Varsity Blues (film)

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Varsity Blues
Varsity Blues (1999 film) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Brian Robbins
Produced by Brian Robbins
Michael Tollin
Tova Laiter
Written by W. Peter Iliff
Starring James Van Der Beek
Jon Voight
Paul Walker
Ron Lester
Scott Caan
Narrated by James Van Der Beek
Music by Mark Isham
Cinematography Chuck Cohen
Edited by Ned Bastille
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
January 15, 1999
Running time
106 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $16 million
Box office $54,294,169

Varsity Blues is a 1999 American coming-of-age sports comedy-drama film directed by Brian Robbins that follows a small-town high school football team and their overbearing coach through a tumultuous season. The players must deal with the pressures of adolescence and their football-obsessed community while having their hard coach on their back constantly. In the small (fictional) town of West Canaan, Texas, football is a way of life, and losing is not an option.

Varsity Blues drew a domestic box office gross of $52 million against its estimated $16 million budget despite mixed critical reviews.[1]


Jonathan "Mox" Moxon (James Van Der Beek) is an intelligent and academically gifted backup quarterback for the West Canaan High School football team. Despite his relative popularity at school, easy friendships with other players, and smart and sassy girlfriend Jules Harbor (Amy Smart), Mox is dissatisfied with his life. He wants to leave Texas to go to school at Brown University. He is constantly at odds with his football-obsessed father Sam (Thomas F. Duffy) and dreads playing it under legendary coach Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight), a verbally abusive, controlling authority who believes in winning "at all costs". He has a strong track record as coach, remarking in a speech that "in my thirty years of coaching at West Canaan, I have brought two state titles, and 22 district championships!" His philosophy finally takes its toll on Coyotes' quarterback, Lance Harbor (Paul Walker), Mox's best friend and Jules' brother who has earned a full scholarship to play for Florida State. Lance is manipulated into taking anesthetic shots into an injured knee that finally succumbs to failure and results in even greater injury during gameplay. He is rushed to the hospital, where doctors are appalled at the massive amount of scar tissue found under his knee.

Mox, who has accompanied Lance to the hospital, is shocked when Kilmer feigns ignorance to Lance's doctors about Lance's knee problems, when in fact Kilmer ordered the trainer to inject the shots. In need of a new quarterback, Kilmer reluctantly names Mox to replace Lance as captain and starting quarterback. The move brings unexpected dividends for Mox, one of them being Darcy Sears (Ali Larter), Lance's beautiful blonde cheerleader girlfriend, who is interested in marrying a football player in order to escape small-town life. She even goes so far as to attempt to seduce Mox, sporting a "bikini" made of whipped cream over her otherwise naked body, but he rebuffs her as gently as he can.

Disgusted with Kilmer and not feeling a strong need to win, Mox starts calling his own plays on the field without Kilmer's approval. He also chides his father, screaming at him, "I don't want your life!" The elder Moxon had been a football player at West Caanan, and although Kilmer dismissed him for lacking talent and courage, Moxon still respected and obeyed Kilmer. When Kilmer becomes aware that Mox has won a full scholarship to Brown, Kilmer threatens Mox that if he continues to disobey and disrespect him, the coach will alter Mox's transcripts in order to reverse the decision on his scholarship.

Kilmer's lack of concern for players continues, resulting in a dramatic collapse of Billy Bob (Ron Lester). When Wendell Brown (Eliel Swinton), another friend of Mox's, is injured on the field during the final game of the season, Kilmer pressures Brown to take a shot of cortisone to deaden the pain from his injury, allowing him to continue even in the face of a permanent injury. Desperate to be recruited by a good college, Wendell grants his consent. At this moment, Mox tells Kilmer he'll quit the team if the needle enters Wendell's knee. Undaunted, he orders Charlie Tweeder (Scott Caan), a friend of both Mox and Wendell, to replace Mox, but Tweeder refuses. Mox tells Kilmer that the only way they will return to the field is without Kilmer. Realizing that he will be forced to forfeit the game, Kilmer loses control and physically assaults Mox. The other players intercede and then refuse to take to the field. Knowing his loss of control has cost him his credibility, Kilmer tries in vain to rally support and spark the team's spirit into trusting him, but none of the players follow him out of the locker room. He continues down the hall, and seeing no one following him, turns the other direction and into his office. After a rallying speech from Mox the team instead takes the field under the leadership of Lance - replacing Kilmer as coach for the second half - and manage to win the game.

In a voice-over epilogue, Mox recounts several characters' aftermaths, including the fact that Kilmer left town and never coached again, Lance became a successful coach, and Mox did enter Brown University.


  • James Van Der Beek as Jonathon "Mox" Moxon, an academically successful, yet rebellious backup quarterback.
  • Jon Voight as Coach Bud Kilmer, the Coyotes 30-year head coach.
  • Paul Walker as Lance Harbor, the original captain and starting quarterback of the Coyotes.
  • Amy Smart as Jules Harbor, Mox's girlfriend and Lance's younger sister.
  • Ron Lester as Billy Bob, an overweight but powerful offensive guard.
  • Scott Caan as Charlie Tweeder, a wild, cocky and hard partying wide receiver for the Coyotes.
  • Eliel Swinton as Wendell Brown, the running back and the only African American player on the team.
  • Ali Larter as Darcy Sears, Lance's girlfriend and the cheerleader captain.
  • Richard Lineback as Joe Harbor, Lance's and Jules's father.
  • Thomas F. Duffy as Sam Moxon, Mox's football obsessed father.
  • Joe Pichler as Kyle Moxon, Mox's younger brother who is into religions rather than football.
  • Tonie Perensky as Miss Davis, a teacher at West Canaan High School who moonlights as a stripper at the local strip club The Landing Strip.

Reception and legacy[edit]

The film opened at #1 at the North American box office making $17.5 million USD in its opening weekend.[2] Though the film had a 39.6% decline in earnings, it was still enough to keep the film at the top spot for another week.[3]

Critical reception was mixed; the film has a 40% ("Rotten") approval rating from 52 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus "This is a predictable football movie that lacks intensity." Roger Ebert noted in his Chicago Sun-Times review that "Scenes work, but they don't pile up and build momentum."[4] ReelViews online film critic James Berardinelli's summary was that although the film "takes a worthwhile detour or two, it ultimately finds its way back to the well-worn track of its genre."[5]

The film was later parodied in the 2001 film Not Another Teen Movie, in which Ron Lester reprises his role of Billy Bob by playing a nearly identical character named Reggie Ray. Ali Larter's whipped cream bikini was also parodied. It was also quoted in the 2004 teen comedy film Mean Girls as being Regina George's favorite movie.


Being a production of MTV Films, "Varsity Blues" was filled with a soundtrack of well known bands and little known songs. The soundtrack album was published by Hollywood Records and contained:

  • Walkin' The Line - by Shawn Camp
  • My Girlfriend is a Waitress - by The Iguanas
  • Nice Guys Finish Last - by Green Day
  • Problems - by the Flamin' Hellcats
  • Unnoticed - by Anathenaeum
  • Love-a-Rama - by Southern Culture on the Skids
  • Texas Flood - by Stevie Ray Vaughan
  • One Foot in Front of the Other - by Lee Roy Parnell
  • Disappear - by Saffron Henderson
  • Are You Ready for the Fallout - by Fastball
  • Wayward Wind - by Tex Ritter
  • Pride of San Jacinto - by The Reverend Horton Heat
  • Run - by Collective Soul
  • You Blew Me Off - by Bare, Jr.
  • Valley of the Pharaohs - by The Hellecasters
  • Lonesome Ain't the Word - by Shawn Camp
  • Same Old Feeling - by Tim Buppert
  • If Your Girl Only Knew - by Aaliyah
  • Boom Boom Boom - by The Iguanas
  • Horror Show - by Third Eye Blind
  • Hot for Teacher - by Van Halen
  • Thunderstruck - by AC/DC
  • Voices Inside My Head - by Amber Sunshower
  • My Hero by Foo Fighters
  • Every Little Thing Counts - by Janus Stark
  • Fly - by Loudmouth
  • Nitro (Youth Energy) - by Offspring
  • Varsity Blue - by Caroline's Spine
  • Two Faces - by Days of the New


1999 Teen Choice Awards
  • Best Breakout Performance: James Van Der Beek (won)
  • Best Drama Film (nominated)
1999 MTV Movie Awards
  • Best Breakout Performance: James Van Der Beek (won)
  • Best Movie Song (nominated)
2000 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards
  • Best Male Newcomer: James Van Der Beek (nominated)


  1. ^ Varsity Blues at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ Welkos, Robert W. (1998-08-02). "Moviegoers Get the 'Blues,' Big Time". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  3. ^ "'Varsity Blues' Runs to Daylight to Stay No. 1 - Los Angeles Times". 2009-10-30. Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  4. ^ Sobczynski, Peter (1999-01-15). "Varsity Blues Movie Review & Film Summary (1999)". Roger Ebert. Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  5. ^ "Reelviews Movie Reviews". 1999-01-15. Retrieved 2014-02-03. 

External links[edit]