30 Movies in 30 Days: Remember the Titans

Had I seen it before: Maybe? I definitely remember it being a go-to Black History Month movie to air on Disney Channel in my youth and I remember bits and pieces of it, but this is the first time I can remember watching it with enough of an attention span/knowledge of football/knowledge of history for it to really count.

Year: 2000

Director: Boaz Yakin

Writers: Gregory Allen Howard

Where you can stream it now: Disney+

What IMDb says: The true story of a newly appointed African-American coach and his high school team on their first season as a racially integrated unit.

Why I picked it: As much as I enjoyed The Mighty Ducks which I reviewed a few days ago, it didn’t quench my thirst for feel-good sports movies so much as reinvigorate my interest in them. That paired with my desire to go back and watch movies about racism and especially those that involved black people in the creative side of things meant Remember the Titans was a natural choice. (For clarification, the movie is directed by a white man but written by a black man).

What I liked: I knew going into this that Denzel Washington would be a force to be reckoned with and of course he was. He always is. What I don’t think I expected was just how well this whole ensemble functions together. While Washington’s Coach Boone is still the lead, so many of the players, as well as Boone’s partner Coach Yoast are just as fantastic. I love how we get to see so many characters, each with their own set of priorities and challenges at the beginning of the movie, come together as the movie goes on.

While the film is a tad formulaic and relies on a lot of the same story beats as most inspirational sports movies, it’s one of those movies that proves why the formulas exist in the first place. Coach is a hard ass. Players resent him at first. They bond as a team. They win games even when people didn’t expect them to. But part of what makes Remember the Titans different is that we really get a great balance of coaches uniting the team, but also the team uniting themselves. We get scenes of the football team defending each other in the school hallways even when there are no coaches around. We get scenes of Gerry insisting that his white teammates cover his black teammates. After ACT 1, we really don’t ever see the coaches talk about anything but football. It’s this great balance between developing teenage characters and their conflicts as well as the adult characters and their conflicts that helps the film work so well.

What I didn’t like: The one thing I would change about this is the funeral scene at the beginning. Technically this is one of those deals where essentially the entire movie is a flashback, bookended by scenes of Gerry’s funeral (Gerry Bertier, the white team captain who went out of his way to unify the team, died 10 years later in a car accident.) This scene would’ve hit so much harder if I didn’t know we were going to end up at a funeral. Plus that extra time we’d gain by cutting the first funeral scene could potentially be used to watch some of these players catch up in the final funeral scene.

We also get a lot of voiceover in these scenes from Sheryl Yoast. She’s the one who tells us which funeral we’re at, even though she didn’t have near the same relationship with Gerry that his coaches or teammates might have. What if we could’ve seen some of these teammates swapping their favorite stories about Gerry? What if we really could’ve seen the lasting impact he had on this whole team? This funeral just didn’t rip me up the way that a funeral for a charismatic leader who died tragically young should have.

Will I watch it again: Probably. It’s a story that remains powerful on rewatches and I’m sure I’ll see it again at some point.

Who would enjoy it: Anyone who loves sports movies!

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