As World Cup fever hots up, we take a look at 5 great films about the beautiful game as football’s biggest stars prepare their pursuit of the sport’s greatest international prize.
England fans are bracing themselves for more heartache as the national team begins its pursuit of football’s biggest national team trophy, the World Cup. Having not triumphed in the tournament since 1966, England’s dreams of winning come and go every four years as expectation is heaped on frequently hapless shoulders. Will this year be any different? Probably not. At least we have these great films about football to enjoy (and to help us wipe away those tears).
Bend It Like Beckham (Chadha, 2002)
Bend It Like Beckham grabs the limelight thanks to namechecking modern day football’s biggest star David Beckham. But it isn’t some vacuous self-satisfied ego at work here. Indeed, Golden Balls’ philanthropic qualities come glowingly to life in this feelgood film about a football mad British-Asian girl joining a female football team against her culturally strict parents’ better wishes. This sweet-natured comedy-drama mixes a number of themes – cultural identity, sexual and gender liberation, friendship and growing up – into a pleasing and entertaining end product. It’s also arguably director Gurinder Chadha’s best film.
There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble (Hay, 2000)
John Hay’s There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble is another feelgood film centred around a 15-year-old’s dream of playing for Manchester City. Featuring a top cast including Robert Carlyle and Ray Winstone, it’s a tried and trusted story but it wins over your heart thanks to honest performances including the raw talent of first-time actor Lewis McKenzie.
Goal (Cannon, 2005)
Featuring a host of cameos from real footballers thanks to the film having the full cooperation of FIFA, Goal is director Danny Cannon’s rags to riches feelgood tale that follows an idealistic footballer’s dream of becoming a professional. There’s some great football action as the fleet-of-foot fish-out-of-water Santiago Muñez (played by Kuno Becker) sees his stylish game come face-to-face with the tough-talking, tough-tackling English Premier League.
Shaolin Soccer (Chow, 2001)
Stephen Chow introduces us not just to football, but Shaolin football. This is a brand of the game that comes to life when a former Shaolin monk enlists the help of his five brothers to apply their superhuman martial arts skills to football and in doing so bring the art of Shaolin kung fu, with its spiritual and practical benefits, to a wider audience. There’s a kinetic energy to the football sequences in this comedic fantasy, aided of course by the film’s exciting mixture of martial arts agility and football skill.
When Saturday Comes (Giese, 1996)
When Saturday Comes, Maria Giese’s from nobody-to-somebody football film may be littered with sports movie clichés but features a strong performance from Sean Bean. He carries us on a journey that touches the heart with an authenticity that elevates Giese’s effort.