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Best Football (Soccer) Movies

With the World Cup underway there are so many questions. Who will win? Can England finally regain glory after 44 years? Can Spain, Portugal or the Netherlands win their first World Cup? Could an African team finally win the tournament? Could Americans finally become interested in footb—soccer?

Well, if you are looking for other ways to scratch a newfound itch for pitch, we PAMers have a list of some of the most famous football films for you.

Mean Machine

From the producer of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch is a British remake of The Longest Yard, translating the film’s premise from American football to soccer football. Former Wimbledon footballer Vinnie Jones plays Danny Meehan, a former England captain who is imprisoned for match-fixing. As you can imagine a number of prisoners don’t like him for this reason. He gets an offer by the prison governor (David Hemmings) to coach the prison guards team, but Meehan instead coaches and plays for a team of prison misfits, including a psychotic goalkeeper played by Jason Statham


The Game of Their Lives

Football has never had a big following in America, with their best player often having to move to Europe to excel in the sport. But one of the biggest results in American soccer was back in 1950 when a team of amateurs beat England, the best team in the world in the World Cup (which is depressing for me because I’m English). David Anspaugh brings this story to the big screen with telling the victory and the story of the players in this amazing victory.


The Damned United

 
Based on the brilliant novel of the same name by David Pearce, The Damned United tells the story of Brain “Cloughie” Clough, one of the greatest football managers. Michael Sheen takes the role of Clough as the film tells two parallel stories: his rise as Derby Country’s manager, turning them into a major force in English football and his rivalry with Don Revie. The other is Clough’s fateful 44-day reign as Leeds United manager, a team considered to be the best in England at the time. 
The Damned United was a very well-acted film with top performances from Sheen and Timothy Spall, but it’s source material was an unfilmable novel.


Goal! The Dream Begins

With the mega bucks available from the film industry, football’s governing body, FIFA, wanted in on the action, allowing access in exchange for creative control on a trilogy of films. 
Kuno Becker plays Santiago Munez, a typical man in his early 20s who gets the chance to move from his humdrum home to live in LA to play in the English Premier League for Newcastle United. Although Goal! does play like a typical sports movie, it is still a well acted, enjoyable film. It was a slight return to form for Danny Cannon after Judge Dredd and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.

Mike Bassett: England Manager

Being manger of the England national football team is considered one of the most thankless jobs in football, with the media and fans quickly forgetting any good work after one bad result. But there have been some hopeless men who have taken the job: George Graham, Kevin Keegan and the wally with the brolly, Steve McClaren. Steve Barron make a mockumentary about Mike Bassett (Ricky Tomlinson), the newly appointed England manager who suffers the lows and lows of the one of the toughest jobs. A rather funny film with plenty of references to recent history of English football and takes a few swipes at the media and everything football related.


Escape to Victory


Loosely based on the story of the Ukrainian team Dynamo Kiev playing and winning a series of matches against German soldiers during World War II, Escape to Victory tells how a team of Prisoners-Of-War are forced to play a propaganda match against the Nazis in Paris. The POWs want to use the match as an opportunity to escape but become a symbol of resistance to the French people. 
Escape to Victory was directed by John Huston, director of The African Queen. He casts talented actors like Michael Caine, Max von Sydow and Sylvester Stallone (yes, Stallone can be a good actor) with footballing greats like Bobby Moore and Pele.
But the real story is a lot darker and much more tragic.

Shaolin Soccer

Before Stephen Chow wrote, directed and starred in the entertaining Kung Fu Hustle, he first attempted Shaolin Soccer, combining football and material arts into a unique sports comedy. A team of former Shaolin monks form a new football team with the aim to use they material arts skills to their advantage and bring their art to the masses. They become a winning force but face the ultimate test against Team Evil. This film won six awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture. Chow became noticed by the world which was useful for his follow-up. It’s just a shame Hong Kong is not that good at football.

Bend it Like Beckham

A sleeper hit back in 2003, Bend it Like Beckham was responsible for a rise in the interest in football in America and helped make Keira Knightly a star. This little film tells the story of Jesminder “Jess” Bhamra (Parminder Nagra), a young woman from an Indian background with a fixation on then Manchester United star David Beckham. Jess gets an offer to play for a local woman’s team, against her parents wishes and has to go behind their backs. But Bend it Like Beckham is more than a film about football: it is about identity, the clash between traditional Indian culture and modern British culture, parent child relationships and of course, two women looking to make their own destiny.

The Football Factory

Football has its dark side, hooliganism, which has infecting many nations like Russia, Poland, Turkey and Argentina. But it is the English that suffers the most from the stigma. There have been many films about football hooliganism, from the sublime like the TV film The Firm (1987) to the ridiculous Green Street Hooligans. But one of the best is this loose adaptation of John King’s novel. The film focuses on Tommy Johnson (Danny Dyer), a 20-something man who spends his weekends drinking, consuming heavily cut drugs and kicking the shit out of rival hooligans. He starts having recurring nightmares before the clash between Chelsea and their arch rivals Millwall in the FA Cup. It’s easily the best film Danny Dyer has starred in.


Offside

Not just a rule that few people understand, but also critically successful comedy and social commentary from Iran, winning the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Iranian woman are not allowed to see football matches, but it does not stop four women trying to see Iran’s World Cup qualifying match against Bahrain and disguise themselves as men. Director Jafar Panahi said that the film was based on his daughter’s experience and the film was banned in his home country. As the British film critic Mark Kermode said, it’s the best film about Iranian football he has ever seen.

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