11 Best Soccer Movies (Part One)
On Podcast #210 of Sound On Sight, we focused on the World Cup as each host picked one film about soccer to review. Here is the list of our eleven best soccer films which were in the running to review. (Also click here to listen to that show)
La gran final (The Great Match)
Directed by Gerardo Olivares
Veteran Spanish documentary film-maker Gerardo Olivares delivers an ingenious story which follows three heroes, none of whom have ever met, but who nevertheless have two things in common: firstly, they all live in the farthest corners of the planet and, secondly, they are all determined to find a way to see the final in Japan of the 2002 World Cup between Germany and Brazil. The protagonists in this global comedy are: a family of Mongolian nomads, a camel caravan of Tuareg in the Sahara, and a group of Indios in the Amazon. They all live about 500 kilometres away from the next town – and the next television – making their task anything but easy.
While to Western audiences, this doesn’t sound like a difficult feat as most of us are spoiled by our subscriptions to cable, Direct TV, internet streaming or satellite networks equipped with ESPN for soccer matches, but the willpower to achieve their goal makes it quite an amazing journey.
The film succeeds due to it’s great cast of non-pros. All of whom are engaging and handled with a combination of wry amusement and compassion. The movie is fascinating for the glimpses it gives us of worlds we rarely, if ever see, in the movies. Not to mention the visually breathtaking cinematography and exotic landscapes keeping your eyes very busy.
Here’s a film that makes us understand how every four years, soccer really does bring the world together.
Directed by Susan Koch
Using the global appeal of soccer to address the pandemic of homelessness, the Homeless World Cup was first established in 2001 to give homeless people the opportunity to better their lives through sports. Five years later, 20,000 homeless people had competed on street soccer teams, with 500 players selected to represent 48 countries in the fourth annual Homeless World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa, in the summer of 2006.
The movie, which marks the remarkable directorial debut of Susan Koch and is narrated by Colin Farrell, speaks in its own unique way about the potential for empowerment through organized sports teams and events, as well as the need for more solutions to the homeless problem.
There are an estimated one billion homeless people in the world. A seventh of the population is homeless. One billion people are also, apparently, about the number of fans who watch the World Cup.
Directed by Jafar Panah
Girls love soccer too — and love to cheer their team at a World Cup soccer event. But that’s not easy in Iran. Iranian women who are banned from soccer matches masquerade as males to sneak into Tehran’s stadium to see a game between Iran and Bahrain. It’s exhilarating, exuberant, thoughtful and thought-provoking and extremely funny. Director Jafar Panah mixes fiction and documentary so well with a perfect balance of cinema verité and political allegory.
Inspired by an incident in which his daughter was sent home when he took her to a soccer stadium, Panahi’s Offside is shocking in its revelation of the legal oppression of women in Iran. If anything, it proves that soccer is truly an international language, providing an arena where anyone can communicate.
Once in a Lifetime – The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos
Directed by Paul Crowder (co-director)
John Dower (co-director)
For a brief, shining moment in the late 1970s, soccer was a hot ticket in America. Once in a Lifetime chronicles one of the more unusual fads in American professional sports, the sudden rise and precipitous fall of the North American Soccer League, spanning its existence 1968-1984, as seen through the experience of the most famous soccer team in the United States the New York Cosmos led by the greatest soccer player, Pele.
You don’t need to be a soccer fan to enjoy this film. The documentary offers enough color and depth
while combining nostalgic 70s soul and pop music, never-before-seen footage, exciting sports action, newsreels from the summer of ’77 and candid interviews that range from Marv Albert to Henry Kissinger to Mia Hamm, to the former Cosmos players themselves, to entertain just about anyone.
Directed by Paul Crowder (editor of Stacey Peralta’s Dogtown and Z-Boys and Riding With Giants) and John Dower (director of the Britpop documentary Live Forever).
Directed by Stephen Chow
The action comedy Shaolin Soccer has become the all-time most successful Hong Kong production of all time shattering box office figures throughout Asia and winning many awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Visual Effects at the Hong Kong Film Awards.
One of Hong Kong’s top screen comics, Stephen Chow, co-wrote, co-directed, and headlines this three-way blend of sports, action, and humor. Sing (Stephen Chow) is a modern-day Shaolin monk who has become a master of traditional fighting skills, and is renowned for his “leg of steel.” However, these days there isn’t much call for a Shaolin warrior, and Sing and his fellow monks earn their keep working small jobs until a soccer coach gets the bright idea of translating Sing’s talent for kicking to the soccer field.
As goofy action comedies go, Shaolin Soccer is one of the best. Chow’s homages and creative riffs on the genre combined with top-notch special effects and still leaves plenty of room for a tender, offbeat romance.