Best Footy Films
To celebrate the plans for a film based on FC Barcelona's domestic and European dominance under Pep Guardiola, we look at more famous football films.
May 21st, 2012
Following the news that movie director Paul ‘Bourne’ Greengrass is seeking funding for “an epic cinematic portait of FC Barcelona” which would follow the Spanish giants as they prepare for another season of club football with a focus on the thirteen titles won under Pep Guardiola; particularly emphasising their ‘sextuple’ of trophies in the 2008-2009 season. With this juggernaut of all sporting documentaries expected ahead of the 2014 World Cup, we take a look at other footballing films that have captivated cinema-going audiences in the past.
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait
Another footballing documentary with a twist, Zidane is ninety minutes (plus stoppages) in length, and comprised entirely of real-time footage of the French legend Zinedine Zidane as he competes in a league match for Real Madrid against Villareal, in April 2005. Seventeen synchronised cameras at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium follow Zidane as he runs, dribbles and creates scoring opportunities for his teammates. The action rises and falls with the exertion of top-tier football, sound-tracked brilliantly by Scottish post-rock band Mogwai. The ending? Without wanting to give too much away, let’s just call it typical Zidane…
The Damned United
Based on the gritty novel by David Peace, but thankfully not touching so heavily on the darker moments of the book, Michael Sheen expertly follows up his winning turns as David Frost and, erm, Tony Blair, with his portrayal of troubled football manager Brian Clough and his 44-day stint as Leeds United manager in 1974. The film wasn’t without its controversy upon release; the Clough estate disowned the film – just as they had the book – although it should be acknowledged that the film was never pitched as a true-to-life account of the events at Elland Road.
Another film based on a book of the same name, that struck a chord with disillusioned Arsenal fans and most women of a certain age, Fever Pitch communicated brilliantly the difficulty encountered by more die-hard football fans to separate their football fandom from their real life. A post Mr. Darcy, pre-Mark Darcy Colin Firth shone as he experienced the fortunes and nadirs of Arsenal’s 88-89 season, mixed with the ups and downs of his love life. Look out for the author of both novel and screenplay, Nick Hornby, as a the coach of an opposing school football team.
Escape to Victory
He’ll certainly have made for a much better boxer than he would a goalkeeper, but Sylvester Stallone’s turn as a prisoner of war in this 1981 effort was remembered for the thrilling penalty save at the death of the match against a wartime German side. He was coached on his techniques by World Cup-winning England keeper Gordon Banks; though it’s unlikely he’d have been able to pull off that save from the character Corporal Luis Fernandez, aka Pele. As if you didn’t already appreciate the age of this film, bear in mind that the film also prominently features players from England’s biggest team of the day: Ipswich Town.
Honourable mention: Green Street
Not that this blog wishes to glorify football hooliganism in any way, shape or form; but the sight of Frodo Baggins trying to mix it up with the rough-and-ready types of West Ham and Millwall fandom must be seen to be believed.