The Best Soccer Movies Out There

Photo: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Whether you’re already a fan of soccer or you just want to understand how come the rest of the world is obsessed with this sport, these soccer movies will help you appreciate the game like you grew up on the terraces of the Westfalen stadium.

Unfortunately, since soccer is not popular in the United States, big money productions don’t deal with the topic, which is probably about to change as studios are starting to give more attention to the global audience since money is money. Until some successful British director like Danny Boyle tackles the subject of world’s favorite pass time, we have a small squad of screenplay soccer movies at our disposal, yet a few of them display particular sides of soccer pretty well.

The Damned United (2009)

The best soccer movie out there deals with the story of one of the best English managers ever Brian Clough. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t focus on his biggest success days, rather on mere 44 days he was in charge of the hated Leeds United. That set up worked to show the drive behind the success of Clough, played spot-on by Michael Sheen. A figure that was remembered for quotes like “They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I wasn’t on that particular job” was a logical choice for a biopic in the world of soccer. A Mourinho type manager long before Mourinho, and a movie that goes behind the scenes of old school football… erm soccer.

The Football Factory (2004)
Best soccer movies

Photo: Momentum Pictures

A movie about soccer hooligans, and while that’s definitely not the same as soccer itself, for quite a while they were inseparable topics, and from time to time we get a reminder that they will forever be. Like the Euro 2016. Regardless of your stance on the phenomenon, it cannot be denied that hooliganism is a huge part of the soccer culture, one that is knowledgeably dissected in The Football Factory. The story follows a Chelsea hooligan in his favorite pass time and is far superior to the romanticized Green Street Hooligans (2005) and more soccer-related than the brutal I.D (1995) which both deal in the same topic.

Purely Belter (2000)

Another title that has a small amount of actual soccer being played in it, but one that does a perfect job of illustrating how important it is for quite a few people. While we in the United States we know every little thing about our sports and have every bit of data on it, soccer is more of a cultural thing for the rest of the world, and Purely Belter depicts that perfectly. Set in a working-class city of northern England, a story about two boys trying to get season tickets for their beloved club is a lecture not just on soccer, but on life. Truly a heartfelt story that touches on some subjects one might not expect and personifies the importance of soccer for young people.

Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001)

The British are blessed with world-class musicians, world-class national soccer league, and an undeniably great and unique sense of humor. Two of those things combine in this soccer movie comedy spoof of the culture that surrounds the cursed English national team. A story that is ridiculous when it’s not scripted, unless you’re English that is, and particularly when it’s amped up to the extreme. An unlikely domestic manager gets the chance to be England’s manager and on chance qualifies for the World Cup, and every known and eternally repeated symptoms which surround the Three Lions appear in the movie. The flick spoofs a lot of particular characters from the world of soccer, but also the whole subculture, therefore it’s not for those who are not familiar with the topic.

Fever Pitch (1997)
Soccer movies - Fever Pitch

Photo: Phaedra Cinema

Famed British writer Nick Hornby is a big fan of soccer and the London-based club Arsenal, so he wrote with some experience about a man juggling an obsessive relationship with the club he supports and his romantic relationship. Soccer mania and how it affects human relations is the main focus of the movie, and those for whom the plot seems impossible a disproving- game about soccer called Football Manager was one year listed as a cause for divorce on 35 separate occasions in the UK alone! Colin Firth stars in the movie and has the help of another well-known actor in Mark Strong representing the pitch fever strongly felt throughout England. Hollywood remade this film with Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore and baseball replacing soccer, but it feels like a generic rom-com way more than the original is.

Goal! The Dream Begins (2005)

A rare soccer movie that is done with a from the pitch view, from the perspective of a single footballer. Besides suffering from a terrible name, the movie did what it could’ve done on a modest budget, yet it went under the radar. The tale of Santiago Munez, a Mexican immigrant in the United States, starts in a familiar way of the main protagonist suffering adversity while pursuing his passion. It gets far better as soon as his talent is recognized by an English scout which offers him a trial for Newcastle United. A recurring club in soccer movies. Delivering on some locker room shots we often see in football, basketball movies, but almost never in soccer movies set in today’s time, this movie is a breath of fresh air and can be inspirational at times.

United (2011)

A movie particularly relevant now since the plane crash of the Brazilian club Chapecoense in November, as it deals with an almost identical topic. Based on the football fairy tale of “Busby Babes”, the youngest team to win the English league, which had a horror ending after their plane crashed while returning from a European match in 1958. Filmmakers based the storyline on real-life interviews from the survivors, and families of the deceased. It’s an almost unbelievable story of the shock, followed by the healing process of what will become one of world’s top five biggest clubs, and the one with the most fans globally.

What are some of your favorite soccer movies that we didn’t include in this list?