With the European Championships already under-way, it seems the perfect time to celebrate football on film in all its glory. With a global audience of over 300 million, it seems only natural that acclaimed film directors would, before long, attempt to tap into the money tree that is world football.
Sports-based films have always been something of a mixed bag. For every Chariots of Fire there’s an Any Given Sunday, for every Million Dollar Baby there’s The Waterboy, and football based films have only managed to continue this inconsistent run of quality.
Let’s begin with the more recent Green Street. Allow us to set the scene. Elijah Wood is an American college student who joins a violent football firm run by his brother in-law. If you’re still interested at this point then the film is right up your street or you need to broaden your taste in film. Violent and messy, dodgy accents are the least of your problems here.
Keeping close to home, next up is the oddly named Bend it like Beckham. To stumble upon a title such as this one you could be forgiven for assuming the film is a documentary showcasing the skills of former England international David Beckham, much in the style of Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. Unfortunately the footballer turned model turned ambassador turned media puppet doesn’t make an appearance and is barely referenced. The film itself could be considered a light hearted take on a girl’s dream to break free of her social and religious ties.
Saving the best for last, this film provides probably the finest ever football to have ever graced our screens. The Damned United features Michael Sheen as the egotistic yet loveable Brian Clough. The film showcases Clough’s turbulent short-lived reign at Leeds United, replacing former manager Don Revie. Sheen, continuing the trend of his performance as both Tony Blair (The Queen) and David Frost (Frost/Nixon), is pitch perfect and manages to successfully capture Clough’s famous mannerisms. The supporting cast, including Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney and Jim Broadbent, are also a delight to watch.
Other notable achievements include the Colin Firth comedy Fever Pitch and the ‘so bad it’s good’ Escape to Victory. Stallone, Caine, Von Sydow, Pele, Moore. What else could anyone ask for? If Stallone spent more time working on an Escape to Victory reunion instead of trying to relive his action glory days with the likes of Statham, Rourke and Willis, he just might be able to salvage the last crumbs of his dignity, or, then again, maybe not.