Ah, the beautiful game. Ninety minutes, two halves, 22 men on a pitch and more drama than a soap opera. Football or soccer to some is a sport loved worldwide, dating as far back as 1863 and bringing both tears and joy to die-hard fans. Unsurprisingly it has been the subject of many films over the years, some successful and some deserving of a red card. Here are six of them.
Escape to Victory (1981)
A remake of the 1961 Hungarian film, Two Halves in Hell, Escape to Victory presents a group of allied prisoners of war with the opportunity to play a German team as part of a propaganda stunt. Starring Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone it gained notoriety for featuring many well-known footballers including Pele, Bobby Moore and Ossie Ardiles.
With a plan to escape via the dressing room at halftime, the players ultimately decide to return to the pitch and come back from a losing position to draw 4 all. Having denied the Germans their win a celebrating crowd storm the pitch and the allied players use it as cover to escape.
The Damned United (2009)
Back in the late 60s early 70s Derby County were riding high in the first division winning the league in 1972 and reaching the semi-finals of the following year’s European Cup. Their manager was the legendary no-nonsense Brian Clough.
When Leeds United’s manager Don Revie took over as England manager, Clough was targeted as his replacement at Leeds in 1974. Expecting big things from him, it didn’t quite pan out as all had hoped and he was sacked after just 44 days in the job. Despite numerous historical inaccuracies, Michael Sheen’s portrayal as Brian Clough makes this film a must-watch.
The first in a trilogy of films Goal! also known as Goal! The Dream Begins was released in 2005 and followed the burgeoning career of Mexican footballer Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker) as he moves from Los Angeles to England to play for Newcastle United. Forming friendships and rivalries within the team and dealing with asthma, Munez saves the day in the final game scoring a winning goal that guarantees Newcastle a place in the Champions League.
It contained some impressive football sequences, but its story was deemed cliche. The sequel Goal! II: Living the Dream (2007) followed Santiago’s move to Real Madrid and the final instalment Goal III: Taking on the World (2009) followed Munez and two English players at the World Cup.
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Womens football is becoming more and more popular especially in England since the lionesses won Euro 2022. However, all the way back in 2002 a low-budget British film, Bend it Like Beckham celebrated the women’s game.
It followed two young women, Jess and Jules played by Parminder Nagra and Kiera Knightley respectively pursuing a professional career in football. Unfortunately, Jess’s parents do not support her ambitions and she has to hide her playing from them. As expected with such a title, the film culminates with Jess scoring a free kick to help her team win the cup final.
Mean Machine (2001)
A remake of the 1974 American film The Longest Yard, Mean Machine relocates the story to good ol’ Blighty. When an ex-footballer ends up inside, he trains a ragtag group of convicts to compete in a football match against the prison wardens.
Much like Escape to Victory, Mean Machine stars the footballer-turned-actor Vinnie Jones as Danny “The Mean Machine” Meehan, a disgraced former England captain banned from football for life for fixing a match they played against Germany. The film contained decent football sequences and received mixed reviews from critics, but has gone on to become a cult favourite.
Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001)
The England national team have had many managers over the years, but none worse than Mike Bassett, played hilariously by national treasure Ricky Tomlinson. Having won the fictional Mr Clutch Cup with Norwich City, Bassett is offered the vacant job of England manager due to no one else willing to take on the role.
He’s thrown in at the deep end leading the team to the world cup finals in Brazil, but manages to get them as far as the semi-finals before being knocked out by the hosts. The film is remembered for its bleep-filled halftime team talk scene.
So there we have it, six films that feature the beautiful game in all its glory and misery. Are there any you think we missed, let us know in the comments below.