Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

25 Jan 2006

The XII Greatest Super Bowl Highlight Films

From The Onion A.V. Club, but not a joke! NFL Network is replaying all of these on Sunday, and I look forward to matriculating the ball down the field.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 25 Jan 2006

17 comments, Last at 27 Jan 2006, 12:37am by Matt


by the what? (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 1:57pm

fyi: the onion has the best movie reviews.

by David S. (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 2:16pm

I don't know if you guys have noticed, but starting the Saturday before the Super Bowl ESPN Classic plays those half hour NFL Films recaps of the Super Bowl back to back. Starting from I and finishing with last years right before the scheduled telecast. I first noticed that before Super Bowl XXXVIII. I went to bed right after the Colts-Cowboys Super Bowl, then woke up in time for the Bills-Redskins Super Bowl. The thing that I noticed most is the degradation of the quality of music. In the Colts-Cowboys one there was some hardcore symphonic funk going on. By the time the Bucs are beating the Raiders it sounds like the soundtrack to a live action Disney film, sappy melodramatic orchestrated crap.

by dfarrar777 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 2:44pm

Good point on the music, #2. Sam Spence (the man responsible for "The Pony Soldiers", "The Magnificent Eleven" and all the other great old NFL Films soundtrack fare) stopped working for the Sabols sometime in the late 1970's, I believe. This led to the ultra-cheesy "Oberheim/Simmons Drum" nightmare of the '80's, and the current symphonic wash.

You'd think NFL Films would aspire to reclaim that greatness, but...

by cthoover (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 3:06pm

This article is great. The early Super Bowl films were my introduction to Pro Football.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 3:08pm

Yeah, once NFL Films abandoned the old soundtrack, their Super Bowl highlights lost a lot of their appeal. How long can one stay interested in seeing a slow motion close up (to the exclusion of actually having a view of how the teams were competing against one another) of someone running/catching/tackling, or even worse, a ball spiraling through the air?

Now, the "NFL's Greatest Games" pieces, which usually feature non-Super Bowl games, are much better in this regard, with commentary from the players and coaches interspersed. About the only thing good about the Super Bowl features was the old soundtrack.

by wr (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 4:08pm

And, I might add, the old narrarator.

by S (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 4:36pm

I love that ESPN classic still replays these on the Saturday before the game. I tried to Tivo a bunch that played overnight one year, but ran out of space.

Anyway, I thought it was a great list. I always thought the SB XVII (the Riggins run game, also John Facenda's second to last SB film) was a great one too. People forget that the Dolphins were actually very much in control of that game (and would have made it a runaway if Theisman didn't bat down a deflected pass that was about to be intercepted deep in Redskins territory); then Riggins broke his run and the tide shifted. I was too young to actually remeber the game, but I remeber seeing that highlight and feeling the emotion that the fans must have felt watching it. To me, that's what a great SB highlight film should do.

Anyway, the 2 worst (that I can remember) were

SBXXIV: The prevailing theory of the time was that the '89 Niners were one of (if not the) best teams in NFL history and the SB film plays like a NIners puff peice. Boring if you're not a Niners fan.

SBXXVIII: The narration cuts out every once in a while for Jimmy Johnson to read excerpts from the chapter about the game that were in his autobiography (which was rleased after the game). Points for being experimental, but Johnson sounded forced and his running commentary took away from the reels momentum.

Yes, I've watched too many of these over the years.

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 5:26pm

Is it possible to get the full game footage of the early Super Bowls from anywhere? I'd much rather see each play than abridged highlights. Are there torrents of the games available at all?

by theload (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 7:36pm

While we are talking about old Super Bowls, has anyone picked up the "Super Bowl Collection"? Its available from Amazon.

What I want to know is, is it highlights, or is it the complete games?

Has anyone who has picked it up recommended it?


by Boots Day (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 7:38pm

It's become a Super Bowl tradition at our house to have the Super Bowl films on the TV all afternoon as the lead-in to the game. They're way better than interviews with Jimmy Kimmel or whatever tripe Fox and CBS put on there.

by Tim L (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 10:13pm

John, complete rebroadcasts would be awesome. Several years ago I watched the second half of Super Bowl III at the Museum of Television and Radio in Manhattan, and it was a magical experience. So far, the NFL has only hinted that rebroadcasted games would be available.

theload, the Super Bowl Collection DVDs are highlights, unfortunately.

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 10:47pm

I've been surprised for a long time that the NFL and networks haven't arranged a deal to put out DVDs of the actual broadcasts (or failing that, using NFL Films full-game footage). Sure, the NFL would probably have to cough up some non-trivial rights fees, but I have to believe they'd sell like hotcakes and make a bundle for the league.

by Paul (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 10:58pm

Oh my god, yes. I would never get tired of watching Doug Williams and Timmy Smith putting on The Clinic of All Clinics...

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 1:53am

My favorite film is SB XXII, when the Skins torched the Broncos for 35 second quarter points. That was possibly the best 15 minutes of football I've ever seen, and it couldn't have happened to a better team (except Pittsburgh or Baltimore). I even love the way they fell behind by 10, a lead that to that day had never been overcome in the SB. I don't think I could ever get tired of watching that quarter.

by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 2:32am

I'm a big fan of the new NFL Films music (I know, I'm one of the few people who doesn't find it heretical to own Autmun Thunder and still listen to the last three discs), but I think most of the recent Super Bowls ended up getting some of the weaker music, which is too bad, since it ruins some of the best games of the Super Bowl era (Giants-Bills and Rams-Titans are particularly underwhelming here).

My top five would look like this (films, not games necessarily):

Steelers-Rams (this is probably the best of all the Super Bowl highlights for my money)
Steelers-Cowboys (XIII)
49ers-Bengals (XXIII)

by John (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 5:12pm

I'd probably rank the films like this (I'll be watching them all again soon when I get time to watch the DVDs or watch them on TV):
1. Steelers-Rams (this is definitely my favorite)
2. Vikings-Steelers
3. Chiefs-Vikings
4. Colts-Cowboys
5. Redskins-Dolphins (17)

For my money, it's either the Steelers-Rams film or "Saviors, Saints and Sinners" (1980 season highlight film; you can purchase it for $50 through the NFL Films website) for best NFL Films work of all-time.

by Matt (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 12:37am

RE #5:

They sometimes do Super Bowl games. In particular, the presentation of the Green Bay/Denver one was a lot better than the official Super Bowl film, in my humble opinion.