Football Films: The Best Ever Eleven

The drama. The intensity. The passion. The teamwork. The beautiful game has plenty to offer filmmakers. More than a few have realized the potential football offers and have served up some quality kick-abouts on the silver screen. This first eleven dream team is made up of the greatest football films ever created.


  1. Kicking & Screaming (2005)

Will Ferrell stars as the madcap coach of a kid’s ‘soccer’ team, determined to take on the successful side coached by his overbearing father (Robert Duvall). The quality cast provides plenty of laughs in this riotous comedy that captures the burgeoning popularity of ‘soccer’ amongst America’s youth.


  1. Goal! The Dream Begins (2005)

Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker) stars as an illegal immigrant living in L.A. who catches the attention of former football scout Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane). There’s redemption and overcoming of obstacles by the bucketload in a film which ticks off every cliché on the sports movie checklist.

Despite cardboard thin characters and an incredibly predictable plot, Goal! still manages to capture the Premier League passion of Santiago’s eventual club Newcastle United and their city of supporters admirably.


  1. Escape to Victory (1981)

Sylvester Stallone. Michael Caine. Pele. This unlikely group of P.O.W.s take on their German captors in a film that is enjoyable as it is ludicrous. Despite playing a goalkeeper, Stallone apparently demanded he score the winning goal, which caused the filmmakers to alter the ending to pit the Allied team against the Germans in a penalty shootout.

In a typically unrealistic Hollywood ending, the Allies actually beat the Germans on penalties.


  1. The Football Factory (2004)

Danny Dyer plays the same cheeky Cockney chap he always plays, this time as a member of the Chelsea Headhunters firm. This is the film that caused an avalanche of football hooligan films to hit cinemas.

Was it worth it? ‘Cause it flippin’ was.


  1. Fever Pitch (1997)

Based on Nick Hornby’s largely autobiographical account of his life as an Arsenal fan, the film casts Colin Firth as the obsessive Gooner trying to strike a balance between following his team’s rollercoaster 1988/89 league winning season and carrying on a romantic relationship with Sarah Hughes (Ruth Gemmell).

This film will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever found themselves caught between love for a woman and love for the game.


  1. Africa United (2010)

This heart-warming film tells the tale of three Rwandan schoolchildren who make an epic cross-continent trek to the 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa. Capturing African life beyond the view of most football fans, this feel-good film shows the lighter side of the tournament, away from Nigel DeJong’s kung-fu kicks and Germany embarrassing the once-proud footballing nations of England and Argentina.


  1. The Damned United (2009)

Before Jose Mourinho there was Brian Clough. The original outspoken megalomaniac football manager is brilliantly played by Michael Sheen in a film that follows Clough’s ill-fated attempt to take on England’s then-biggest club, Leeds United. With flashbacks to the glorious successes of his earlier career contrasted against his friction-filled dealings with the Leeds squad, this film expertly captures the essence of one of football’s biggest characters.


  1. Bend it like Beckham (2002)

This uplifting tale of a young Sihk girl (Parminder Nagra) who rebels against her strict parents to join Keira Knightley on the local girl’s football team will melt the heart of the hardest football hooligan. Well, near enough. Bend it like Beckham puts a fresh spin on a formula that checks all the sports movie boxes and is probably the most successful film ever set in Hounslow.


  1. Green Street (2005)

The Football Factory with Frodo cast as a West Ham fan? Prior to release, this film was the subject of much sneering from British football fans. But as it transpired, Elijah Wood was surprisingly well cast as an American outsider who gets caught up in the fun of fist-fights with West Ham United’s Green Street firm.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, Green Street ended up being better than The Football Factory, the success of which got Green Street green-lit.


  1. Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Perhaps the most bizarre football film ever made, Shaolin Soccer marries the beautiful game to the noble art of kung-fu to create a visually dazzling mad-cap movie. The action set-pieces are truly breathtaking and the dazzling showmanship on display from the Chinese cast is enough to put the likes of Messi and Ronaldo to shame.


  1. Looking for Eric (2009)

British director Ken Loach is renowned for the gritty realism of his films. Initially, Looking for Eric is no different. It tells the tale of postman Eric Bishop (Steve Evets), who struggles to control his kids and plod through life in grim inner-city Manchester. The fantasy world of football helps Bishop cope and it’s when Loach lets fantasy run loose that the film really gets going. Bishop starts being visited by an apparition of Manchester United legend Eric Cantona, whose rambling philosophical speeches help him get his house in order.

This unique and uplifting film truly captures the magical potential the beautiful game holds for its fans.


Written by Tom Wilkins

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