I don’t think that a movie has captured the life style high school football so much as “All the Right Moves”. It illustrates the importance of the game, not as a sport, but as a religious ritual that makes or breaks the future of the players, coaches, and the people who support them.
It’s a typical story. A small, industrial town produces two types of people; the young football players who will go and play college ball and the other people who will end up working in the coal factory. The movie’s hero is Stef (Tom Cruise) and he’s a star defensive back who has every chance to play in college with a full scholarship. He has a ton of problems like every real high school kid. His girlfriend, Lisa (Leah Thompson) loves and supports him but is tired of being second fiddle to his football dreams. His best friend Brian (Chris Pean) is another star player who gets his girlfriend pregnant and has to put off his chance to play ball. His mother is gone and his brother and father work in the factory. The best relationship in the movie though, is with him and his Coach Nickerson (Craig T. Nelson), who is so wrapped up in winning enough games to be hired as the head football coach at a prestigious university, that he pushes his players too hard and ignores their real needs off the field.
Stef is a good kid. He looks out for his friends and teammates and sticks to his guns. He defends his teammate when Nickerson accuses him of losing the big game and is soon off the team. He then finds himself mixed up in some of those middle-aged fanatic fans who trash the coach’s home. Stef soon realizes that he has to stop it, but ends up being the only one left to accuse. Things keep falling apart around him and he tries so hard to fix them, but before he knows it, he’s working in the factory. The movie’s ending is of course Stef’s saving moment, which was inevitable, but what happens during that time great.
“All the Right Moves” is one of those rare movies about high school football that’s actually honest and true to that story. The characters are real with real problems. It’s not just an injury that can ruin their futures, but also pregnancies, family, and the factory that never seems to let go of their lives. It’s a terrific movie to watch more about its characters than the game.