Retrospective: Top 5 Football Movies | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 9 June 2014

Retrospective: Top 5 Football Movies

This Friday on June 13 (Malaysian time) will marked "the greatest show on earth", which is none others than the long-awaited 2014 FIFA World Cup at Brazil. To go along with the upcoming football fever, here are my personal picks for "Top 5 Football Movies" that you could check them out:



5. VICTORY (a.k.a. ESCAPE TO VICTORY) (1981)

A standard but entertaining mix of THE GREAT ESCAPE (1968) and sports movie genre, John Huston's VICTORY (also known as ESCAPE TO VICTORY in non-US countries) took place at the WWII POW camp where Major Karl Von Steiner (Max von Sydow) and his top-ranking Nazi officers suggested a propaganda event in the form of a "friendly" football match between the Allied prisoners and the German team. So Steiner went to persuade Colby (Michael Caine), a former international player for England, to assemble a team of his own. Colby agreed to join with a condition that his team would be provided necessary amenities to get them well prepared. Upon hearing the match, American soldier Hatch (Sylvester Stallone) decided to join the team as well. Apparently he and some of the Allies were planning to escape during the eventual match at the Colombes Stadium in Paris.

Apart from its fine cast (e.g. Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone and Max von Sydow), the movie was particularly best seen for its memorable climactic sequence during the match between the all-star Allies team (including Brazilian great Pele and England legend of 1966's World Cup champion Bobby Moore) and the German team. That scene alone was filled with plenty of iconic slow-motion footage of football actions, including the one where Pele performed his famous bicycle kick at the ball.

4. THE DAMNED UNITED (2009)

Before British director Tom Hooper hit big time with THE KING'S SPEECH at the box office and winning 4 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director, he made this little-seen sports drama called THE DAMNED UNITED the year before in 2009.

Based on the novel by David Peace's The Damned Utd, the movie centres on a real-life Derby County football manager Brian Clough (Michael Sheen) and his longtime assistant Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall) who managed to bring the struggling club from the bottom of the Second Division to the First Division between 1967 and 1972. From there, Clough became increasingly arrogant and even dared to go as far as insulting the players and the manager Don Revie (Colm Meaney) from the First Division's top club of Leeds United for dismissing their "dirty-playing" tactics. Then in 1974, Clough was appointed to replace Revie as Leeds United's new manager. The Leeds players obviously hated his arrival, and Clough subsequently struggled for 44 days in his new club with disastrous results.

While Tom Hooper wasn't particularly interested to show the football action, the movie was blessed with superb acting ensemble. Michael Sheen was charismatic and engaging as the ego-driven Brian Clough, which in my personal opinion, ranked as one of the best performances in his career. The rest of the casts were equally great, including Timothy Spall as Peter Taylor, Colm Meaney as Don Revie and Jim Broadbent as Derby County boss Sam Longson.

3. GOAL! (2005)

A huge hit in Europe, GOAL! (also known as GOAL! THE DREAM BEGINS in the US) was a cliched but surprisingly engaging football movie. The story centres on a Mexican immigrant named Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker) who lived in L.A. working for his father's Hernan (Tony Plana) gardening business. During his spare time, he would play local football matches for the minor Hispanic club. Then one day a former Newcastle United player Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane) spotted him the way he played so well with his fancy footwork and decided to make him an offer: travel across the Atlantic and tried out for Newcastle United. It was a dream came true for Santiago, who always wanted to become a professional footballer someday. But it's not without a string of highs and lows that Santiago had to face throughout his career journey: his father dismissed his ambition a worthless future; he hides the fact from his teammates and coaches that he had asthma; attempting to win the heart of a beautiful local nurse Roz (Anna Friel); and almost lived dangerously with Newcastle's hard-partying superstar Gavin Harris (Alessandro Nivola).

The rags-to-riches story was nothing new in this movie, but director Danny Cannon -- who directed a number of acclaimed TV series including CSI -- managed to pull off an effective direction nonetheless. The game sequences were especially well-staged with great camerawork and sharp editing, while most of the casts here delivered fine performances. Not to forget also was a string of priceless cameos from some of the real-life top footballers around the world including Alan Shearer, David Beckham, Raul, and Zinedine Zidane.

2. SHAOLIN SOCCER (2001)

Long before 2004's KUNG FU HUSTLE and 2011's YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE topped the all-time Hong Kong box office records respectively, Stephen Chow's SHAOLIN SOCCER was once the No.1 movie in the nation. An award-winning sports comedy that perfectly mixes with Stephen Chow's trademark nonsensical comic style, inspirational sports story and over-the-top special effects, the movie was a riot. Here, Stephen Chow (also wrote, produced and directed the movie) led the cast as the Shaolin martial artist Sing, who got recruited by a crippled former football star "Golden Leg" Fung (Ng Man-Tat) to be part of his newly-assembled team to compete against his rival Hung's (Patrick Tse) team.

The special effects were cheesy, but that was entirely the point because the way Chow utilized them to great (and highly creative) comic effects. In fact, the idea of combining Shaolin kung fu and football made this movie all the more compulsively entertaining to watch for. The cast was top-notch, with Chow emerged in one of his funniest performances to date.

1. BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM (2002)

In general, football was commonly known as a male-dominated sports. And it applied the same to the movies as well. But in BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM, writer-producer-director Gurinder Chadha managed the impossible feat by making the lesser-known theme of women's football into a highly enjoyable sports comedy.

The story involved around tomboyish Jasminder "Jess" Bhamra (Parminder Nagra), a die-hard football fan who adored David Beckham. However, her traditional Sikh parents (Anupam Kher, Shaheen Khan) didn't particularly liked the fact that a Sikh girl like Jess should get involved in football at all. However, Jess didn't care whatever her parents said and still devoted her spare time playing football with her male friends. One day, a British girl named Juliette (Keira Knightley) saw the way Jess played and invited her to join the girls' football team, coached by Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). Jess, of course, was very excited to play professionally and hoped to win an athletic scholarship to a US college.

The coming-of-age aspect of this movie may have been familiar, but Gurinder Chadha able to find unique way to spin an oft-told story with a refreshing hybrid of cultural clash and sports genre. The movie also helped by two particularly breakout performances from Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley, and to certain extent, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. Even the supporting casts, including Anupam Kher and Shaheen Khan as Jess' conservative Sikh parents and Juliet Stevenson as Juliette's mother Paula, were equally fantastic. The game sequences were brilliantly shot with verve, and the soundtrack (especially Texas' bubbly pop song, "You Make Me Feel") hit all the right buttons. Suffice to say, BEND IT LIKE A BECKHAM scored as one of the best football movies of all time.

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