Across all the best football movies ever made, there is one constant: they are projects of passion. Disregarded by Hollywood due to the unimportance of ‘soccer’ in the USA, and somewhat overlooked in the UK because football fans are busy… well, watching football, these movies’ creators didn’t necessarily have fame and wealth as their motivation.
Instead, it is clear that the majority of football films come from the heart, rather than the wallet. Ahead of the Euros, we’re going to rank our top 10 best football movies of all time – every single one of them filled to the brim with charm, character, and slo-mo goals!
In this article, we’ll take a look at our top 10 best football movies. Be sure to stay until the very end, our top pick might surprise you!
Top 10 Best Football Movies
Without further ado, let’s kick it off with number ten…
10. There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble (2000)
It’s the turn of the century, and boy does this film want you to know it. Get ready to be violently transported back 21 years by the sheer 1990s/2000s charm of There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble.
A classic coming-of-age movie, Jimmy Grimble is a young Mancunian lad with a love for football, but not much skill. Bullied at school, awkward around girls, and consistently plagued by his mum’s bizarre new boyfriend (played – quite troublingly – by Ben Miller), life isn’t all too great for poor Jimmy.
However, when he is gifted a pair of decrepit old boots once owned by one of Man City’s greatest players, things start looking up. Perhaps Jimmy will achieve his dreams of football glory after all?
Even if you’re not a fan of cheesy 90s/2000s movies, come now, give this one a try. If not for us, then for poor little Jimmy.
9. Pelé (2021)
While it only came out a few months ago, Pelé has cemented itself among the best Netflix football movies.
A documentary charting Pelé’s world-renowned career, this film features rare commentary from the ‘King of Football’ himself. Additionally, the film features many of his closest teammates, but also some truly unexpected insight into the man’s relationship with Brazil’s military dictatorship at the peak of his fame.
Critics have highly praised the documentary for delving into this previously unexplored part of Pelé’s life. If you’d like to journey into the exciting career of the King of Football, and get some modern Brazilian history while you’re at it, we really recommend checking out Pelé on Netflix.
8. Escape To Victory (1981)
The oldest film in our list also happens to star the most impressive cast. Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine and Max Von Sydow all appear in the lead roles. All forty years younger than they currently are – and, incredibly, they also brought in Pelé.
This classic is set in a prisoner-of-war camp in Nazi Germany. Caine’s character – a former English footballer – is tasked by his captors to organise a ragtag POW football team. Caine, Stallone and Pelé soon learn that their team will play against German footballers in a publicity stunt.
Their aim was to demonstrate the superiority of Nazi Germany’s sportmanship. However, our all-star cast has a different idea in mind. They hatch a plot to escape the Nazis during the final match.
The film received massive attention upon its release, largely due to its appeal across the UK, USA and Brazil. Even forty years on, it is totally worth watching!
If you can suspend disbelief for 117 minutes, it’s an absolute romp. A fantastic football film to yell at the TV with your mates.
7. The Football Factory (2004)
So far, this list has been all sunshine and laughter (apart from the Nazis). If you’re under the impression that the best football movies of all time are light-hearted, then you’ve got a surprise coming.
The Football Factory might be the grittiest it gets – like the Taxi Driver of football films. The protagonist, played by Danny Dyer, is on a self-destructive spiral. A passionate Chelsea fan who lives to antagonise Millwall.
We won’t go into further detail because we don’t want to spoil this one. Have a watch of his journey for yourself.
Also, an interesting tidbit: this was the first foray into filmmaking conducted by Rockstar Games, the developers responsible for the Grand Theft Auto videogame series.
6. Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Achieving more renown than any football movie before it, Bend It Like Beckham became a surprise international hit upon its release.
A genuinely funny sports rom-com, this triple threat earned its place in the hearts and minds of the world’s football fans. Particularly for girls and women who had previously been discouraged from stepping onto the pitch.
The plot follows Jesminder Bhamra (Parminder Nagra). She is an 18-year-old daughter of a conservative Sikh family living in Hounslow. This young star proves herself as a football prodigy, but is prevented by her parents from cultivating this passion.
It became both the highest-grossing Indian-themed film and football-themed film in the USA. Bend It Like Beckham truly positioned itself as a classic.
Also, it was the first Western film to be aired in North Korea. Make of that what you will.
5. The Goal! Trilogy (2005-2009)
Here it is – the cult classic Lord of the Rings of football, Goal!
Probably the most ‘football’ of all football films, the plot of the first installment follows Santiago Munez. He’s a poor Mexican lad with the most unreasonable football talents, who emigrates to the UK upon being signed to Newcastle United.
Its two sequels follow suit, showcasing rises to fame and victory. The films are dotted with a myriad of cameos from the likes of Thierry Henry, David Beckham, Frank Lampard, and literally dozens more.
The producers of the first film worked in cooperation with FIFA (hence the cameos), and struck a $50m deal with Adidas. This was, at the time, the priciest deal ever struck between a brand and a film production company.
What resulted was, despite negative reviews from critics, an iconic and everlasting fan favourite.
4. The Pass (2016)
The Pass is quite the change in tone.
This modern masterpiece is heralded as one of the most important football films ever made. This movie follows two professional footballers (played by Russell Tovey and Arinzé Kene) who grapple with their attraction to each other over the course of ten years.
As our society begins to accept the issues of hyper-masculinity, The Pass intimately deals with its presence in the world of football. It additionally explores the homophobia that joins it.
As an independent film, it has received nowhere near the level of traction as the other movies on this list. However, its film festival attendees describe The Pass as unmissable and thought-provoking.
This football masterpiece was nominated for a BAFTA in 2017 and featuring Russell Tovey at his absolute best. We think The Pass deserves its place amongst the top ten best football movies ever made.
3. Green Street (2005)
If The Football Factory is straight black coffee, Green Street is black coffee with the tiniest drop of milk.
Featuring Elijah Wood after he got kicked out of The Shire for possession of pipe-weed, Frodo Bagg- sorry, Matt Buckner arrives in London. He is brought under the wing of his brother-in-law: the leader of the Green Street Elite, a West Ham hooligan football firm.
Another of the best football movies on Netflix, Green Street received mixed reviews from critics at the time of its release. But to this day, it is seen hugely positively by fans and regular movie-goers.
It also won multiple awards, including Best Feature at the LA Femme Film Festival (being one of the only football movies to be directed by a woman, Lexi Alexander), and the Special Jury Award at the SXSW Film Festival.
2. Shaolin Soccer (2001)
Don’t even try to argue – Shaolin Soccer is absolutely legendary, and frankly, it was in the toss-up for the no.1 spot!
If you’ve never heard of this film, we simply say to you: watch the trailer. You’ll have experienced the full movie by the end of the day, guaranteed.
The plot follows a former Shaolin warrior-monk (with supernatural Kung-Fu abilities, of course) in his quest to reunite his former Shaolin masters and bring their martial art to the masses – using the indomitable power of football.
The film was the most successful Hong-Kong movie ever made upon its release and won a swathe of awards. Shaolin Soccer is a cinema antique; a classic football and martial arts film, merged together in beautiful, chaotic harmony.
1. The Damned United (2009)
There it is! Widely heralded as the best football movie of all time – and a phenomenal movie in its own right – The Damned United takes our no.1 spot.
The film follows the story of the controversial Brian Clough’s 44-day stint as manager of Leeds United. This feature is a raucous rollercoaster depiction of the volatile man’s antics, rivalries, and brilliance.
Portrayed by Michael Sheen in one of his most lauded roles, The Damned United not only serves as a captivating venture into Clough’s erratic psyche, but also a gripping commentary on the inner politics of the British Football Association.
However, the film has sparked its own controversies over its depiction of real-life characters and historical (in)accuracies. Despite this, The Damned United has received overwhelmingly positive reviews ever since its release.
It closed out the golden age of great football movies with a belter of a bang.
Those Were Our Top 10 Favourite Football Movies
There we have it – we hope you’ve enjoyed the list of our top 10 best football movies ever!
To the regular movie fan, it may not seem like the ‘football’ genre is particularly expansive. We hope that this list has opened up some more options for you; from rom-coms, to gritty dramas, to kung-football. Sports movies don’t just have to be about sports after all!
So while waiting for that tantalising England-Scotland game later this month, why not wet your whistle for the Euros by going down this list with your mates. Or, watch Shaolin Soccer ten times in a row – your choice!
What do you think of our list? Did we miss your favourite? Be sure to let us know in the comment section below. If you enjoyed this article, make sure you share it with your friends on social media. Tag us @musicgateway!
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