Best & Worst: Football Movies

This Friday sees the release of Nick Love's reimagining of The Firm , the 1988 TV movie about violent football organisations starring an electric Gary Oldman.

Whether the film is a good idea or not remains to be seen (we really enjoyed it), but what we can do is take a look at the competition in the form of the best and worst football movies, and put a bit of context on the situation for you.

As far as football films go, we've included both sports films, documentaries and hooligan films, as for what we consider the best and the worst, well read on and find out...

Danny Dyer Football Movies

The Football Factory (2004)

Why It Rocks: As far as Mr. Dyer goes, it doesn’t get more meat and potatoes than this 2004 Nick Love collaboration, one which cemented his large London persona firmly in the conscious of the great cinema-going public.

Love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny a smile during the opening voice-over, when his so-Cockney-it-hurts character Tommy Johnson utters the line; “…and occasionally kicking fuck out of someone.” Lavin’ it-ah!

Mean Machine (2001)

Why It Sucks: Don’t get us wrong, there is plenty to enjoy about this Vinnie Jones vehicle, itself a remake of Robert Aldrich’s Burt Reynolds vehicle The Longest Yard , it’s just that Dyer doesn’t really put in a classic ‘Double D’ performance.

Cast as Billy The Limpet, DD is all limbs, he’s got the co-ordination of ballet dancing buffalo – where’s the swagger my son? Where’s the masticated vowels and double Dutch rhyming slang? He’s just not the same man…

Next: Violent Football Movies 1 [page-break]

Violent Football Movies 1

I.D. (1995)

Why It Rocks: One of the most balanced portrayals of football violence ever released, ID manages to show the dark side of life in a firm, leaving any hint of glorification of violence as a sickening taste in the back of your mouth.

Succeeding where many of its predecessors have failed, the mental breakdown of an undercover police officer by the violent and sadistic gang mentality stays with you long after the credits roll. Reece Dinsdale should have been a star.

Rise Of The Footsoldier (2007)

Why It Sucks: Based on the real life story of Carlton Leach, one of the country’s most notorious football hooligans-turned-gangsters, the film practically plays out like a two hour commercial for the criminal life.

Although it strays rapidly from its roots in the ranks of hooligans the ICF, the stand out scenes involve a glaringly brutal glorification of gang violence. Even if it isn’t the only film on the list to do so, it's the least balanced.

Next: Girls Playing Football [page-break]

Girls Playing Football Movies

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

Why It Rocks: Gurinder Chadha’s coming-of-age tale was a deserved world wide smash, thanks to its smart and witty handling of race relations, sexual politics and the break-out appearance of a certain Miss Knightley.

With well rounded characters, a sharp eye for satire and a razor wit alongside the football, Bend It Like Beckham is a case in point that football really is the universal language, forget that love nonsense.

Why It Sucks: Watch the trailer, and if you can tell us A) what’s going on, and B) one good reason to watch it that doesn’t involve Channing Tatum’s abs, then we welcome your input, because we can’t make heads or tails of it.

Wait, what’s that? This is a Shakespeare adaptation? Oh, yeah. Twelth Night may have been the template, but this is less Bard, more barred. Making matters worse is Vinnie Jones, thrown in to give the film ‘credibility’. That’ll be the day.

Next: Working Class Hero Football [page-break]

Working Class Hero Football Movies

When Saturday Comes (1996)

Why It Rocks: Good old Sean Bean. Not only proving that the English do a rags to riches as good as the Yanks, it proves Mr. Bean has had a taste for fantasy long before his days in New Zealand on the Rings fiasco.

The story of factory worker Jimmy Muir’s rise to footballing stardom, with his beloved Sheffield United stuffing Manchester United in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, may be pure fantasy, but after all, that’s what the FA Cup is all about.

Goal! (2005)

Why It Sucks: Based on the premise, a poor Latino kid from Los Angeles travels half-way around the world, out of his own pocket, to try out for Newcastle United. One more thing, it’s not a comedy.

From the dramatic voice over, to the ridiculous ‘special finishing move’ that looks like you’d need wires to pull it off, this film is the epitome of everything that’s wrong with American attitudes to football.

Next: Yank Football Movies [page-break]

Yank Football Movies

A Shot At Glory (1999)

Why It Rocks: You’ve got to admire their candor. Seeing the global profit potential of a hit football film, Hollywood types keep having a crack at fitting the world game into one of their formulas. Pity they keep getting it so wrong.

One reason why this film rocks, and it doesn’t involve the film debut of A Question Of Sport’s Ally McCoist or Robert Duvall’s dodgy brogue; it’s Michael Keaton, playing the exact kind of asshole who funded this monstrosity. Love him.

The Game Of Their Lives (2005)

Why It Sucks: Written and Directed by the Guy behind Hoosiers, arguably one of the greatest sports films ever made, this lube free shaft bonanza is about as fun free and formulaic as they come. Oh, and nobody cares.

Yes apparently the USA beat England in Brazil in 1950. So? The worst bit isn’t even the British cast of Patrick Stewart and Gerry Butler – it’s in the trailer when they say “Today, millions of Americans love the game of soccer…” Bollocks.

Next: Little League Football [page-break]

Little League Football Movies

Ladybugs (1992)

Why It Rocks: In the good ‘ol USA, only two type of people play football; kids and women. This film, helpfully, combines the two, with a liberal helping of sexism, ignorance, bigotry and cross-dressing.

Rodney Dangerfield, this best thing about most things he’s in, stars as the coach who suggests his son don a wig to help out his struggling Girls Soccer Team, and if it weren’t for Rodders, this shambles would be beyond awful.

Kicking And Screaming (2005)

Why It Sucks: Will Ferrell, captain of shooting himself in the face, followed up Anchorman with this venture into family comedy, which combined with Bewitched for a two-hand slap to the gullet of his fanbase.

Why people still give critics and journalists fodder in the form of awful titles like Kicking And Screaming is anyone’s guess. Even if the film weren’t so laughably bad, the title alone is worth a thousand puns. Too easy.

Next: Violent Football Movies 2 [page-break]

Violent Football Movies 2

Awaydays (2009)

Why It Rocks: Based on the excellent novel by Kevin Sampson, Awaydays feels a little derivative, if only because it comes after so many other similar films, when the source material pre-dates most of them.

Where it succeeds, brilliantly in fact, is in the use of period music. Joy Division and Ultravox can be heard during many of the pivotal scenes, alongside The Jam, Echo & The Bunnymen and others. Great soundtrack, good film.

Green Street (2005)

Why It Sucks: Two words. Elijah ‘what the bollocks is Frodo the Hobbit doing in a film about hardened East End football firms the poncy bollocks he wouldn’t last two seconds in real life’ Wood.

Okay that may have been slightly more than two words, but the point is made. Whether you thing the fights are well choreographed, whether you like the acting or the music, the fact remains this. Elijah Wood throwing a punch = funny.

Next: TV Football Movies [page-break]

TV Football Movies

The Firm (1988)

Why It Rocks: Two Words. Gary ‘Fair enough Nick Love’s quasi remake is getting some solid reviews but no matter how great a film it may be or how successful, one thing is doesn’t have is this guy’ Oldman.

In all fairness to Nick Love, and every director on the planet not lucky enough to cast Gary Oldman, most films aren’t half what they could be with a even a cameo from the man. We’d watch him read the menu at McDonalds.

Hooligan (1985)

Why It Sucks: Re-released on DVD to tie in with the current nostalgia for British Hooliganism of the mid-80s, the film attempts a balanced examination of the mindset of the hooligan, with socialists and politicans giving their two cents.

Made at the peak of football violence in the mid-80s, the doc isn’t far reaching enough and only offers speculative arguments to counter the brutality it highlights. It hasn’t aged well at all. Avoid.

Next: Pele Football Movies [page-break]

Pele Football Movies

Once In A Lifetime (2006)

Why It Rocks: The New York Cosmos were part of the now defunct North American Soccer League, as 1970s attempt to get Yanks to watch sports that were free flowing, and full of open play. It didn’t work.

The Cosmos were part-owned by Warner Brothers head Steve Ross, and were the Manchester City of their day, able to pay extortionate wages to buy in the kind of talent that would make them champions. It didn’t end well though.

Escape To Victory (1981)

Why It Sucks: It’s not the presence of the legendary Pele that gets our goat, nor is it the presence of Bobby Moore or any of the rest of the footballing legends lending their talents to this John Huston directed slice of Gerry bashing.

The problem is namely a certain Sylvester Stallone, whose sheer inclusion is a constant gnawing on the back of the eyeballs, with his painfully American persona turning off the Yanks as much as the Brits. Just cringeworthy.

Next: Foreign Football Movies [page-break]

Foreign Football Movies

Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Why It Rocks: Kung Fu and football in the same sentence, and it doesn’t involve Eric Cantona. Stephen Chow’s witty and inventive use of wire-effects and CGI makes this an endlessly entertaining yarn about five-a-side playing monks.

The plot is classic Kung Fu movie, all to do with honouring this and avenging that, and combines the classic underdog story of a team of no hopers trained to be champions, it’s a mix of flavours that works out like cheesy peas. Awesome.

Guys & Balls (2004)

Why It Sucks: Think of a sports movie cliché, and think of a gay movie cliché, no throw it all together in one film, add German people and what have you got? A mockery of a sham of a mockery. Of a sham.

Supposedly supporting gay equality in football, this is pretty much a slap in the face to gay culture, with no pun too obvious, no stereotype unaccounted for and no humour to be had along the way. Poor effort.

Any thoughts? Feel free to chant, cheer and boo in the comment box!

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