See the best sports film since ‘Friday Night Lights’

Yes, the title gives the score away. But Kevin Rafferty’s engrossing documentary Harvard Beats Yale 29–29 (currently playing in select theaters) is still the best sports film we’ve seen in years.

In November 1968, the Harvard and Yale football teams — both undefeated for the first time since 1909 — met to play the final game of their seasons. The rosters included future Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones and future NFL star Calvin Hill. Yale’s captain, Brian Dowling, had already become famous as B.D. in his classmate Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury comic strip. Many of the players appear as talking heads — 40 years down the line, they remember every snap, pass, and fumble. Rafferty has dug up terrific footage of the game itself, and the historical context gives his film more weight than it might have had. We hear from and about veterans (one of the Harvard players had fought at Khe Sahn), war protesters (several on each team), movie stars (Meryl Streep dated one of the Yale players), and future presidents (Yale cheerleader George W. Bush, who was arrested in 1967 for tearing down the goal posts after a victory over Princeton). It all adds up to something remarkable.

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