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From comedies to documentaries, here are the soccer flicks you should watch.
Most of the world is smitten with soccer all the time. But thanks to the World Cup, much of America falls in love with soccer every four years. Luckily, there are plenty of soccer movies on Netflix to satiate your rediscovered soccer obsession while you wait for the 2022 version of the World Cup.
Like Netflix’s basketball selections and its boxing offerings, you’re not going to see the most famous soccer movies ever made. You won’t find Bend It Like Beckham, Ladybugs, or Kicking & Screaming (the Will Ferrell version). But if you like underrated stories about the Beautiful Game, there are plenty of soccer movies on Netflix to satisfy.
The best soccer movies on Netflix
1) Soccer City
If you’re bummed about the 2018 World Cup in Russia winding down, this documentary will let you relive the 2010 tournament in South Africa. It follows the stories of five soccer players from the country, including a teenaged prospect, a former South African national team player, and one of the first professional players to ever emerge from the nation. Overall, it’s a heartfelt look at the importance of the soccer culture in the town of Alex, South Africa and one of the better soccer movies on Netflix. As the film’s website describes, it’s about “where soccer is lived, not played.”
2) Air Bud 3: World Pup
The first Air Bud movie focused on a dog that could play basketball, and the first sequel turned its attention to football. In the third installment, a direct-to-video film released in 2001, the lovable golden receiver shows that he’s also a soccer superstar. The plot revolves around a co-ed soccer team whose best player is Buddy the dog, who also happens to be a new father of a litter of puppies. The movie involves doggy discrimination and kidnapping, but—spoiler alert!—everything works out in the end. If you want to introduce your child to the Air Bud franchise, this isn’t a bad place to start.
3) Holy Goalie
In this 2017 comedy, a team of monks go on a soccer adventure to save their monastery from being turned into a luxury hotel. To do so, the squad has to prove its worth by attempting a game against the seemingly unbeatable Vatican team. Is this movie—which is in Spanish with English subtitles—the greatest soccer film you’ve ever seen? No. But it might be worth your time anyway. As Roger’s Movie Nation notes, “The movie is comedy of the mostly low-hanging fruit variety, but it’s got laughs.”
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4) Pelé: Birth of a Legend
This 2016 biographical drama tells the early life story of the most famous soccer player in history. The title character is played by two actors, and the film shows Pelé’s early life and how he transformed himself from a poverty-stricken child into one of the best soccer players in the world. He ultimately lifted Brazil to the 1958 World Cup championship at the age of 17. The film features Vincent D’Onofrio in the role of Brazil’s coach, and the film was shot entirely in Pelé’s home country of Brazil. Common Sense Media declares it appropriate for kids older than 10, and for those who don’t know anything about Pelé, this is a good place to start and one of the best soccer movies on Netflix.
5) The Class of ‘92
In 1992, six teenagers joined the Manchester United soccer club, aka one of the most prominent teams in the world. They eventually became sporting superstars, leading their squad to European Cup triumph. Among the group was David Beckham, who’s perhaps the most famous soccer player of this century. In The Class of ‘92—which covers 1992 to 1999—the six are shown growing into the players they would become. The film fared well on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 85 percent, and non-sports fans might like it, too, because it’s not all about soccer. As the Guardian wrote in its review, it’s “probably the greatest film about male friendship since Stand by Me.”
6) Planet FIFA
There’s little question that FIFA, the soccer governing body that rules the entire sport on a global level, is regarded as one of the most corrupt sports organizations in the world. This documentary delves into the association’s background and some of the outlandish decisions it’s made in the name of finance. Or as Netflix summarizes, it shows how “FIFA became a bloated and corrupt money-making machine.” Considering Russia won the bid to host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar was given the 2022 version despite a lack of infrastructure and a history of human rights abuses, respectively, this documentary will continue to be relevant long after its release.
In this 2014 drama, an 11-year-old boy runs afoul of the law, but he’s rescued by the longtime coach of Manchester United who is still mourning the loss of 20 people from a tragic plane crash in 1958. The coach, meanwhile, discovers that the juvenile thief is an excellent soccer player. The film didn’t get great reviews—the Hollywood Reporter wrote it was “as sticky with sentiment as a half-time orange segment” and the Guardian posited that “the attempt to evoke the trauma of the Munich air disaster is rendered wholly insupportable by the trifling hooey around it”—but it should still entice kids who enjoy soccer.
Soccer shows on Netflix
1) 21 Thunder
A Netflix original series, 21 Thunder could one day be considered the soccer version of Friday Night Lights. The Canadian drama follows a fictional under-21 soccer club in Montreal, with compelling characters and plenty of action and sexual tension.
2) First Team: Juventus
If you really want to get closer to the game, you need to see First Team: Juventus. The six-part docuseries captures Juventus’s 2017-2018 season, both on and off the pitch, concluding with Gianluigi Buffon’s emotional farewell to the club he spent 17 years leading.
Need more ideas? Here are our Netflix guides for the best war movies, documentaries, anime, indie flicks, true crime, rom-coms, food shows, LGBT movies, gangster movies, Westerns, film noir, and movies based on true stories streaming right now. There are also sad movies guaranteed to make you cry, weird movies to melt your brain, old movies when you need something classic, and standup specials when you really need to laugh. Or check out Flixable, a search engine for Netflix.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.