The film industry has been scoring with soccer films for decades, from gripping heroic dramas to the perils of fandom and the violence of football hooliganism. With the 2014 soccer World Cup in Brazil set to start June 12, THR looks back at the best onscreen moments when stars take to the pitch.
A modern classic set during World War II, Escape to Victory stars Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Max von Sydow and Daniel Massey as Allied prisoners of war alongside real-life soccer players including Pele and Bobby Moore. The POWs use an exhibition match against the Germans, which they learned was a Nazi propaganda stunt, to escape from their wartime captors during the confusion following a spectacular goal.
'Gregory's Girl' (1981)
This coming-of-age romantic comedy set in Scotland tells the story of an awkward teenager (John Gordon Sinclair) who falls for the pretty girl (Dee Hepburn) that demands to be allowed to play on the school football team. Proving to be as talented on the field as she is off it, she is soon stealing the ball as well as his heart in what was described in the film's promotional posters as "the match of the day."
'Fever Pitch' (1997)
Before the Jimmy Fallon Boston Red Sox comedy captured the hearts of baseball fans, the original U.K. film Fever Pitch (based on Nick Hornby's novel) starred Colin Firth as an obsessed Arsenal fanatic who makes personal -- and romantic -- sacrifices for his team.
'Mean Machine' (2001)
Real-life Premier League player-turned-actor Vinnie Jones stars in this British adaptation of The Longest Yard, which reunited him with many of his co-stars from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Jones plays Danny "The Mean Machine" Meehan, who is banned from English football for fixing a match and sentenced to three years in jail, where he is given the job as coach of the prison warden's team.
'Shaolin Soccer' (2001)
Shaolin Soccer is a Hong Kong comedy that tells the unlikely story of a Shaolin monk who reunites with his five brothers to use their superhuman martial arts skills to play soccer. Co-written, directed and starring Stephen Chow, it culminates in a face-off between Team Shaolin and Team Evil in the open cup competition.
'Bend It Like Beckham' (2002)
Paying homage to David Beckham's knack at bending the ball during free kicks, Bend It Like Beckham helped launch the career of Keira Knightley as a short-haired tomboy who befriends Jesminder Kaur Bhamra (Parminder Nagra), the 18-year-old daughter of strict Punjabi Sikh Indians who don't approve of her infatuation with football. The girl-power comedy drama also stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the coach who not only encourages the girls' talents -- but also sparks a love triangle.
'Football Factory' (2004)
Directed by Nick Love, Football Factory brings the violence and brutality of a Chelsea F.C. football firm to the big screen in a bloody British drama. Featuring shocking scenes of gang fights, attacks with cricket bats and murderous drug dealers, it stars a cast of lesser-known English actors including Danny Dyer, Tamer Hassan, Frank Harper, Roland Manookian, Neil Maskell and Dudley Sutton.
'Goal! The Dream Begins' (2005)
The first film in a successful trilogy, Goal! The Dream Begins is a rambunctious drama following the son of a Hispanic gardener in Los Angeles on his quest to become a professional football player that takes him to Newcastle, England. Made with the cooperation of FIFA, the film was permitted to use the names, players and jerseys of real Premier League teams as Santiago Munez (played by Kuno Becker) scores his first goal in the U.K. while his father cheers him on thousands of miles away in a fan-filled L.A. bar.
'Green Street Hooligans' (2005)
Elijah Wood went from being a Hobbit in Middle-earth to a football hooligan in London when his aspiring journalist character, Matt, is expelled from Harvard and goes to live with his sister in England. A fish out of water in a rough part of the city, the "Yank" soon falls in with a violent West Ham football firm run by Pete, played by Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam, and finds himself embroiled in street fights and pub brawls.
'Game of Their Lives' (2005)
Like many of the best sports films, Game of Their Lives is based on a true story -- in this case, the 1950 U.S. soccer team's battle against England during the World Cup, which, like this year's tournament, was played in Brazil. The drama stars real-life Celtic Rangers fan Gerard Butler as American player Frank Borghi and Bush singer Gavin Rossdale as a member of the rival English side. Many of the actors were cast because of their skills on the pitch, but that didn't help the success of the film, which opened to lukewarm reviews and few supporters.
'Looking for Eric' (2009)
Directed by Ken Loach, Looking for Eric stars its namesake, French national team and Manchester United player Eric Cantona as himself while Steve Evets plays a depressed postman going through a crisis. Dealing with the drama of an ex-wife, a young grandchild and a wayward stepson, the soccer fanatic turns to hallucinations of his philosophical hero for advice.
'The Damned United' (2009)
The Damned United's title refers to Leeds United and the team's ill-fated manager Brian Clough, played by Martin Sheen. It is a fictionalized version of true events set in the late '60s and early '70s, when Clough went from being a harsh critic of the Northern England team because of their violent style of play to being their reluctant leader.
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