3. Escape To Victory (1981)
Bobby Moore, John Wark, Ossie Ardiles, Mike Summerbee and the incomparable all-time legend Pele. Need any more be said?
John Huston’s 1981 football war movie Escape to Victory (known simply as Victory in the United States), told the inspirational (albeit unrealistic) story of Nazi Germany’s national team challenging the best of the best footballers from their concentration camps to a match, the idea being that they’d be victorious and further assert their dominance in the eyes of the viewing public. The POW’s, led by Michael Caine, accept the challenge with the motivation of coming up with a plan to use the game as a decoy for an escape attempt. With a slew of legends gracing the screen, American lead Sylvester Stallone stands out like a sore thumb as a player without any skills or knowledge of the game, but when he becomes integral to the escape plan he is chosen to start the match in goal (owing to his superior knowledge of the American game of the same name).
Despite its rough themes of war, imprisonment, undernourishment and torture, Escape to Victory is fondly remembered as an uplifting piece, and is shot in such a way that it feels like a classic movie from an era earlier than the 80s. The on-pitch action is as fantastic as you may expect with the level of footballing talent involved too, making this particular film a great football movie with enough “ah, it’s that guy” to get through any lulls in the action.
2. Looking for Eric (2009)
What do you get when you mix the people’s game, an iconic figure from a football club once so tightly knit to its community, and one the most socially conscious film directors in British cinema history?
Looking for Eric.
From Ken Loach, the director of Kes (1969), The Spirit of ’45 (2013) and I, Daniel Blake (2016), Looking for Eric is a film interwoven with the issues of the time (2009), as the central character is a flawed but ultimately kind-hearted working class Mancunian who, along with his fellow Manchester United supporters, has been priced out of ever getting to see his beloved club play at Old Trafford again. Throughout the movie, as his issues grow larger and his hope diminishes, postman Eric Bishop (Steve Evets) confides in the Eric Cantona poster on his bedroom wall when, suddenly, the icon comes to life. Playing off his famously philosophical star persona is Cantona himself, who in this movie excels as an enigmatic helping hand to the film’s lead and ultimately brings the inspiration needed for Eric Bishop to overcome so much of what had been holding him back.
The movie pivots around Bishop’s relentless hassling of the United legend to reveal his favourite Manchester United moment. Is it the goal against Sunderland? Is it the goal against Palace? Is it this goal or that goal? When Cantona eventually responds, he says “no, it was a pass”, leaving you in awe of Loach’s unrivalled ability to include such a profoundly socialist ideal within a movie about football. Share the ball, share your hopes, share your dreams. Share, share, share. They call it the people’s game for a reason.
Honourable Mentions: She’s the Man (2006), The Two Escobars (2010), Fever Pitch (1997).
1. Goal (2005)
Working from the popular fable that anyone can make it in the world of football if they’re good enough, Goal: The Dream Begins (2005) tells the tale of Mexican born illegal immigrant to Los Angeles Santiago Munez, who goes from the dried out pitches of California to the wet and muddy pitches of Newcastle when he’s invited to a trial with one of England’s biggest football clubs. Supremely skilful but lacking in the strength and aggression needed to succeed in the British game, Munez initially fails in his attempt to win a contract at Newcastle United, but when he’s afforded a 2nd chance, he grabs it with both hands and earns the right to free himself of the shackles of the guilt that plagues him from back home.
This film not only inspires you to chase your dreams, but it also ignites a sense of pride in being from Britain or being a football fan in general. Living vicariously through the underprivileged and young Santiago is also an incredibly gratifying experience and features many a moment of true fan service, the likes of which are enough to make any want-to-be teenage footballer or mega-fan adult squeal with excitement. Much like Mean Machine and Escape to Victory in particular, Goal! provides mostly realistic looking on-pitch action too, mixing real-life players and footage with on-screen doubles, blending reality with the narrative of the movie seamlessly, and topping the whole thing off with a fantastic soundtrack filled with the sort of indie rock anthems you’d likely hear your local team’s supporter’s group listening to on their way to a big away day.
That’s your lot! What did you think? Did we miss off a favourite or include a movie you thought was rubbish? Let us know in the comments!