North Dallas Forty (1979) - Rotten Tomatoes

North Dallas Forty (1979)



Critic Consensus: Muddled overall, but perceptive and brutally realistic, North Dallas Forty also benefits from strong performances by Nick Nolte and Charles Durning. Football fans will likely find it fascinating.

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Movie Info

In a society in which major league sporting events have replaced Sunday worship as the religion of choice, North Dallas Forty appears like a desecration at the altar. In this film, directed by Ted Kotcheff (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz), the National Football League is revealed to be more about the money than the game. Nick Nolte is North Dallas Bulls pass-catcher Phillip Elliott, whose cynicism and independent spirit is looked upon as troublesome by team coaches Johnson (Charles Durning) and Strothers (G.D. Spradlin) and team owner Conrad Hunter (Steve Forrest). Elliot, at the end of his career and wise to the way players are bought and sold like cattle, goes through the games pumped up on painkillers conveniently provided by the management. His teammates include savvy quarterback Maxwell (Mac Davis) and lunk-headed defensive lineman Jo Bob Priddy (Bo Svenson), who deal with the impersonality and back-biting of the game through off-field diversions. When the Bulls management benches Elliot after manipulating him to help train a fellow teammate, Elliot has to decide whether there is more to life than the game that he loves.more
Rating: R (adult situations/language, nudity)
Genre: Drama, Sports & Fitness, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Frank Yablans, Ted Kotcheff, Peter Gent
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jan 30, 2001
Paramount Home Video


Nick Nolte
as Phil Elliott
Mac Davis
as Seth Maxwell
Charles Durning
as Coach Johnson
Dayle Haddon
as Charlotte Caulder
Bo Svenson
as Jo Bob Priddy
Steve Forrest
as Conrad Hunter
G.D. Spradlin
as B.A. Strothers
Marshall Colt
as Art Hartman
Guich Koock
as Eddie Rand
Deborah Benson
as Mrs. Hartman
Jim Boeke
as Stallings
Alan Autry
as Balford
Danny J. Bunz
as Tony Douglas
Rad Daly
as Conrad
John Matuszak
as O.W. Shaddock
Boyd Matson
as Sportscaster
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for North Dallas Forty

Critic Reviews for North Dallas Forty

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (5)

Retains enough of the original novel's authenticity to deliver strong, if brutish, entertainment.

Full Review… | August 1, 2008
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

The football scenes are brutally real; the locker room scenes are totally authentic.

Full Review… | March 21, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

The production is a most realistic, hard-hitting and perceptive look at the seamy side of pro football.

Full Review… | March 14, 2007
Top Critic

Something of a mess, both in terms of the wayward plot which rambles all over the place, and in terms of the rather muddled juggling of audience sympathies.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The leading man, Nick Nolte, has a physical authority and a clowning, irreverent manner that lend the film some semblance of continuity, even when it's about to flounder.

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

Pro football fans may be disillusioned by this excellent, honest, and often brutal expose of the play-for-pay game.

Full Review… | March 14, 2007
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Audience Reviews for North Dallas Forty

Not enough football action. It's dated and practically unwatchable. (First and only viewing - 2/4/2016)


Perceptive film about the harsh realities of football, and the physical punishment players take. Nolte and Davis provide good performances, with a good script and intelligent direction from Ted Kotcheff.


Such a revealing adaptation of Peter Gent's entertaining novel about what he learned playing for the Dallas Cowboys, and how the machinations of "management," kept him off balance and on the verge of quitting. The musical score by John Scott is clever, reminiscent of Don Ellis's creepy music for The French Connection, or or Michael Small's The Parallax View score.

Katherine Black

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