
Shane Falco – The Replacements (2000)
Outside Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium, the filming location for The Replacements, there is a bronze statue of Baltimore Colts Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas. Someday, to complement Unitas, the city will erect a golden statue of Keanu Reeves as an ode to Shane Falco…and it shall be glorious. Falco, a washed up college quarterback turned marina dweller, is called up to the big leagues after a players lockout forced the owner of the Washington Sentinels to hire replacements.
After an up and down strike-shortened season, Falco gets booted as the quarterback in favor of the returning star, then ultimately returns during the final game, kisses his babe cheerleader girlfriend on national television and leads his rag-tag group of nobodies to a memorable upset victory. Not bad for a replacement. As much as we hate to admit it, Falco’s role as the stand-in mimics Tom Brady’s struggles in college and his early pro career when he was given one shot to shine and never let it go.
Reno Hightower – The Best of Times (1986)
While we’re on the subject of Tom Brady, a young Kurt Russell in The Best of Times bears a striking resemblance to the Patriots signal caller. Russell’s Reno Hightower has the flowing hair, boyish good looks and unwavering confidence of Tom Brady. Oh and he has a receiver drop a sure touchdown in the team’s biggest game. Sound familiar?