Brian's Song (1971) 720p

Movie Poster
Brian's Song (1971) - Movie Poster
Biography | Drama
Frame Rate:
23.976 fps
English 2.0  
Run Time:
73 min
IMDB Rating:
7.6 / 10 
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Directors: Buzz Kulik [Director] ,

Movie Description:
Gale Sayers joins the Chicago Bears and is befriended by Brian Piccolo, an over-achieving running back. Although they compete for the same spot on the team, and despite the fact that Sayers is black and Piccolo white, they become roommates on the road and very close friends, especially when Sayers is injured and Piccolo helps his recovery. Later, they and their wives must both deal with the harsh reality of Piccolo's cancer.


  • Brian's Song (1971) - Movie Scene 1
  • Brian's Song (1971) - Movie Scene 2
  • Brian's Song (1971) - Movie Scene 1

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One Of The Best Made For TV Movies Ever!

The 1970's gave rise to the "made for TV" movie on a regular basis, and a lot of them were pretty disappointing, with weak stories and poor acting. But then there's "Brian's Song" - which 40 years later still has to rank as one of the best (if not the best) TV movies ever made. It's a "football" movie to an extent, but it's far more than a football movie. It's a story about a friendship that known no bounds and that overcomes a lot of odds. In 1965, Gayle Sayers and Brian Piccolo were rookie running backs for the Chicago Bears. The should have been rivals and not friends. They were competing for starting positions; Sayers was black and Piccolo was white. There should have been too many divides for them to cross to build a friendship, and yet they did build a friendship.

Billy Dee Williams and James Caan were wonderful in these title roles. For I would say two thirds of its short run time (minus TV commercials, it comes in at a little under an hour and a quarter) this is essentially a football movie. The friendship is well developed, but there's a heavy emphasis on training shots and a lot of really good real football footage, mostly of some spectacular runs by Sayers. The movie really takes off though once Sayers suffers a knee injury that knocks him out of the lineup. Piccolo takes his place, and Piccolo wants him back and helps him get back into game shape. For a while they share the backfield, and then the movie becomes a powerful tearjerker, as Piccolo is diagnosed with cancer, and Sayers sees him through his final illness.

Yes, this is a made for TV movie. It's not flashy, but it's good - very good. And it's very moving. You can't help but feel sad as it comes to an end. Let's face it. 26 years olds (football players or not) shouldn't die, but they sometimes do - and it's very sad. But sad though it is, in the end you have to feel uplifted by this movie about the power of a friendship that overcomes all the odds against it. The movie also features a pretty strong performance from Jack Warden as the legendary Chicago bears coach George Halas. You can't ask for much more than this. (9/10)

Great un-PC TV-movie

As a big fan of TV-movies from the 70's, you'd think I'd have seen "Brian's Song" a lot sooner. I finally watched it, and wasn't disappointed.

You know the story, two football players, one white, one black, become best buds and help each other out. James Caan is superb as always, and Billy Dee Williams is pretty good.

At first, it seemed a major part of the plot would have involved race. When Billy Dee is told by his team that he and Caan will be the first black and white roomies, he is told to pretty much expect big trouble in every city they play in, from both blacks and whites. However, we never see any of that trouble a single time. And really, the only hint of any trouble of any kind from the roommate situation went Caan's way - he reads a racist letter that someone sent to him, upset he was rooming with a "darkie" - and joked his mother sent it. And that's all for the big, bad roommate situation.

However, this being 1971, there are various funny race jokes. Caan tells Williams he's going to name his new kid "Spade"; when Caan sees Williams fumble a ball around, he says something about "you'd think the ball had a white sheet on it"; Caan relates chicken to blacks; and there's a scene where Caan jokingly calls Williams a "nigger" and everyone gets a big laugh out of it. Ah, the days when one can make jokes that aren't politically correct! The ending is sad, and done very well. The whole movie actually is pretty good, and the friendship is built up nicely, We never really know why Caan as Picolo chose Billy Dee to be friends with, but it really doesn't matter. They made a good team in this flick.

In response to lew2000's question about the veracity

of their friendship.

I have the film on VHS so I don't know what the DVD extras provided. I did read Sayers book "I am Third" (referencing how he prioritizes himself) decades ago and IIRC Brian and Gale did room together. They also played the same position on the team. They also came aboard the Bears team at the same time. I imagine Gale is embarrassed by the way the Movie makes their relationship almost supernatural in it's heroic nature. In his book he devotes a chapter to Brian and makes it clear that Brian's death affected him and helped add perspective to certain things. The fact that these 2 existed together and competed against each other and found friendship during such a seminal moment in the USA's history is worthy of note.

Their real life stories contain the flavor of a contemporary Greek tragedy: 2 men with gifted physical attributes. One of the men from a place where friendship among such equals is forbidden (think Ben Hur's Messala), the other man (of superior physical gifts - think Ben Hur) from a place where judgments are rendered in a more civil way. Both men full of physical courage who learn the nature and importance of philosophical courage (think Hector or Achilles). And when both men have endured much and given much to strangers and each other, when both men feel they understand how unfair and wrong the world can be, fate requires they learn the most painful of lessons: That whatever the injustice, Death (incarnate) is the most callous and unfeeling of teachers.
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