Top 10 Best Football Movies

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Football (or soccer) is the biggest sport on Earth by a long way, but it’s never really taken hold of the world’s cineplexes like many other sports. Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great football movies out there, and with the latest edition of the Women’s World Cup under way, there’s no better time to look through the top 10 best football movies.


10. She’s The Man (2006)

Now, She’s The Man is far from the perfect movie. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s an infuriatingly cheesy mess of a film, worsened by an irritatingly cheery lead performance from Amanda Bynes and a relative lack of good comedy.

However, while its presence on this list proves how lacking cinema is in really great football movies, there is actually a surprising amount to like about She’s The Man. Particularly if you’re still of a fondness for Disney Channel Original Movies, the film has all of those innocent, light-hearted and fluffy qualities to enjoy and smile at.

And although the central romance is beyond cheesy, it does tell an admittedly uplifting and enjoyable story of personal determination and drive as we watch Amanda Bynes’ character do anything to be recognised for her footballing talent, to the point of disguising herself and dressing up as a boy: an enjoyable, albeit often rather crazy premise to follow throughout.

Read a full review here.


9. Gregory’s Girl (1981)

Perhaps not as focused on the footballing side of things as the romance, Gregory’s Girl is still a delightful, heartfelt coming-of-age story that revolves around the beautiful game.

Following the story of an awkward teenager who falls in love with a girl who becomes the best player on the school’s football team, the movie tells the classic story of young love in wonderfully wistful and nostalgic fashion, as the young, idealistic Gregory becomes aware of the realities of love and the adult world.

In the process, his school’s bumbling football team go from strength to strength as Gregory grows closer to the girl he has an eye for, and with a thoroughly pleasant and relatable presentation of playground football, the film will prove an equally nostalgic watch for anyone who played the sport at school.

Read a full review here.


8. Holy Goalie (2018)

The Champions League of Catholic monasteries may not be the first thing you think about when it comes to football, but that’s what the Spanish sports comedy Holy Goalie focuses on. It’s not a true story, but it makes for a fairly entertaining satire of the quirks of the Catholic Church in the modern day, as well as some fun sporting action throughout.

Although it’s far from the funniest football movie ever made, Holy Goalie has got the charm and energy to prove an entertaining watch regardless, with a selection of thoroughly enjoyable performances from the likes of Alain Hernández and Karra Elejalde that give the movie a light-hearted, fun-loving vibe, complementing the rather ludicrous nature of its central footballing focus.

So if you’re into the quirkier side of the beautiful game, and the many guises that football can take around the world, Holy Goalie offers up a delightfully enjoyable watch, with enough quirky humour and strong comedic energy to entertain throughout.

Read a full review here.


7. Mean Machine (2001)

What Mean Machine lacks in real narrative grit it makes up for in effortlessly likable charisma in the form of Vinnie Jones doing what he does best. A British adaptation of the Hollywood classic The Longest Yard, except focusing this time on football/soccer rather than American football, Mean Machine is a pretty fun watch, albeit far from the greatest sports movie you’ll ever see.

The story of a former national team player who finds himself in prison for match fixing, the film takes Vinnie Jones through all manner of ridiculous scenarios and meetings with zany fellow inmates that eventually take him to captaining a team of prisoners that, while a little on the cheesy side, is one of the most entertaining fictional football matches you’re likely to see on film.

Combining Jones’ natural sporting skill with his classic charisma and humour, as well as a supporting cast full of laughs with the likes of Jason Statham, Jason Flemyng, Danny Dyer and more, Mean Machine has the fun factor to make for an entertaining watch, and a footballing finale that throws up quite a lot more excitement than many others.

Read a full review here.


6. Escape To Victory (1981)

Escape To Victory is a film that, if proof were needed, shows that Hollywood just doesn’t ‘get’ football. A lack of understanding for the game in the American film industry is a major reason that it’s never matched the big screen successes of many other sports, and that’s largely because Hollywood churns out films like this whenever it has an attempt.

It tells the ludicrous and fairly preposterous story of a group of POWs in Nazi Germany who find themselves clubbing together to make a football team, and intend on using a match between themselves and an all-star Nazi team as a way of escaping camp. The problem, while it does have some fun-loving, almost laughably entertaining qualities about it, is that the story’s use of football is so detached from the reality of the game, with painfully predictable scripting that would work in an American football movie, but just feels utterly out of place when it comes to soccer.

With that said, Escape To Victory offers up somewhat of a novelty in the analogues of football on film, with an all-star cast composed of the likes of Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone and even Pelé, and although they don’t all gel particularly well together on screen, it’s the sort of film you don’t see too often, and that makes it worth the watch.

Read a full review here.


5. Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Shaolin Soccer is about as off-the-chain as you’ll ever see football on the big screen, with ludicrous martial arts acrobatics coupled with an insane and rapid-fire sense of humour that’s such a hallmark of Hong Kong comedies.

So, if you’re wanting a football movie that doesn’t take the sport in the slightest bit seriously, but takes the premise and dials it up to 11 with the introduction of kung fu kicks and dazzling action choreography, then Shaolin Soccer is the movie for you. And with that insanely zany brand of humour throughout, the film has got some great laughs, making it a memorably ridiculous take on the beautiful game that you won’t see anywhere else.

The only downside is the fact that, for all its over-the-top fun and games, Shaolin Soccer has absolutely nothing in the way of a decent story. Sure, there’s a basic plotline, but it’s effectively used as a vehicle to get the characters into all manner of crazy situations, meaning that, while it’s an enjoyable watch, Shaolin Soccer is far from the most engaging football film you’ll ever see.

Read a full review here.


4. Goal! The Dream Begins (2005)

Call it cheesy, melodramatic or whatever you like, but Goal! is a film that’s always felt rather special to me. As pretty much the only film to ever take on the world of modern football with a fictional story, it’s a unique watch, and thanks to its massive budget, it’s full of all the details and personalities that make up the footballing world, meaning fans of the sport will find it an absolute delight.

The story of a young player who rises from nowhere to playing for Premier League team Newcastle United, Goal! fantastically captures so much of the modern game, and its footballing aspect, with the struggles of this young star to adapt to the English game at the top level, is really well-presented right the way through.

The only area where the film is lacking is in real, genuine dramatic depth, because while it also takes a look at the player’s life away from the pitch, much of that story is really rather cheesy, and despite featuring a young Anna Friel in the supporting role, the film doesn’t really manage to hook you onto its personal story quite as much as the sporting side.

Still, if you want to see a number of contemporary footballers trying their hands at acting, as well as a story that’s a forerunner to FIFA’s ingame movie The Journey, then Goal! is a must-watch.

Read a full review here.


3. Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

Already an absolute classic of football on the big screen, it’s difficult not to find something to love about Bend It Like Beckham, a wonderfully genuine and uplifting movie about grassroots football and the drive to succeed.

It tells the story of a girl from an Indian family in West London who, despite her love and clear talent for the sport, is rejected from taking football any further by her family. In that, the film has a brilliant and engaging premise from beginning to end, with young Jess being caught in an enthralling dilemma between her family loyalties and her love for football.

The premise may sound a little cheesy at first, but Bend It Like Beckham is a film that’s so full of heart, humour and excellent drama that it all works really well together, while also featuring a breakout performance from a young Keira Knightley, and that’s what makes it a thoroughly memorable and enjoyable watch throughout.

Read a full review here.


2. Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001)

Now, I’ll confess – if you know nothing about football, then it’s likely that a lot of Mike Bassett: England Manager will be lost on you. However, it’s such a hilarious movie that, even if you don’t understand many of its references, you’re still likely to be wetting yourself laughing from beginning to end.

Following the story of the former manager of Norwich City who is suddenly recruited to be manager of the England football team – because nobody else wanted to take the job – the film follows his shambolic tenure as coach as the team arrives in Brazil for the World Cup.

Now, if you’ve ever followed the England football team, that story will sound very familiar, and that’s where the best of Mike Bassett’s comedy comes from, working as a hilarious satire on the chaos that comes with one of the most stressful jobs in football, created by the media frenzy and ludicrous fan expectations placed on the England team.

However, even if you’re not into your football, there is still a lot to enjoy here, and while some of the smaller satirical references and in-jokes may go over your head, Mike Bassett’s bumbling demeanour and the sheer chaos that the team finds itself in upon arriving at the World Cup is utterly hilarious, making for what is surely the funniest football movie of all.

Read a full review here.


1. The Damned United (2009)

Easily the best football biopic of all time, The Damned United is a really great movie, telling the story of the rise and fall of legendary manager Brian Clough during some of English football’s most brutal years.

Capturing the real-world intensity and excitement of the game like no other film, The Damned United portrays the struggles of the once-great Leeds United after taking on former Derby County manager Brian Clough, all the while giving an intimate and immensely engrossing portrayal of Clough’s own life, thereby balancing on-pitch and off-pitch action and intrigue like no other film.

Take all that and, with a fantastic central performance from Michael Sheen, you have a film that’s an enthralling watch from beginning to end, coupled with some of the best and most dynamic on-pitch cinematography you’ve ever seen, with some of English football’s most brutal, intense and muddy games brought to life in stunning fashion.

What may at first feel like a TV biopic develops brilliantly into a film with both sporting excitement and real emotional gravitas, all the while giving a fantastic portrayal not only of Brian Clough’s managerial career, but also getting across the essence of English football in a way that no other film has really managed beforehand, and that’s why it’s my pick for the best football movie of all time.

Read a full review here.

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About Author

The Mad Movie Man, AKA Anthony Cullen, writes articles and reviews about movies and the world of cinema. Since January 1st, 2013, he has watched and reviewed a movie every day. This is the blog dedicated to the project: www.madmovieman.com