The Best Soccer Movies of All Time [2021 Review]

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Whether you want to focus on a few players or shine a light on the entire team, soccer movies feel like they are missing out without being overly cliche. The below soccer movies have been done right and will capture you from beginning to end.

Our Top Soccer Movies Reviews

Soccer features great aspects that make a movie incredible if well captured. Below is a list of the best soccer movies that highlight the different aspects of soccer.

Brand
Best Overall
Football Factory
Best for the Money
Maradona
Best Cheap Pick
The Damned United
Product
Football Factory [Édition Prestige]
Maradona - The Greatest Player Ever
The Damned United
Duration
1h 31m
2h 10m
1h 37m
Discs
1
1
1
Best Overall
Brand
Football Factory
Product
Football Factory [Édition Prestige]
Duration
1h 31m
Discs
1
Best for the Money
Brand
Maradona
Product
Maradona - The Greatest Player Ever
Duration
2h 10m
Discs
1
Best Cheap Pick
Brand
The Damned United
Product
The Damned United
Duration
1h 37m
Discs
1

Best Overall Soccer Movie: Football Factory

Football Factory [Édition Prestige]

Although the Football Factory focuses on the dark side of the game, it’s one of the best football movies. Tommy Johnson is the main protagonist in this movie, illustrated as a football hooligan and a Chelsea fan. 

Tommy’s favorites in the movie are picking fights and getting drunk or high due to the West London football team. Then, Tommy starts having nightmares of a thorough beating from a rival club, making him question his lifestyle and friendship groups. 

When it comes to script, the football factory movie features a script that flows seamlessly from extreme violence to humorous moments without warning, making it one of its strongest points. 

The casting of characters in the football factory is excellent, with Dyer portraying Tommy without his famous laddish swagger. Also, Neil Maskell excels as one of the best friends of Tommy and the sidekick. 

When it comes to realism, the football factory is realistic with the former hooligans being hired to act on their past conflicts genuinely. The football factory is also full of hidden depths if you decide to dig deeper. 

These hidden depths range from outright football violence to the psychology of hooliganism due to discontentment and male bonding’s corrosive nature. It’s basically a character study that doesn’t glorify hooliganism. 

However, this film seems to portray more of the British way of life and contains little content that you can see in actual football.

Pros

  • The script flows seamlessly
  •  It enhances reality as hooligans act on their past conflicts genuinely

Cons

  • The film contains little content that you can see in actual football

Best Soccer Movie for the Money: Maradona

Maradona - The Greatest Player Ever

The Maradona movie is one of the most stunning soccer movies that reveal the two different personalities in the legendary player, thanks to the director Asif Kapadia. Fernando Signorini who helped to train Diego Armando Maradona narrates the first personality of Diego as an insecure and person who could do anything that you ask. 

Then, he describes Maradona as a new character who is confident in what he was doing, and would sometimes get arrogant about it. These divided selves of Maradona make this film incredibly interesting to watch. 

Also, the voice-over narration helps you to follow the story while observing this superstar. The film illustrates Maradona as a person whose goal was to become what the people around him wanted him to be, making him a sophisticated gentleman, devoted family man, and a cultural hero befriended by village mobsters. 

This movie further illustrates Maradona as a person who wanted to blow off steam and have fun, and a person who was ready to get help during injuries. This personality trait makes Maradona more splintered. 

Besides, this film comes with over 500 hours of footage which helps to show more than five different sides of Maradona, born in a low-class family in Buenos Aires in Argentina. However, the filmmaker seems to get excessively close to the subject.

Pros

  • The Voice- over narration helps viewers to follow the story through observation
  • Features long footage hours

Cons

  • The filmmaker is exceedingly close to the subject 

Best Cheap Soccer Movie: The Damned United

The Damned United

The Damned United film was written by Peter Morgan, and his colleague Tom Hopper directed it. This film focuses on Clough’s 44 days dark era as the Leeds United manager in 1974. 

Typically, this is the era that is known for controversy in the history of football. The manager’s abrasive personality and methods almost caused open warfare before he was sacked after one month. 

Michael Sheen is nature’s force for exposing Clough’s bluster and insecurities as he struggled in the club while maintaining his personality intact. Clough is nervous and full of passion, to a point of remaining in the locker room instead of going to the field during a match with Leeds. 

In the room, Clough tries to interpret the meaning of the crowd cheers. His loyal assistant Timothy Spall (Peter Taylor) restores a measure of balance due to his prudent, wise and quiet nature. 

However, Clough insults Peter Taylor, who fails to follow him to Leeds, marking the beginning of his undoing. This movie avoids the cliches of soccer movies like the ending of a team coming from behind. 

This movie doesn’t aim at showing the match but skillfully evokes the pitch feelings using archival footage. It portrays football crowds as a massive collection of emotions rather than a collection of individuals. 

Pros

  • Avoids the clinches of soccer movies
  • Using archival footage, the movie skillfully evokes the pitch feelings

Cons

  • Clough insults Peter Taylor marking the beginning of his undoing
Sale
The Damned United
  • Commentary With Director Tom Hooper, Michael Sheen And Producer Andy Harries
  • Cloughisms
  • Perfect Pitch: The Making Of

Best Soccer Movie for the Action: Escape to Victory

Escape to Victory [DVD]

The Escape to Victory movie is a pretty great football movie that features solid actors and famous footballers such as Pele. The plot of Escape to Victory is based on an event that didn’t happen. 

In the movie, Soviet propaganda claims a team of real Kiev footballers was forced into a match against the German team during World War II. This team was to win the game, be shot, or be taken like public relations fodder. 

The team in the movie chose the former, and all the team members were shot. In a real sense, the team played several matches against the Germans before disbanding when they all went to the camps. 

However, four of them were actually killed. Being a production of Hollywood, the Escape to Victory movie features legendary American actors such as Stallone. Unlike the Football Factory movie, the making of the Escape to Victory movie is about football. 

The movie illustrates soccer as a sport that combines the player’s talent, flicks, tricks, jumping, and running capabilities. Although the super slow-motion cameras were expensive and new at that time, the Escape to Victory moviemakers used them to make them attractive and entertaining. 

Due to the high expenses of running the super slow-motion camera, Pele was asked to perform a bicycle kick. When he nailed it perfectly for the first time, the crowd celebration was fully genuine.

Pros

  • Illustrates soccer as a sport that combines player’s talent and running capabilities 
  • The super slow-motion cameras make the movie entertaining and attractive

Cons

  • Running the super slow-motion cameras is expensive 

Best Soccer Movie for the Storyline: Mean Machine

Mean Machine

Although the formula used in the Mean Machine movie is familiar, the combination of humor and violence makes it enjoyable. The group of tough British guys cherishes their unique personalities, finding goodness even in the least expected circumstances. 

It involves a corrupt British football superstar being imprisoned for rigging a match. In the prison, the governor orders him to coach the inmates. The game will be against the prison guards team. David Hemmings, who is the prison governor, is a gambling addict and is crazy about soccer. 

When he orders the celebrity prisoner to coach the inmate’s team, the coach of the guard’s team isn’t happy. Although Danny doesn’t want to, the threat from the governor makes him get into the coaching profession. 

Danny ends up with Vas Blackwood (Massive) who was a contraband retailer as his right-hand man and the violent con Jason Statham (Monk) as the star player. He gets valuable advice and prison lore from David Kelly (Doc) who was a convict. 

This ends in the game which consists of dirty tricks, hard play, and dovetailing with the governor’s gambling issues. However, the Mean Machine movie lacks the Longest Yard film’s social satire. The Mean Machine film seems to focus on the game and the characters.

Pros

  • Violence and humor combination makes the movie enjoyable
  • It reveals more of gaming characters

Cons

  • The movie lacks the longest yard film’s social satire
Mean Machine
  • Vinnie Jones, David Kelly, David Hemmings (Actors)
  • Barry Skolnick (Director) - Andrew Day (Writer) - Adam Bohling (Producer)
  • English (Subtitle)

Best Soccer Movie for Suspense: Looking for Eric

Looking For Eric

Looking for Eric soccer film is directed by Ken Loach, a top British film director. Ken Loach uses the Manchester United superstar, Eric Cantona and Steve Evets (Eric Bishop), a Manchester postal worker. 

The film involves Stephanie Bishop (Lily) as Eric’s estranged life partner who has refused to talk to him for seven years. Eric has two worthless sons, Jess and Ryan. The movie begins with Eric surviving a car crash in the midst of these circumstances, after which Cantona, a soccer superstar, becomes his confessor and confidant. 

Cantona is persuasive and warm, convincing Eric that his solution is to get back together with his wife Lily. It’s the same plan with Lucy-Jo Hudson (Sam), Lily and Eric’s grown daughter. 

Looking for Eric features Loach’s social drama elements although not used in the whole story. Eric Bishop portrays a position that many find themselves in, working on jobs they hate. Eric’s son hides a gun for a drug baron, making Eric almost commit suicide. 

However, Eric steals some cannabis from his son and smokes it. He starts hallucinating and sees his hero, Eric Cantona. Then, Cantona gives him life-changing advice. This movie mainly focuses on football fanaticism and understanding football players as real people. Also, this movie portrays how football games can help one escape the drudgery of life.

Pros

  • Shows how football gaming can change lives
  • Portrays footballers as real people

Cons

  • The actors use a working-class accent
Looking For Eric
  • Ken Loach (Director)
  • French (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

Features to Consider for Best Soccer Movies

Person watching a soccer movie

Plot

For a story to be plausible in a movie it follows a certain story arc. For a movie to be entertaining, it has to suspend the disbelief of soccer enthusiasts watching it. In other terms, it has to put together all the elements to assist the soccer viewers to forget they’re watching a movie and get into the story. 

In the past,  a movie followed a three-act structure whereby the plot points and character development were divided into three acts. This helps in story organization making it easy for the viewer to follow the story and retain their interest. 

The plot should be arranged in some sort of structure that unfolds the story compellingly and maintains the viewer’s attention, holding the film together. When it comes to plausibility, a movie doesn’t need to be logical but plausible. 

In soccer films, the plot must comply with the world in which the story takes place. Movies that have their bases on true events and stories should accurately designate the events, settings, and time upon which they are based, in addition to conformity. The viewers should never question whether the plot was believable or consistent.

Attraction

A movie must have entertainment value and an interesting premise. The premise is the trailer, pitch, and thesis of a movie. It creates an interesting set of incidents in which the story takes place. 

A boring premise repels the interest of viewers no matter how believable the plot is or how well it is structured. The main reason why people go to the movies is to get entertained. A movie must take a balance between action, anticipation, and tension to amuse the viewers from the title sequence to the end. 

Some movies like Escape to Victory always flat out the viewer’s adrenaline throughout the film. Others keep the viewers laughing nonstop until the end of the movie. If a movie engages the viewers, it has an entertaining value.

Theme

The themes are intriguing and identifiable. For identity, the viewers should be in a position to know the message the movie is sending other than entertaining with a story. What is truly special is the time the theme is laid on the story itself. 

Some movies embrace powerful themes such as sorrow, betrayal, revenge, jealousy, pride, arrogance, and confidence. The themes of confidence and arrogance for instance are clearly conveyed in the movie of Maradona. 

A major reason why Diego Maradona became a famous soccer player. Even if viewers cannot be able to identify themes right away, themes should be intriguing in a way that viewers will experience their impacts. 

For themes to be intriguing they should achieve either of the following:  form an emotional connection with the viewers, make viewers think, or teach viewers something. An intriguing theme has a crucial role in creating a bond between the movie and the viewer.

Dialogue

Dialogue assists in telling the story in the right context. In storytelling, dialogue must have a calculated move to facilitate the story and reveal characters. Whether it’s a crafty subtext or a monologue, dialogue should elaborate and augment the story being told by the action. 

If a  dialogue makes sense in the film’s universe, it must be written in the right context. In fictional movies, dialogue should relate accurately to the setting, characters, and story. 

In cases where actors deviate from their character or further a purpose that is not related to the film, they make the movie tacky, cheap, and discredits it altogether.

Acting

Characters in any movie should be convincing in their acting and multidimensional. If any character is weak their performance will not be convincing. Characters have their bases on people who are multifaceted with their desires, aspirations, hopes, and faults. 

The main characters in any movie should be motive-driven and multidimensional. It’s only then that an actor can truly outbring a performance that viewers can relate to. Even with solid characters, the actor still has to perform well to get the task done. 

Viewers should never think to themselves that a certain actor tries to act like something or someone, the actor must become the character.

Cinematography

A consistent visual language is enhanced by the setting, wardrobe, and lighting. Visual language goes beyond any camera technique. The angles, camera work, and shot selection should together create a uniform language that is simple for the viewer’s eyes to follow. 

An angle that does not fit right or an odd-looking frame should not jar out the viewer’s experience for the movie. The cinematography should be creative to ensure the viewers follow along. 

Lighting and setting are crucial components of any cinematography. The setting tells us where we are, lighting tells us how to feel, and the wardrobe who the characters are. The way in which these aspects blend together is an essential part of the movie’s overall aesthetic and visual language. 

A black and white soccer ball on the ground

Editing and Effects

Besides capturing the viewer’s attention, editing in any movie conveys the tone and maintains attention. The special and visual impacts are seamlessly built-in. The tone is simply shaped by the choice and pace of the edits. 

The tone is crucial in expressing what the movie tries to communicate to the viewers. All cinematic aspects are transmitted and relayed via the editing on the screen. Visual effects, special effects, and everything from dynamite explosions, animations to live-action in a controlled set, must fit in together seamlessly. 

Visual effects are produced outside the live-action while tangible and special effects are often carried out on set or location. However, the principle of seamless integration applies to both of them.

Sound and Music

Music played in any movie must be in harmony with the story. Motifs that concur with the setting, plot points, and characters help in expressing their nature. The music played must be compatible with the mood of the corresponding scene. 

These tasks are not easy for film scorers to achieve, but if they are incorporated, the outcome brings out the movie’s soul and connects with that of the viewers. A movie where the viewers cannot hear the dialogue and after some time a blasting sound is not pleasant. 

Good sound mastering and mixing are important in maintaining the attention of the viewers keeping them entertained.  A credible sound design makes a movie experience more believable and genuine. 

In Escape to Victory for instance the sound designer brought back to life the fears of World War II using real sounds from the gunshots fired in the war.

Directing

The director must have a uniform vision and execute the movie to its fullest potential. Having a uniform vision is important to the success of a film for it helps in solidifying the story under one banner that can be identified. 

Following a movie becomes difficult if the director’s vision is convoluted or confusing. Like any other type of artist, viewers should be able to detect the director’s style in his task. There are many ways in which a story can be told but executing its full potential is another thing in itself. 

A film should be well told and crafted in that the story cannot be told in any other way. It should not have misspoken lines and single loose ends in the plotline. Each component of the cinema scale must be executed to perfection.

Therefore, executing the film’s fullest potential means viewers should never walk away thinking of any chances the film missed.

The ‘’It” Factor

A movie should go beyond and above the status quo by being transcendent. A movie becomes transcendent when you cannot tell why you love it, you just find yourself loving it, when it makes you feel universally significant and applicable. 

Finally, when you feel alive and enlightened after watching. Every movie should have something that makes it one-of-a-kind, original and untold, making it have a special place in the hearts of the viewers.

Best Soccer Movies FAQS

Where is Diego Maradona?

Diego Maradona retired from being a professional footballer and is currently the manager of the Mexican second-division club Dorados. In September 2018, he was appointed to be the coach of Mexican club Dorados.

Why did Clough Fail at Leeds?

The main reason that led to Clough’s failure at the club is his attitude towards the Leed’s players. He made a big mistake when he joined Leeds United, called them cheats, and said that they should pitch their medals in the bin. 

Final Thoughts

Evoking emotions, making you think, and being easy to watch is the nature of all good films. It does not matter whether it’s a historical recreation or a documentary but you should look for inspirational content that suits your soccer needs. The above soccer movies fit all these criteria and you cannot go wrong by choosing either of them.

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.