11 Best Soccer Movies (Part Two)

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Maradona by Kusturica

Directed by Emir Kusturica

The two-time Palme D’Or winner Emir Kusturica traces the remarkable story of soccer legend Diego Maradona in this documentary featuring music by composer Manu Chao and Sex Pistols. Maradona’s rags-to-riches tale of a fallen anti-hero is classic Hollywood material yet Kusturica doesn’t deliver a good film here. He is perhaps a great film-maker but a horrible journalist.

Undisciplined, uncritical and an uninformative picture of a legend, by a man who clearly thinks he’s something of a legend himself. In fact director Kusturica seems more concerned with cutting his other films into the action and making sure that he appears on screen at least as much as the Argentine legend. Self-indulgent but fans of Maradona will find something to appreciate and it remains a curiosity for cine-philes.

The Miracle Match

Directed by David Anspaugh

Profiling the famous American victory over England in the 1950 World Cup, writer Angelo Pizzo and director David Anspaugh, who brought audiences to cheer for the basketball team in Hoosiers and for the football player known as Rudy, somehow failed to demonstrate how the game made a difference in their lives. For a movie that had all the makings of a classic underdog tale, it comes up short of a goal. Framed as a flashback story and narrated by Patrick Stewart, although with it’s heart in the right place, the film plays more like a eulogy than an adventure.

The odds at the time for USA beating England was of 500-1. In fact, no one showed any interest in the match except for one American journalist, Dent McSkimming of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who had taken time off of work to cover the event. His report of the match was the only one to appear in any major American newspaper. When the publications in England received the result they presumed that the 1-0 scoreline was a typing error and so it was reported that England had won on a scoreline of 10-0.

The production of the film was plagued with many problems. Studio executives cut the budget from $65 million to $27 million. Thus, the film’s running time had to be reduced from almost 2 hours 10 minutes to 1 hour 41 minutes leaving no room for character development. Alas, something went very wrong en route to its finished product: composer Jerry Goldsmith, died during production, and the movie had a hard time finding a distributor – fitting, perhaps, for a production chronicling such an unlikely event.

Miracle Match used to be known as The Game of Their Lives and has been re-titled for its DVD release.


Directed by John Huston

In World War II, a group of Nazi officers come up with a propaganda event in which an all star Nazi team will play a team composed of Allied Prisoners of War in a Soccer game. The Prisoners agree, planning on using the game as a means of escape from the camp. Hyped to death during the 1981 NASL season, the film was inspired by the real war-time exploits of Dynamo Kiev (renamed FC Start) who took on the Nazis and won a series of matches in 1942.

The film was directed by John Huston and stars Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, Max von Sydow and legendary soccer players including Brazil’s Pele. Unfortunately, this strange hybrid doesn’t quite work leaving you with too many moments which bog down the film’s momentum. There aren’t a great many surprises in the screenplay, but audiences are treated to two superior performances by Mr. Caine and Mr. von Sydow, giving the film some weight with their complicated and intellectual performances. The football scenes are all shot very well, giving the like of Pele and Ardiles a chance to shine with a few slow motion and replays to highlight their talent.

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait

Directed by Douglas Gordon & Philippe Parreno

Zidane consists of a full-length soccer game (Real Madrid vs. Villareal, April 23, 2005) entirely filmed from the perspective of soccer superstar Zinedine Zidane. Focusing 17 cameras on Zidane, which were scattered all over the stadium, the film-makers recorded images ranging from intimate close-ups to beautiful long shots and unfocused collections of colors to more traditional, televised shots. Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait is the 90-minute compilation of those images. More an art film that a sports documentary, Zidane is an incredibly powerful, deeply emotional experience and something to be seen.

Bend It Like Beckham

Directed by Gurinder Chadha

An energetic, feel-good blend of comedy, romance and goodhearted drama that features excellent performances by Juliet Stevenson, Archie Panjabi, and Bollywood regular Anupam Kher, whose friendship with Keira Knightley’s protagonist carries more spark than the useless love subplot. The film touches on some serious issues like cultural assimilation without feeling heavy-handed. More light entertainment than a “message movie,” Bechham is an above average coming of age tale that delivers a positive message without taxing viewers in the delivery. Avoiding the usual static overhead shots soccer fans are accustomed to, the camera gets inside the game, moving swiftly between players when creating action-packed game sequences. From the opening dream sequence in which 18-year-old Jess, wearing Manchester United colours, scores a goal to the roar of a crowd at the Old Trafford football ground, we know we’re in for a treat.

Mean Machine

Directed by Barry Skolnick
In this remake of The Longest Yard, British director Barry Skolnick pulls together a talented and funny cast and changes the resident sport to soccer. Ex pro-footballer English sports god Vinnie Jones energizes the screen with Jason Statham playing a loose- cannon goalie. Very formulaic, extremely predictable but fans of the sport are treated with some great footwork especially by Jones. At a low budget and a small running time, Mean Machine is still above the average sports comedy.

continue to The Best Soccer Movies (part one)

  1. Schaf says

    The most important movie in germany about soccer is “the miracle of Bern” (Das Wunder von Bern): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0326429/

    maybe you should do a 3rd part about soccer-themed movies… there are many mentioned that I’ve never heard of :)

  2. Debbie says

    I just listened to your podcast on soccer movies. I still think you guys have the best podcast for film right now. Good work.

  3. beth563 says

    You forgot “The Cup.” Duh.

  4. Rodrigo Céspedes Sotomayor says

    There is “Historias de Fútbol” by Andrés Wood (chilean director): a movie composed by three different stories, that uses football as the story arc. Fine performance, entertaining title and shows three very different realities from my country.

    Check it out.

  5. Guy Naamati says

    After the Cup: Sons of Sakhnin United (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1616504/)

    Tells the story of the first team from an Arab town to win the Israeli Cup and represent Israel in European competition.
    An interesting documentary that looks at the Israeli Arab conflict in a different angle

  6. Apurva Mehta says

    How come you haven’t listed Fever Pitch with Colin Firth? C’mon, that’s a great movie!!

  7. Wade says

    Weird that Victory is in your list. I guess there aren’t that many soccer movies to choose from. Victory is a weird one. It’s very notable that aside from Stallone and Caine, all of the players were well known actual professional soccer players. The movie is kind of dumb, but the way that match is shot, and the way they play the second half is pretty amazing. And the way the suspension builds at the end, alongside the crowd – of mostly occupied French -screaming “Victoire!” “Victoire!” “Victoire!” in the face of the Nazis, over and over is pretty goose-bump enducing. And the bemused grin on Sydow’s face there at the very end is pretty cool.

  8. Tony in Quakeland says

    How about Honerable Mention for the best soccer scene: Kes

  9. jlhughley says

    what about Green Street Hooligans, easily the best futbol movie ever. It took a look at the other side of things, firms, or fans of the game. what about The Big Green…best kids soccer movie ever made.

  10. Ray A. says

    I have serious qualms with any list of “best soccer movies” that doesn’t include “Phörpa” (released in the US and Europe as “The Cup”). I don’t know any movie that better captures both the concept of sport as a global language and the often insane dedication of sports fans (of all ages). Have to give you a yellow card on this one, Ricky.

    1. Ricky says

      I am going to have to track that film down. We don’t seem to have it here in Montreal’s video stores. At least I didn’t get a red card.

  11. Hairyman says

    Goal? That was the best I have seen in years.

    1. Ricky says

      I thought Goal was good but didn’t quite make my list.

  12. DaVooz says

    What about “The Other Final” (2003, Johan Kramer), a superb film/documentry.
    It tells the story of the 2002 Football Game between Bhutan and Montserrat. These two nations were on the bottom of the FIFA Ranking in 2002 and had never heard of each other or played against each other. They staged a friendly at the same time the real World Cup final was played, and shows the preparation, voyage, organisation and the match itself (only 20 minutes though). It shows cultural differences are no issue where both teams share their enthousiasm for the game. It’s a lovely document..

    1. Ricky says

      WOW! I have never heard of this film but I will totally check it out now! Thank you!

  13. Ricky says

    oh I love Air Bud but it didn’t make the cut

  14. Tyler Schirado says

    excuse me sir, where is Air Bud: World Pup?

  15. […] continue to The Best & Worst Soccer Movies (part two) […]

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