Movies about any sport are difficult to make without being overly cliché or cheesy at some points. Of course, even if they’re either of those, if done in the right way, they can still be incredible. Even harder than making a movie about a sport like boxing is one about a team sport like soccer. Whether you choose to put the focus on the entire team in a more general sense or you shine a light on just a handful of players, it feels like you’re missing out.
With that being said, soccer has enough aspects to it than can be highlighted through film and as a result, some genuinely great pieces of cinema have been made centered around the sport. Below, you can check out an alphabetical list we compiled of the thirteen best soccer movies for your viewing pleasure.
Much like many of the films on this list, Bend It Like Beckham is about far more than soccer, but it uses the sport as its driving force and main storyteller. The title is, of course, a reference to the legend, David Beckham. Essentially, it is about a British Indian girl who’s in love with soccer but is forbidden by her family from playing it because of its perception as a man’s game. She continues to play and is recruited to play for a local women’s team and the events unfold from there. As well as gender stereotypes, themes like sexuality and cultural traditions get explored here.
You can watch on Hulu.
Known to many as Green Street Hooligans, Green Street stars Elijah Wood who plays as Matt. After being wrongfully expelled from Harvard University, Matt is forced to go to England to live with his sister. When introduced to her husband, he is also introduced to the world of soccer and more specifically, soccer hooliganism. He learns a lot from the culture, violent as it is, and it helps him learn a lot about himself too. The film is about his discovery and enlightenment with it and is an excellent portrayal of hooliganism from many perspectives.
You can watch this on Amazon Prime streaming.
One of the oldest picks on this list, the late John Huston’s Escape To Victory was released in 1981. It boasts an all-star cast, with acing legends Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine and soccer legends like Pelé and Bobby Moore making appearances. This is just as much a war movie as it is a soccer movie. Set during the Second World War, those stuck in a Nazi prison camp must play a game of soccer against the guards. The allied team end up using it as a means to plot their escape. The storyline is out there but the execution of it is not bad at all and if you’re making a run of soccer movies, it’s required viewing.
You can watch this on Prime Video.
There is an American version of this movie that was released in 2005 starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore and it centers around baseball, but on this list, we have the original version of the movie from 1997. Whereas the later version is about the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series, this one is about Arsenal’s league title win in the 1988/1989 season. The main character, played by Colin Firth, is a huge Arsenal fan but finds himself in a tricky situation trying to balance his fandom and his new relationship with a woman he loves.
You can watch on Netflix.
Goal! The Dream Begins is the first in a great trilogy, but its widely considered to be the best movie of the bunch. Released in 2005, it tells the story of Santiago Munez, an illegal alien from Mexico living in Los Angeles who is in love with soccer. He’s eventually recruited to play for the English side Newcastle United and the pressure is on because he knows that he needs to show up and show out to be able to go back to the States. Once again, soccer is used here as an escape and a means to a better life.
You can watch on YouTube.
In Looking For Eric, the main character Eric Bishop is in a position that a lot of us find ourselves in at some point in our lives – working a job we hate and at odds with his ex-wife. That’s where a lot of the similarities end because the plot gets crazier from here onwards. Eric’s son is hiding a gun for a local drug baron and it is driving Eric to suicidal thoughts. But after stealing some of his son’s cannabis and smoking it, he hallucinates and sees the soccer legend Eric Cantona, his hero. Cantona gives him advice that helps him turn his life around. The film is more so about soccer fanaticism and seeing soccer players as real people.
You can watch this on Hulu.
Mean Machine is an adaptation of the 1974 film The Longest Yard, so if you’re a fan of that then this is certainly worth a watch. This version released in 2001 sees Vinnie Jones playing Danny Meehan, the former captain of the England national soccer team who was banned from the game for match-fixing. One thing leads to another and he ends up assaulting two police officers, putting him in prison, where he eventually has to coach a team of prisoners in a game of soccer against the guards. Danny Dyer, Jason Statham, and more appear.
You can watch this on Netflix.
Directed by Steve Barron, unlike other films on this list, Mike Bassett: England Manager is a satirical comedy. When the previous England manager dies of a heart attack, the search for a new one is conducted. In comes Mike Bassett, manager of a successful team from a lower league. He is expected to lead them to the World Cup and all hell breaks loose. Disaster after disaster occurs, with Mike picking two wrong midfielders in Benson and Hedges based on the cigarette brand, the star of the team getting involved with and distracted by a transsexual and Mike mixing drugs and alcohol together, leading to a drunken incident. The film is by no means an accurate portrayal of soccer but it is a hilarious one.
You can watch this on Amazon Prime Video.
Offside (2006) is about a group of women who are soccer fans and want to go watch their home team Iran play Bahrain in a World Cup qualifier. Unfortunately, because they are women, they are banned from entering the stadium. They get in anyway. There are a few interesting things about this film. The first is that it was banned from screening in Iran. Secondly, it was actually shot during an Iran qualifying match, and depending on the result of the game, director Jafar Panahi had two endings planned. Lastly, the concept of the film was based on Panahi’s daughter who decided to attend a game in spite of the rules.
You can stream this on Amazon Prime Video.
In 1974, Brian Clough was given the job as manager of Leeds United. It was a controversial decision, with Brian already unpopular amongst the fan base. His managerial methods proved to be a bad fit for the team and after a chaotic 44 days, he was sacked. The Damned United is about that short time, but also about the politics of soccer and its inner workings. It’s one of the better soccer movies of all time and you don’t need to be a soccer fan or even know a lot about the sport to enjoy and appreciate this one.
You can stream this on Amazon Video.
Just like Green Street, The Football Factory is another film that puts the focus on soccer fans and just how extreme things can get. Danny Dyer plays your typical hooligan – someone who drinks heavily, dabbles in drugs, is overly aggressive, and deals with a lot of casual racism. Of course, if he remained like that for the entire film, it would be hard to identify with him. Eventually, he comes to his senses and wants to escape that life and the movie is about his journey. This film is the rawest look at hooliganism on the big screen.
You can stream this on Amazon Prime Video.
Set in 1950 but released in 2005, The Game Of Their Lives details one of the prouder moments in soccer history for Americans – the first time the U.S. national team ever beat England, at the World Cup too. It was an upset, a source of motivation and naturally, makes for a great movie plot. The film takes a look at the players that made up the team and their backstory and is an underdog movie through and through. Gerard Butler appears.
You can stream this on Hulu.
There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble is an inspiring movie about a young boy from Manchester named Jimmy Grimble whose dream is to play for his school’s soccer team. One of his bullies makes the team because his dad pays for his spot. Things are looking down for Jimmy, until he’s handed the pair of boots that one of his idols from Manchester City played with. From then, things start turning around for him. It’s a tale of self-belief and just how impactful sports figures can be where they least expect it.
You can rent this via iTunes.