Cinematic Flashback: Rudy (1993) Review

You’re 5-foot nothin’, 100 and nothin’, and you have barely a speck of athletic ability. And you hung in there with the best college football players in the land for 2 years. And you’re gonna walk outta here with a degree from the University of Notre Dame. In this life, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody but yourself. And after what you’ve gone through, if you haven’t done that by now, it ain’t gonna never happen. Now go on back!” as Jason’s cinematic flashback review for 1993’s sports themed feature Rudy.


“Sometimes a Winner is a Dreamer Who Just Won’t Quit”

Director: David Anspaugh

Writer: Angelo Pizzo

Starring: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty, and Charles S. Dutton

Run Time: 114 minutes

Release Date: October 22nd, 1993

Rating: PG


Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) wants to play football at the University of Notre Dame, but has neither the money for tuition nor the grades to qualify for a scholarship. Rudy redoubles his efforts to get out of the steel mill where his father works when his best friend (Christopher Reed) dies in an accident there. Overcoming his dyslexia thanks to his friend and tutor, D-Bob (Jon Favreau), Rudy gains admission to Notre Dame and begins to fight his way onto the school’s fabled football team.


Over the years, there has been countless inspirational sport themed movies, but Rudy certain has earned place in people’s minds, hearts, and in cinematic history. To be honest, I really don’t remember seeing the movie in the theaters or seeing much promotional work for the feature as I was probably still a bit young (roughly the age of 8) when the film was released. In truth, I actually saw the movie (for the first time) in high school as one of the classes (I can’t remember which one) showed the movie in-class. Like many out there, Rudy was certainly poignant and heartfelt with plenty of meaning behind it. So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on the movie.

Directed by David Anspaugh, Rudy is cornerstone of a downright “feel good” movie that demonstrates the power of determination and perseverance throughout obstacles and harsh times. Anspaugh keeps that notion very much at the heart of the movie as we (the viewers) follow Rudy’s journey and seeing hope he overcomes rather than let them overcome him. Plus, there’s layer of sincerity and inspirational motifs and nuances throughout the film, which helps add to the whole journey that Rudy undergoes in his life…be it triumphs or setbacks. Also, the movie, which is surrounds that aspect of college football (including film on location on the Notre Dame campus in some scenes) has all the right fun and entertainment of a sport themed endeavor. Like many out there, my personal favorite scene of the movie is probably the most famous one of the film, which is the whole “jersey” on the coach’s desk scene. Of course, the film’s score, which was done by Jerry Goldsmith, is great and filled with emotional / dramatic beats throughout, especially in the song called “Tryouts”, which is my personal favorite piece in the movie.

There really wasn’t a whole lot I didn’t like about the movie, but just merely minor details of criticism that I have with the feature here and there. Of course, there’s a great sense of predictability when watching a film like this. Naturally, the knowledge of the movie being “based on a true story” holds a candle to the truth, foregoing some real-life events and molding it to fit into a cinematic tale. Thus, some stuff (if a person delves into researching the real-life Rudy Ruettiger) in the movie can be seeing as fabrication…whether that’s good or bad depends on the viewer. Even looking beyond, the film spins the classic yarn of sports and inspiration throughout, which isn’t a bad thing, but makes Rudy still predictable in nature and a tad formulaic; easily spotting where the movie is going in the narrative.

Naturally, the acting talents of the movie, while may not have the “star power” of other features in the 90s (those who were popular back then), but Rudy does present plenty of acting talents that keenly and theatrically bring these respective characters to life. Of course, actor Sean Astin carries majority of the theatrical weight on his shoulders in playing the film’s title character of Rudy Ruettiger. He certainly fits the character (height and persona equally) and demonstrates an engaging and endearing performance throughout the movie. While Astin might be more famous for playing Samwise the Brave in Peter Jackon’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I’ll always remember him as Rudy! The other major supporting players, including Ned Beatty, Jon Favreau, and Charles S. Dutton definitely lend their acting talents to bolster Rudy’s journey in the film.

The movie was met with positive reviews from both critics and moviegoers, with the film being ranked into two ESPN top 25 sports movie (#24 by a panel of sports experts and #4 by users) as well as being ranked #54 most inspiring film of all time in “AFI 100 Years” series. The legacy of Rudy also lived on in the future sports movies, with features like Remember the Titans, Invincible, Glory Road, Eddie the Eagle and several others taking thematically cues from this truly endearing underdog tale.

In the end, Rudy has been cemented in sports film as a definitive “feel good” that everyone should watch. It’s thematic message of determination and never giving up is palpable, the movie’s central story is sweet and sincere, and actor Sean Astin gives his best role of his career. It’s no wonder why Rudy has been a fan-favorite movie for generation and will probably continue to be so; proving that its not by the size of the dog in the fight, but rather the fight in the size of the dog.

Cinematic Flashback Score: 4.5 Out of 5

Fun Fact: Dan Devine was upset about the scene in which several players laid down their jerseys on his desk as a form of protest for not letting Rudy suit up for the upcoming Georgia Tech game. According to Devine, that incident never took place and if it had, the players involved would have been booted off the team.

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