Despite what they might tell you, football isn’t just a sport – it’s a passion that transcends borders and cultures. It’s a worldwide phenomenon that is beloved by people of all ages and backgrounds.
Unsurprisingly, this global love for the game has inspired numerous filmmakers to create movies that capture the drama, excitement and the emotion that football inspires in us. From heartwarming stories of triumph over adversity to thrilling sports dramas, here are our five favourite football-themed movies:
Escape to Victory -1981
This may be an oldy, but it’s a goody – and this is a classic film that has stood the test of time.
Directed by John Huston, Escape to Victory combines football with a World War II prison break. As well as a superb script and thrilling storyline, the film also features a star-studded cast – including Harry Brown star, Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone and even the football legends Pelé and Bobby Moore.
Set in a German prisoner-of-war camp, the story follows Allied prisoners who challenge their captors to a football match – leading to some unexpected results. Ultimately, this film brilliantly blends the beautiful game with the tension of an escape plan, resulting in a unique and engaging football movie that is still a favourite with many.
Bend It Like Beckham – 2002
This film might be over 20 years old, but it has never been more relevant. With the rise of women in football, more people than ever are watching women’s tournaments as they become more widely televised – and their tournaments are even represented alongside major men’s events such as the UEFA Champions League at top sites such as Boylesports. This film perfectly identifies the struggle women have had to face in the sport – and the hurdles and prejudices women have had to face in what was considered to be a ‘man’s’ game.
Directed by Gurinder Chadha, “Bend It Like Beckham” is a heartwarming coming-of-age story that explores themes of culture, the role of women in a man’s sport – and family dynamics and expectations.
The film follows Jess, a young British-Indian girl with a talent for football, as she pursues her passion despite her family’s disapproval. With excellent performances by Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley, the movie celebrates the power of dreams and the joy of playing the game – no matter what your gender.
The Damned United – 2009
Based on the real-life events surrounding Brian Clough’s brief and pretty tumultuous tenure as manager of Leeds United in the 1970s, “The Damned United” is an incredibly interesting sports drama.
Michael Sheen delivers an award-worthy performance as Clough, portraying his complex personality and ambition – and it provides us with an intimate look at the unforgiving world of football management and the challenges faced by one of England’s most iconic managers.
Goal! The Dream Begins – 2005
Goal! is the first instalment in a trilogy that follows the journey of Santiago Munez, a young Mexican-American player who dreams of playing for a top English club. Munez, played by Kuno Becker is a player whose talent takes him from the streets of LA to the somewhat rainer surroundings of Newcastle United.
This is a film that captures the very essence of perseverance, dedication and following your dreams in the world of professional football. This is a story that resonates with aspiring athletes around the globe – not just footballers.
The Class of ’92 – 2013
While not a traditional football movie, per se, The Class of ’92 is an incredibly interesting and captivating documentary that gives us a closer look at the rise of Manchester United’s legendary Class of ’92 players. Directed by Ben Turner and Gabe Turner, the docu-film features interviews with legends of the game including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Gary and Phil Neville. It chronicles their journey from youth team prospects to becoming the biggest players in one of the most successful periods in Man U’s history.
These five football-themed movies all give us a taste of how the game can impact people from all over the world – as they fight the enemy, fight against financial restrictions – and fight the weight of gender and cultural expectations. Whether you’re a die-hard football fan or simply someone who enjoys a good sports drama, these are all well worth a look.