The World Cup draws to a close this week, but there’s no need to go cold turkey
Escape to Victory (1981)
One of the strangest casts in cinematic history – sporting legends Pele and Bobby Moore, half of the Ipswich football team, Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone – plays out an inferior The Great Escape with football. A match pitting prisoners of war against Germans in Nazi-occupied France gives the good-guy squad a chance at freedom. More painful than the silly plot, we hear Sly broke a finger trying to save a strike from Pele.
Convincingly murky family dynamics raise this a cut above your standard ‘underdog athlete’s triumph’ sports movie, as the female title character – a gifted but slapdash player – tries to convince ‘coach’ to let her replace her dead soccer-star brother on an all-male team.
Best Once in a Lifetime (2006)
A spellbinding documentary about the fortunes of the New York Cosmos, a party-hard football team who brought ‘soccer’ to the US masses in the ’70s. Star signings such as Pele, a goalkeeper with a dubious second career and groupies at Studio 54 are just a few highlights.
The Damned United (2009)
The always-likeable Michael Sheen pulls off another masterclass in balancing actor and impersonator with his take on controversy-courting football manager Brian Clough, one of the greatest English managers never to manage England.
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006)
An arty football film may sound like an oxymoron, but here it is: artists Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno filmed Zidane and only Zidane for the entire length of a match and set it to the music of Mogwai. By turns mesmerising and deathly dull.
Worst When Saturday Comes (1995)
No self-respecting actor would choose to star in such a dreadful dud were it not for the pull of a boyhood dream. Sean Bean has long been a fanatical Sheffield United follower (the team are known as
‘The Blades’, and you can spot his ‘100% Blade’ tattoo if you look
closely in Patriot Games). In the
film, footie-mad Jimmy Muir is desperate to play for the team, and the love of a good woman just might help him to make it. A leaden script and made-for-TV aesthetics don’t help matters; add that no one cares if some scruffy bloke gets to play for a team that isn’t even in the Premiership and you’ve got yourself a serious stinker.
Shaolin Soccer (2001)
This kung-fu football comedy takes a pop at the sober wire-work in the likes of Crouching Tiger and Hero, mixes in some Jackie Chan cartoon slapstick and produces a hilarious story about a band of monks taking on Team Evil in the National Soccer Cup. Tagline: Kick some grass!
Bend it Like Beckham (2002)
A sweet, positive youth movie that comprises David Beckham’s biggest silver-screen billing to date – even though he’s not actually in the film, aside from his mug being plastered all over the bedroom wall of teenager Jess (Parminder Nagra). Let’s hope it stays that way – he’s got the looks, but imagine that voice in surround sound.
Predictable and overwrought it may be, but this story
from Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (veterans of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and The Likely Lads) about a Mexican illegal immigrant staking his future on a place on Newcastle United’s squad has flickers of fun Geordie humour.