Welcome back to the VH Best Football Films of All Time. Here are the top 4 movies in our league table.

And remember ‘When you’re 4-0 up, you should never lose 7-1’

4. Mike Bassett – England Manager

In a role that Ricky Tomlinson was born to play, Mike Bassett is a mock documentary following the new England manager through the first year of his occupancy of the top job. Tomlinson plays Bassett as a psyched-up F-bombing version of Jim Royale, a man stuck in his ways and way out of his league, his appointment only being made due the lack of other candidates. Some of the comedy is obvious and you can see many anecdotes coming clearer than an Andy Carroll red card. The characters too are utter stereotypes; the psychotic one, the clown one, the ladies-man, all straight from the cookie cutter of sit-com city. Yet it works, and it works because of Tomlinson; the emotions, the flare-ups, the disbelieving faces, the perfectly timed swearing.  The cameos on show are miraculous too; Pele, Ronaldo (the Brazilian one), Barry Venison(!). The Argentinians have a player called Bastardo, someone shits in the communal baths and Bassett eventually reverts to his initial conviction of playing ‘Four, Four, fucking Two’. What’s not to love?

3. The Two Escobars

During the group stages of the 1994 world cup, Columbia defender Andres Escobar scored an own goal while playing against the USA causing an early exit for his nation. Within a month he was shot dead outside a nightclub in his home-town of Medellin. As his murderer was a cartel member and had lost heavily on the elimination of Columbia from the World Cup, the consensus was that Escobar was killed because of his own goal. At a similar time, Andreas’ namesake Pablo Escobar was one of the richest men in the world, royally ruling over his own worldwide drug cartel and seen as a God by the many impoverished helped by his philanthropy. The 2 Escobars maps the way money entered the national football league as a way of laundering drug profits, and the success the team had off the back of it. The Zimbalist brother’s film is a wonderful portrait of corruption and terror-based achievement and is graciously even-handed with its reporting of the situation. The film is a wonderful yet terrifying example of how the illegal and legal are so often intertwined, and how football can become part of the fabric of a society.

VH were lucky enough to catch up with The Two Escobars director Michael Zimbalist for a quick chat about the movie.

VH: Why did you decide to make this film?

MZ: My brother and I were in Colombia developing a separate project when ESPN reached out to us to ask if we’d be interested in doing a film for their upcoming 30 for 30 series on the intersection of sports and society. We remembered Andrés Escobar’s own goal in the ’94 World Cup and were surprised that even our Colombian friends knew little about who had killed Andrés and why. So we pitched ESPN the idea of an investigative film that would dig deeper into the circumstances of Andrés’ murder and what, if anything, Pablo Escobar had to do with it. That was the start.

How did you manage to get interviews with so many of Pablo’s gang members and Andres’ family and teammates?

We rented an apartment in Medellín and lived there for a number of months prior to starting filming. We got to know Pablo’s sister Luz María and spent time in the neighborhoods where Pablo was still seen as a benefactor. Additionally, we worked with an outstanding crew, including our Colombian fixer Jenny Carolina González, who helped liaison the relationships with other subjects in the film.

Politics and football seem to have a historic symbiotic relationship. Can you see any current circumstance that you would interested in documenting?

Yes, the story of the Chapecoense football club in Brazil. Earlier this year, we finished a feature documentary called NOSSA CHAPE, which is currently in cinemas in the U.S. and will be broadcast on Fox this Saturday following the Germany-Sweden game.

What is your favourite football film of all time?

We have a project currently in development that I hope will earn this title 😉

2. ID

There have been a glut of films glorifying the 1970s and 1980s epidemic of violence in and around football. Anyone who was there knows only too well that nostalgia isn’t strong enough to blot out the memories of terror while walking through a council estate for your 3pm kick-off, confused at who to be more scared of; the opposition supporters or the local bobbies. The only film that has ever really got to the heart of football violence was 1995’s ID. Based on a true story of an undercover police operation to penetrate the notorious Millwall bushwhackers firm – Shadwell Lions standing in for Millwall, Wapping for West Ham – ID is a terrifying look at how being undercover can adjust a person’s psyche. 90’s poster boy Reece Dinsdale moulds one of the most wonderful character arcs of the decade as he goes from being the perfect husband to a drug-fuelled hate-filled racist. Warren Clarke is horrifying as the landlord of Millwall boozer the Rock. There’s not a step wrong here. And who can forget Gumbo with a dart in his head?

1. Escape to Victory

It could only be Escape to Victory couldn’t it? The most ridiculous second world war film of all time. While losing at half time in a Nazi propaganda event to an unambiguously biased ref with the German opponents kicking lumps out of them, the chance for escape came at the break. A wonderfully swirling vortex appears under the team bath as members of the resistance appear from the tunnel below. What would you do? Play on of course! The cast is miraculous; Sylvester Stallone, Pele, Bobby Moore, Michael Caine, Ozzy Ardiles, John Wark, Russell Osman. Admittedly that list gets progressively more bizarre but it’s a movie full of beauty, hope and classic scenes; the original goalie who agrees to having his arm broken – ‘make it quick’ – Stallone’s initial Gridiron-style tackling, Caine in his pomp, Pele’s overhead kick. Escape to Victory is probably everyone’s first thought when it comes to football films and 37 years later, there’s a reason for that.


Also check out the following which almost made our top 9:

Bostock’s Cup
Gregory’s Girl
An Impossible Job
Big Ron Manager
Being: Liverpool
Four Year Plan
Purely Belter
Forever Pure
Fever Pitch

By Colin Lomas

I first watched The Company of Wolves at the age of 8. It gave me a lifelong love of the cinema and an utter terror of everything else.