Even if you aren’t a die hard soccer fan, 2014 FIFA World Cup is a big deal. If you’ve been caught up in the World Cup spirit, here’s the top 10 best soccer films that will cement your passion for “the beautiful game”.
10. Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001)
More a disaster film than an uplifting football experience, this rough and tumble story follows the idealistic Mike Bassett (memorably played by the Royle Family’s Ricky Tomlinson) as he is unexpectedly hired as the English soccer team’s manager before the World Cup and spectacularly fails at every turn.
Why it’s great: Bassett has bad luck but you can’t help wanting him to succeed against all odds.
9. The Cup (1999)
Set in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, The Cup chronicles the arrival of a TV set and the young monks-in-training’s search for a satellite dish to watch the World Cup.
Why it’s great: An absurd movie with football at its heart.
8. Gregory’s Girl (1981)
There is no doubt this Scottish coming-of-age comedy has dated but for legions of kids who grew up in the 1980s this was a film that will be fondly remembered. Gregory (John Gordon Sinclair) is having a hard time in his struggling football team. When the coach enlists a girl (aka The Girl), Gregory simultaneously falls in love and learns that girls can be better than boys at pretty much everything.
Why it’s great: Gregory’s Girl was ranked at 30 in the British Film Institute’s 100 best British films of all time.
7. The Heartbreak Kid (1993)
Alex Dimitriades (The Slap) and Claudia Karvan (Love My Way, Puberty Blues) play teacher-student lovers in this fantastic Australian film. Dimitriades’ debut performance as 17-year-old Nick Polides received rave reviews. Karvan as the tortured 22-year-old engaged Greek-Australian good girl, Christina, was also highly memorable. Soccer is a central theme in this story as Christina and Nick get close when she is made coach of the school football team.
Why this is great: Dimitriades is brilliant as the sexy student.
6. Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006)
An artsy film that is exquisitely shot and made. This documentary follows French champion Zinedane Zidane during one match in 2005. Using 17 synchronised cameras, the directors filmed this beautiful doco in real time.
Why it’s great: The ending is bittersweet and summed up the problem with the volatile Zidane perfectly. And the Mogwai soundtrack is great.
5. Bend it Like Beckham (2002)
The British film that changed women’s soccer forever, Bend It Like Beckham took a multicultural look at one girl’s soccer fixation and her conflicting family responsibilities. As a soccer film, it introduced girls all over the world to the game. As a romantic comedy, director Gurinder Chadha nailed the race issues between Jess (Parminder Nagra) and her coach, Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Myers).
Why it’s great: The final goal scene when Jess’ sister, mother and relatives are placed on the field in front of an important scoring opportunity is gold.
4. The Damned United (2009)
Michael Sheen (The Queen) is brilliant as the doomed football manager Brian Clough, who was brought into run Leeds United for 44 long days in 1974. Directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Miserables) The Damned United is the most intense film on this list and diehard fans will love it.
Why it’s great: Sheen’s motormouth performance.
3. Fever Pitch (1997)
Adapted from Nick Hornby’s best selling 1992 autobiographical novel of the same name, Fever Pitch stars Colin Firth as the football mad Paul Ashworth. During Arsenel’s First Division winning season in 1988-1989, Ashworth, a London teacher, must decide between his love for his club and his burgeoning relationship with Sarah, a new colleague at his school.
Why it’s great: This pretty much sums every football lover’s divisive football versus life passion.
2. Looking for Eric (2009)
Directed by the great British director Ken Loach (Ae Fond Kiss, The Wind That Shakes the Barley), Looking For Eric centres around British postman Eric Bishop’s obsession with French footballer Eric Cantona and soccer. The postie uses his love for Cantona (who also stars in the film as a hallucinatory version of himself) and Manchester United football club to escape and fix a family crisis.
Why it’s great: In a word: Cantona.
1.Escape to Victory (1981)
A film that always makes both the best and worst football film lists of all time, this is a genuine classic from Oscar winning director John Huston. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine and Max Von Sydow, Escape to Victory is a soccer film dressed up in WWII attire. Set in a German Prisoner of War camp, of course the Nazis are the villains, but it’s the cavalcade of real-life legends like Pele and Bobby Moore that lift this movie into icon territory. Rumours of a remake have just hit the internet, so watch this space.
Why it’s great: Aside from great soccer, the feel-good Allied team’s journey will bring a tear to your eye.
What’s your favourite? Tell us below.