Soccer on Netflix sounds like an unordinary mix. Netflix is the unquestioned leader in movie streaming and, even though other services may have a better selection for your particular tastes, it has become the gold standard and most used service. As a movie connoisseur I can safely say you can find any kind of movie on there; even if the specific one you’re seeking is not offered, there is a substitute that can entertain you in its place.
As I’ve shared before, compared to other sports, soccer lacks the massive catalogue of popular movies about the game. That said, Netflix has a few gems to tide you over between the midweek confederation matches and the weekend league games. Here now are the best Netflix streaming options for the modern soccer fan:
Soccer on Netflix
Admittedly, this one is a favorite of Arsenal fans and may be obnoxious to those who root for other clubs. But as a study in modern fandom, it is unparalleled. The 1997 movie is based on the autobiographical book by Nick Hornby of the same name which chronicles the struggling writer’s life through the lens of his fandom. His life, his relationships, even his apartment decisions are based on the Gunners and no matter your allegiance, you can probably relate to some of these scenes. A few added pluses are that a young Colin Firth plays the main character and at 99 minutes, it’s a short commitment. Just make sure you chose the right Fever Pitch.
30 for 30: Hillsborough
There are a few of these ESPN documentaries that will make this list (for good reason) but this is the best. Detailing the investigations and missteps (to be polite) of the authorities after the stadium disaster, this documentary skillfully mixes the memories of the survivors, the relatives of the dead, the insanity of the incompetence, and how all of those have impacted British society to this day. Like every other documentary, this film has a slant. However, as someone who knew generally about Hillsborough but not as much detail as relayed here, this film has stayed with me to this day and the images still haunt me.
While The Damned United is unfortunately not streaming, United is another must see. The movie was released in the UK in 2011 and I remember initially having to – ahem – go to extreme lengths to watch the film. The movie follows the Manchester United plane crash and the aftermath, focusing on the survivors. The incredible David Tennant is masterful and the opening scene of the passenger seats strewn across the ground grabs you from the first minute and drag you in. Don’t watch this and the Hillsborough one after the other.
Once in a Lifetime
Despite what you may have been told, MLS was not the beginning of American soccer. This famous documentary chronicles the rise of the New York Cosmos, the original American superstar soccer team. It is a must watch for anyone serious about U.S. soccer history and, if you doubt my recommendation, consider that it has been reviewed by over 50,000 people.
30 for 30 Soccer Stories Series
ESPN primed its audience for the World Cup by releasing nine soccer documentaries under its renown 30 for 30 brand. Hillsborough was one and Netflix has taken seven of the others and grouped them as a series, making it easier to binge watch. The topics revolve around past World Cups and all are worth enjoying, although I think my favorite of the seven is Ceasefire Massacre (about the shooting in the Northern Ireland pub in 1994 after Ireland beat Italy). I can count on my hand the number of 30 for 30s I actually didn’t like, which speaks to the power of the filmmaking.
Want to move out of the European and American movie sphere? Like kung fu? Check this movie out for a different kind of soccer on Netflix. Stephen Chow creates a great movie that combines some unlikely aspects. The main character is a monk searching for the ultimate kung fu style to promote peace; he meets up with a down-on-his-luck soccer star screwed by a former teammate. They create a team of monks to enter the Chinese Super Cup and, not surprisingly, use their meditation techniques and kung fu to make a great run, eventually facing off against… Team Evil. If you’re hesitant to commit to something a little different than the other movies listed here, worry not as this movie is less than an hour and a half run time.
1:1 Thierry Henry
This is a very specific recommendation for the following people: New York Red Bulls fans, MLS fans, Arsenal fans, and the curious about Thierry Henry. This documentary tracks his move to MLS and the resulting attention.
A Barefoot Dream
This is a movie I give a conditional recommendation for, as I have NOT seen it but have had it recommended to me by others. The movie (“based on a true story”) follows a former South Korean soccer player to East Timor, who teaches the game of soccer to poor children.
What have I missed that you enjoy?
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