English football or soccer is dubbed the ‘beautiful game’ and rightfully so. And capturing the spirit and excitement of the game are some of the best football-themed movies which we have compiled for you to watch ahead of the hotly awaited 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
There are some classics like Bend It Like Beckham by British-Indian director Gurinder Chadha, and of course Goal: The Dream Begins which is a Holy Grail for every football lover. This list of the best football-themed movies is unmissable for every fan of this beautiful game with some old football movies like Escape To Victory and some comparatively new ones like Pelé: Birth of A Legend thrown in the mix.
Here are some best football-themed movies you should add to your watch list
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Directed by: Gurinder Chadha
Cast: Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Synopsis: Amongst all other football movies, this one hits home. Jesminder Bhamra or Jess (Nagra) is an Indian-born teenager living in London and is passionate about football, much to the chagrin of her orthodox parents. She idolises the now former English footballer David Beckham and wishes to rise above high school football and play professionally. Jules (Knightley) is her best friend on the football team. Joe (Meyers) is their coach and a common love interest. This coming-of-age football themed movie is about Jess finally finding her own identity through college football while enduring pressures from her conservative household.
Awards won: Audience and Special Jury Award for Chadha, Best Actress for Nagra and Knightley—Bordeaux International Festival of Women in Cinema
Watch Bend It Beckham here.
Goal: The Dream Begins (2005)
Directed by: Danny Cannon and Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Kuno Becker, Alessandro Nivola, Anna Friel, Stephen Dillane
Synopsis: Santiago Muñez (Becker) is a talented but underprivileged Hispanic boy playing for an underdog football team. He has no means to play the game professionally until he is spotted by the Newcastle scout and former Scottish player Glen Foy (Dillane) who gets him on a football programme and pushes him to realise his true potential.
Watch Goal here.
Green Street Hooligans (2005)
Directed by: Lexi Alexander
Cast: Elijah Wood, Charlie Hunnam, Claire Forlani
Synopsis: This football film is about Mutt Becker (Wood), a rebel who gets expelled from Harvard. He visits his sister in London only to be drawn into the gang infamous for getting into drunken brawls and hooliganisms. Playing football was a huge part of their lives.
Awards won: Best Feature Film—Malibu Film Festival, LA Femme Filmmaker Award—LA Femme International Film Festival.
Watch Green Street Hooligans here.
The Damned United (2009)
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Cast: Michael Sheen, David Roper, Colm Meaney, Henry Goodman
Synopsis: Set in the year 1974, this is a story of the tumultuous 44-day stint of Brian Clough (Sheen) as the manager of Leeds United Football Club. Brian takes over the reins of the club after extremely popular Don Revie (Meaney) quits to represent a national football team in England. Brian is bold and authoritative and in a hurry to implement his style of playing the game on the players who oppose his approach.
Watch The Damned United here.
Fever Pitch (1997)
Directed by: David Evans
Cast: Colin Firth, Ruth Gemmell, Luke Aikman
Synopsis: Adapted from Nick Hornby’s book by the same name, the film is an ultimate tribute to all football fans obsessed with their favourite team. Paul Ashworth (Firth) is a hardcore Arsenal fan. The movie traces his journey as he navigates his love life and career while being addicted to watching football.
Watch Fever Pitch here
Pelé: Birth of a Legend (2016)
Directed by: Jeff Zimbalist, Michael Zimbalist
Cast: Kevin de Paula, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rodrigo Santoro, Diego Boneta
Synopsis: The film documents the true story of the legendary goalscorer for Brazil, making for one of the best football movies of all time. It traces Pelé’s journey from a local high school football team and enrolling on a football programme to finally winning the World Cup for the country. Young Pelé (Kevin de Paula) leads Brazil to its historical 1958 FIFA World Cup victory under the guidance of Vicente Feola (D’Onofrio) in this biographical sports film.
Watch Pelé here.
Escape to Victory aka Victory (1981)
Directed by: John Huston
Cast: Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallon, Pelé
Synopsis: Set in World War II, this movie is about one game that unites them all. Allied Prisoners Of War, including Capt. Robert Hatch (Stallone), Cpl. Luis Fernandez (Pelé) and Capt. John Colby (Caine), form a football team to play football against the German National Team in the then-Nazi-occupied Paris in a bid to escape from the Nazi camp.
Awards won: Outstanding Translated Foreign Film—Huabiao Film Awards
Watch the Escape to Victory aka Victory here.
She’s The Man (2006)
Directed by: Andy Fickman
Cast: Amanda Bynes, Laura Ramsey, Channing Tatum, James Kirk
Synopsis: This light-hearted romantic football movie that makes up for a perfect weekend viewing follows Viola Johnson (Bynes) as she impersonates her twin brother Sebastian (Kirk) to join his boarding school to play college football. She promptly falls for the star player of the high-school football team Duke (Tatum) and complications arise between the leads.
Awards won: Choice Comedy, Choice Breakout Male for Tutum, Choice Liplock for Bynes and Tutum—Teen Choice Awards
Watch She’s The Man here
Football Factory (2004)
Directed by: Nick Love
Cast: Danny Dyer, Frank Harper, Tamer Hassan
Synopsis: Revolving around Tommy Johnson (Dyer), who is an ardent supporter of the football club, Chelsea, the most significant part of the film is the Chelsea-Millwall Football Association Challenge Cup (FA) clash.
Awards won: Kodak Award for Best Cinematography for Damian Bromley—Dinard British Film Festival.
Watch The Football Factory trailer here.
(Main and Featured images: Goal/ IMDb)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: British sports drama The Damned United (2009) is perhaps one of the best football movies of all time, with a 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is about the rocky 44-day stint of Brian Clough, a newly appointed manager of Leeds United Football Club. If you're looking for the best American football movie of all time, this would probably be the 1996 classic Jerry Maguire, starring Tom Cruise in the lead role. The film straddles both the rom-com and sports genres and is centred on Maguire, a sports agent trying to reclaim his career after he's fired from his job.
Answer: Our pick is Bend It Like Beckham (2002), a coming-of-age drama and comedy about Jess, an Indian-born teenager in London who struggles between her soccer dreams and pleasing her conservative parents. It has a 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Answer: Bend It Like Beckham was a groundbreaking movie when it was released because of its celebration of football, feminism and Indian culture, and how it featured a British Indian girl as the protagonist. The movie, which was helmed by British-Indian female director Gurinder Chadha, has been lauded by critics for its masterful exploration of sport, culture and identity, teamed with humorous and heartwarming moments.