Box art for The Express

The Express

Witness the inspirational true story of a real American hero. Rising from the humblest of beginnings, Ernie Davis (Rob Brown) overcame impossible odds to become the first African-American to win college football's greatest honorthe Heisman Trophy.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

PAUSE for kids age 12
2 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
1 out of 5
3 out of 5
Positive messages
2 out of 5
2 out of 5
2 out of 5

Inspirational true story tackles race, football.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this film -- which was originally rated PG-13 and was re-edited to earn its PG -- revolves around the issue of race in America in the '50s and '60s and is fraught with racial epithets and racist attitudes. There's also a certain amount of violence -- including hard-hitting football action and also dirty tricks like a coach directing his players to hit an opponent at the site of an injury. There's also some salty tough-talk from a football coach and depictions of the segregation and racial divides in the American South in the '50s and '60s.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about the film's historical depictions of race and civil rights. How has America moved forward in the years since the era depicted in the film, when segregation and overt racism were rampant? How has it not? Families can also discuss the appeal of inspirational sports films. Are they a great way to explore history and human behavior, or an "easy out" for filmmakers thanks to their cliches and familiar moments?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 29
    see all The Express reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: Packages a real-life story of athletic triumph and social progress into an accessible, rousing melodrama that is no less potent for being almost entirely predictable.

- A.O. Scott, New York Times, Friday, October 10, 2008

Fresh: The Express plays for our sympathy -- and wins.

- Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle, Friday, October 10, 2008

Fresh: Director Gary Fleder does an end run around the genre's cliches, and cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau plays with desaturated color and highlights for a rich period feel.

- Andrea Gronvall, Chicago Reader, Friday, October 10, 2008

Audience Reviews

4 stars

Another well made true factual sporting film about an all star black American football star in the 50's/60's when racism was a very hot cookie in the States. The whole story, even though its true, isn't very original hehe they do tend to be all the same really, A poor boy having a hard time growing up as an outcast makes it good in the world of pro football due to his natural athletic abilities, wins over many peoples hearts and support but dies young from natural causes, missing his chance to really make his mark in the world. I have seen many good sporting films and they are always in the same vein, true or not, but they do seem to turn out well made and always make you feel good at the end or make you think, which is good. This film is no exception, its very very well made, looks really authentic capturing the era and problems of the time, has a great timeless soundtrack, little nuggets of real footage from the actual games and tugs at your heart strings throughout. It is predictable like all sport flicks but the fact its based on true events does make you ignore that, well you have to ignore that. The cast are all excellent, Quaid is good as the tough supportive coach and Brown is very good as Davis showing real love in his role, Dutton as Davis father is also very good in his short role adding real class to the whole film. I have to admit Americans sure know how to make a good sporting flick about their beloved national games, although Baseball doesn't fare as well as Football.

- phubbs1, Thursday, February 9, 2012

4 stars

"I won't tell him he'll be the next Ernie Davis, because there'll never be another Ernie Davis." A drama based on the life of college football hero Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. REVIEW The Express is the true story of Ernie Davis, the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy and what he went through in the late 50's and early 60's at Syracuse U following in the footsteps of Jim Brown. Most of us have never heard of him, and I didn't know his story until this movie was released. However after you watch this movie, you will wish that you had known whom he was and wonder why it took so long to tell his story. The movie stars Dennis Quaid, Charles S. Dutton, Omar Benson Miller and Rob Brown as Ernie Davis. Rob Brown is the young actor who also appeared in a couple basketball movies and that dancing movie with Antonio Banderas. The dialog between Brown and Quaid is very well handed, showcasing some intense talents by the two co-stars. With most of the movie taking place in the turbulent 50's, expect some racial tension, but at the same time also delivers an inspirational message about following your dreams and seizing the day.

- LorenzoVonMatterhorn, Friday, March 27, 2009

3 stars

I like inspiring stories. And yeah, Im not a big fan of American football, but this movie isn't just about football, its about racism, bias and prejudice. And really, how one young man can be the best he can be, an capture the imagination of an entire nation and even its President, inspire and influence so many young people to this day, and in his young life, be regarded as a decent, honest and moral person, someone to look up to, someone to emulate and follow by example. This movie is a shot of history in the early and short life of Davis, his career in college football and his relationships with his coach and football legend Jim Brown, and how he and everyone around him fought to overcome the adversity and racial bias in the US to be recognised. The movie moves along well, especially from the interesting start as a boy, to his growth as a teen and then watching his life unfold and his becoming of a legend. The young stars in this movie are very good, the football action great, just as good as the Longest Yard. Though people will happy to see heavyweight Dennis Quaid as the coach divided between his love for the game and the bias inherent within himselfand Charles Dutton as the inspirational father figure to Davis. The movie is well shot, most of it authentic for the period though you might notice a few things that looked kinda out of time in the background... lets say a bright colored t-shrit or two in the crowd. But its more amusing than degenerative. Anyways, my favorutie is Quaid, the army drill sergant / head coach who make slife hell for his players, but is a great and innovate coach who led his team to an undefeated season against the best to become the National champions. Rude, grumpy, biased and with the characteristics of a raging bull, he is great to watch on screen. If you like to be inspired, watch this one.

- kpn666, Sunday, January 11, 2009