Recommended Viewing

The Spoiler’s 10 best movies about football

Including the story of the New York Cosmos

New York Cosmos

With this weird volcanic dust cloud forcing footballers to endure cruel long distance coach rides, The Spoiler thought it high time to come up with some recommended viewing to ease the players through their agonising boredom.

After much thought, below are ten of the greatest football-related movies ever made… 

Once in a Lifetime

By far and away the hippest football documentary going, this tells the story of the New York Cosmos in the 1970s and 80s. Matt Dillon narrates, there’s some wonderful old footage of historical football stars living the dream, and the soundtrack comes courtesy of funk music legends like James Brown, Kool & The Gang, and Parliament. To put in perspective how good this is, just imagine what a Chelsea 2010 documentary would look like. Terry and Cole cruising Movida with Bowers and Gaffney. The fat one from Gavin and Stacey doing the voice over. Soundtrack by The Stereophonics. Doesn’t really bear thinking about, does it?

Gregory’s Girl

According to the British Film Institute, this is the 30th best British movie of all time – in any genre. Although, if you were to insist on hanging a label on it, it’s part romantic comedy, part feminist empowerment allegory set in the male dominated world of secondary school football. The “Girl” in the title is a hot female footballer who just wants to play for her school team, whilst the “Gregory” bit refers to the lanky goalkeeper who dreams of massaging Deep Heat into her legs. Hilarity ensues.

The Firm

There have been plenty of films made over the last few years about football violence, including one with Frodo from The Lord of the Rings ditching his caring nature in favour of bricking people in the face. Then you’ve got the one which appears to be a Danny Dyer showreel for those appalling programmes that he now fronts on obscure cable channels. And then this one – not to be confused with the Nick Love 2009 remake. It’s from 1988, and stars the brilliant Gary Oldman as an estate agent who likes having a fight at the weekends. But be warned, kids: violence is so not cool.

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait

This documentary is not for everyone, and woe betide any man who considers this to be a wise option as a date movie - it’s basically the date choice equivalent of turning up to a lovely restaurant in just your underpants. But for those absolutely in love with the beautiful game, it’s absorbing stuff, as a camera follows the great Zidane through a 2005 match between Real Madrid and Villarreal. And while that doesn’t sound particularly riveting, seriously, you’d be very surprised.

Shaolin Soccer

With Kung Fu films, the general outline tends to stay the same: someone is humiliated, they learn how to do freakish things with their bodies, and then they go about winning back some important pride points. This is really no different to the norm, except that they happen to have thrown some astonishingly acrobatic goal scoring into the mix, and centred the whole thing on the hazy world of five-a-side. It keeps Bend It Like Beckham off this list. Quite easily, in fact.

The Miracle of Bern

Of course, a studied list of films wouldn’t be a studied list of films without something a little bit foreign and subtitled in there. And they don’t come much more foreign – nor subtitled – than The Miracle of Bern. A German film from 2003, it focuses on the 1954 World Cup final, whilst simultaneously tackling big issues like war, politics, and the delicate nature of a father’s relationship with his child. Plus, did we mention that there are subtitles? Subtitles always make you look cleverer than you actually are. A good thing.


Whilst abominations like The Football Factory appear to celebrate the gang mentality of football violence, I.D manages the impressive feat of capturing the less glorious nature of repeatedly punching other people in the face on a weekly basis. The story of an undercover policeman infiltrating a mob of hooligans, then slowly going bonkers, it’s heavy stuff, which comes with the added bonus of not once featuring Danny Dyer. Not even for a second.

Looking For Eric

Those who were there to witness Eric Cantona talking in pretentious riddles about sardines, seagulls and trawlers will have been far from shocked by his decision to pursue the arts once he’d turned down his collars and hung up his boots. And this film finds the footballer cannily playing himself, as a confused postman goes into meltdown and seeks advice on the state of his life from a Cantona hallucination. With surprisingly moving results.

A Shot at Glory

Fine, this isn’t a particularly good film. In fact, it’s probably the exact opposite of a good film. And yet, it still manages to keep Fever Pitch, Goal!, and the one with fatty loudmouth from The Royle Family off the list. Why? Because it features Ally McCoist attempting to act, alongside one of The Spoiler’s favourite ever actors – Robert Duvall – equally failing in his quest to perfect a Scottish accent. That’s why. And that this was ever allowed to happen is a crime. A beautiful, sometimes hysterical crime.

Escape to Victory

Once a Christmas staple, Escape to Victory literally has it all – Sly Stallone playing some kind of John the Baptist figure, preempting the later surge of US goalkeepers into the UK. Britain’s greatest living actor – Michael Caine – putting in the thirteenth or fourteenth best performance of his entire career. And moving turns from Pele, Bobby Moore, and Ossie Ardiles. It’s the old story of prisoners putting one over on the baddies, with the help of Rambo in goal. Uplifting.

Any more for any more? Let us know your favourite football films with a comment…

15 responses so far
  • Phil // April 20, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Fever Pitch ain’t too bad, Josh, however, to roll back the clock a few weeks, I guess your anti-Arsenal ways forced you in to this omission! Ha ha…

  • Blaine // April 20, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Has anyone ever watched Goal III? It has to go down as the worst football movie ever.

    I like Fever Pitch because reminds me of when Liverpool were good enough to be considered a serious title contender… and you could smoke inside. Fun times, really.

  • Richard the Red (Devil) // April 20, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    “The Damned United” was a great movie about Brian Clough’s 44 days in charge of Leeds(scum).

  • Ziggy // April 20, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    The Damned United has got to be one of the best. Michael Sheen is spot on as Brian Clough

  • Eric // April 21, 2010 at 2:47 am

    what?! Green Street has to be on here. it’s by far my favorite movie of all-time, let alone my favorite football movie.

  • Luna // April 21, 2010 at 3:01 am

    The Game of Their Lives is okay if you can get past the fact that Gerard BUTTler is in it.

  • Liya // April 21, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Fever Pitch is brilliant, even if you aren’t an Arsenal fan.

    Goal I was okay, Goal II was…well as an Arsenal fan the ending was painful, to say the least. But the fact that it included players such as Iker Casillas trying to act was somewhat redeeming.

    And Shaolin Soccer is one of the funniest films I have ever seen.

  • mustard // April 21, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Fever pitch is shit. Unless you’re an arsenal fan (who haven’t won anything for five years)

  • gamblino // April 21, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Blaine, Goal III had me as a captive viewer on a 10 hour flight and I still couldn’t stomach watching past the first 10 minutes!

    And surely no Brit can enjoy Green street. Worst mockney accents ever. An Abomination.

  • Delboy Dublin // April 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Once In A Lifetime is fantastic. The interviews with Giorgio Chinaglia are brilliant, purely because the man doesn’t realise what a massive bellend he is (or he does & just doesn’t care!). Also love the sly little dig at Pele who refused to appear in it because of how much they were offering to pay him

  • carol // April 21, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    The Damned United.

  • Kiki // April 21, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    what , no damned united ? ? ?

  • randomsausage // April 22, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Wot, no “Air Bud: World Pup”???

    That was a milestone cultural moment for US-soccerball. The omni-sporting hound’s previous movie was “Air Bud: Wide Receiver”……so clearly the beautiful game is on the rise, here, Uber Der Pond.

    Plus you get to see Brandi Chastain in her bra again…..

  • Rx Tech Devil // April 27, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Lest we forget Mean Machine?

  • Sean // August 18, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Missing two movies:
    1)The Damned United
    2)The first Goal! movie.

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