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10 Best Soccer Movies, Ranked by Tomatometer

(Photo by Paramount Classics/courtesy Everett Collection)

(Photo by Paramount Classics/courtesy Everett Collection)

To start playing soccer, all you need is a flat surface, a round ball, a leg or two, and boom, you’re halfway to becoming a regular Diego Beckham. With its low barrier to entry and sky-high skill ceiling, it’s no wonder soccer’s the most popular sport in the world (at least until pickleball takes over — just 2.5 billion more people to go).

So when it comes to the best movies ever made about soccer, we’re looking at it top to bottom, from goal-scoring winners to movies that may have flopped before the critics but still managed to find a spot on audiences’ teams.

We kick off our guide to the best soccer movies with Certified Fresh movies, including Offside (the comedy-drama from Iran, released when women were completely banned from attending sports), Bend It Like Beckham (the movie that made Keira Knightley a star), Shaolin Soccer (the outrageous action-fantasy from Stephen Chow), Diego Maradona (a documentary on one of the sport’s most legendary players), Early Man (stop-motion from Aardman Animations), and Looking for Eric (even freakin’ Ken Loach lightened up thanks to soccer). This premier selection of Certified Fresh movies reveals how truly international the sport is, as the only American soccer film in the top 10 is Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos, a revealing documentary on the 1970-1985 soccer club that famously signed Pele.

Offside (2007)

#1 Offside (2006)

Critics Consensus: A spirited film that explores gender politics with comedy, intelligence, and a variety of interesting characters.

Synopsis: Since women are banned from soccer matches, Iranian females masquerade as males so they can slip into Tehran's stadium to see the game between Iran and Bahrain. The ones who are caught and arrested are taken to a holding area and guarded by soldiers. One sympathetic soldier agrees to watch the game through a peephole and recount the action to the impatient fans.

Starring: Sima MobarakshaiSafar SamandarShayesteh Irani

Directed By: Jafar Panahi

The Damned United (2009)

#2 The Damned United (2009)

Critics Consensus: Better than your average football pic, Damned United is carried by another star turn from Michael Sheen as Brian Clough.

Synopsis: he story of Brian Clough's 44 day stint as manager of Leeds United Football Club takes place in 1974 England. When Don Revie quits Leeds to become the England boss, the outspoken Brian Clough takes charge. Determined to impose his own style upon Revie's tough tackling team, Clough soon alienates his players and the board. Based on the book by David Pearce.

Starring: Michael SheenTimothy SpallJim BroadbentStephen Graham

Directed By: Tom Hooper

Diego Maradona (2019)

#3 Diego Maradona (2019)

Critics Consensus: Diego Maradona traces the arc of a standard sports documentary, but illuminates its subject with uncommon clarity and depth.

Synopsis: No synopsis yet.

Starring: Diego Maradona

Directed By: Asif Kapadia


Shaolin Soccer (2019)

#4 Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Critics Consensus: The plot is utterly ridiculous, and the soccer in the movie is unlike any ever played anywhere on Earth, but watching Shaolin Soccer, you will probably find it impossible to care.

Synopsis: All his life, an ordinary young man (Stephen Chow) has been treated like dirt. Still, he's never given up believing that all the world's problems could be solved with a little kung fu. So he's teaming up with a band of misfits - six friends who were kung fu masters in their youth - to form a soccer team that only he believes has a chance to win a $1 million grand prize. Together, they're going to apply their hidden talents to a whole new game -- and soccer will never be the same.

Starring: Stephen ChowWei ZhaoYin TseCecilia Cheung

Directed By: Stephen ChowLee Lik-Chi

Bend it like Beckham (2002)

#5 Bend it like Beckham (2002)

Critics Consensus: Inspiring, compassionate, and with a sly undercurrent of social commentary, Bend It Like Beckham is a lively feel-good movie that genuinely charms.

Synopsis: Jess Bhamra (Parminder Nagra), the daughter of a strict Indian couple (Anupam Kher, Shaheen Khan) in London, is not permitted to play organized soccer, even though she is 18. When Jess is playing for fun one day, her impressive skills are seen by Jules Paxton (Keira Knightley), who then convinces Jess to play for her semi-pro team. Jess uses elaborate excuses to hide her matches from her family while also dealing with her romantic feelings for her coach, Joe.

Starring: Parminder NagraKeira KnightleyAnupam KherArchie Panjabi

Directed By: Gurinder Chadha

Looking For Eric (2009)

#6 Looking For Eric (2009)

Critics Consensus: Ken Loach's latest is an uplifting, entertaining and amusing socio-drama featuring a match-winning performance from Eric Cantona.

Synopsis: Ever since his wife (Stephanie Bishop) left him, Eric Bishop's (Steve Evets) life has fallen apart. His two teen sons (Gerard Kearns, Stefan Gumbs) have little regard for him, his job at the post office is increasingly unfulfilling and he ends up in the hospital after a car crash. One night, he smokes marijuana and has a vision of his favorite Manchester United soccer player: Eric Cantona. With the help of his idol and his daughter (Lucy-Jo Hudson), Eric tries to get his life straightened out.

Starring: Steve EvetsÉric CantonaStephanie BishopGerard Kearns

Directed By: Ken Loach

Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos

#7 Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos (2006)

Critics Consensus: You don't have to be a soccer fan to enjoy this stylish, breezy slice of 1970s sports history.

Synopsis: This documentary looks back on a time when soccer briefly captured America's attention. The film profiles the North American Soccer League franchise the New York Cosmos and the sensation it created back in the 1970s. Using archival footage, old photos and anecdotes from former players and businessmen, it tells the story -- or several conflicting stories -- of a team starring Brazilian soccer legend Pele, formed by non-sports people and ultimately submarined by the league's excessive expansion.

Starring: Matt Dillon

Directed By: Paul CrowderJohn Dower

Early Man (2018)

#8 Early Man (2018)

Critics Consensus: Early Man isn't quite as evolved as Aardman's best work, but still retains the unique visuals and sweet humor that have made the studio a favorite among animation enthusiasts.

Synopsis: A plucky cave man named Dug, his sidekick Hognob and the rest of their tribe face a grave threat to their simple existence. Lord Nooth plans to take over their land and transform it into a giant mine, forcing Dug and his clan to dig for precious metals. Not ready to go down without a fight, Dug and Hognob must unite their people in an epic quest to defeat a mighty enemy -- the Bronze Age.

Starring: Eddie RedmayneTom HiddlestonMaisie WilliamsMiriam Margolyes

Directed By: Nick Park

Next Goal Wins (2014)

#9 Next Goal Wins (2014)

Critics Consensus: Finding beauty in sports beyond the mere satisfaction of winning, Next Goal Wins is a moving documentary filled with a lovable array of underdogs.

Synopsis: Dutch coach Thomas Rongen attempts the nearly impossible task of turning the American Samoa soccer team from perennial losers into winners.

Starring: Thomas RongenJaiyah SaeluaNicky SalapuGene Ne'emia

Directed By: Mike BrettSteve Jamison

Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In

#10 Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In (2021)

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Recovering from a life-threatening brain hemorrhage and acutely aware that his memory might desert him, the greatest football manager of all time begins to recount the most important stories of his life, both in and out of football, to his son Jason in SIR ALEX FERGUSON: NEVER GIVE IN. Stories of growing-up and family, alongside sporting triumph and failure, the film includes deeply moving insights from his wife and sons, as well as former players, along the way.

Starring: Éric CantonaAlex FergusonJason FergusonRyan Giggs

Directed By: Jason Ferguson


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