Our favourite footy movies — what we think you should watch this summer

It’s time to get out the popcorn! With live football in short supply at this time of year, our team of writers have been looking for different ways to wallow in the Beautiful Game.

What better way than to get together with your football-loving friends and share a movie?

We asked our writers to share their favourite football movies, not necessarily for their artistic merit but for the way they remind us why we’re fans.

Here’s what they came up with (in no particular order):

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

Bend It Like Beckham isn’t just any feel-good football movie; it’s the gold standard of the genre.

The British comedy centres around Jess (Parminder Nagra), a football-loving Indian girl from London who aspires to play football professionally against the wishes of her traditional Sikh family.

She joins forces with her teammate Jules (Keira Knightley), and together, they challenge gender norms and cultural expectations to follow their football dreams.

For football fans searching for a heartwarming flick, Bend It Like Beckham is a must-watch woven with romance, comedy, football action, and an inspiring universal message.

The movie can be found on TVNZ on demand here

— Joan Grey

If there is a movie that is singularly responsible for my daughter’s love of football, it’s Bend It Like Beckham.

Before Jenni Hermoso stood up against Luis Rubiales, there was Jules Paxton (Kiera Knightley) and Jesminder Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) chasing their football dreams.

A film before its time — thank you for being the inspiration for female young footballers before we had the many role models of today.

— Marnie Stromborn

She’s The Man (2006)

Picture, if thou wilt, a mirthful present-day spectacle akin to a football-themed reimagining of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Following rejection from her high school’s boys’ football team, because they don’t allow girls, Viola disguises herself as her twin brother Sebastian to play for a rival boys’ team.

But as in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the gender switch sets off a tangle of comedic love triangles and delightful drama.

If thou dost seek a novel interpretation of the Bard’s popular romantic comedy, seasoned with the zest of the beautiful game, She’s The Man doth beckon.

The movie can be found on Apple TV here.

— Joan Grey

Marvellous (2014)

This BBC-produced feature tells the true story of Neil ‘Nello’ Baldwin, an unemployed circus clown hired as Stoke City’s kit man in the 1980s.

Marvellous won a Bafta award for this inspiring tale of one man’s determination to make his own mark on football, and those around him.

Toby Jones, in the lead role, is outstanding, and the movie cleverly interweaves fact and fiction, with appearances by the real people involved (Stoke City manager Lou Macari, Baldwin and his best friend Malcolm).

Friends of Football have held a number of special screenings of Marvellous at Auckland clubs, all of which have left their football-loving audiences rapt (and wiping away the odd tear).

If you ever needed proof that football is for everyone, and that it can change lives, here it is.

My all-time favourite football movie.

It’s been on Sky and if you can’t find it on a streaming channel, get in touch with Friends of Football. We’ll see if we can screen it at your football club.

— Josh Easby

Escape to Victory (1981)

It’s corny, it’s predictable and some of the acting is laughable. But more than 40 years after it was made, Escape to Victory keeps turning up, whether on television or at sports film festivals.

When promoters of a Football Film Festival in London asked fans which movie should open the event, there was only one choice, and audience members cheered and chanted (‘Engerrrrland …’) whenever the teams took to the pitch.

Part of the fun is spotting football-playing extras (some well-known internationals took part), as they line up beside acting luminaries such as Sir Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone, and footballers led by Pelé.

Scenes to cherish include Pelé’s trademark bicycle kick and Stallone’s bizarre interpretation of the art of goalkeeping.

This is in the guilty pleasure section of my football movie archive. Don’t be too cool to watch it, whether it’s your first time or your 20th.

Escape to Victory moves around — it’s often in the Christmas scheduling of free-to-air television, or on a Sky channel. Recently, it’s been on Apple TV, YouTube, Amazon and Google Play Movies.

— Jack Sharp

The Bromley Boys (2018)

The Bromley Boys is the autobiographical account of Dave Roberts’ early teenage years when he fell in love with his local non-league football club, Bromley.

Unaware they were, at the time, the lowest-ranked football club in the English football pyramid, he began a lifetime of soaring optimism, dashed hopes and cherished memories.

Roberts, who wrote a best-selling novel of the same name, emigrated to New Zealand and continued to follow Bromley from Wellington, until his move to the United States.

His books about football, and The Bromley Boys movie, are funny, touching and remind us why true fans never give up.

Sadly, Roberts died in 2021 but not till after he had followed Bromley to their first-ever Wembley final, when they played Brackley Town in the 2018 FA Trophy. Bromley lost on penalties.

— Jack Sharp

Pele: Birth of a Legend (2016)

Pele: the Birth of a Legend opens with footage of the 1958 World Cup with the then 17-year-old taking the field, the youngest player ever to start in a World Cup. It then takes us back to 8 years earlier and follows the path to this penultimate moment, particularly focusing on the relationship between him and his father.

It describes the “ginga” style of football that he played and how at the time it was juxtaposed to the European style of play, exciting and unexpected.

The movie successfully communicates his love of football and the joy and excitement his playing created around the world.

The movie can be viewed on Netflix.

— Marnie Stromborn

Credit: popcorn photo by Corina Rainer on Unsplash

Our contributors

JOAN GREY writes about women’s football for Friends of Football and plays for Franklin United.

JACK SHARP is Waikato-based and covers national and regional leagues for this website.

MARNIE STROMBORN is an Auckland-based football enthusiast who follows the women’s game and youth football.

JOSH EASBY is the chair of Friends of Football, and editor of the website.

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