After rewatching all the films in my top 10 in preparation for this series, it’s clear “Remember the Titans” lacks the quality of many of the movies behind it on my list.
However, the film about racial integration at a Virginia high school in 1971 is one of the most impactful and influential films on my generation.
After the film’s release in 2000, cheerleaders integrated the “We are the Titans” chant into their routines. It didn’t matter that our team nickname at St. Patrick’s grade school didn’t match. They just swapped Titans with Chargers. So did every other school. Marian Catholic luckily was already called the Titans, which made me a little jealous.
I even started rooting for the Tennessee Titans as a second team to my beloved Green Bay Packers.
The movie has stuck with me since I first saw it. I can quote any line and one of my friends or peers would understand the reference.
When my friend John Lund and I created the John and Joe Sports Show for the University of Scranton’s radio station, we opened every episode with “Titans Spirit” from Trevor Rabin’s movie score. Barack Obama also used the same song after his acceptance speech for the 2008 presidential election.
Based on a true story, and I mean loosely, “Remember the Titans” follows the T.C. Williams football team as its players overcome racial tension and form a brotherhood in order to succeed.
Despite its flaws and inaccuracies, “Remember the Titans” serves as a great Disney movie that introduces youths to the importance of team, friendship and family without letting something as inconsequential as skin color get in the way.
Denzel Washington is one of the best actors of the past 30 years. The two-time Academy Award winner has done better work in many other prestige pictures, but his role as T.C. Williams head coach Herman Boone proves memorable.
Without his leading performance, the film would lose steam. Instead, Washington elevates it.
He dominates the screen and makes every line compelling with his phenomenal delivery.
From that first coaching moment when he makes Petey Jones (Donald Faison) change his feelings on football from loving it to associating it with, “zero fun, sir,” Washington never takes his foot off the gas.
Rookie of the year
I would have picked many actors before I reached the correct answer as to who would have the best career, besides Washington, after “Remember the Titans?”
My mind would not have jumped to the guy who played defensive liability Alan Bosley (Ryan Gosling).
Looking back on it, the film has a strong cast with a lot of actors who moved on to have solid careers, including Hayden Panettiere (Sheryl Yoast), Kate Bosworth (Emma Hoyt), Ryan Hurst (Gerry Bertier) and Faison.
After watching it for the 900th time, I’m shocked Kip Pardue (Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass) hasn’t had a better career.
He’s my rookie of the year.
Pardue steals scenes and looks the most like a football player during the game sequences.
It’s still awesome when he upends the defensive lineman who injured Jerry “Rev” Harris (Craig Kirkwood).
His character’s teammates also question his sexuality, but the beauty of it is that it ultimately doesn’t matter to them anymore than race in the context of the film.
“Remember the Titans” has an awesome soundtrack with various hits from the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Songs like The Hollies’ “Long Cool Woman,” James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain,” Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky,” Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Up Around the Bend” stand the test of time and add a lot to the film.
Rabin’s score is excellent, too, especially “Titans Spirit.” Rabin has been composing in film since 1976.
Julius Campbell (Wood Harris) and Bertier’s relationship drives the team’s progression. As they accept each other and become like brothers, the Titans succeed and more importantly grow as people.
Harris and Hurst build a great chemistry that leads to a lot of powerful scenes. The “attitude reflects leadership, captain” exchange of dialogue between them is one of my favorites in the film.
Also, when the team circles up to end camp, they lead the charge with a staged back-and-forth that riles up the players and brings them together.
Their scene in the hospital after Bertier’s accident is also emotionally earned.
I’ll discuss my favorite scene between them later.
There are quite a few factual inaccuracies. I won’t get to them all, but here are a few:
■ Bertier’s paralysis happens after the season.
■ Every team T.C. Williams played that season was already integrated.
■ T.C. Williams dominated in 1971. The final game was not close and there was most definitely no “Fake 23 blast with a backside George reverse like your life depended upon it” play.
Furthermore, the football sequences aren’t great. There is one sequence where a Titans player picks up a fumble and runs the wrong way. Like “Hoosiers,” scenes are shot from different angles and used multiple times to trick the audience into thinking there are different sequences. Finally, when Campbell causes the fumble in the state title game, the scene is laughable because of how carelessly the offensive player runs.
One of the moments that really bothers me is when assistant/defensive coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) admits he needs Boone’s help in the state championship game. It’s a big moment as he drops his pride and fully accepts working under Boone. The problem is Yoast and the defense have only allowed seven points. Boone’s offense has no points. According to how the movie sets it up, Yoast is doing just fine. Boone should ask for help.
One shining moment
Bertier and Campbell give the audience the turning point in the film. During camp, Bertier finally yells at Ray Budds (Burgess Jenkins), a racist throughout the film, for not blocking.
On the next play, Campbell lights up Jones in the backfield and starts busting him.
Bertier joins in as his relationship with Campbell builds. Bertier then pushes him screaming, “Left side!”
Campbell pauses and then pushes back with “Strong side!”
They go back and forth screaming, “Left side! Strong side! Left side! Strong side! Left side! Strong side!”
As they do, the camera pans over the players’ and coaches’ faces as they stare in amazement and start smiling. The music swells and then they bash their helmets together.
This was the first step the team took to becoming a brotherhood.
Looking back on the film 20 years later, it doesn’t hold up as well and there are better movies about race and sports. However, “Remember the Titans” vaults to the top with its rewatchability, great cast and impact on a generation. That makes it a hall of famer in my book.