Top 10 Soccer Movies

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10. Looking for Eric (2009)

Looking for Eric is a 2009 British-French-Belgium Comedy/Drama film about the escape from the trials of modern life that football and its heroes can bring for its fans. It was written by screen writer Paul Laverty and directed by English director Ken Loach. The film’s cast includes former professional footballer Eric Cantona and former bassist with The Fall, Steve Evets.  

Director Ken Loach said of the film, “We wanted to deflate the idea of celebrities as more than human. And we wanted to make a film that was enjoying the idea of what you and I would call solidarity, but what others would call support for your friends really, and the old idea that we are stronger as a team than we are as individuals.”


9. Fever Pitch (1997)

Fever Pitch is a 1997 film starring Colin Firth based loosely on the book of the same name by Nick Hornby.  Hornby adapted the book for the screen and fictionalized the story, concentrating on Arsenal’s First Division championship-winning season in 1988-89 and its effect on the protagonist’s romantic relationship.

Firth plays “Paul Ashworth”, the character based on Hornby, a teacher at a school in North London, and his burgeoning romance with Sarah Hughes (Ruth Gemmell), a new teacher who joins Ashworth’s school. The film culminates with the real life events of Arsenal’s match against title rivals Liverpool in the final game of the season on May 26, 1989, a Michael Thomas last-minute goal giving Arsenal the 2–0 win they needed to win the title.

In 2005, the film was remade in an American version also entitled Fever Pitch starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, with the World-Series-winning 2004 Boston Red Sox replacing Arsenal. To avoid confusion, this film is known as The Perfect Catch in the U.K.


8. Victory (1981)

Escape to Victory, known simply as Victory in North America, is a 1981 film about Allied prisoners of war who are interned in a German prison camp during World War II. The film was directed by John Huston and stars Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone and Max von Sydow.  

The film received great attention upon its theatrical release, as it also starred football superstars Bobby Moore, Osvaldo Ardiles, Kazimierz Deyna, Paul Van Himst and Pelé. Numerous Ipswich Town F.C. players were also in the film, including John Wark, Russell Osman, Laurie Sivell, Robin Turner and Kevin O’Callaghan. Further Ipswich Town players stood in for actors in the football scenes – Kevin Beattie for Michael Caine, and Paul Cooper for Sylvester Stallone. The script was written by Yabo Yablonsky.

SPOILERS: Association football plays an integral part of the film. The Allied prisoners of war (POWs), coached and represented by Englishman John Colby (Michael Caine), who was a professional footballer for West Ham United before the war, agree to play an exhibition match against a German team, only to find themselves involved in a German propaganda stunt.

In the end, the POWs can leave the German camp only to play the match; they are to be imprisoned again following the match. Despite the match officials being heavily biased towards the Germans, and the German team causing several deliberate injuries to the Allied players, a draw is achieved after great performances from Luis Fernandez (portrayed by Pelé), Carlos Rey (portrayed by Osvaldo Ardiles) and Arthur Hayes (portrayed by John Wark).

American POW Robert Hatch (Sylvester Stallone) plays goalkeeper, and makes excellent saves including one last save from a penalty kick as time expires to deny the Germans the win, drawing the game 4–4. Before the penalty kick the POWs had scored a goal which was disallowed by the referee, for a dubious offside decision, making the score 5–4 which prompted the crowd to shout “Victoire!”


7. The Damned United (2009)

The Damned United is a 2009 British sports drama film directed by Tom Hooper and adapted by Peter Morgan from David Peace’s bestselling novel The Damned Utd, a largely fictional book based on the author’s interpretation of Brian Clough’s tenure as manager of Leeds United. It was produced by BBC Films and Left Bank Pictures, with additional funding from Screen Yorkshire and Columbia Pictures. Sony Pictures Entertainment distributed the film. The film was originally proposed by Stephen Frears, but he pulled out of the project in November 2007.

Tom Hooper took his place and film was shot from May to July 2008.The film also marks the fifth collaboration between screenwriter Peter Morgan and actor Michael Sheen. The Film was released in the United Kingdom on 27 March 2009.

The film has been extremely well received by film critics and currently holds a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Clough’s widow, Barbara Clough, who was already an outspoken critic of Peace’s book, expressed disappointment that the film was being made, insisting the majority of it never happened. On the implication that it would be similar to the book, she said “It’s going to be pretty dire”. Andy Harries responded by stating that “[The filmmakers’] goal is to tell a wonderful and extraordinary story with universal themes of success, jealousy and betrayal”.

Filmmaker Donald Shaw criticised Sony’s decision to release the film six days after what would have been Clough’s 74th birthday. He said that Clough’s family were “annoyed” that the film had even been made. The Clough family declined an invitation to a preview of the film, and have stated that they loathe the whole idea of the film. Nigel Clough says he has spoken to people within football who have told him the film bears no resemblance to what actually happened.


6. Offside (2006)

Offside is a 2006 Iranian film about girls who try to watch a World Cup qualifying match but are forbidden by law because of their sex. Female fans are not allowed to enter football stadiums in Iran on the grounds that there will be a high risk of violence or verbal abuse against them. The film was inspired by director Jafar Panahi’s daughter, who decided to attend a game anyway.
The film was shot in Iran but its screening was banned there.

The film received very positive reviews from critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 97% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 76 reviews. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 85 out of 100, based on 25 reviews. The film won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival Grand Jury Prize in 2006, and was in the official selection for the 2006 New York and Toronto Film Festivals.


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5. Bend It like Beckham (2002)

Bend It Like Beckham is a 2002 dramedy film starring Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley first released in the United Kingdom. The film was directed by Gurinder Chadha. Its title comes from the football player David Beckham and his skill at scoring from free kicks by “bending” (curving) the ball past a wall of defenders.

The film surprised the critics, and it was met with mostly positive reviews. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times noted that the film “was really full of easy humor, an impeccable sense of milieu that is the result of knowing the culture intimately enough to poke fun at it while understanding its underlying integrity.”

The Times of India noted that Bend It “is really about the bending of rules, social paradigms and lives – all to finally curl that ball, bending it like Beckham, through the goalpost of ambition […] The creeping divide shows that Britain is changing, but hasn’t quite changed yet. The stiff upper lip has traveled miles from the time Chadha’s father was denied a pint at some pubs at Southall, but like dollops of coagulated spice in badly stirred curry, discrimination crops up to spoil the taste, every now and then, in multi-racial Britain.”

Planet Bollywood gave the film a 9 out of 10 and stated that the “screenplay not only explores the development of Jesse as a person, but also the changing values and culture of NRI teens: Jess’ urge to break the social norm of the Indian homemaker, her sister’s (Archie Punjabi) sexually-active relationship, and the gay Indian [Tony, played by Ameet Chana].”

The Hindu argues, “if ever there is a film that is positive, realistic and yet delightful, then it has to be Dream Production’s latest venture directed by Gurinder Chadha […] Light hearted, without taking away the considerable substance in terms of values, attitudes and the love for sport, the film just goes to prove that there are ways to be convincing and honest.”

The BBC gave it 4 out of 5 stars and argued that “Mr. Beckham ought to be proud to have his name on such a great film.”  The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave Bend It Like Beckham a rating of 85%, based upon 142 reviews (120 fresh and 22 rotten).


4. Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos (2006)

Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos is a documentary film about the New York Cosmos, one of the most famous football (soccer) clubs ever in the United States.  The movie premiered on July 7, 2006 in the New York City area. Miramax distributed the film only in limited release.  

The movie combines the narration of veteran actor Matt Dillon with interviews with many of the team’s legendary star players (with the notable exception of Pelé) and footage of the team in the North American Soccer League in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  The film was released in conjunction with a companion piece book, Once in a Lifetime: The Incredible Story of the New York Cosmos, written by Gavin Newsham and released in 2006.


3. Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Shaolin Soccer is a 2001 Hong Kong comedy film co-written and directed by Stephen Chow, who also stars in the film. A former Shaolin monk reunites his five brothers, years after their master’s death, to apply their superhuman martial arts skills to play soccer and bring Shaolin kung fu to the masses.  In 2008 a sequel, produced by, but not starring Stephen Chow, was released entitled Shaolin Girl.

Very few of the cast from the original film made an appearance. Shaolin Soccer did well at Hong Kong box office eventually grossing HK$60,739,847, making it the highest grossing film in Hong Kong history at the time. This record held until 2004 when it was topped by Stephen Chow’s next feature Kung Fu Hustle and solidifying Stephen Chow as the undisputed box office king of Hong Kong.  Shaolin Soccer received highly positive reviews from film critics, review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 91% of critics had given the film positive reviews based on 86 reviews. And 100% from top critics.


2. Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006)    

Zidane, A 21st Century Portrait (French: Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle) is a documentary film in which the main subject is French football player Zinedine Zidane. The film is a documentary focused purely on Zidane during the Spanish Liga Real Madrid vs. Villarreal CF game on April 23, 2005 at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium and was filmed in real time using 17 synchronized cameras. During the last minutes of that match, Zidane was sent off as a result of a brawl.

The film bears a remarkable similarity to Football As Never Before, a documentary made in 1970 by acclaimed German filmmaker Hellmuth Costard about Manchester United footballer George Best. In this experimental film Costard used eight 16mm film cameras to follow Best, in real time, for the course of an entire game against Coventry City.


1. Gregory’s Girl (1981)

Gregory’s Girl is a 1981 coming-of-age romantic comedy film written and directed by Bill Forsyth. Like many of Forsyth’s movies, it is set in his native Scotland.  The film is set in and around a state secondary school in the Abronhill district of Cumbernauld. It features John Gordon Sinclair, Dee Hepburn, Clare Grogan, among others. Grogan’s role helped promote her career, as she was in the band Altered Images at the time of the film’s release.  

Gregory’s Girl was ranked 30th in the British Film Institute’s list of the top 100 British films and 29th on Entertainment Weekly’s list of the 50 best high school movies. Film critic Roger Ebert liked the film’s direction, and wrote “Bill Forsyth’s Gregory’s Girl is a charming, innocent, very funny little movie about the weird kid…. The movie contains so much wisdom about being alive and teenage and vulnerable that maybe it would even be painful for a teenager to see it…. Maybe only grown-ups should see this movie. You know, people who have gotten over the pains of unrequited love (hollow laugh).”

The staff at Variety liked the work of the young cast and Forsyth’s direction, and wrote, “Filmmaker Bill Forsyth, whose friendly, unmalicious approach recalls that of Rene Clair, is concerned with young students (in particular, a soccer team goalie, Gregory) seeking out the opposite sex…. As Gregory, John Gordon Sinclair is adept at physical comedy. Hepburn is properly enigmatic as the object of his desire, with ensemble approach giving Greg’s precocious 10-year-old sister played by Allison Forster a key femme role.”



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