Amid the cancellations and suspensions brought on by COVID-19, many sports lovers are feeling at a loss for good content that isn’t a Super Bowl rerun. That being said, now is the perfect time to binge some iconic sports movies, especially those centered around the world’s favorite sport — soccer. Here is a list of five great movies featuring the beautiful game to binge while you’re responsibly practicing social distancing:
A brief disclaimer: This list is most definitely biased, but having seen these multiple times either on nine-hour bus rides to tournaments or at sleepovers with teammates growing up, I think I’ve compiled a pretty solid list that includes all genres focused around soccer. Some are serious, some are funny, but as long as they’re about soccer, who cares?
5.“Bend It Like Beckham” (2003)
Jess (Parminder Nagra), a 14-year-old Indian soccer player in England, dreams of playing professional football like her idol David Beckham. Her orthodox parents don’t approve of her aspirations, but Jess attempts to persuade them to support her alongside her teammate and friend Jules (Keira Knightley).
I’m fairly sure that every millenial or Gen Z girl playing soccer growing up saw this movie, and for good reason. It’s a great coming of age story about navigating relationships with friends and family, all while pursuing your dreams in the game you love. It’s also pretty laughable to see non-soccer players like Knightley attempt to play on screen.
4.“She’s The Man” (2006)
Starring Amanda Bynes as Viola Hastings and Channing Tatum as Duke Orsino, this movie is a great light-hearted rom-com option inspired by Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”. After her high school cuts the girls’ soccer team, Hastings impersonates her twin brother to enroll at a competing academy and join the boy’s soccer team. While posing as her brother at school, she has to dodge family, friends and teammates to keep up the ruse and make the team, all while developing feelings for her roommate and teammate Orsino.
This movie is iconic. Hastings’s efforts to not get caught in her complicated lie, combined with her catching feelings for her roommate while she’s posing as a boy makes for unparalleled humor. Even though the soccer skill displayed throughout the movie is below par and cringe-worthy at times, “She’s The Man” is a staple in terms of soccer films.
3.“Kicking and Screaming” (2005)
Phil Weston (Will Ferrell), the son of a highly competitive father (Robert Duvall), takes on the role of coaching his young son’s ragtag soccer team and realizes he is slowly assimilating his father’s cutthroat nature as the season progresses.
If I could rank this movie higher without feeling judged for my poor taste in comedy, I would. The prepubescent members of the team are hilarious (shoutout Byong Sun) and the relationship between Ferrell’s and Duvall’s characters remains entertaining, even while watching for the hundredth time (cue the backyard tetherball match scene). This movie also features legendary Chicago Bears player and coach Mike Ditka as the nextdoor neighbor!
2.“The Damned United” (2009)
Loosely based on a true story, this movie follows the journey of Brian Clough and his 44-day management of Leeds United in 1974. Michael Sheen portrays Clough as the unpopular and volatile coach navigating his short-lived employment at the Second Division club.
There’s a reason this film and Sheen received a number of nominations in Britain. Even if you are unfamiliar with the actual history of Clough and Leeds United, the portrayal of characters in this fictionalized adaptation is impressive and does a great job of immersing you in the reality of the club’s situation at the time.
1.“Goal!” trilogy (2005-2009)
Santiago Muñez (Kuno Becker) is a Mexican immigrant landscaper working in Los Angeles who dreams of being a professional soccer player. He’s noticed by former Newcastle player and current scout Glen Foy, who manages to get him a tryout at the club. After struggling to adapt to life and play in cold and rainy Britain, Muñez gradually makes his way up in the team and the rest is history.
After watching this whole trilogy on a single bus ride with my team as a kid, I can say that Muñez’s storyline is very compelling and consuming. It’s a fantastic narrative about the ups and downs of seeing your dreams become a reality and the consequences you face after you’ve reached the top. This series is nearly perfect and always worth watching.