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As popular as soccer is around the world, it’s impossible to not be interested in a soccer story. Imagine watching a story on arguably the two best players in the history of the game, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, or a story of Denmark’s incredible journey during the recent euros or even the behind-the-scenes moment of a historic world cup win. Soccer stories are always magical and super to watch for me.
Even though they might not be as popular in one of the world’s biggest, if not the biggest, movie industries in the United States of America, you’d be surprised at how good some of them are, and watching them wouldn’t even be a bad idea. Join me as I take you through the best 25 soccer movies, in no particular order, in the subsequent subheads, based on IMDB and rotten tomatoes rating.
1. Goal: The Dream Begins
Goal! The Dream Begins is a 2005 soccer film about a young Mexican illegal immigrant, Santiago Munoz, living in Los Angeles, USA. Santiago lives with his brother, grandmother, and father, who is a gardener. He worked as a busboy at a Chinese restaurant while also working with his father in his gardening business.
Despite work, Santiago, played by Kuno Becker, still found time to play football though his chances of playing pro were slim at the time until he was noticed by a former Newcastle player, Glen Foy, who set him up for a trial. After several unfortunate events including the death of his father, Santiago makes the first team for Newcastle against Liverpool and helps them win a Champions League spot.
He also eventually meets his Grandmother who told him his father saw his first professional game which delights Santiago.
2. Mean Machine
Mean Machine is a 2001 soccer comedy film about a retired professional footballer, Danny Meehan, who was banned from football for match-fixing. He is soon arrested for assaulting police officers and sent to Longmarsh prison.
When he arrives, the governor tells him he pushed for him to come to the prison so he can be the head coach of the prison wardens’ football team. He rejects and instead wants to build a team of fellow inmates to face the wardens in preparation for their new season. The journey is not easy for Danny, played by Vinnie Jones, but he eventually gets a team and plays against the wardens’ team, beating them. The film is an adaptation of the 1994 film, the Longest Yard.
3. Bend It Like Beckham
Everyone knows the legendary David Beckham and his skill with free kicks. Bend It Like Beckham is a soccer romantic comedy film about an 18-year-old girl of British Indian Sikhs who loves soccer but her parents are not in support of the idea. On the other hand, there’s Jess, who is the same age and has the approval of her parents to play the sport.
The story goes on to show the journey of the two girls including how Jess bends a freekick like Beckham and how they eventually get a sports scholarship and travel to the USA to pursue their dreams. At the end of the movie, they see David Beckham which they count as a sign.
4. She’s The Man
She’s The Man is a 2006 romantic comedy soccer film about a girl who disguises herself as her brother so she can be able to play on the soccer team. Viola Hastings, played by Amanda Bynes, loves to play football but her team, the Cornwall soccer team, is canceled which makes her disguise herself as her brother, Sebastian, who should enroll at Illyria, an elite boarding school, but instead goes to London with his fledgling band.
Viola, who is now Sebastian, makes the team and eventually helps them beat Cornwall boy’s soccer team. It is of course not just straightforward as she faces some obstacles but also finds love in Duke, played by Channing Tatum.
5. Pele: The Birth of A Legend
Arguably one of the greatest soccer players of all time, Pele’s story and journey to stardom are revealed in this soccer movie. It shows how Pele was from a poor background and how he used his street skills to help Brazil win the 1958 FIFA World Cup even though at a young age. The movie is also one of the best soccer and sports movies of all time.
6. Game of their Lives
Game Of Their Lives is an American soccer film about the US Soccer team in 1950. The story is another true-life story of the US Soccer team and how they were underdogs against the British team in the 1950 World Cup. The US team eventually won the game 1-0 despite the fact they were mere underdogs.
7. Two Escobars
The movie is a documentary film about the life of the two Escobars and how they helped soccer in Colombia. While Pablo Escobar might be infamous for his crime and leading one of the biggest drug cartels in the world, the other Escobar, Andreas Escobar was a soccer player who brought hope to Colombian soccer dreams amidst hopes of winning the 1994 World Cup in Los Angeles.
The movie surrounds how their fates intertwined and led to the success of the Colombian national team. Unfortunately for Andreas, he scored an “own goal” in the game against the US which dented their dreams of glory, and that perhaps didn’t go well with the support and led to his murder. The movie was released in 2010
Gracie is a 2007 movie about a young girl who loved soccer but was unable to play because people believed girls shouldn’t play football. Gracie, played by Carly Schroeder, decides to join the boy’s team in her school after the death of her brother, Johnny, who was the captain of the team.
She is not allowed to play and she struggles to accept this as she does all she could to make the team. She is eventually given a chance to play in the junior varsity team before moving up to the championship where she scores the winning goal in sudden death when the key player in the team goes out injured.
9. Escape to Victory
Escape to Victory is a 1981 movie about Prisoners of war who plan to use a soccer game to escape from the Germans who have held them captive. The movie features Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, and even legendary soccer player, Pele. The team set up their escape plan with the help of the French Resistance group.
They play the game and draw the game 4-4 even after losing at halftime 4-1. They manage to escape after full time after the crowd watching the game storm into the field.
10. Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos
The movie, released in 2006, is another soccer film about the rise of soccer in the United States upon the signing of the most popular name in soccer, Pele, at New York Cosmos. The signing of Pele marked a new beginning for soccer in the US as well as the North American Soccer League in 1975. The movie is built around that as well as how Pele’s retirement led to a slow decline in the popularity and success of soccer in the country.
11. Kicking It
Kicking It is a 2008 movie about how the lives of homeless people change when they participate in the Homeless World Cup. The story is told around the experiences of six individuals who head to Cape Town for the Homeless World Cup where their lies would change forever. The movie is one of the highly-rated soccer films of all time.
12. A Shot at Glory
This is a 2000 movie about a small team club that needs a star player to be able to improve the club’s fortunes and in the process save the club from being moved away by its American owner. The movie is another highly rated soccer movie and also worth the watch.
13. The Third Half
The Third Half is a 2012 movie about football in Macedonia during World War II. It follows the story of a young man, Kosta, who is a soccer player, and how the Macedonian team was threatened by the Nazis who were deporting Jews. The team now has to stand by one of their coaches, Rudolph Spitz, who is a German Jewish coach and a target for the Nazis.
14. Rise and Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story
This is a 2011 movie about the struggles of US Soccer player, Jay DeMerit and his rise to the top. The documentary film follows the start of Jay’s life when he was still doing menial jobs despite his dreams to become a professional soccer player. His dreams don’t go according to plan as he doesn’t make it into the US league and instead has to travel to Europe at the age of 21.
The movie shows how Jay DeMerit rises from playing in the bottom leagues to eventually playing in the English Premier League and also playing a part in the 2010 World Cup.
Pelada is a 2010 movie about two former soccer players who go around the world to see the game played by different people from different backgrounds. The movie features different countries and how the sport is played in those countries. Though not your regular movie or sports film generally, it still is a good watch.
16. Dare to Dream: The Story of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team
The movie, released in 2005, is another interesting sports documentary film about the rise of the U.S female soccer national team. It features interviews from Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, and Joy Fawcett who played important roles in the development of the team. It follows how the team started and how well they progressed.
17. Sunderland ‘Til I Die
This is a soccer film series that started in 2018 and it follows the happenings around Sunderland Football Club. The documentary follows the soccer club and its incredible and passionate fans during what is the first year back in the championship. The series currently has two seasons and 14 episodes.
18. Ted Lasso
This is another soccer film series about a coach who takes up a tough job of coaching in the English Premier League. Ted Lasso, played by Jason Sudeikis, is an American Football coach from Kansas City who had just only recently led his Division two American football team to a title.
He is employed by the new owner of an English soccer club, AFC Richmond, Rebecca Welton, even though he knows nothing about the sport. The series follows Ted’s coaching career together with his assistant, Coach Beard, as they try to improve the fortunes of the club. The series started in 2020 and currently has two seasons.
Offside is a 2006 movie surrounding the experiences of women trying to get into a soccer stadium to watch the game between Iran and Bahrain. As women are not allowed into stadiums, they have to sneak in or disguise as a man to try to get in to watch the game. In the movie, a young girl goes to watch a football game and is arrested together with other women. The movie follows their experiences throughout the period. Iran eventually won the game 1-0.
20. Shaolin Soccer
In this movie, soccer meets martial arts as a Shaolin monk assembles other childhood friends after the death of their master to win a soccer game with their supernatural abilities to honor him and also promote Shaolin kung fu.
Ronaldo is a soccer documentary film following Cristiano Ronaldo’s rise to the peak of football and becoming one of the greatest footballers of all time. The documentary was released in 2005.
22. The Damned United
This story released in 2009 is another soccer film about a manager who picks up the job at Leeds United despite being a fierce critic of their style of play under the former Manger. He makes rash decisions and is eventually sacked just after 44 days in charge of the job.
23. Next Goal Wins
This is a 2014 documentary soccer film about the American Samoa soccer team who are one of the weakest teams in world soccer as they try to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The team, having suffered a heavy defeat to Australia and was named as one of the weakest national teams in soccer, hire America-based coach Thomas Rongen to help improve their fortunes and get them to qualify for the World Cup.
24. When Saturday Comes
This is a 1996 movie about a heavy drinker who works in a factory but dreams of playing professional soccer for Sheffield United. His fortunes soon change when he is scouted by a recruiter and he gets a chance to fulfill his dreams as long as he can handle his drinking problem.
25. Sommeren ’92
The movie, released in 2015, follows the journey of the Danish national team to winning the 1992 UEFA European Football Championship, marking Denmark’s biggest triumph. The manager of the team, Richard Møller, had failed to qualify the ream for the championship but still gets a chance to make the finals when Yugoslavia doesn’t make the championship due to UN sanctions. They eventually go in to claim the European title despite being underdogs much to the delight of fans.