Five thrilling football films to watch in the run up to the Euros

These handpicked movies about the beautiful game are the perfect way to kick off your Euros summer

Maddy Pigott
Thursday 13 June 2024 06:00 BST
Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra in ‘Bend It Like Beckham’
Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra in ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ (Christine Parry/Bend It/Film Council/Kobal/Shutterstock)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


From Keira Knightley bending it like Beckham to Pelé doing a cameo, there are plenty of iconic moments in football movies you can watch ahead of the European Football Championships.

Beginning on Friday 14 June, the tournament will take place in the major stadiums across Germany, including in cities Hamburg, Frankfurt and Leipzig. England’s first game will be against Serbia on 16 June.

The beautiful game combined with the silver screen has created some brilliant films over the years. But movies about football are not always the most popular. Perhaps it’s because real fans would rather simply watch the games themselves (there’s enough drama, after all), or because the world’s biggest movie market, the US, just doesn’t care about “soccer” as much as Brits do.

However, before the competition kickstarts, fans may be looking for ways to prepare for the summer of fun (or heartbreak) – and these five films will be sure to get you excited...

The Mean Machine (2001)

It’s not often you see a British remake of an American film. This one takes inspiration from the classic American football movie, The Longest Yard, and it’s done with style. It stars former Wimbledon and Chelsea footballer turned actor, Vinnie Jones, alongside a variety of classic British acting talent such as Danny Dyer and Jason Statham. The story follows disgraced Ex-England football captain Danny Meehan, who gets sent to prison after fighting with the police. While inside, he leads an unlikely group of inmates in a match against the guards. The sports comedy is pacey and it’s a cracking story, making it the perfect beginning to any football-themed film night.

‘The Mean Machine’
‘The Mean Machine’ (Alamy Stock Photo)

The Damned United (2009)

This is not only a great football film, but a fantastic film full-stop. The movie tells the true story of Brian Clough’s 44-day stint as manager of Leeds United football club. When Don Revie gets the England manager call up, leaving the job open, Clough aims to do better than his predecessor, but things don’t quite go his way. Starring Michael Sheen, The Damned United takes a close look at the British Football Association and the politics behind the beloved game, making it an interesting watch. Even if you don’t like football, this is one to have on your list.

‘The Damned United’
‘The Damned United’ (Alamy Stock Photo)

Fever Pitch (1997)

A tale as old as time, this is the story of a man torn between his two loves – his football team and new lady. Loosely based on Nick Hornby’s 1992 memoir Fever Pitch: A Fan’s Life, the film captures the story of school teacher and Arsenal FC obsessive, Paul Ashworth, played by Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth, as he juggles his new romance with a new teacher, Sarah (Ruth Gemmell), and his passion for footie.

‘Fever Pitch’
‘Fever Pitch’ (Alamy Stock Photo)

Bend it Like Beckham (2002)

Although it’s about women’s football, Bend it Like Beckham is so much more than that. Action montages, hilarious dialogue, dramatic slow-motion sequences and a killer soundtrack – it has it all. Starring Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Myers, the film follows the journey of two young women as they try to pursue a football career against the wishes of their parents. Director Gurinder Chadha isn’t afraid to tackle themes of race, gender, class and sexuality head-on.

‘Bend it Like Beckham’
‘Bend it Like Beckham’ (Bend It/Film Council/Kobal/Shutterstock)

Escape to Victory (1981)

In theory, a sports and war movie crossover sounds like an awful idea, but in practice, it turned out to be one of the greats – despite its questionable (at times) acting. The film is set during the Second World War and follows a football match between Germany and a team composed of allied prisoners of war, who are simultaneously attempting a risky escape. Its compelling plot and uplifting spirit makes for an unforgettable two hours, featuring one of the world’s best ever footballers – Pelé. This would be the ideal film to prepare fans for this summer’s tournament, especially since hosts Germany will be on their A-game.

‘Escape to Victory’
‘Escape to Victory’ (Alamy )

Check out The Independent’s predictions for the Euros here.

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