It’s a rare thing – a good football movie. For every classic of the genre, we have a dozen more Playing for Keeps, Soccer Dog: European Cup and Mad About Mambo. Fortunately though, we won’t be spending too much time dwelling on those cinematic abominations.
Instead we’ve decided to collate a list of the best football movies ever made – the truly top tier films. Read on to find out which classics have made it onto our list…
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
If you are old enough to have been a kid when this film came out, you’ll be more than aware of the Beckham mania that was sweeping the country at the time. Following on from his dramatic last-gasp winning free-kick against Greece in a World Cup qualifier, David Beckham was an English football icon. Ever since that day, anybody looking to bet on football games that David Beckham participated in, would consider the possibility that he would score another one of his famous free kicks. He often did, gaining a reputation for lethal accuracy and struck fear into the hearts of the opposition, raising pulses anytime he took a free kick in their half.
This 2002 film, directed by Gurinder Chadha took advantage of Beckham’s popularity by referencing his dead ball abilities in the title. The film follows Jesminder “Jess” Bhamra, the daughter of British Indian Sikhs who is attempting to forge a career for herself in professional football.
Jess not only comes up against the negative stereotypes afforded to women’s football at the time but against racial intolerances too. Which makes for a football film with far more emotional depth than you would expect.
(The original trailer for Bend It Like Beckham.)
The Damned United (2009)
Brian Clough, widely regarded as the best manager never to have managed England, took Second Division Derby to the First Division title and the brink of European glory. 6 years later he replicated that feat with Nottingham Forest before going one (then two) further and winning successive European Cups with the East Midlands side.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Clough during his managerial career however, with an ill-fated spell at Leeds United going someway to knocking him off his perch. This 2009 film tells the story of Clough’s tumultuous 44-day stint at Elland Road.
Welsh actor Michael Sheen plays Ol’ Big Head with aplomb, masterfully pulling off the accent, mannerisms and swagger of the great man.
One of the standout scenes in the movie comes when Clough reiterates to the board why he has taken the job saying, “The only name anyone sings in the Yorkshire ale houses, raising their stinking jars to their stinking mouths is Brian Clough. Brian Clough uber-f*cking-alles! Understand?”
(The Damned United trailer.)
Maradona by Kusturica (2008)
Diego Armando Maradona, arguably the greatest footballer to have ever lived, has been the subject of multiple books, TV shows and films throughout the years. Amongst some of the rubbish made there are a couple of diamonds in the rough, including this 2008 film directed by Emir Kusturica.
The film not only focuses on the amazing career that the Argentinian had but also takes a look at some of the less savoury parts of his character – the addiction to cocaine amongst them. It paints him as a flawed character, a revolutionary and a sporting icon.
For anyone with even the faintest interest in football, Maradona by Kusturica is an absolute must-watch.
(Premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008, Maradona by Kusturica tells the complete story of one of football’s biggest cult icons.)
Fever Pitch (1997)
Why do we spend our Tuesday evenings driving half the length of the country to watch our football team struggle to a 1-1 draw with a bottom of the table struggler? Is it because we’re slightly mad? Maybe. Obsessed? Definitely.
Nick Hornby answered that question emphatically in his 1992 book Fever Pitch which was part memoir and part love letter to his beloved Arsenal. The book captures what it means to be a football fan and the film, which was released 5 years later encapsulates that brilliantly on the silver screen.
Want to pay homage to your football fandom or have it explained to someone in your life that just doesn’t get it? Get this film on the TV then.
(The tagline to the Fever Pitch film was, ‘Life gets complicated when you love one woman and worship eleven men’. Preach!)
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