We had a good time last week talking about soccer books, so this week, let’s talk about soccer movies. Being a man of letters, not images, I’m much less invested in movies than I am in books. Regardless, I’ve seen a few through the years that are worth talking about here. And I bet you’ll have a bunch more to tell us about down in the comments. Let’s do it.
1) Diego Maradona – IMDb page here
I’d always heard stories about how great Maradona was, but this documentary was the first to make me really understand it. It came out on HBO just last year, using newfound footage, much of it very behind-the-scenes. It’s remarkable to watch Maradona go from this happy, ebullient kid to this tired, scarred, unhappy man. In the end, Maradona’s story is a tragic one.
2) Next Goal Wins – IMDb page here
While the Maradona documentary is sad, this one is joyous. It follows American Samoa’s national team as they try to recover from losing a game 31-0. They bring in a new coach, new players, new training, and a new effort to lose the title of “worst team in the world.” It’s a wonderful documentary, and apparently they’re making a comedy version directed by Taika Waititi, to which I say, dear God, just take my damn money. Why haven’t you taken my money yet? Take it!
3) The Damned United – IMDb page here
A movie about that time in 1974 when Brian Clough was manager of Leeds United for just 44 days. My favorite thing about this movie is just how old school everything looks. The shitty locker rooms, the muddy pitches, the bad haircuts, the players smoking cigarettes as they walk to the stadium. The whole thing feels like we’re in a time machine.
4) La Gran Final – IMDb page here
A comedy about three groups of people desperately trying to watch the 2002 World Cup final between Germany and Brazil. Sounds simple, right? Except the three groups in question are an indigenous tribe in the Amazon, a camel caravan in the Sahara, and Kazakh nomads in Mongolia. Let the silliness ensue.
5) Mike Bassett: England Manager – IMDb page here
Speaking of silliness, if you enjoy poking fun at the English and their adorable efforts to become a serious footballing nation, then you’ll enjoy this movie. The English FA can’t find anyone willing to coach the national team, so they end up with some random guy from the lower leagues. It goes about as well as you’d expect.
6) Offside – IMDb page here
This is an Iranian comedy about women breaking the law by trying to sneak into a stadium to watch the national team play. I’m gonna go ahead and call this my favorite soccer movie, even though it’s barely about soccer. I mean, do they ever at any point show the actual game? I’m not sure they do. But I know I don’t care. This movie’s not about soccer, it’s about being a female soccer fan in Iran. It’s funny and charming and a wonderful look into a culture we don’t get to see much of.
So there you go. Six soccer movies you might like. Got some I didn’t mention here? Tell me about them down below.