The 7 Greatest Soccer Movies Of All Time

Even though soccer is the world’s most popular sports, there’s a surprising lack of films about the beautiful game. In America, it seems that there are more movies about college football than the soccer variety. But we’ve combed the video stores, e-commerce sites and streaming destinations to pick out the best-of-the-best — everything from documentaries to dramas and even some comedies too.

As with any best-of list, we anticipate some of you may disagree with our top 7. If so, share your recommendations in the comments section below and let us know which titles you don’t rate that should be removed to make place for your winners.

Drumroll please. Here are the seven greatest soccer films of all time:

1. The Two Escobars

The Two Escobars tells the story of two Colombians: One a football player, the other a drug baron. The player, Andres Escobar, led the Colombian national team to unprecedented heights on the soccer pitch, and helped make Colombia a dark horse at the 1994 World Cup. The drug baron, Pablo Escobar, led Colombia into a war on the streets as rival drug cartels fought a bloody battle for supremacy. This documentary tells the tale of two men whose lives crossed paths, and changed a country, national team and sport forever. The documentary is riveting, emotional and powerful. It’s a must-see.

The Two Escobars (Amazon)


2. Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait

This 2006 documentary follows one of the game’s greatest players, Zinedine Zidane, throughout the 90 minutes of a single match. Zidane was filmed during Real Madrid’s April 23, 2005 match against Villarreal using 17 synchronized cameras that followed his every movement made during the match (even his sending off). The film is set to a soundtrack by Scottish experimental-rock band Mogwai, who contributed a dark-brooding backdrop to the film.

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (Amazon)

3. Once In A Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos

The rise and fall of the North American Soccer League and The New York Cosmos go hand in hand. Once In a Lifetime tells the story of the original Cosmos beginning in the late-1960s until their untimely ending in 1985. An unbelievable story of greed, goals and girls. The Cosmos had world famous players Pele, Franz Beckenbaur, Carlos Alberto and Giorgio Chinaglia — at the peak of their careers (with the exception of Pele) — and were the original superstar team of world football. This documentary features interviews with many of the North American Soccer League’s former stars, with the exception of Pele. Also featured is plenty of match footage and narration by actor Matt Dillon.

Once In A Lifetime (Amazon)

4. Fever Pitch

Not to be confused with the US version about baseball, Fever Pitch is the true cinematic interpretation of Nick Hornby’s seminal novel. Hornby adapted his original work into a fictionalized movie about a man’s love of football and love for a woman. The movie focuses on Colin Firth’s character Paul Ashworth, a north London schoolteacher. Ashworth is a diehard Arsenal fan who falls for a fellow teacher. What follows is Ashworth’s attempts to stabilize his two love lives as they continually clash. Not nearly as good as the book, but the film is still worth watching.

Fever Pitch (Amazon)

5. The Firm

Gary Oldman stars in this 1988 film about football hooliganism. This is the movie that helped inspire films like The Football Factory and Green Street Hooligans. The film is based on the activities of West Ham’s Inter City Firm, and their mischievous acts during the 1970s and 1980s. Oldman’s character Clive Bissel is a man that is living two lives: Family man and football hooligan. Throughout the movie Bissel is trying to combine the two most important parts of his life to no avail. Over 20 years since it’s original release, The Firm still holds it’s own as the definitive hooligan movie.

The Firm (Amazon)

6. The Damned United

Based on David Pearce’s 2007 novel of the same name, The Damned United follows eccentric football manager Brian Clough through his success at Derby County and his 44 days in charge of Leeds United. The film stars Michael Sheen as Clough, and Timothy Spall as his right hand man, Peter Taylor. Though the book and film are based on true people and events, it is Pearce’s fictionalization of those events that make this work so enthralling.

The Damned United (Amazon)
The Damned United (Rent or buy on iTunes)

7. Escape to Victory (aka Victory)

Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, Pele and Bobby Moore come together for this classic football movie from 1981. The film is an interpretation of a 1961 Hungarian film called “Two Halftimes in Hell.” That film was inspired by true events that took place in Ukraine during WWII. In Escape to Victory, however, the story centers around a group of Allied prisoners of war. The prisoners are challenged to a football match by the German officers who believe the match will be a brilliant propaganda move. Unknown to them is an escape plan being hatched by the prisoners to coincide with the match. Corny at times, and dated, it’s still a football classic.

Escape to Victory (Amazon)
Victory (Rent or buy on iTunes)

Honorable mention: Pelada

There are few soccer documentaries that are as enlightening and inspirational as this one. Pelada is a documentary following Luke and Gwendolyn, two former college soccer stars who didn’t quite make it to the pros. Not ready for it to be over, they take off, chasing the game. From prisoners in Bolivia to moonshine brewers in Kenya, from freestylers in China to women who play in hijab in Iran, Pelada is the story of the people who play. It’s the type of documentary that will inspire you to pick up a ball immediately after the end credits finish rolling. It’s a joy to watch, and a must-see for any soccer fan.

Pelada (Amazon)
Pelada (Rent or buy on iTunes)

Agree or disagree with the above list? Voice your opinion in the comments section below.

UPDATE: We’ve now expanded the list to the top 20 soccer movies of all time.

51 thoughts on “The 7 Greatest Soccer Movies Of All Time”

  1. The Damned United wins it for me because it is a pure football movie. No stupid hooligan or firm crap.

    Green Street Hooligans is one of my favorite movies of all-time but I don’t consider it a football movie because there is like 30 seconds of football in the whole movie.

    Haven’t seen the Zidane one yet, going to have to check it out.

  2. Surprised “Goal” and “Goal 2” were not mentioned here. Goal 1 is especially fantastic. There are a couple here I still need to watch though!

  3. A Shot to Glory is a great football movie staring Robert Duvall. Its about a second division Scottish team reaching the Scottish Cup final against Rangers, Scum.

  4. I would say Goal and Goal 2 deserve a mention, but Zidane:a 21st century portrait? Really? It is an interesting watch yes, but to say it is one of the 7 best soccer movies of all time is a big stretch.

  5. The Damned United was really good, own it on Bluray. The Firm on the other hand was quite bad, wish I didn’t spend the $10 on the DVD to see it.

  6. I’d have given a nod to Goal 1 as well. Much like Victory, it is corny and very predictable, but still hits all the right “sports movie” notes. Can’t agree on Goal 2, which I found a little too formulaic (but to each his/her own).

    1. I loved the original “Goal,” but I felt like “Goal 2” was like a 2-hour long commercial for Real Madrid or something. I just couldn’t get into it. So I would have put “Goal” on this list.

      Glad to see “Fever Pitch” on the list, and the others also deserve to be on the list, as well.

  7. Oh I also saw The Two Escobars on ESPN’s 30 for 30 and it too was very good, but a movie and a documentary are two different things.

  8. Escape to Victory is the greatest film ever because it’s full of former Ipswich Town greats. Watch again and see how many you can spot.

    Also, The Match was kinda fun and deserves a mention.

  9. Damned United was great. Goal 1 was great. No Green Street Hooligans – which I’m guessing because of the distinct lack of football action, but that flick was great too!

  10. Love the post! I echo the sentiment that quality soccer movies are a rarity. I was glad to see Victory on the list… extremely cheesy, but lots of fun.

    I also liked the Damned United movie better than the book… can’t say the same for Fever Pitch (Hornby’s books are never done justice in film).

    As the former coach of my kids’ U-10 teams, I also enjoyed Kicking and Screaming (although at times hit too close to home), but I wouldn’t say it fits on this list.

    Now someone should do a book list… The Miracle at Castel de Sangra (sp?), Fever Pitch, Damned United, Soccer Dad, etc…

    1. I just watched Pitch Last weekend, I’d like to read the book now. As a movie, it tried to walk the line of romance/comedy/drama/sports and in the end i thought it was spread to thin and didn’t do any one of those well.

      1. Fever Pitch is poorly titled in my IMHO. ‘How to be a Glory Hunting Bastard’ would be far more apt.

  11. what about Bend it Like Beckham?! Haha. Victory is my all-time favorite. I learned so many moves from watching those guys. Thanks for this post. It looks like I have some catching up to do…

    1. Yes! I completely forgot about “Bend it Like Beckham,” in my post above. It’s always on my soccer movie list.
      Love it!

  12. No one mentions Das Wunder Von Bern. Is it because it’s in german?! It’s my hands down favorite! A must see film!

  13. What about Football Factory? Not enough football maybe. but better than the firm.
    I remember watching Victory over and over as a kid. Goal 1 was a fantastic film. The Damn United was also great. Thanks for the list I will check some of these out that I havent seen. Fever Pitch is a great film from a a supporters POV

  14. Damned United isn’t bad but the book absolutely pisses on the film. Anyone growing up watching Clough on TV has the advantage when it comes to reading it though given the style it’s written in, whenever I read it it’s like entering a time machine.

    I wish they’d turn Dynamo by Andy Dougan and Garrincha by Ruy Castro into movies. Even if they couldn’t match the books at least they’d lead people to fantastic stories.

  15. Rudo y Cursi was a good movie. Anyone know if the Zidane film is available on US region DVD? I’ve never been able to locate it.

  16. I can’t believe there hasn’t been any love for ‘When Saturday Comes’ with Sean Bean, sure its cheap and nasty but it’s footballing heart is in the right place!

    However, we are till waiting for a film to truly capture the spirit and simple joy of football and its relationship with its supporters.

  17. If you are including documentaries then top of the list has to be “Do I Not Like That” about England’s failed attempt to reach the US World Cup in 94 – hilarious!

  18. How is Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story not getting talked about? Its very American, and a fantastic movie. And quite available in the US.

  19. Oh my god! I rented Pelada from iTunes and it was fricking EXCELLENT. Why was it not ranked higher on this list?

    I truly, truly, truly recommend it. Should be top 5 for me.

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