The FIFA World Cup in Russia started almost a week ago, so I guess there’s no pressing need for something to put us into a footballing atmosphere. Not to mention the fact that it is rather difficult to squeeze in 2-hour long films between all the matches happening everyday. It might be possible, though, since what I’m suggesting is more football-centred content. Do I have your attention? Good. Here are eight of the best films with and about the beatiful game.
1. The Damned United (2009)
I decided to start with my personal favourite – a Tom Hooper film starring Michael sheen as legendary English manager Brian Clough. While it’s a bit of a departure from international tournaments, instead centred on English league football, it tells an amazing story where ambition and determination are key. It is based on David Piece’s novel with the same name, and chronicles Clough’s ascension with Derby County and his ill-fated tenure in charge of his most hated club, Leeds United.
2. Montevideo – Taste of a Dream (2010)
We’re already venturing into World Cup territory with this entry – it’s actually the first World Cup ever, which took place in 1930 in Montevideo, Uruguay. This Serbian film is a nostalgic trip into 1930s Belgrade, and deals with both football and social issues, perfectly mixed together in what was a critically acclaimed production.
3. The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (2006)
This would have been an even better recommendation 4 years ago, due to the similar setting with the Brazil 2014 World Cup. The film is set in Brazil in year 1970, and deals with World Cup preparatory issues on the background of corruption and dictatorship, seen through the eyes of a young boy left all by himself in a Jewish neighbourhood.
4. Bend it Like Beckham (2002)
Set in times when David Beckham was in his absolute prime and constituted a heated talking subject in the entire world, this comedy centres around a Sikh girl’s rebellion against her conservative parents, who do not allow her to become a member of a football team. With the most notable name in the form of Keira Knightley, the film was warmly received, even scoring a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical at the 2004 edition.
5. The Miracle of Bern (2003)
In a post-war European setting that sees Switzerland host the 1954 World Cup, this film deals with the aftermaths of the great conflict of the previous decade, which had left the continent divided and weakened. It chronicles the struggles of a working class German boy after his father returns from war captivity, while one of his friends plays for the German football team at the World Cup.
6. Offside (2006)
This Iranian black comedy is built on an interesting premise – a law which sees all women in the country banned from attending mens’ sporting events, which consequently prohibits them from entering stadiums. It was released to almost universal praise, holding an impressive 85 aggreggate on Metacritic and winning a number of accolades, including the Silver Bear at the 2006 Berlin International Film Festival.
7. Escape to Victory (1981)
Set in a Nazi prisoner camp during the Second World War, the film explores a premise where several English footballers are asked to play an exhibition match against a German selection. Starring several West Ham United and Ipswich Town footballers, alongside more famous players such as Bobby Moore and Pele, this is a great story that also allows you to watch Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone play football – not a usual sight nowadays, to say the least.
8. The Two Escobars (2010)
Our last entry in this list is a bit of a departure from the previously mentioned films, since it is a documentary. It tells the story of arguably the two most famous Colombians in history, who coincidentally shared the same surname. Pablo Escobar was an extremely powerful drug lord, whose love for football and heavy investments had turned Colombia as strong favourites to win the 1994 World Cup in the US. The start of the team was none other than Andres Escobar, the best Colombian footballer of his generation.