It’ll be four more years before we’ll see the world’s greatest teams face off (next time under Vladimir Putin’s icy watch). That’s a long time. So, if you’re not quite ready to let go of your fútbol dependency, here are a few fantastic soccer flicks to make the weaning process a little less painful.
(Note: This article has been adapted from a previous streaming guide and updated with more soccer movies.)
The year is 2002, and the World Cup has run its course, whittling the tournament down to a final match between Brazil and Germany. (Sound almost familiar?) While people all over the world file into Japan’s stadium to watch the match live, filmmaker Gerardo Olivares imagines the competition from the eyes of more far-flung spectators.
That is, three soccer-loving groups who don’t often find themselves in the company of television sets: a family of Mongolian nomads, the Amazon Indians, and the Tuaregs of the Sahara. Each community goes through great lengths to watch the final match and — in the process — demonstrates how precious information can be in the underdeveloped world.
Typically, stories about How Soccer Saved a Boy from the Ghetto are grossly cliché. But Hermano is one of the least annoying offenders, and it’s quite beautifully shot. The film follows two boys who are raised as brothers in the slums. They’re inseparable, especially on the soccer field, where their close connection helps them conquer their opponents. When a talent scout comes to town, their dream of finally making it out of poverty might come true. Unless, that is, their violent neighborhood has anything to say about it.
Fun fact: Will Ferrell’s Kicking & Screaming character originated from his Saturday Night Live audition tape — or, at least, the conceit of a mild-mannered dad who switches to scary control-freak dad. As you might remember, Ferrell’s character seeks revenge against his father, who traded his grandson to a bumbling soccer team. Ferrell takes it upon himself to whip the team into shape and, in the process, finds a new raison d’être.
Though not the best of the Ferrell vault, it does make you long for the days of your youth when everyone would chase the ball around in an indistinguishable clump for two hours.
Kung fu + soccer? It’s just as awesome as you might think. This 2004 film has an absurd plot, and the type of soccer they’re playing probably would never fly with FIFA. But who cares when a bunch of dudes are doing awesome tricks with soccer balls? If the girl who shaves her head to play on their team doesn’t charm you, then the hip-hop remix of “Kung Fu Fighting” will.
Of course, this list is not complete without a little lady soccer play in the mix. When I recall this 2003 movie, all I can think of is a shirtless Mia Hamm screaming with joy after she led the U.S. team to glory for the 1999 World Cup.
Four years after that iconic moment, main character Jess Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) must deal with her traditional Indian parents’ constant disapproval of her pastime. Eventually she befriends semipro soccer player Jules (a not-that-famous-yet Keira Knightley), and the two conquer the sports world. Or something.
Look, it’s no Bell Hooks speech, but it’s funny, and uplifting, and oh so British.
Gary Oldman narrates this documentary, which tells of England’s dramatic, surprising 1990 World Cup in Italy. England doesn’t win the Cup (spoiler), but it does advance pretty far, thanks partially to the heroics of Mark Wright and Paul Gascoigne. The team’s performance is often credited with uniting England during a tumultuous time; it is also far more inspiring than, say, England’s performance this time around.
ESPN’s 30 for 30 has proved to be a sports lover’s dream program: The regular documentary series gives filmmakers a broad canvas to revisit the defining sports moments of the last century, interviewing the players and coaches and telling gripping stories about the athletic competitions of our time.
Luckily for soccer fans, Netflix has collected the eight soccer-themed 30 for 30 documentaries in one place for simple binge watching. From Brazil’s devastating World Cup Loss in 1950 to the real Irish tragedy of the 1994 World Cup, these sports docs will have you glued to your screen.