Rightly or wrongly, sports films rarely receive critical acclaim, with football films taking fewer plaudits than most. It may be because footballers rarely make good actors, or because few actors can play football convincingly, but few football films spring to mind when considering the greatest movies of the last 25 years. Whilst the following list is far from exhaustive, we hope that by introducing our favourite football films of the last quarter of a century we can start the ball rolling towards these movies receiving a bit more of the credit that they deserve.
The choice between Green Street and The Football Factory is hard to make. We didn’t feel the need to include both as their plot lines are very similar, and neither involve much football, but we have chosen The Football Factory on the basis that Danny Dyer makes for a far more convincing football hooligan than Elijah Wood. The 2004 film is loosely based on John King’s novel and follows a group of Chelsea FC supporting thugs who live for weekend partying with all the alcohol and drugs they can handle.
Next is Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait, which is a beautifully shot French documentary that follows Zinedine Zidane through the whole of a 2005 La Liga match between Real Madrid and Villareal, charting his elegance, genius on top of a wonderful Mogwai soundtrack. Zidane is a firm favourite with Spanish football fans and this film proves why.
The only other selection to actually include a footballer in a lead role is Mean Machine (2001) which stars Vinnie Jones as a disgraced former England captain who has been sent to jail. Whilst in prison, Jones wins over the inmates and regains some of his pride as he coaches a team of prisoners who take on the prison guards.
The final two selections are both gritty Northern dramas. The first is When Saturday Comes (1996) which charts the fairytale rise of Sean Bean’s Jimmy Muir from working in a brewery to becoming a goal-scoring hero for Sheffield United. Any true Sheffield United fan, should love this movie.
The second is the brilliant adaptation of David Peace’s novel The Damned United (2009) starring Michael Sheen as Brian Clough during his dramatic and short reign at Leeds United.
Special Mention: Escape to Victory