With the Oscars scheduled for the end of the month, here at Transfer Tavern, we thought it might be a nice idea to highlight 5 of the best football-based movies. Sadly, none of them were ever nominated for anything approaching an Oscar, but then Hollywood is very political….at least that’s what Danny Dyer’s agent keeps telling him!
1) Escape To Victory – The daddy of all football movies! Set in a German POW camp during World War 2, the story follows Sylvester Stallone as American Robert Hatch, who’s only means of escape from the camp is via a football match between the German national team and a group of Allied POW’s.
Only one problem; Hatch can’t play ‘soccer.’ So, under the guidance of captain Michael Caine, and helped by an all-star team containing Pele, Bobby Moore and Ossie Ardiles, Hatch has to learn how to be a goalkeeper. Despite the ridiculous end, which sees a load of French soccer hooligans run onto the pitch dressed in clothes from the 1980s (jeans and Addidas Sambas), the film is worth a watch, if only to see Pele’s scissor-kick goal at the end. Oh and John Wark’s moustache.
2) Mean Machine – Based on the original US film, starring Burt Reynolds and later remade (badly) by Adam Sandler, Mean Machine follows Vinnie Jones as Danny Meehan (heh heh get it?) a former England international who’s put inside for being a naughty boy.
He has to train the lead the rest of the inmates in a match against their guards, whilst battling against a governor addicted to gambling and the prison’s Mr. Big. Basically, Vinnie plays himself, and the film is a good ‘lad’s night in film’ with lots of mindless violence and ‘hilarious’ one-liners. If you like Danny Dyer, then you’ll love it. If you don’t (like me) then at least you get to see him get stamped on by Jason Statham.
3) Mike Bassett: England Manager – Part criticism of the English FA, part mockmentary pastiche of previous England manager’s Bobby Robson and Graham Taylor, this has to be the funniest film made about football. The excellent Ricky Tomlinson plays Mike Bassett, manager of Norwich City, who after winning the ‘Mr.Clutch’ Trophy is the country’s most successful English manager and is made the national coach.
The laughs come thick and fast, and there are some great performances. Look out for Dean Lennox Kelly as Tonka, a thinly veiled impression of Gazza. Everyone’s got their own favourite moment. Mine is when Mike can’t sleep because he keeps dreaming he’s being chased around Wembley Stadium by a giant Bobby Moore shouting ‘Look what you’ve done you bloody idiot!!’
4) Bend It Like Beckham – This should definitely be on Andy Gray and Richard Keys’ viewing list! The story of Jesminder (Jess) Kaur Bhamra, the daughter of British Asians, who dreams of playing football like her hero David Beckham. The only problem is, her traditional Sikh upbringing means she’s got no chance! That is until she meets a young Keira Knightley and handsome coach Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who together help her achieve her goal!
A charming little film, which deals with several ‘issues’ namely the prejudices aimed at women who take part in sports, and the difficulties faced by immigrant communities in Britain. And if that doesn’t take your fancy Mr. Gray, there’s a scene in the ladies locker room!!! Waaayyy!! Get in there!!! (Cue mindless honking noises)
5) The Damned United – Probably the best film on the list, based on the novel by David Peace, The Damned United follows Derby County manager Brian Clough as he takes over Don Revie’s Leeds, in a spell which lasted for just 44 days.
Michael Sheen is excellent as Clough, bringing just the right of arrogance to the role, as he tells the Leeds players to throw all their medals in the bin ‘because you only won them by cheating.’ Timothy Spall is also brilliant as Peter Taylor, Clough’s right hand man.
Throughout the film, Clough struggles to get one over on Don Revie and you can’t help but feel sorry for him, as we see how the animosity between the two built up. It’s a chance to hear some of Clough’s best one-liners, but apparently his wife and children were not happy with how he was portrayed in the film.
So, there we have it. Five great footballing movies! Of course, as with so many lists, I’ve probably missed out your favourite, but that’s what the comment box is for! Let’s build a debate on this. What’s the best football movie ever, or are we still waiting for it? Don’t say Goal! though…..
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