Victory, Fever Pitch and More: The Top 5 Soccer Movies
One of the offerings on the smorgasbord of holiday movies this year is Playing for Keeps, a romantic comedy in which Gerard Butler plays a former Celtic star trying to pull his life back together.
Sadly, according to Rotten Tomatoes, it's garbage.
If you are in the market for cinematic soccer-tainment over the festive period, avoid Playing for Keeps like Playing for Keeps avoided a good script, and check out one of these fantastic football films...
Based on Nick Hornby's seminal autobiography, Fever Pitch tells the story of a man whose life is utterly devoted to Arsenal FC.
While the book recounts over 28 years of Hornby's life via the medium of essays about noteworthy games, the movie focuses on the Gunners' famous 1988-89 title-winning season.
To ensure the cinemas weren't packed with Arsenal-obsessed middle-aged men, it also features Colin Firth and a love-story narrative.
In 2005, Fever Pitch was remade as a baseball movie featuring Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon.
Bend It Like Beckham
Named for Davey B's ability to send free kicks hurtling around a wall, Bend It tells the story of two 18-year-olds with a passion for the world of women's soccer.
Jess and Jules (the latter played by Kiera Knightley) play for their local side in Hounslow, south-west London, but struggle with the stigma of being girls who love the beautiful game.
Jess, in particular, must battle with her Punjabi parents, who forbid her to watch or play football.
The 2002 comedy was made on a shoestring $6 million, but reaped nearly $77 million at the box office worldwide. It also has the honour of being the first western film to be screened in North Korea.
When Saturday Comes
The year after he took on the glamorous role of a Bond villain in Goldeneye, Sean Bean returned to his native (and slightly less glamorous) Sheffield to play Jimmy Muir, a factory worker who wins a trial to play for Sheffield United.
The 1996 classic When Saturday Comes isn't the most realistic portrayal of the game you will see—Bean was 36 when he made the movie, a time when most players would be finishing, not starting, their professional careers—but its portrayal of gritty working class British life and freezing cold nights kicking a ball on a mud-soaked pitch is refreshingly authentic.
Bean is a lifelong Sheffield United fan, whose "100% Blades" tattoo often has to be covered up while filming.
Based on the Hungarian film Two Half Times in Hell (which also spawned The Longest Yard and Mean Machine), Victory—known as Escape to Victory outside the USA—tells the story of Allied prisoners who play against a German side during World War II in a bid to escape for freedom.
Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, Pele, Bobby Moore and Ossie Ardiles feature in the prisoners' team that must take on Max von Sydow's German outfit.
Stallone may be suspiciously diminutive for a goalkeeper, but he was trained by England's World Cup-winning shot-stopper, Gordon Banks. Thanks to his refusal to use a stunt double in most scenes, the Rocky star dislocated a shoulder, broke a rib and broke a finger trying to stop one of Pele's shots.
The Damned United
Brian Clough was one of the greatest managers and personalities ever to grace the game, but his professional low point came during a disastrous 44-day spell as Leeds United manager.
The Damned United, based on the David Peace book of the same name, gives a fictional account of Clough's rough ride at Elland Road—leading a team he inherited from his bitter rival, Don Revie, who had moved on to become England manager.
Clough ended up winning only one of seven matches with Leeds, an anomalous blip in a career that saw him achieve unprecedented success with Derby County and Nottingham Forest.
The film received critical acclaim on its 2009 release, particularly for the superb performance of Michael Sheen as "Old Big Ead."
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