With the 2014 Football World Cup in Brazil about to come to an end, I present to you a list of thirty two awesome football movies from around the globe. After a grueling & extensive search watching countless movies from all corners of the globe, I think I have done justice to this list. Considering the number of movies I watched I do feel bad about leaving out quite a few,
So in descending order here they are:
32. Hattrick (2012):
This nifty little Indonesian flick is set amongst the backdrop of the underground Futsal scene in Jakarta where warring mob bosses compete against each other in high stakes games. Futsal is a variation of football, played indoors with each team comprising of five players. The movie’s plot concerns the attempts of the widow of a recently deceased mob boss in assembling a Futsal team with the help from a grizzled old coach. The reasons for doing so are the usual honor and glory but when you can watch players dribble a flaming football, what else do you want?
31. Montevideo: Taste of a Dream (2010):
This gorgeous Serbian movie chronicles the events leading to the participation of the Yugoslavian football team at the first FIFA World Cup in Montevideo, Uruguay in July 1930. It’s more captivating thanks to the flawless recreation of the era and the historical events than the superfluous melodrama and theatrics it’s tries to wallow in.
30. The Game of Their Lives (2005):
The movie tells the true story of what is called in Football history as the ‘Miracle on Grass’. In the 1950 World Cup held in Brazil, a rag-tag U.S. team beat the top ranked English team 1-0. Football which is known as soccer in the U.S. had barely been around in an organized professional national manner & how a multicultural team was formed & their journey to the victory forms the crux of the story.
29. Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006):
Focusing on perhaps one of the greatest football stars of all time, this documentary follows Zinedine Zidane during the Spanish Liga Real Madrid vs. Villarreal CF game on April 23, 2005 at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. If 17 synchronized cameras following Zidane everywhere capturing every moment of his during the game aren’t sufficient then you could just sit back and enjoy the awesome soundtrack by Scottish band Mogwai.
28. Dare to Dream: The Story of the U.S. Women's Soccer Team (2005):
Underdog stories are dime a dozen in sports movies but to have one provide a true tale of the fairer sex makes for compelling viewing. Spanning over 18 years it details the relentless efforts of various women athletes in promoting and building the U.S. women's soccer team. Some truly heartwarming and heartbreaking accounts of grit and determination are enclosed within this uplifting tale.
27. Green Street Hooligans (2005):
No list of Football movies can be complete without a movie or two about Hooliganism. While there have been plenty of other movies about the subject, Green Street Hooligans offered a fascinating, down and dirty ride into this morbid world. Seen through the eyes of an outsider, the movie even offers not just the wanton violence associated with Football Hooliganism but the almost brazen blind faith and bond shared between members of the gang; a disturbing watch for sure.
26. The Third Half (2012):
A story set in a country (Macedonia) about which little has been seen on screen from an era (World War II) makes for an interesting movie choice. Based on true events the movie adds a plethora of elements to the mix, including romance, religion, national identity, the Holocaust and of course at the center of it all stands, Football as a beacon of resistance and hope.
25. One Night in Turin (2010):
Narrated with much aplomb by Gary Oldman, this movie follows the fortunes of the English team’s World Cup campaign in Italy in 1990, culminating in the semi-final against West Germany in Turin. At the same time mirroring the political upheaval in the waning days of Margaret Thatcher’s U.K., it presents a grim yet captivating peek into the socio-political situation of the era and how closely public opinion and sentiment is linked to national sports.
24. United (2011):
It’s based on the true events of 1956, when Manchester United lost more than half of its best players and support staff in an unfortunate plane crash. The real story however starts after the crash when surmounting overwhelming odds, assistant manager Jimmy Murphy, played by David Tennant, attempts to put together a team on the field within a few months of the tragedy. A bit hokey in parts, it’s nonetheless held together by some earnest performances particularly by Jack O’Connell playing a young Sir Bobby Charlton.
23. Egaro – The Immortal Eleven (2011):
West Bengal is perhaps India’s most football crazy region, where the game is followed even more keenly than the subcontinents ubiquitous sport, cricket. So it’s no surprise that the country’s best football movie is from and based on true events that transpired in the region in 1911 when the country was under British rule. It chronicles the events leading up to the match between a local Indian club Mohun Bagan and the East Yorkshire Regiment team comprised of British soldiers. For those familiar with ‘Lagaan’, this movie pretty much pulls every page from that one.
22. Kill the Referee (2009):
The players, the coaches and the fans get all the attention in Football but what about the one human element present throughout, the referees. This documentary showcases the up and downs of the life of various referees. Though the referees shown are primarily from across Europe, it’s nevertheless a delightful insight into the kind of mindset, training and preparation that goes behind being one. Plus looking at the baggage they have to carry sometimes and a peek into their personal lives makes for an engrossing watch.
21. Maradona by Kusturica (2008):
Multiple award winning Serbian filmmaker, Emir Kusturica, took three years to put together his personal love letter to the Argentinean Football legend. Kusturica aims to present three facets of Maradona’s personality, the genius sportsman, the loving father and vocal anti-capitalism crusader. If you love Maradona, you can’t afford to miss it and though Kusturica’s narrative can be jarring at times, the movie’s filled with little nuggets of genuine wonder, like the Church of Maradona, a religion, created by fans of Maradona, who even use his autobiography as a bible of sorts.
20. Mean Machine (2001):
‘Mean Machine’ is a British remake of the 1974 American film ‘The Longest Yard’ starring Burt Reynolds. Tainted ex-English team captain Danny Meehan when sent to prison is forced to whip together a team of convicts to play against the guards and much ‘Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels’ style mayhem ensues. Watch out for Jason Statham as the psychotic goalkeeper called ‘The Monk’.
19. Rudo y Cursi / Rude & Tacky (2008):
Produced by the trio of Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo Del Toro & Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu the movie’s about two small town brothers, who make it big in football but somewhere along the way due to their greed and jealousy lose all they have earned or could have. The movie mixes razor-sharp humor with emotions that seem genuine rather than melodramatic that gives the movie a sort of dark comic edge, setting it apart from the usual clichéd route other movies with similar themes take.
18. Bend it Like Beckham (2002):
Director Gurinder Chadha constructs a delightfully spunky tale with a strong flavor of the Indian community in England. An Indian girl overcomes cultural taboo to do what she loves, play football for a girl’s team. Along the way there is a love triangle & family restrictions & not to forget her hero, David Beckham; very typical fare but seasoned in new herbs & spices, the movie feels like a breath of fresh air.
17. The Firm (1989):
Gary Oldman chews scenery with gusto in this made-for-TV film, which was based on the activities of a highly organized group of West Ham United hooligans during the 1970s and 1980s. The movie was a precursor to many a modern Hooliganism films and offers one the starkest portrayals of the kind of madness that these thugs wreaked in their heydays.
16. Escape to Victory / Victory (1981):
Often referred to as one of the greatest Football movies ever made, I think it’s frankly overrated, plus the years have not been kind to it and despite the talent in front and behind the camera, it hasn’t aged well. A German national team & a team of allied prisoners of war during World War II square off in the Colombes stadium in Paris. The biggest draw of the movie was the presence of nearly every major footballer in the allied team. Pele (Brazil), Bobby Moore (England), John Wark (England), Oswaldo Ardiles (Argentina) & many others were part of the movie & helped choreograph the final match & train the actors to play like professionals. Excellent turns by Max Von Sydow and Michael Caine are undone by Stallone’s mumbling and utter lack of talent for the sport. However there’s that glorious slow-motion Pele bicycle-kick; would watch it just for that.
15. Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos (2006):
Playing on themes of greed, glamour and fickle success, this documentary outlines the rise and fall of the New York Cosmos during the 1970s. Once upon a time, the Cosmos boasted of nearly every top players from around the globe in their ranks, and were the messiahs of making Football go big in the U.S. What went wrong? Check out this enthralling documentary presented in 70s style graphics and sound effects replete with a soundtrack filled some of the best numbers from the era.
14. Kicking It (2008):
An assured tear-jerker, this documentary covers an extraordinary tournament; the ‘Homeless Football World Cup’. While it’s been held a few times, this movie’s focus is on the one held in South Africa in 2006 with as many as 48 teams participating from around the world and all comprised of homeless people. By following the trials and tribulations of various participants from across the globe from countries like Ireland, Kenya, U.S.A., Spain, Russia, Afghanistan it’s able to offer stark, unflinching and at times disturbing portraits. You’ll find your favorite from the lot and the movie’s narrative assures that, so by the time the World Cup starts onscreen you’d already be invested in the teams and players. It’s narrated by Colin Farrell
13. Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001):
This is a brilliant satire, which hands Mike Basset, an utter fool, the reigns of the English football team, when the qualifications for the World Cup are nigh. What follows is a comedy of errors that pokes fun at not just the team management but also the entire setup of the English football administration. The tone is strictly tongue-in-cheek and contains a wealth of sly British wit and humour with enough buffoonery to keep you laughing throughout.
12. Pelada (2010):
The movie follows two highly promising former collegiate football stars, who after their initial success grew disenchanted with life and the game. Now in their late twenties and struggling with life, the two set out across the world to partake in street football games to perhaps rediscover the game that gave their life hope and meaning
11. The Two Escobars (2010):
Another fascinating documentary, chronicles the rise and fall of the Colombian national team, fueled by two men sharing a common last name; the team’s captain Andres Escobar and the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar. It shows the intrinsic connection that the team’s fortunes reflected in extreme public sentiments and the darker link that grew between the drug cartels and sports.
10. Goal! The Dream Begins (2005):
‘Goal! The Dream Begins’ is the first & honestly the only worthwhile entry in the trilogy. Since the makers had the blessings of FIFA they were able to rope in a large number of high-profile international players & teams for the movie. The plot is strictly old-school rags-to-riches tale. A poor illegal immigrant in the U.S., Santiago Munez gets an opportunity to try out for Newcastle United and after a few attempts makes the best of it. If a football fairytale is what you want, then ‘Goal! The Dream Begins’ is just the thing you should watch; guilty pleasure of the highest order.
9. The Other Final (2003):
This documentary feature tells the story of a remarkable football match played between the two lowest ranked teams (then in 2002), Bhutan & Montserrat (a small island country in the Caribbean), on the morning of the final of the 2002 FIFA World Cup Final between Brazil & Germany. Weaving in socio-political situations and hardships faced by not just the countries but the organizers of this unique event too, the movie takes the viewers on a fascinating journey that shows the lengths to which players will go to represent their country despite little or no help from the usual corporate and commercial champions of the sport.
8. Der Wunder Von Bern / The Miracle of Bern (2003):
This German movie is another recreation of a true story from the annals of Football history, l except this time it’s told during post-world war II Germany. A young boy struggling with crippling poverty and the return of his father from Soviet prison camps finds solace in the German national team’s campaign in the 1954 Switzerland World Cup. Sport is against used as a device to regain pride and glory while showcasing the power to heal mindsets and relationships. Oddly though despite the movie having numerous matches, the final is the only one we actually get to see.
7. Looking for Eric (2009):
Ken Loach’s funny and at times truly moving drama beautifully utilizes the idea how the admiration for a sport & a sportsperson can turn into catalyst for effecting personal change. Down and out on his luck, middle-aged Eric Bishop can’t seem to muster the confidence to move forward in life. That is until he starts hallucinating his idol, Eric Cantona. From here on, Cantona becomes his own personal Yoda, dispensing lessons on life and love with enough Football analogies thrown into the mix.
6. Shaolin Soccer (2001):
I doubt I’d ever find a crazier movie about football than Stephen Chow’s masterpiece, ‘Shaolin Soccer’. An ex-martial arts expert & a retired football player combine their skills to form a football team that uses kung-fu to excel at the sport. The movie is cheesy as hell but more than that it’s so crazy & innovative that it’s near unlikely that you’d not enjoy it. Having said that, since the effects weren’t that polished, lately the movie has started to look old, but it’s still one hell of a thrill ride.
5. Offside (2006):
Like most of his other work, Jafar Panahi’s ‘Offside’ too is banned in its native country of Iran. The movie beautifully uses football & specifically the term offside as a metaphor for the condition of women in Iran. Women are banned from attending any Football matches in a stadium in Iran. The movie focuses on the efforts to do just that by various young women and how and to what extent they fail or succeed during an important game between Iran & Bahrain which will decide Iran’s fate for the World Cup Finals. It has all the socio-political themes with some astounding acting by a very young and likely inexperienced cast.
4. Fever Pitch (1997):
Based on Nick Hornby’s bestseller, this romantic comedy, will appeal to anyone who’s ever loved and valued a sport or team more than anything in the world. An ardent Arsenal fan (Colin Firth), has had only one obsession since his teenage years; to see Arsenal crowned champions. His every emotion, his week and life in general revolves around the team. But is he willing to put even true love on the line to continue this obsession? The mid-90s soft-rock/pop score is a bonus with many familiar tracks.
3. Phörpa – The Cup (1999):
A light-hearted comedy/drama about the attempts of a group of young monks in a Tibetan monastery to watch the 1998 Football World Cup has all the requisite elements that encompass the universal appeal of the game. The movie is directed by Khyentse Norbu, a Tibetan Lama who also makes a poignant point about the monks supporting France in the final, since France supports the Tibetan demand for freedom. The movie is sure to make your heart glow.
2. The Damned United (2009):
A riveting portrait of the mercurial, brilliant coach Brian Clough played by Michael Sheen in a career defining role who’s probably “the best manager that the English national side never had.". Played roughly across a decade the movie moves back and forth between Clough’s time at a lowly ranked Derby County, and later as the manager of Leeds United, at the height of its prowess. Clough is a unabashedly ambitious and driven man with a larger than life personality that helps him just as much as causes his downfall at times. His arrogance backed with immense talent makes for one hell of a central character.
1 Két félidő a pokolban / Two Half Times in Hell (1961):
The king of them all and in many ways a template for numerous movies that followed, this Hungarian movie is simply the finest football movie ever made. For a movie made in 1961, nothing today can match up to the mastery with which the entire movie is brought together. Its own remake by John Huston in 1981 ‘Escape to Victory’ couldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. The plot concerns a match between a Hungarian team made up of prisoners of a labor camp and a German army team. Leading the Hungarians is a former football legend, Dio (Sinkovits Imre), who’s charisma and talent with the ball give the otherwise weak team hope and a chance at victory. The climatic encounter between the two teams is a nail-biter assured to have you on the edge of your seat. The story is supposedly based on the true story of the Ukrainian football club ‘Dynamo Kyiv’ whose players defeated a German army team while the Nazis had occupied Ukraine in World War II. This is moviemaking at its finest.
So, how many have you watched?