The beautiful game looks fantastic on TV, indeed Sky’s takeover of football in 1992 paved the way for a whole new era of watching from your sofa. However, football has never quite adapted to the big screen, despite numerous attempts to make films about various aspects of life in the footballing world. Some efforts are commendable, whereas others are simply embarrassing. Here are the Top 10 Football Films (5 best and 5 worst).
5 Oscar worthy displays:
- The Damned United – Based on David Pearce’s novel, the Damned United covers Brian Clough’s disastrous 44 days at Leeds, while incorporating flashbacks of his successful spell in charge of Derby County. Michael Sheen captures ‘Ol’ Big Head’ himself perfectly, whilst highlighting the important relationship between Clough and assistant Peter Taylor effectively. Enjoyable for everyone, not just football fans, The Damned United is certainly one of the best efforts knocking around the box office.
- Mike Bassett: England Manager – Rather like marmite this one, you either love it or you hate it. A satirical take on the woes of English football, where director Steve Barron pokes fun at the red tape bureaucrats in the FA, the tabloid’s shameful treatment of the England team and old fashioned managers. Ricky Tomlinson provides a barrel fun of laughs as the x-rated Mike Bassett, while the plot features the assistant manager lamping Bassett, drunken affairs with transsexuals and a brawl with Ireland and Scotland, the ‘England B-teams.’ What are the chances of a repeat performance this summer?
- Bend it like Beckham – The film captures many of the prejudices of English football, including the role of women and the limited participation of Asians in the game. The drama is of decent quality, even if some of the football action is rather forced, making Bend it like Beckham a good natured watch. Goldenballs himself even makes a tiny cameo at the end. You’d be lying though if you said Keira Knightley wasn’t the main attraction of the film…
- There’s only one Jimmy Gribble – Robert Carlyle took time out from starring as Hitler or in James Bond films to make this 2000 film about Jimmy Grimble, an unlucky 15-year-old in Manchester. Once you look past the rubbishy plot, boy gets lucky boots blah blah blah, this film has the feel-good factor about it and actually makes decent cinema. There’s an appearance from Maria off Corrie as Jimmy’s love interest, while Ray Winstone pops up on our screens not offering us the best half-time odds for once. Jimmy Grimble 8-1 next scorer? Tenner on that please.
- Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait – Not one for all the family I’m afraid. Unless you’re football mad, this could be the most boring thing on TV since Simon Cowell left the X-Factor. The documentary features a game between Real Madrid and Villareal in 2005 from the perspective of the French legend, showing his memorising ability, though in true Zidane fashion he gets sent off at the end. Pity the camera couldn’t have been on Marco Materazzi’s chest in the World Cup Final instead…
And 5 Films even Orlando Bloom would have been embarrassed to appear in:
- When Saturday Comes – We all know Sean Bean is an avid Sheffield United fan, but he didn’t have to make a film to remind the world. Bean plays Jimmy Muir, a talented footballer intent on throwing his career away thanks to his party lifestyle. After his brother’s death, Muir gets his act together and earns a deal at the Blades. Ridiculously corny, with some awfully shot football action to boot, it shows why Sean Bean should stick to wielding a sword around his head.
- Goal – The traditional rags to riches story about an American footballer who makes it in the Premiership with Newcastle United. The only good thing about this film are the cameo appearances from many of the game’s professionals, though it features Newcastle making the Champions League (foreshadow anybody?). Unrealistic and quite frankly boring, it epitomises American attitudes to ‘soccer’, indeed Goal wasn’t even that successful at the box office. So they decided to make two more…
- Escape to Victory – Brilliant cast, awful film. Escape to Victory comes under the ‘so bad, it’s good’ list that features other classics like Lesbian Vampire Killers or Hobo with a Shotgun. The plot is a good idea, featuring Allied prisoners of war as the subject of German propaganda. The only propaganda going on here though was using the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, Bobby Moore and Pele to sell the film, as the acting is wooden and the plot loses direction very quickly. Oh, and Stallone is the worst goalkeeper since Massimo Taibi. Couldn’t he have stuck to making Rocky 16 or whatever we’re on now?
- Fever Pitch – Colin Firth in a film about football? No thanks. Football and rom coms aren’t meant to mix, but rom coms greatest ever plays an Arsenal fan whose relationship is affected by his love for football. The book, by Nick Hornby, is actually a cracker, but doesn’t translate very well to screen. My tip for football and relationships? Just don’t go out with an Arsenal fan.
- Green Street– Football Hooliganism and films are as common as gravy these days, some are enjoyable (see Football Factory), whereas others are not quite so good. Green Street is undoubtedly one of the worst though, featuring Elijah Wood in the West Ham firm. Yes, you did read that correctly. Elijah Wood. The best bit about Green Street is watching a hobbit trying to throw a punch. Not gonna find the ring in East London I’m afraid.