Can They Kick It? Five of the Best Football Movies Ever
Brazilian legend Pelé is said to have cried at the Tribeca Film festival’s screening of Pelé: Birth of a Legend such was the depth of emotion he felt watching his life on screen.
And the new film about the life of the late, great British football hero Bobby Moore coincides with the 50th anniversary of England’s historic World Cup win over Germany.
1. The Damned United (2009)
Football legend Brian Clough retired from the game at the age of 29, after scoring a whopping 251 league goals. But he went on to become an equally impressive manager. Known as “Old Big ‘Ead”, he had a short-lived and dramatic stint as manager of Leeds United in 1974.
It lasted 44 days. Based on David Peace’s novel, The Damned United focuses on those divisive few weeks when Clough’s previous resentments against the team came up against the players’ hostility toward him. Clough is played brilliantly by Michael Sheen, and the film succeeds in getting inside the head of this icon of the English game.
2. Fever Pitch (1997)
Based on the novel by Nick Hornby – which was more or less an autobiography – Fever Pitch tells the story of a man with two great loves: fellow teacher Ruth and his beloved Arsenal.
The fictional Paul Ashworth’s emotions rise and fall dramatically with the fortunes of his team. Ruth can only watch on in bewilderment as he is blown from pillar to post. The film vividly captures the sort of obsession that only true football fans understand.
3. Escape to Victory (1981)
The one that some say is the greatest football film ever made. Escape to Victory portrays a group of prisoners who agree to play a football match against local German troops during the Second World War.
Michael Caine stars as Captain John Colby, who leads Sylvester Stallone and an all-star line-up of real footballers, including Pele, Moore, Osvaldo Ardiles, and Mike Summerbee. The Allies end up in occupied Paris playing the German national team in a fantastically epic climax. Why do they say it’s the best? Just look at that cast.
4. Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait (2006)
Described by critics on its release as “hypnotic”, Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait is a documentary that uses 17 synchronised cameras to follow French legend Zinedine Zidane around the pitch as he plays in the Spanish La Liga Real Madrid versus Villarreal CF game on April 23, 2005 at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.
A music score by band Mogwai plays throughout. A must-see for anyone interested in football: it’s like you’re on the pitch with the great Zizou himself.
5. Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001)
England’s Football Association is on the hunt for a new manager but such is the national team’s low standing, no one wants the job. No one, that is, except the idiotic Mike Bassett.
The hilarious mockumentary following Ricky Tomlinson in the title role satirises legendary football moments such as Maradona’s ‘Hand of God.’ Even Pele and Ronaldo pop up in cameos but Tomlinson’s Basset could well be the greatest manager England never had.