Ten terrific football movies
The world has football on the brain right now, what with the ongoing World Cup throwing up one great match after another.
But for those of us who find the 0-0 draws less than magnificent, here's a look at ten truly great English-language films about football -- some of them even better than the real thing:
One of the seminal soccer films, this John Huston film is one of those immensely likable -- and immensely one-sided -- pieces of Anglo-American propaganda.
Set during World War II, the film is about a match between the German national team and a ragtag team made of POWs, who are gunning not just for an upset victory, but for an escape to freedom.
Max von Sydow and Michael Caine bring in the acting muscle, but the scene is stolen by the all-star lineup of global soccer superstars, including Pele, Bobby Moore and Oswaldo Ardiles.
Image: A poster of Victory
Without question the most original take on soccer, this chopsocky tour de force by director Stephen Chow is a must-watch in every sense of the word.
With action straight out of a Looney Tunes cartoon, a sloppy team brings kung-fu to the football field and the results are mindblowing.
Visually trippy and consistently hilarious, this slapstick stunner is one for the ages.
Image: A scene from Shaolin Soccer
A Shot At Glory
Robert Duvall stars alongside real-life Scottish footballer Ally McCoist in this predictable but warmly made story of a fictional Scottish football club trying to reach the finals of the Scottish Cup.
Borrowing from real life matches, teams and characters, the film is a rousing one -- not least because of a soundtrack written by none other than Mark Knopfler.
Image: A poster of A Shot At Glory
The Other Final
Sometimes the losers can slug it out better than any winning team can ever hope to.
In this terrific 2003 documentary, we see Bhutan and Montserrat, the lowest ranked teams in the FIFA rankings, take on each other in Bhutan.
The film is a tremendously engrossing one, and the scrappy teams bring a level of commitment -- not to mention drama -- that the usual favourites hardly ever provide.
Image: A poster of The Other Final
Bend It Like Beckham
Gurinder Chadha's cross-cultural take on soccer as an escape route for an Indian-British teenage girl is a riot, a truly original hotchpotch of ideas and genres.
Jess wants to be like her hero, David Beckham. Her Punjabi parents obviously oppose this plan, but Parminder Nagra's heroine is determined enough, and, aided by best friend Keira Knightley, manages to get on the pitch.
Image: A poster of Bend It Like Beckham
The Damned United
The always-brilliant Michael Sheen stars in this fine, fine story about the Leeds United football team.
Playing the controversial but exceptionally talented Brain Clough, Sheen traces the rise to glory -- all the way up to the team manager role -- and slips along almost every pitfall along the way. A powerful performance.
Image: A poster of The Damned United
Based loosely on Nick Hornby's novel, this film stars Colin Firth as a completely fanatical football fan.
Thoroughly entertaining, with a great performance at its core, this film shows a true-blooded fan's trials and tribulations as his beloved Arsenal football team goes through a bitterly contested season.
Image: A poster of Fever Pitch
Long before she became a movie starlet, actress Elisabeth Shue played as part of an all-male football team.
This film, based on her experiences, is directed by her husband Davis Guggenheim.
Her brother Andrew, a professional footballer, cameos. Not a fantastic film, but by golly, what a great story it makes.
Image: A poster of Gracie
Soccer minus the glitz, this fascinating documentary shows us a tournament held every year in South Africa -- the homeless world cup, consisting of homeless people from around the world.
Emotionally crippling, the film might seem manipulative at times but the very concept of this unbelievable tournament makes up for everything. Stirring stuff.
Image: A poster of Kicking It
Looking For Eric
One of the best recent films about football, this wonderful Cannes-nominated effort from Ken Loach is about a man called Eric fanatically obsessed with his idol, footballer Eric Cantona of Manchester United.
Nothing goes right with the fan's life till he meets his idol -- after which the idol, or Eric's illusion of Cantona, helps the fan turn his life around.
Image: A poster of Looking For Eric