The Officially Incomplete Soccer Movie Review Round-Up
MLS announced recently that the start of the season will be delayed at least a month, until April 17th. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see what this brand-new FC Cincinnati roster looks like on the field. (I checked, and it doesn't look like Yul Brynner has been in a soccer movie.)
So if you’re like me, then you are desperate for just about anything to keep your mind away from the offseason. And, if you’re again like me, you’re not going to any bars or restaurants because you don’t want to spread a deadly virus.
What better use of your time than checking out some soccer movies? (After, of course, you’ve exercised, read some books, spent time with your family, prayed, cleaned your house, and stared at the calendar for a few hours crying, wondering when you will finally feel the touch of another human again.) To help you out, I’ve compiled a list of “Must Watch” films, some real popcorn classics.
To be clear, I haven’t seen any of these movies.
Green Street Hooligans
Green Street Hooligans tells the age-old story of a Harvard dropout who falls into the rough and tumble world of football hooliganism, in the form of a gang of violent West Ham supporters. The film's original working title was "The Yank," but I guess they changed it because they didn't want to get some people's hopes up. Based on the cast, which features Charlie Hunnam and Elijah Wood, I’d describe it as a Sons of Anarchy meets Lord of the Rings-type movie. It also features Claire Forlani, who was in the movie Mallrats and was a very important part of my adolescence.
There are two sequels. Green Street 2: Stand Your Ground, which features Deanna Troi and I assume is about police violence, and Greet Street 3: Never Back Down, which is about a group of violent Tom Petty fans.
Where to Watch: Available to rent on various sites and maybe available for free on YouTube if you Google it, but you didn’t hear that from me.
Verdict: 5 Cheese Coneys
She’s the Man
She’s the Man sounds like a very straightforward story: A girl tries out for her high school soccer team. The catch? It’s an all-boys high school! If that plot seems a little out there for you, take it up with William Shakespeare. The movie stars Amanda Bynes as “She” who is also “The Man,” and it features an all-star supporting cast that includes former Premier League player and Juggernaut actor Vinnie Jones and the man who would be Gambit Channing Tatum. I imagine it was quite a rowdy set! According to the IMDB trivia, Channing Tatum actually hit a guy in the eye with a towel during a scene, which reminds me of how Brandon Lee was actually shot and killed by accident while filming The Crow.
Wikipedia says that the film has a “cult following” and “has often been grouped with other ‘teen classics’ such as Mean Girls and Clueless.” I’ve seen Mean Girls and Clueless, so this one is probably good too. The movie has also been adapted as a Bollywood Musical, but that one's about cricket so it’s probably not as good.
Where to Watch: Available for free on the TNT, TBS, and DirecTV apps. Available for rent elsewhere.
Verdict: 5 Cheese Coneys
OK, I actually really want to watch this movie. Vinnie Jones plays a captain of England who gets thrown in jail for assaulting two police officers. He gets roped into leading a team of prisoners in a game against the prison guards. Yes, it is a remake of The Longest Yard, but it was released before the other remake of The Longest Yard. The movie was produced by Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Kingsmen), and it also features Jason Statham as “Monk,” a dangerous maximum-security inmate who plays on the team. A number of other professional players appear, including apparently Ryan Giggs at the 77th minute.
If this movie had been released today, it would have been cancelled. Vinnie Jones played for Wales in real life, but his character in the film played for England – that's cultural appropriation.
As a bonus, the movie has a 90-minute runtime, which is a nice callback to the official length of a soccer game. (Maybe, I didn’t check.)
Where to Watch: Available to rent on various sites.
Verdict: 15 to Life
I’ve actually seen this movie. It sucks. Come on you Spurs
Where to Watch: Available to rent on various sites
Verdict: 4th-place trophy
Next Goal Wins
Next Goal Wins is a documentary about the American Samoa national football team. The team, which competes in Oceania, hired Dutch-American Thomas Rongen in an attempt to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. I assume Rongen spends the film alienating star players and telling everyone within earshot that Messi has a poor soccer IQ and doesn't make his teammates better.
Taika Waititi is adapting the documentary into a feature film. You might just want to wait for that. If Waititi could make Hitler likeable, imagine what he could do for Rongen.
American Samoa’s men’s team is notable for having the first openly transgender player to compete in a World Cup qualifier. I hope Jaiyah Saelua has a bigger role in this movie than the coach.
Where to Watch: Available to rent on FandangoNOW.
Verdict: Imagine the 2014 World Cup team with Neven Subotic at centerback
Playing for Keeps
Playing for Keeps is about a former professional soccer player who moves to Virginia to coach his son’s soccer team and hooks up with a bunch of hot moms. Look at Gerard Butler here. He’s living his best life. I guess Dennis Quaid is in it too. I’d assume he’s either a rival coach or a guy married to one of the hot moms, but he’s too friendly in the image above, so I’m going to assume that he’s Butler’s friend who is also into moms.
“Keeps” is italicized on the poster so you know it’s a soccer pun.
Where to Watch: Available to stream on Netflix. Available to rent elsewhere.
Verdict: A glass and a half of Chardonnay, since I'm feeling crazy
When Saturday Comes
Sean Bean plays a professional soccer player named Jimmy (solid soccer name), an alcoholic who wants to play for Sheffield United, which are two things that I don’t think were in opposition in the 90s. I assume Sean Bean dies. (If you're interested in other soccer movies featuring members of the Fellowship of the Ring, there's also Golden Shoes, with Gimli actor John Rhys-Davies, and Seed of Chucky, featuring Pippin actor Billy Boyd, apparently about the birth of Hirving Lozano.)
Where to Watch: Available to stream on something called “tubi.”
Verdict: Gondor has no king
Her Best Move
Based on this poster, I reported this movie to the FBI.
Where to Watch: Available to stream for free on YouTube (legitimately, but with ads), hoopla, and “tubi,” which apparently is nipping at the heels of The Criterion Channel in terms of prestige.
Verdict: I’m going to need to see some ID
The Four Year Plan
Or, When Will FC Cincinnati Finish Better Than Last in the Table?
Where to Watch: Available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Verdict: We're going to win the league
Air Bud: World Pup
I bet at least one of these dogs plays soccer, but the appearance of puppies on the cover makes me worried that the older dog will die. However, it should be noted that this movie features U.S. Soccer Greats Brandi Chastain, Brianna Scurry, and Tisha Venturini (assuming I read that last name right, it's blurry).
Where to Watch: Available to rent in the usual places. Curiously, not available on Disney Plus.
Verdict: Five good boys
The Arsenal Stadium Mystery
Or, Why Does Arteta Insist on Playing Willian?
I don’t know why there are so many Arsenal movies. Small town club (Woolwich). The movie is probably worth watching because it includes scenes from a real match between Arsenal and Brentford (former home of Kamohelo Mokotjo), in which Brentford wore a special striped kit to play the fictional "Trojans" just for the movie. I think there's a California law that requires actors to wear Trojans when making certain kinds of movies, but I might be misremembering.
Where to Watch: Here.
Verdict: Europa League Also-Ran
Mario is a Swiss film about an up-and-coming soccer star who falls in love with a teammate. It sounds like a touching and sad story about being a gay player in professional sports, navigating the challenges of working in both an extremely competitive and highly public profession, but I can’t get over the team he plays for.
Anyway, this movie seems like one worth checking out.
Where to Watch: Available to stream on Amazon Prime, TUBI(!), Kanopy, and “Realeyz” (???). Available to rent elsewhere.
Verdict: 5-4 Cheese Coneys
United Passions is a propaganda film produced by FIFA about how great FIFA is. It was released in 2015, the same year that most of its main characters were indicted by the United States Department of Justice. It would be like if Henry Hill had actually written and produced the film Goodfellas, and it was about what a cool guy he was and what a great time he had with his friends. Here is the first review on IMDB:
I have some guesses about the other 10 percent.
Anyway, United Passions grossed $918 its opening weekend, and (although I can’t confirm this) I’m pretty sure all the ticket purchases were teenagers sneaking into Entourage.
Where to Watch: In Hell, with your eyelids stapled open. Also, Amazon Prime, hoopla, Vudu, TUBI, DirecTV, Crackle, epix, popcornflix, and FilmRise. But dear God do not watch this movie.
Verdict: Absolutely not
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Offside is the best movie on this list. Released in 2006, Offside is about a group of Iranian girls who dress up as boys to watch a World Cup qualifying match, due to rules prohibiting female fans from attending. To get the movie past censors, the director submitted a fake script to authorities. According to Wikipedia, although the film was shot in Iran, it was banned from being screened there. After the film was released, a feminist group called the White Scarf Girls began showing up at soccer games carrying banners that read "We don't want to be Offside." It has a 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it won acclaim at the Berlin, New York, and Toronto Film Festivals. The Christian Science Monitor picked it as the 9th-best film of 2006, for whatever that's worth.
The director, Jafar Panahi, was convicted a few years later of the crime of “propaganda against the regime” and sentenced to six years in prison. He was imprisoned at Evin Prison, the primary site for Iran’s political prisoners since 1972 (even before the Islamic Revolution). It has a wing nicknamed “Evin University,” due to the number of intellectuals housed there. In 2011, Time Magazine ranked Panahi third on the list of the Top 10 Persecuted Artists, which is apparently a list someone made by someone for some reason.
I hear a lot of people in the US complaining about "censorship," but I'm usually hearing that from someone who either is literally speaking on national television at that very moment or makes $500,000 a year from their substack newsletter.
Where to Watch: Available to rent in the usual places.
Verdict: 6 Cheese Coneys
Soccer Dog: The Movie
Oh come on.