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Friday Night Lights (film)

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Title: Friday Night Lights (film)  
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Subject: Peter Berg, Tim McGraw, Friday Night Lights (TV series), Odessa, Texas, Amber Heard
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Friday Night Lights (film)

Friday Night Lights
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Peter Berg
Produced by Brian Grazer
Screenplay by David Aaron Cohen
Peter Berg
Based on Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by
H.G. Bissinger
Starring Billy Bob Thornton
Derek Luke
Jay Hernandez
Lucas Black
Garrett Hedlund
Tim McGraw
Lee Jackson
Lee Thompson Young
Connie Britton
Amber Heard
Music by Brian Reitzell
Explosions in the Sky
David Torn
Cinematography Tobias Schliessler
Edited by Colby Parker Jr.
David Rosenbloom
Gabrielle Fasulo
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • October 8, 2004 (2004-10-08)
Running time
118 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million
Box office $61,950,770

Friday Night Lights is a 2004 sports drama film, directed by Peter Berg, which documents the coach and players of a high school football team and the Texas city of Odessa that supports and is obsessed with them. The book on which it was based, Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream (1990) by H. G. Bissinger, follows the story of the 1988 Permian High School Panthers football team as they made a run towards the state championship. A television series of the same name premiered on October 3, 2006 on NBC. The film won the Best Sports Movie ESPY Award and is ranked number 37 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the Best High School Movies.[1]


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Differences between the movie and actual events 3
    • Players 3.1
    • The regular season 3.2
    • The playoffs 3.3
    • Permian vs. Carter 3.4
    • The school and the city 3.5
  • Cameo roles 4
  • Soundtrack 5
  • Critical reception 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Bissinger followed the team for the entire 1988 season. However, the book also deals with — or alludes to — a number of secondary political and social issues existing in Odessa, all of which share ties to the Permian Panthers football team. These include socioeconomic disparity; racism; segregation (and desegregation); and poverty.

The coach, Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton), is constantly in the hot seat. Tied to the successes and failure of the coach and the team in general are the conflicts the players struggle with on and off the gridiron. The coach overuses his star player, running back James "Boobie" Miles (Derek Luke), who gets seriously injured (he tears his ACL, misses the playoffs, and has a limp for the rest of his life). When this happens, sports radios are flooded with calls for Gaines' resignation. Miles' once-arrogant attitude vanishes as he sees his once promising chance of playing big-time college football disappear, and he starts to question his future after he notices his not-so promising academic standing. While recuperating on his uncle's veranda he observes the garbage collectors doing their rounds and gets a glimpse of a somewhat different future he could now face and bursts into tears.

One of the themes of the movie depicts the coach as a father-type figure for the players. For example:

  • Quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black) struggles with being able to play consistently.
  • Fullback Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund) has a rocky relationship with his alcoholic and abusive father (Tim McGraw). Billingsley silently endures the abuse from his father, who won a state championship at Permian only to find himself unable to get into college and stuck working a dead-end job.
  • Third-string running back Chris Comer (Lee Thompson Young), who replaces the injured Miles, attempts to get rid of his fear of being hit and getting injured, made worse by seeing his predecessor's season-ending injury. Comer's obsession with fame and recognition also comes at a high price that he is at first not ready to pay.
  • Safety Brian Chavez (Jay Hernandez) is easily the smartest player on the team and the most confident in his future after high school football.

Coach Gaines triumphs and struggles with winning football games and connecting with his players numerous times during their tumultuous season. His job depends on the Panthers' making the playoffs, and his team is in a three-way tie with two other teams at the end of the regular season. Under Texas rules for ties, the tiebreaker is a coin-toss. Permian gets a spot. Meanwhile, after he drunkenly throws away his championship ring, Don Billingsley's father breaks down and confesses his failures in life cause him to push his son as harshly as he does, pointing out that he wants his son to at least have one big moment of triumph before dealing with the harshness of the real world. The team makes it to the finals, where they narrowly lose against powerhouse Dallas Carter High School. The movie ends with the coach removing the departing seniors from the depth chart on his wall. Notably, the depth chart has "Case" at quarterback. This refers to Permian's real-life backup quarterback in 1988, Stoney Case, who would go on to lead Permian, along with Chris Comer, to the 5A state title the following year, and still later make it to the NFL.


Championship game officials: Tim Crowley, Gary Vaught, Lee Mack Turner

Differences between the movie and actual events


  • In the movie, Boobie Miles is depicted as one of the team's three captains, but that honor was held by Ivory Christian, Mike Winchell and Brian Chavez in real life.
  • In the movie some of the players' numbers and positions were changed: Boobie Miles in the movie is #45 and playing tailback, but in the book he is playing fullback (while Don Billingsley was the tailback) and was #35. In the movie, Brian Chavez is the #4 strong safety, while he was actually the #85 tight end and Ivory Christian, in the film, is a defensive end and wears #90, while he was really the #62 middle ("Mike") linebacker. (Note: At the beginning of the film, as the camera pans over Coach Gaines' depth chart, you can see the name 'Miles' listed under the FB tag.) Chris Comer was also the backup fullback in the book, not a third-string tailback. One of the athletic directors in the stadium booth also mentions "I think he's a Sophomore.", when Comer was really a Junior in real life. Comer also wore #45 in the real season, but in the movie he wears #42. Also, Alan Wyles is depicted as a wide receiver when he was actually the placekicker.
  • Don Billingsley's father Charlie is depicted in the movie as having won a state championship. In reality, as a junior, the 1968 Permian team lost in the finals.

The regular season

In the movie the team is depicted as practicing in full pads and with full contact on the first day of practice. Under rules of the University Interscholastic League (UIL), the governing body for Texas public-school sports, teams cannot use pads or hit until the 4th day of practice (however, in the deleted scenes included in the DVD, a non-pad practice is shown).

  • A Permian booster is heard toasting Coach Gaines' second season as Permian's head coach. It was actually his third.
  • Boobie Miles, in the book, injured his leg by getting his foot caught on the astroturf during a pre-season scrimmage against Amarillo Palo Duro at Jones Stadium in Lubbock. In the movie he is tackled by two players at the knee during a blowout non-district game at Ratliff Stadium.
  • In the movie, the top-ranked Permian Panthers defeated the hapless Marshall Bulldogs in a non-district game. In real life, the third-ranked Marshall Mavericks (whose colors are red and white, not purple and gold) defeated fourth-ranked Permian 13-12. In the movie, the game is the season opener, and played on a Friday night in Odessa. In real life, it was Permian's second game of the season, and played at Maverick Stadium in Marshall on a Saturday afternoon. Permian's football team chartered a jet for the 500+ mile trip from Odessa to Marshall, spawning controversy on the cost of the trip. Played before a crowd of more than 12,000 fans at Maverick Stadium, the game was on a searing September afternoon where the temperature topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 °C). The footage shown in the movie is from a game against the Midland High Bulldogs, who weren't mentioned in the movie. Permian defeated the Dawgs 42-0 in district play, but the two teams ended up in a three-way tie along with Midland Lee for the district title.
  • In the movie, district play began in week 2. In the real regular season, district play would have begun in week 4.
  • In the movie, Permian defeats "North Shore Galena" in a mid-season (presumably district) game. In reality, North Shore High School is located in Galena Park, a suburb of Houston, over 500 miles (800 km) southeast of Odessa. Although North Shore and Permian have both been 5A football powerhouses, they have never played. North Shore did not start seeing football success until the mid 1990s.
  • In reality, the three teams tied for best district record were Permian, Midland Lee, and Midland High, all with 5-1 district records. In the movie, Permian and Lee are joined not by Midland but by Abilene Cooper, and each team has two district losses. The tie breaking coin flip was held at a truck stop outside of Midland, and Midland High lost (Cooper in the movie), so Permian and Lee went on. Midland High's missing the playoffs was particularly poignant as it had not been to the playoffs since 1951 and would not get to go on to post-season play until 2002.
  • In a few scenes, players are shown wearing Under Armour apparel and facemask shields when in 1988, Under Armour and visors hadn't been invented yet. (Under Armour founder Kevin Plank was in high school in 1988.) The book actually says they wore green visors.
  • In the movie, the annual duel vs. Permian's archrival Midland Lee was portrayed as Lee having a handy lead throughout the game with Permian never having a real shot at the victory. In real life, Lee had to come from behind with a late-game touchdown to win the game 22-21.

The playoffs

  • Permian's first opponent in the playoffs was Amarillo Tascosa and not Dallas Jesuit as in the movie. In fact, in 1988 Texas Public Schools (such as Permian, Carter, and Tascosa) and private schools (such as Jesuit) competed in separate leagues with separate playoffs. Jesuit was not allowed to join the previously all-public school UIL until 2003, starting football competition in 2004. Dallas Jesuit and Strake Jesuit of Houston are currently the only private schools who play in the UIL, the rest competing in leagues such as TAPPS and the SPC. Also, given the district setup at that time, it would have been impossible for Permian to play a team from the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex until the third round for the playoffs. Now, however, Permian would play Fort Worth-area teams in the first round of the playoffs, but still could not play Jesuit until round 3. Permian did play Dallas Jesuit in Odessa during the regular season in 1988, winning 48-2. Jesuit's only points came on a missed-PAT return, which was a new rule instituted that year. Also, Jesuit's helmet is shown as white and orange with a sort of wildcat's head logo on it: in actuality, the Jesuit Rangers' football helmets are solid gold, with no logo on them.
  • In the movie, it is said that Carter was the state's top-ranked team, when Carter was never ranked higher than No. 3 in the Associated Press poll.
  • Carter is depicted playing “Hays” High School in the playoffs. Hays High is depicted as wearing green and white and nicknamed the Rams. The real Jack C. Hays High School, located 15 minutes south of Austin in Buda, instead uses red, white, and blue as its colors, and its nickname is Rebels. Hays was a Class 4A school in 1988 and did not become 5A until 2000. Hays was in the movie because the makers filmed crowd shots at Hays High during a Rebels home game against the Austin Westlake Chaparrals, another team depicted as being a Permian playoff victim.
  • Permian was also depicted as playing “San Angelo” in the quarterfinal round. There are actually two high schools in the San Angelo Independent School District; San Angelo Central High School (the district's only 5A school) had, until 1998, been in the same district for football as Permian (having since been transferred, for football only, to the district with Lubbock and Amarillo schools), and could only have played Permian in the quarterfinal round (owing to the structure of UIL playoffs) if they had qualified. However, Central finished 5th in the district that year, and as only two teams from each district qualified in 1988, Permian and Central did not play in the 1988 playoffs. Instead, Permian played Arlington Lamar in the quarterfinals.
  • North Shore in Galena Park ISD was referred to as North Shore Galena. Its official UIL name is Galena Park North Shore. In 1988, North Shore had yet to make the playoffs.
  • On the playoff brackets it shows just the word "Baytown". The team in the playoffs was Baytown Lee.

Permian vs. Carter

  • Since 1982, the UIL Class 5A football playoffs have had six rounds (though a second, parallel playoff bracket of five rounds was added in 1990, later also expanded to six rounds in 2006), so while Permian did play Dallas Carter in the fifth round, in reality it was a semi-final and not a final. In the Texas playoffs, a team from North or Western Texas always plays a team from Southern Texas in the final. So the Carter vs Permian final would not have been possible. The actual final featured Carter versus Converse Judson (who would later defeat Permian in the 1995 state championship). The Carter-Permian game was played in front of 10,000 people in a heavy downpour at The University of Texas at Austin's Memorial Stadium, not in front of 55,000 in the Astrodome in Houston. The movie highlights a call made by a black referee of a catch where the ball skips the ground; that play did actually happen. While the game in the movie was a high-scoring affair (34-28), the score of the actual game was 14-9 in favor of Carter. In real life Permian held a 9-7 lead for most of the game and it was Carter who made the dramatic fourth quarter comeback to win. On the last play of the game, Winchell threw the ball incomplete, rather than running it himself close to the goal line.
  • The fact that Carter's state championship was revoked following their use of an academically-ineligible player is never mentioned, nor is the prolonged legal battle that Carter went through to enable them to play in the playoffs at all. Officially, the 1988 state champions were Converse Judson, which had lost 31-14 in the final to Carter.

The school and the city

  • Permian is portrayed in the movie as a single large high school in a small, one-horse town in West Texas. In reality, Odessa was a city of nearly 100,000 people at the time of the events portrayed in the movie, and is part of a metropolitan area of nearly 250,000 combining the populations of Midland and Ector counties. (The quaint downtown shown in the trailer for the movie is actually Manhattan, Kansas.) Also, Permian was (and still is) only one of two large Class 5A high schools in Odessa. The other and first high school in the city, Odessa High School (mascot: the Bronchos), was never mentioned in any way in the movie, despite the fact that they have always played Permian every year, as the two schools have been in the same UIL district since Permian opened in 1959 as well as sharing Ratliff Stadium with Permian. An entire chapter in the book is devoted to the "Civil War" between the schools.
  • In the movie, Odessa is portrayed as being a mostly Anglo town with a sizable African-American population and virtually no Hispanics. In 1988, out of the almost 100,000 people that lived in Odessa, one-third were Hispanic while African-Americans made up only 5% of the population.
  • Ratliff Stadium is depicted as the location for Permian football practices. In reality, the team mostly practices on campus, and the stadium (which both Permian and Odessa High use) is on the outskirts of town in a fairly unpopulated area and about three miles (five km) away from the Permian High campus. It is also unlikely that children would be playing touch football near the stadium, as depicted in the movie, as few houses were nearby at that time. The area around the stadium has grown dramatically since then (which caused an anachronism in the movie — the houses you see near the stadium weren't there then).
  • Also, while Ratliff Stadium has had artificial turf since its opening, in 1988 it had the original AstroTurf, not the modern FieldTurf surface seen on the stadium in the film.

Cameo roles

  • Former NFL wide receiver Roy Williams (a Permian alumnus) has a cameo in the movie, as an assistant coach for Midland Lee (Permian's arch-rival).
  • Former New England Patriots defensive back Ty Law plays a wide receiver for Dallas Carter, the team Permian plays in the movie's state championship game (as noted earlier, the real Permian-Carter game was a semifinal). He wears jersey #2, his last name is Graf, and he eventually catches a one-handed touchdown pass.
  • The real James "Boobie" Miles plays a Permian assistant coach in the film. Although he has no lines, he is seen several times. In the locker room scene at halftime of the state championship game, he is seen standing next to the fictional "Boobie" Miles as Coach Gaines gives his speech.


The soundtrack for the film predominantly features post-rock band Explosions in the Sky. Music by Daniel Lanois and rock band Bad Company are also included. Other songs in the film are "Just Got Paid" by ZZ Top, during the montage of the Panthers' road to the finals; the pump up song that is featured as the team runs through the tunnel in the game against Dallas Carter is "New Noise" by the seminal Swedish punk band Refused. Also, during the start of the third quarter during the Championship game, the song "I Wanna Be Your Dog" by The Stooges is used. Additionally, three songs from Public Enemy's album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back are used prominently.

Critical reception

Reviews of the film were highly positive. The film received an 81% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 168 reviews, and the consensus states: "An acute survey of the football-obsessed heartland that succeeds as both a stirring drama and a rousing sports movie."[2] The film also has a score of 70/100 on Metacritic, based on 35 reviews.[3]

While the residents of Odessa held a negative reception of the book, they eagerly anticipated the release of the film.[4]


  1. ^ "50 Best High School Movies". EW. 
  2. ^ "Friday Night Lights". Rotten Tomatoes. 2004. Retrieved September 3, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Friday Night Lights". Metacritic. 2004. Retrieved September 3, 2015. 

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