TO celebrate the release of Torquil Jones and Gabriel Clarke’s new film Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager, Close-up Culture has compiled a list of our favourite football films.
15. The Class of 92 (2013)
GABE and Benjamin Turner’s film charts the rise of gifted Manchester United academy players David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Phil and Gary Neville. A group of players who went onto great things with club and country.
This impressive documentary has been followed up by an equally enjoyable BBC series following the ups and downs of The Class of 92’s ownership of non-league side Salford City.
14. Fever Pitch (1997)
BASED on a Nick Hornby novel, this rom-com is about football mad Paul (Colin Firth) who tries to maintain his relationship with football-phobic teacher Sarah (Ruth Gemmell) while he is swept away by Arsenal’s dramatic title-winning 1988/99 season.
Had the film been made in 2018, we might have seen Firth berating Arsene Wenger on Arsenal Fan TV.
13. The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1939)
LEGENDARY British filmmaker Thorold Dickinson was one of the first to make football central to the plot of a film. The Arsenal Stadium Mystery blends the beautiful game with a murder mystery and features cameos from Arsenal and Brentford players of the time.
12. Shaolin Soccer (2001)
TOTAL football, Tiki-taka, Catenaccio – and Kung Fu?
Stephen Chow’s comedy tells the story of expert martial artists who attempt to turn their high-kicking agility into footballing talent.
Gareth Bale’s Champions League Final awe-inspiring overhead kick goal could have easily been plucked from this film. Shaolin Soccer has fun with football in a similar way to the animated section of Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Absurd footie fun.
11. Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
ONE of the most culturally significant football films to date. Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham challenges rigid, traditional values through football. This is a cheerful affair starring Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley and a brief cameo from ‘Golden Balls’ himself.
10. Goal! (2005)
FROM Los Angeles to the Toon, Santiago Muñez (Kuno Becker) chases his dream of becoming a Premier League footballer. Goal! is a highly watchable, cliché-packed rags to riches football tale.
9. Mike Bassett England Manager (2001)
THE England manager’s job can make even the most accomplished football coach look like a fish out of water – just ask Fabio Cappello.
Steve Barron’s 2001 comedy is an amusing depiction of a bumbling England manager who stumbles his way into the World Cup. Ricky Tomlinson plays Mike Bassett as he contends with press conference mishaps, dressing room dress-downs, confused tactics (3-5-1-1 and 3-1-2-1-1-1), and touchline calamities.
10. Escape to Victory (1981)
THROW Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Pele and Bobby Moore into the same football team and you have a treat of a film at your feet.
An adaptation of Zoltán Fábri’s Hungarian film Two Half Times in Hell (1961), Escape to Victory sees Caine’s team of POWs line up against an evil squad of Third Reich members who play a brand of anti-football Tony Pulis (ex Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion) would be pride of.
7. The Four Year Plan (20110)
MAT Hodgson’s documentary looks behind the curtain at Queens Park Rangers as they go from the brink of liquidation to being the play-toy of billionaire owners – including Bernie Ecclestone.
The Four Year Plan has real-life echoes of Mike Bassett as the new owners’ plan to secure a place in the Premier League results in disgruntled fans, managerial merry-go-rounds, wasted money, tantrums in the stands, and dodgy transfer dealings. A fascinating and worrying look at the whims of modern football owners.
6. Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos (2006)
WHY have the Yanks never truly fallen in love with football – sorry, soccer? Directors Paul Crowder and John Dower track the brief surge in popularity of the North American Soccer League and its eventual red card from US pop culture.
5. Gregory’s Girl (1981)
BILL Forsyth’s charming rom-com tells the story of a Scottish schoolboy who falls for a girl on his football team. Starring John Gordon Sinclair and Dee Hepburn, Gregory’s Girl is a hilarious film about sexual awakening with football gags thrown in.
4. Next Goal Wins (2014)
MIKE Brett and Steve Jamison’s documentary follows the national team that once lost 31-0 to Australia.
The ultimate underdog story, Next Goal Wins escapes the riches and glory of elite football and introduces us to American Samoa who are regarded as one of the worst teams in the world. Yet the arrival of Dutch-born coach Thomas Rongen offers hope of a remarkable turn in fortune for this struggling side.
An uplifting and down-to-earth film to restore your faith in the game when a £100,000-a-week footballer acts out.
3. Zidane: A 21st century portrait (2006)
NINETY minutes of one of the game’s greatest performers in action. Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon’s documentary watches French midfielder Zinedine Zidane in action for Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.
This beautiful, flowing multi-camera portrait of Zidane even ends with the legend displaying the type of red midst behaviour that would infamously close out his career.
2. Offside (2006)
IN some countries women are still not allowed to enjoy the beautiful game.
Jafar Panahi’s remarkable drama tells the story of a group of women who break the law to try and attend an Iranian World Cup qualifying match. This must-see film is echoed in Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s excellent 2015 drama Mustang. On this occasion, it is Turkish women that have to covertly attend the football.
1. The Dammed United (2009)
MICHAEL Sheen gives a masterful performance as one of football’s most iconic and quotable figures – Brian Clough. Tom Hooper’s biopic recounts Clough’s brief – and disappointing – spell with Leeds United. This triumph of British filmmaking is now taking to the stage at theatres countrywide.