Notes: Best and Worst soccer movies in 2021

32 movies reviewed in 2021

2021 was a little better than 2020. The availability of vaccinations helped us get back to semi-normal, but shockingly there is a small segment of the world’s population that refuses to get vaccinated. So the pandemic continues to rage on.

In Year 2 of the pandemic, many people continued to isolate at home. Society got more sick of lockdown than they were afraid of getting COVID. But by the Fall of 2021 in the USA, a few movie theaters reopened to sparse but vaccinated fans.

Like the new acceptance of working from home for one-third of American companies, virtual film festivals became a standard. I continued to watch a few new releases this way, but I don’t know how popular the virtual festivals were or if they made any money.

32 films and series watched in 2021

Except for refereeing, I was able to resume many activities. I only reviewed 32 films and series in 2021, which is almost half of what I watched in 2020. This was my lowest annual count in 5 years: 56 films in 2020, 43 films in 2019, 41 films in 2018, 35 films in 2017, and 20 movies in 2016. 

You might guess that the reason for the large drop-off was the stoppage of production in 2020. Or maybe people weren’t putting films out there, instead waiting for theaters to reopen and accrue some box office revenue.

Yes, the pandemic caused a temporary disruption in the force of film production. But it doesn’t account for the drop-off in my reviews.

The real reason is the change in streaming. Just like sports broadcast channels are being fractionalized by the upswing of streaming, soccer and football films are being used as what I term accessory viewing.

There is actually a ton of film content being generated right now, but most is dedicated to a particular platform and tied to a particular club or player. Much of it is released as a series. Amazon used to have a ton of soccer movies (many were bad) as part of its Prime service, but now those films require a fee to watch. See my rant about the decline in streaming soccer movies.

There is even a new trend where small clubs are being purchased for the purpose of making a docuseries about their rebirth under celebrity owners such as Ryan Reynolds (Wrexham AFC) and Jamie Vardy (Rochester Rhinos).

The 2020 series Ted Lasso was a new trend all by itself, as in 2021 it and soccer became part of America’s public consciousness. Someday USSoccer may have to add Jason Sudeikis to its Hall of Fame, or Hall of Gratitude, for making soccer relevant in the USA.

Because Maradona died in 2020, a number of films and series have either been newly released or made available on streaming. As a result, this year I reviewed 3 films/series about him and even created a tag for Maradona content.

This year, around half the shows I watched were documentaries.

As in 2018 through 2020, I rated almost one-third of the films with a rating of 8 on a scale of 10. This year, no film rated above 8. Four films or 13%, received a Rating of 5. Following is a quick summary of the top- and bottom-rated films.

2021 Best Soccer Films:

Oscar statue

Here are the top 12 movies I reviewed this year:

  • Cool Kids Don’t Cry (2012) – touching but inspirational drama of an 8th grade footballer who suffers leukemia
  • Elite School (Die Kaderschmiede) (2014) – a view into German football academies
  • Adidas vs Puma (Duell der Brüder) (2016) – drama that explains how 2 brothers formed competing companies Adidas and Puma
  • Rovers (2016) – This single-season series about fans of a lower league team is as cute as Ted Lasso
  • In Search of Greatness (2018) – Interviews of sports greats Pele, Wayne Gretzky and Jerry Rice give insight into what traits carried them to the top
  • Maradona in Mexico (2019) – Maradona’s coaching stint in a 2nd division Mexican club presents him in the most favorable light of any show about him
  • 90 Minutos (2020) – A first-time director makes an engaging drama about 3 slightly connected characters in Mexico
  • All I Need is a Ball (2020) – A short film about the leading female in France’s freestyling footie culture
  • Cosmoball (2020) – Guardians of the Galaxy as Russia would have made it
  • Pelé (2021) – A documentary of an aged Pelé and his greatest achievement
  • Ted Lasso (season 2) (2021) – Season 2 is not as good as the first season, but some episodes thoroughly warm your heart

2021 Worst Soccer Film:


The worst film I saw this past year was the slasher film Kick – Sudden Death (2015). Actually, I couldn’t even watch the whole thing.

Soccer Movies reviewed in 2021

This table lists all the football films reviewed this year. Within a numerical Rating, movies are sorted by release year and then by title.

Cool Kids Don’t Cry82012drama,kidsNED
Elite School82014documentaryGER
Adidas vs Puma (Duell der Brüder)82016dramaGER
Rovers82016comedy, seriesBritish
In Search of Greatness82018documentaryUSA
Maradona in Mexico82019docuseriesBritish
90 Minutos82020drama,suspenseHonduras
All I Need is a Ball82020documentary, shortSpain
Pele82021documentaryUSA, British, Netflix
Ted Lasso season 282021comedy,seriesUSA,British
The International Player72009dramaEgypt
Champion72019drama, suspenseIndia
Men of Hope72019documentaryGerman
Real Kashmir FC72019documentaryScottish
Otra forma de entender la vida72021documentarySpain
Captains of Zaatari72021documentaryEgypt,Jordan,Syria
Maradona Sueno Bendito72021drama,seriesARG
The Celtic Boys Club Scandal72021documentaryScottish
The Goal61999drama,kidsIndia
Maradona the hand of God62007dramaITA
A Barefoot Dream62010dramaSouth Korea
Gujarat 1162019dramaIndia
Fixed! A Football Comedy62020documentaryNED
Baggio: The Divine Ponytail62021dramaItalian, netflix
Kick – Sudden Death52015suspenseUK, USA
Fan of Amoory52018drama,kidsUAE
Soccer Mom Madam52021dramaUSA

This table is implemented via Tobias Bäthge’s Tablepress plugin.