The top 20 football films

By Callum McFadden – @CallumCFB

1. State of Play – Mike Calvin and BT Sport

State of Play is a documentary film investigating the human stories of football with award-winning writer Michael Calvin who turns his eye to the biggest story of all – the game itself.

From mental health to money, concussion to Champions league, fan-owners to oligarchs, women’s football to world cups, Calvin gets under the skin of the beautiful game, and reveals why it is truly the game of our lives.

2. No Hunger in Paradise – Mike Calvin and BT Sport

“What’s your dream, son?”

A six year-old boy, head bowed, mumbles the eternal answer: “Be a footballer….” Steadman Scott, football’s most unlikely talent scout, smiles indulgently, and takes him in from the street. He knows the odds. Only 180 of the 1.5 million boys who play organised youth football in England will become a Premier League pro. That’s a success rate of 0.012 per cent.

How and why do the favoured few make it? What separates the good from the great? Who should they trust – the coach, the agent or their parents?

Michael Calvin provides the answers on a journey from non-league grounds to hermetically sealed Premier League palaces, via gang-controlled sink estates and the England team’s inner sanctum. He interviews decision makers, behavioural specialists, football agents and leading coaches. He shares the hopes and fears of players and their parents. He exposes bullying and a black economy in which children are commodities, but remains true to the dream.

3. ‘89 – Arsenal

The incredible story of one of football’s greatest triumphs: when, against all odds, Arsenal snatched the Championship title from Liverpool at Anfield in the last minute of the 1988-89 season, defying the odds and making history.

4. I believe in Miracles – Brian Clough

Before Brian Clough took over as manager of Nottingham Forest, they were a lowly, underachieving football club. This documentary tells the story of how Clough went on to lead the team to two unlikely European Cup triumphs.

5. All by himself – George Best

There’s a lot of ground to cover in Best’s short life – from his electrifying debut with Manchester United at the tender age of 17, through the glory years that United won the 1968 European Cup, his adventures in the North American Soccer League, not to mention his time spent romancing the world’s most beautiful, intoxicating women. But Gordon tells Best’s story with a skill worthy of the man himself. The film draws you into the drama that surrounded Best and makes you understand just why an estimated quarter of a million people lined the route of his funeral cortege to mourn his tragic passing.

6. Le God – The Matt Le Tissier Story

The remarkable career of Matt Le Tissier is told in a Sky Sports documentary about the life of the Southampton legend.

With footage of all his greatest goals and old cine-film of the star growing up, Le God: The Matt Le Tissier Story answers conclusively why he opted to stay at Southampton rather than move to a bigger club.

“People often ask me whether I enjoyed being the big fish in the small pond and I’ll be honest with you: too right I did!” said Le Tissier

7. Take the ball, pass the ball – Barcelona

14 Trophies. 4 Seasons. One Incredible Era. Take the Ball Pass the Ball is the definitive story of the greatest football team ever assembled. For four explosive years Pep Guardiola’s Barça produced the greatest football in history, seducing fans around the world. In this exclusive, first-hand account of events between 2008 and 2012, the players themselves reveal the tension of the bitter Guardiola-Mourinho rivalry, the emotion of Abidal’s fight back from cancer to lift the European Cup and how Messi, the best footballer the world’s ever seen, was almost rejected by Barça as a 13-year-old. Inspired by the book Barça: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World by Graham Hunter, Take the Ball Pass the Ball features exclusive interviews with Barça’s stellar cast of current and ex-players, including Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Thierry Henry, Dani Alves, Gerard Piqué, Éric Abidal, Víctor Valdés, Carles Puyol, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Javier Mascherano, Sergio Busquets and Samuel Eto’o, plus a rare, exclusive, contribution from Pep Guardiola himself.

8. The Four Year Plan – QPR

In 2007, investors buy the bottom-ranked Queens Park Rangers football team and launch an ambitious plan to promote them to the Premier League.

9. More than a manager – Sir Bobby Robson

In the summer of 1995 Bobby Robson was diagnosed with cancer and given just months to live. Miraculously, less than a year later Robson was managing the legendary FC Barcelona.

10. Too Good to Go Down – Man Utd

When Manchester United were relegated in 1974, just six years after winning the European Cup, it was front page news. How could such a thing happen to the biggest club in Britain? Such a scenario would be even more unthinkable today than Leicester City winning the league.

11. Kenny

The story of a man whose life and career was entwined with the fortunes of his adopted city of Liverpool. Known as `The King’, Kenny Dalglish was revered by fans during his time at Liverpool FC, where as a player and manager he won 27 major trophies.

12. The Damned United

Brian Clough aims to be better than his predecessor, Don Revie; the rivalry dating back to 1968 causes Clough to make rash choices, which costs him his post after 44 days of becoming Leeds’s coach.

13. Busby

Busby combines previously unseen archive footage with interviews with those who knew the man best.

14. Maradona

A look at the career of celebrated football player Diego Armando Maradona. On 5th July 1984, Diego Maradona arrived in Naples for a world-record fee. The world’s most celebrated football icon and the most passionate but dangerous city in Europe were a perfect match for each other.

15. Mike Bassett – England Manager

England’s Football Association scrambles to find a replacement for the national team’s manager after Phil Cope dies of a heart attack. Most candidates decline the position, and the FA must offer it to inept Mike Bassett, who accepts. He makes a series of bad decisions and loses his first two games as England manager. Bassett seems destined for a quick exit when he gets a chance at redemption after his team surprisingly gains entry into the World Cup.

16. One night in Turin

Documenting how the spirited play of England’s 1990 World Cup team transformed the sport in Britain from hooliganism to a source of national pride. This was one of England’s greatest footballing adventures on foreign soil.

17. Busby, Stein and Shankly – the football men

Memories of three great Scottish football managers – Jock Stein, Sir Matt Busby and Bill Shankly – were re-lived on Sunday when award-winning sports writer Hugh McIlvanney reflected on their achievements

18. Orient: Club for a fiver

In 1994, film student Jo Trehearne began making a documentary about her local football club, Leyton Orient. But it soon became obvious that 1994-5 was no ordinary season. Shot roughly on a low budget, her film quickly attained near-legendary status among aficionados of the game.

19. The class of 92

Examining the rise to prominence and global sporting superstardom of six supremely talented young Manchester United footballers – David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville. The film covers the period 1992-1999, which culminated in Manchester United’s European Cup triumph. It interweaves and mirrors the highs and lows of a football odyssey with the immense social and cultural changes taking place in Britain at the time.

20. The two Escobars

A look at how the lives of Colombian footballer Andres Escobar and drug lord Pablo Escobar were intertwined, and the mysterious events that lead to Andres’ death.

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Published by Callum McFadden

Football CFB founder. Freelance football writer & broadcaster of over 350 interviews with professional players and managers across all levels of football.

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