SA goes to the movies: Documentaries, dramas and family/comedy

Amid the dearth of live action, there's plenty of soccer on the screen. Here's a large selection from Soccer America writers and friends.

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Soccertown, USA

A dynamic 68-minute documentary that tells the story of Kearny, the New Jersey city whose rich soccer culture of more than a century entered the spotlight when John Harkes, Tony Meola and Tab Ramos helped the USA qualify for the 1990 World Cup.
The best soccer documentary is made in New Jersey

Youtube TV

Worth the Wait

The American soccer trailblazer Jerry Yeagley arrived at Indiana University in the 1960s to turn its club soccer team into an NCAA varsity program and won DI national titles in the 1980s, 1990s and finished with a Hollywood ending with the 2003 title in his last game at the helm.

The Two Escobars

The Zimbalist brothers orchestrate an investigation of narco-soccer so dizzyingly revealing and vigorous it's much more than a sports movie.
'The Two Escobars' -- a revealing and vigorous account Colombian soccer in the 1990s.

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait

It can feel tedious, waiting and wanting, even boring at times — players are only on the ball for a few minutes at a time over 90 minutes, anyway. But for students and fans of the game it offers what no other soccer movie can: a precise, impressionistic expression of a celebrity-hero on the field.
'Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait' is an artistic, philosophical take on the beautiful game

The Workers Cup

Only under concerted pressure from human rights activists has Qatar recently been pushed into reforming its notorious 'kafala' labor laws, but even these reforms to abolish modern slavery have yet to be ratified. The movie conveys the tedium of the work and the claustrophobia of the laborers' dormitory accommodation, so that when the action moves to the field of play you feel as briefly liberated as the players.

Movie Rewind: 'The Workers Cup' - giving a voice to Qatar's exploited construction laborers

Diego Maradona

There may never have been as comprehensive a biography on screen for a soccer player as Oscar-winning director Asif Kapadia gave us "Diego Maradona" last fall. A film worth watching one time for the player in his time, a second to grapple with his icon status, and another to appreciate the film’s terrific blend of aesthetic, sound, commentary and storytelling.
HBO's 'Diego Maradona' movie -- a measured masterpiece

First Team: Juventus
Manchester City: All of Nothing
Sunderland Til I Die

Ian Plenderleith's reviews:
Is this really what a soccer club's like? Assessing the current wave of 'behind-the-scenes' documentaries


'The Damned United'

The gripping tale of Brian Clough vs. Don Revie and the joust over British soccer style.


Older American soccer fans may have a biased affection for the 1981 movie "Victory," so we asked a Gen Z, Arlo Moore-Bloom, to give it a look:
'Victory' with Sylvester Stallone is the imperfect soccer film classic.

Goal! The Dream Begins

David Beckham, Howard Webb and Martin Tyler have cameos in the 2005 movie about the hero’s journey of Santiago Munez, a Mexican immigrant who’s scouted by an ex-Newcastle player while playing for an amateur Latino team in Los Angeles.
'Goal! The Dream Begins' occupies a unique seat in soccer cinema

The English Game

The six-episode NetFlix series "The English Game" may be getting mixed reviews, but we've also heard it's delivering united viewing in households of soccer aficionados and 'Downton Abbey' fans.
'Downton Abbey' meets soccer in Netflix's 'The English Game'


She's The Man

Amanda Bynes personifies the pioneering female soccer jock that teenagers had already found in Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm, and the rest of the 99ers seven years before "She’s The Man" hit American theaters, and the gender bender plays hilariously alongside Channing Tatum  in one of his breakthrough roles.
SA Movie Choice: Shakespeare meets soccer in 'She's The Man' with a young Channing Tatum

'Kicking and Screaming'

Will Ferrell
, Robert Duvall and Mike Ditka delivered soccer's 'Bad News Bears." A classic for the soccer family that set the U.S. soccer movie record with a gross of $56 million -- surpassing 2013 release "Bend it Like Beckham," which grossed $32.5 million in the USA.
'Kicking and Screaming' with Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall and Mike Ditka delivered soccer's 'Bad News Bears'

Bend it Like Beckham

Four years before David Beckham  arrived in MLS in 2007, a women's soccer movie with his name in the title grossed $20 million within four months of its U.S. release.
'Bend it Like Beckham' ages well, mostly

FIFA's Official World Cup Films

The quality of official World Cup Films -- Sean Connery, for better or worse, narrated the 1982 'Golé!' -- has roller-coasted since their inception in 1954. The most recent of the 1-hour World Cup documentaries, led by the 2019 account of the USA title win in France, rate among the best and are free on FIFATV YouTube.
Take advantage of easy access to FIFA's Official World Cup Films

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Favorites from Soccer America interviewees

Daryl Grove
Kicking and Screaming (2005)
Looking for Eric (2009)
The Damned United (2009)
Bend it Like Beckham (2002)
Escape to Victory (1981)

Bruce McGuire
The Van directed by Stephen Frears
Victory directed by John Huston 
Gregory's Girl (starring Clare Grogan from the band Altered Images) directed by Bill Forsyth
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (with audio by my friend Kevin Shields from the band My Bloody Valentine) directed by Douglas Gordon
Once In A Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos directed by John Dower & Paul Crowder

Keegan Pierce
Take The Ball, Pass The Ball (2018)
The Damned United (2009)
Zidane, A 21st Century Portrait (2006)
Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos (2006)
Chivas USA: Sí, se puede (2005)

Steven Goff
The Damn United
The Other Final
Fever Pitch” (English version, not the American baseball version)
The Cup
Sixty Six

Alexi Lalas

Grant Wahl
The Damned United
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait
Bend It Like Beckham
The Game of Their Lives

Lesle Gallimore
The Damned United
Pele: The Birth of Legend

Pelé: Birth of a Legend
Her Best Move
Bend it like Beckham

Benjamin Ziemer
Pele: The Master and his Methods

Ronnie Woodard
The 99ers
Dare to Dream: The Story of the U.S. Women's Soccer Team

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4 comments about "SA goes to the movies: Documentaries, dramas and family/comedy".
  1. Karl Sonneman, April 12, 2020 at 9:25 p.m.

    i have a host of soccer movies behind my desk that have not been mentioned here.  But what surprises me most is that "Rise and Shine: the Jay DeMerit Story" does not show up on any list. 

  2. Chris Keeney, April 18, 2020 at 6:02 p.m.

    Please check out the Pelada trailer  (  Terrific independent documentary by the post-college players traveling the world looking to connect with people and find common humanity through pickup soccer.     It is a terrific story and highly insightful on world culture.  

    Then, immediately watch the Next Goal Wins (  The story is incredible, the people (especially Thomas Rongen), and the ethos very powerful.

    These movies work whether you are maniacal about soccer or not.

    You will have a tough time finding more compelling soccer documentaries.

  3. Josh Katan, May 5, 2020 at 11:37 p.m.

    Recommendations of Rise and Shine, Pelada, and Next Goal Wins are spot on. I would add Becoming Zlatan, Concrete Football, Soccer in the City, and We Must Go - the more I learn about Bob Bradley the more impressed I am with him as a person and a soccer mind.

  4. Derek Liecty, May 18, 2020 at 4:52 p.m.

    The HBO documentary "Diego Maradona" is one of the most fascinating sports stories ever made.  How this fortunate and then unfortunate personality went from Rags to Riches and then destroyed.  A true Greek tragedy about a man who, despite his famous "Hand Of God", was one of the greatest players ever.
    Derek Liecty
    Walnut Creek, California

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