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One For The Cameras: The Greatest Football Films Of All Time

November 09, 2015

- Grant Whittington

It’s very hard to produce a good football film, after all there’s no greater script than the games we are put through week in week out. Not many get it right, the Goal franchise failed to really turn any heads, and the likes of The Football Factory, Green Street, and The Firm are pretty awful.

Which makes these all the better, from football funnies to inspiring true stories, we run down our favourite football films to grace the silver screen…

Escape To Victory (1981)

Escape To Victory is comfortably one of the greatest football films in history and stars many of the time’s finest footballers including Bobby Moore, Mike Summerbee, Ossie Ardiles, and the great Pele, alongside Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone.

Directed by John Huston the film is centred around an exhibition match between World War II prisoners of war and a German team. Despite a match with officials biased towards the Nazi regime, the POWs draw thanks to some fabulous footwork from Pele in a film with some of the best choreographed football in Hollywood.

There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble

In stark contrast There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble couldn’t be anymore northern. In fact, it couldn’t be anymore Mancunian. Starring Ray Winstone and Robert Carlyle, the films centres around schoolboy Jimmy who finds a pair of magic boots and becomes the star of the school football team.

They coast through the rounds of the Manchester Schools Cup and into the final where a jealous Gordon throws his boots into the canal, and Jimmy loses his touch. The second half sees him discover the magic is in his feet and finishes with the infamous line…

The Damned United

One of the more recent football movies, Michael Sheen portrayed the legendary Brian Clough beautifully, telling the tale of his extraordinary 44 days at Leeds United during the 1970s.

The outspoken manager had worked his way up from Hartlepool United with right hand man Peter Taylor, winning the First Division with Derby County before he took over Leeds, alone, despite being very critical of the Yorkshire team and their beloved Don Revie in previous seasons.

The film gained excellent reviews from film critics, whilst the footballing world, and those who knew Clough were less receptive, due to the dramatization of events. Taken with a pinch of salt though, the film is a really fantastic offering.

Looking For Eric

For many Mancunians from the red side of the city, Eric Cantona is more than just a footballer. He is a god.

Ken Loach’s Looking For Eric follows postman Eric whose sons are in trouble with a violent drugs lord. After smoking cannabis, Eric (played by Steve Evets) starts having hallucinations of his idol Eric Cantona who guides him through his tough time.

The film culminates in hundreds of FC United of Manchester and Manchester United fans wearing Cantona masks storming the gangsters house and humiliating him.

A real feel good film, it’s Loach at his best and with clips of The King in there too, as football films go, it can’t really be beaten.

Next Goal Wins

The only documentary in the list, Next Goal Wins follows American Samoa, the world’s worst team in the world, as they go through the World Cup Qualifying campaign.

A real heart-warming and uplifting documentary, the movie shows their journey as they look to restore national pride after a 31-0 defeat to Australia. With the help of American coach Thomas Rongen, the team set on a journey to right the wrongs of the past and begin to pick up points in a group where they stand no chance. Or do they?

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