Soccer films are a great medium to explore football.
There is so much choice available, with DOCUMENTARIES and fictional films on hand to provide further thought on the beautiful game.
There are many documentaries on SOCCER focusing on the history of the game, title-winning teams, iconic players and managers.
If you want to know more about football or to be entertained for a couple of hours, there’s plenty of options.
Football magazines and websites offer excellent reviews to help with your choice of football movie.
Magazines like Four Two provide lists of the top football films available so if you are unsure, read their list of top 25 and narrow down your options.
Few feature-length films focus on tactical analysis or statistics within the game. The best place to find out more about these ASPECTS of the game are YouTube and Instagram.
Dedicated fans have setup channels where you can learn more about your team and how they play.
#1: Diego Maradona
Diego Maradona is one of the greatest football icons of the 20th century.
The Argentinian forward was a magician on the pitch and provided moments of absolute joy (something which is difficult for an England fan to admit due to the hand of God.)
This feature-length documentary was released in 2019 and captures the two-sided nature to Diego Maradona: The adored GENIUS footballer for Argentina and Naples, contrasted with his problems of drug addiction and crime links.
The film uses archival footage beautifully to portray Maradona and showed the audience why it’s difficult to just remember the Argentinian’s amazing play on the pitch without being reminded of his problems outside of football.
- Story documenting Maradona’s rise and problems
- Excellent soundtrack
- Use of never before seen archive footage
- Run-time: 130 minutes
- Available in English and Spanish
- Available on DVD and Blu-Ray or pay-per-view streaming online
- 12 rating
- Effective but easy-to-follow story-telling
- No prior knowledge or understanding is required about Maradona
- Never before seen footage used to add to drama.
- The run time is slightly long for the story
- Not suitable for children due to rating
Brian Clough will be known to most football fans from the 60s through to the 90s for his achievements with Derby and Nottingham Forest, then for his failures at Leeds United.
Clough was a born winner and his desire to succeed became both a positive and a HINDERANCE for him and those around him.
The Damned United captures his personality perfectly. The story builds up with his successes and then shows his decline as a manager where he tries too hard to succeed.
This fictional account portrays his story accurately and captures the OBSESSIVE nature of Clough.
Whether you are familiar with the ex-manager’s story or not, you will be pleased to watch this great film. I certainly learnt a lot about the history of English football by watching.
- Less focus on football but more on characters
- Historical context to the key years of Brian Clough’s career.
- Well researched and events are accurate to true events in real life.
- 98 minutes runtime
- Available on DVD, Blu-ray and online streaming
- Only available in English
- 15 rating
- Great education about one of the most competitive characters in English football
- In-depth knowledge of football isn’t required to enjoy the film
- The acting is top-quality and the characters are accurately portrayed
- 15 rating leaves the film unsuitable for young people
- The ending has been criticised for being underwhelming by some viewers
#3: Sunderland till’ I Die
This documentary follows Sunderland for a season. Initially, the documentary was going to SHOW the club’s rise back to the Premier League after being relegated the previous season.
However, Sunderland suffer an abysmal season which is captured amazingly in this documentary.
Seeing the pain, passion, and desire of the fans supporting their local club and showing their JOYS and frustrations reflects what so many of us feel about our own clubs.
If you supported a club that has befallen hard times, you will have nothing but sympathy for all involved at the club after watching this dramatic documentary.
- Eight episodes of 40-45 minutes each
- All access footage of the club, including interviews with the manager, directors and fans
- Immersive action is well captured by the director.
- Only available on Netflix
- Available in English
- Overall run-time of approximately 320 minutes
- 15 rating
- The documentary is high-octane and leaves you empathetic with the fans
- The production provides excellent shots of the action, crowd reaction and views of the city.
- Easy to watch and follow due to short episode lengths
- If you follow Football League football, you know the outcome of the story.
- Some knowledge of Sunderland’s history and stature in English football may be needed to understand the story
#4: Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait
You may not think that watching a single soccer player playing a game of soccer would be that engaging.
However, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait completely transfixes the audience and highlights the sheer magnitude of Zidane and his ability on the football pitch.
I have many fond memories of watching Zidane grace football pitches in the 90s and 00s. Some of his goals SHATTER the logic of physics and his passing ability and skill would have engaged any young footballer.
This film shot Zidane playing a match for Real Madrid against Villarreal in 2005 and the filmmakers did a fantastic job at capturing the grace of Zizou on the pitch.
Whilst filming, subtitles are used to translate Zidane’s words on the pitch.
If you watched Zidane play or have seen clips of him on the pitch, you will enjoy this close-up PERSPECTIVE of the Frenchman and you will be left with your boots and ball in hand, wanting to get on the pitch.
- One camera shot film of Zidane
- Captures the grace of Zidane on the football pitch
- Features other players, such as David Beckham, almost as supporting actors on the pitch.
- Excellent soundtrack from Mogwai accompanies the sound of football and crowd noise.
- Available on DVD and online streaming
- Run time (approx.) 90 minutes
- Recorded in French and Spanish (due to Zidane speaking French and his teammates speaking Spanish) but subtitles are available
- PG rating
- The immersive nature of the film will leave you wanting to play football.
- A highlight is the building soundtrack from early on in the match that suits the drama unfolding on the pitch well.
- Offers a unique insight into player behavior on the pitch. Zidane interacts and confronts the referee and opposition players throughout the film
- The running time may be slightly too long and you may find yourself fast-forwarding to more highlights of the match
- There is no interview or background on Zidane, but only film of him playing football which can be frustrating as you have to look elsewhere to find out more about Zizou.
#5: Bend it like Beckham
Bend it like Beckham is a light-hearted comedy, drama film based on a young Sikh girls’ obsession with soccer.
But, it’s not just the focus on soccer in this film that makes it such a good watch. The film EXPLORES religion, gender and culture through soccer and subtly unpicks different perceptions of the game.
Some elements of discrimination also highlight some of the difficulties some people have faced when playing soccer in England.
Although it was made nearly two decades ago, some of these issues are still relevant in soccer today, giving it an almost timeless feel.
There is lots of EXCELLENT acting in this film and it ultimately provides a feel-good factor with a good blend of humour and seriousness at times.
However, if you love soccer and want something easy to watch on a weekend or weeknight after work (if you’re not playing football) then this film doesn’t disappoint.
- Feel good film with excellent actresses and actors.
- A fictional, light-hearted look into the relationship between culture, society and football
- A good blend of humour, drama and thoughtfulness.
- 112 mins run time
- Available in English language only
- 12 rating (not suitable for younger children)
- Available via online streaming, DVD and Blu-ray
- Very easy to watch and follow the storyline
- Different characters are explored within the film, without losing focus on the main character ‘Jess’.
- Lots of great footballing action to inspire playing the game. But more-so for young girls to start playing football as there are plenty of good, fictional, role models in the film.
- The ending feels a bit rushed to cram every story to a fitting conclusion so the film loses some of its impact
- Although rated a 12, some aspects of the film may not be suitable for younger viewers.
#6: The Two Escobar’s
Pablo Escobar was a notorious drug lord in Colombia during the 1980s and 1990s.
But, despite his involvement in crime, violence and drugs, he was also INFLUENCIAL in trying to build a Colombian football team to compete with the world’s best on the international stage.
Another Escobar was leading the national team to greatness on the pitch at the same time. Andres Escobar was the adored footballing hero of Colombia and the team entered the 1994 World Cup in the USA with HIGH ASPIRATIONS.
However, Anders Escobar’s own goal ultimately eliminated Colombia from the tournament.
This film, in dramatic fashion, examines the fallout from this key event in the 1994 World Cup and explores the fateful events that ensued between the two Escobar’s in the days following the south American’s elimination from the tournament.
- Key interviews and testament from ex-players, gangsters and politicians surrounding the events.
- A good examination of how the entirety of a country centres around the events on a football pitch
- Well shot and gritty production of the film captures the events and period of Colombia’s history well.
- Run time of 100 minutes
- Available via online streaming sites, DVD and Blu-ray
- 15 rating (unsuitable for younger viewers)
- Available in English language
- A well-told documentary about a life-changing event for Colombia
- You can watch the film without any knowledge of Colombia’s footballing history or of Pablo Escobar’s building of an international drug cartel.
- The power of the event that took place after the 1994 World Cup is not watered down and you finish the film having a good understanding of the Two Escobar’s relationship and why events unfolded, the way they did after Colombia’s loss to the USA.
- Some of the interviews with key figures surrounding events can be too long and slow the pace of the documentary and the storytelling
- This is more of a social-political documentary that highlights football’s importance on a nation rather than focusing on football tactics or highlights.
The nature of all (good) films is to EVOKE Emotion, make you think and can be easy to watch. Maradona fits all of these criteria and you do not need to know lots about football to watch, understand and enjoy the film.
The never before seen footage used to tell the story of Diego Maradona is what SETS it apart from any other football film.
It shows that it is possible to have a divided opinion on one person. Maradona was admired in one sense but disdained in others and this film portrays this so well.
Diego Maradona isn’t just a documentary about a footballer, it’s an EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER which we all become a part of.