Fact: it is impossible to write a football film without including a last-minute winner.
No prizes for guessing why. The last-gasp goal is about as close as real life comes to achieving a hair-raising Hollywood denouement.
But some movies do it better than others. And to prove it, we've put together a definitive ranking of fictional football winners…
8 | WHEN SATURDAY COMES
Situation: After years of alcohol abuse, Sean Bean is finally realising his footballing potential at Sheffield United (he's supposed to be a young up-and-comer, despite looking way older here than he does as a 57 year-old in 2016). Sheffield United are drawing with Manchester United in the FA Cup and, thanks to Sean Bean, they've been awarded a last-minute penalty. He steps up...
Goal: No amount of slow-mo will make this anything more than a penalty. A great one, sure. Top corner. Last minute. But it's still just a penalty, and for that reason it is dead last.
7 | MEAN MACHINE
Situation: Vinnie Jones is an ex-professional footballer who has been locked up for drink driving offenses and attacking a policeman. He soon makes enemies of the bad bastard guards, and decides to take control of a cops vs cons football match...
Goal: Vinnie Jones deftly flicks the ball over a woefully-placed last man, displaying more panache and pace than he ever did in his IRL football career. He duly dinks it around the keeper, sees the open goal at his mercy and…
Wait, what's this?! After some deliberation, he's squared it, setting up a game-winning spanker from Mean Machine's lovable underdog Danny Dyer. The referee immediately blows his whistle, and the prisoners tear off in celebration.
This is a stupid goal and Vinnie Jones is a liability. This was the prisoners' only chance to get one over on the abusive guards, and he put everything at risk for absolutely no reason at all. Let's hope they extended his sentence.
6 | THERE'S ONLY ONE JIMMY GRIMBLE
Situation: Bullied Mancunian teenager Jimmy Grimble has become the star of his school football team, thanks to a pair of magic boots gifted by an old lady who lives underground for a reason that is never explained.
With Jimmy's enchanted help, the team have made it all the way to the 'Manchester Schools Cup Final' at Elland Road. Just before kick-off, however, Grimble's jealous team-mate decides to throw the magic boots in the canal.
After a brief panic and pep-talk, Jimmy comes to understand that the magic was inside of him the whole time. It's one of the most inspirational moments in cinematic history, for sure.
Anyway: it's the last minute of the game, the scores are tied, and Jimmy is one-on-one with the keeper...
Goal: Jimmy thwacks the ball against bully boy's head, breaking his face and ricocheting off into the net, achieving maximum revenge.
5 | GOAL!
Situation: It's Santiago's first season at Newcastle United, and they're only two points away from Champions League qualification. But it's 2-2 against Liverpool, on the final day of the season, and (surprise surprise) we're entering the last minute. They earn a free-kick on the edge of the box...
Goal: Looking past the fact that he really should have crossed it in, this is a great movie goal. There's the kissing of the symbolic necklace. The routine quick shots of nervy fans clamoring around pub TV sets. The fact that the actor clearly doesn't know how to run towards a football. Glorious.
4 | Shaolin Soccer
Situation: Shaolin kung fu master Sing has trained a football squad, and they're blowing teams away with their mix of martial arts and gravity-defying skill. They enter a Hong Kong cup competition, and make it all the way to the final, only to come face-to-face with the aptly-named Team Evil, who have been injected with a drug that gives them super strength and speed. The score is level, until Team Evil go on their final attack...
Goal: Just an awesome piece of stupid nonsense. Team Evil shoot and, to what we're pretty sure is the Lion King soundtrack, the good guy spins in the air for a few minutes and finally volleys back towards their goal, creating a furious storm as the ball cannons through time and space. Team Evil's entire goal is torn apart by the velocity of the shot. Everybody (presumably) dies. The end.
3 | BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM
Situation: Jess has always wanted to play football, but her traditional Sikh parents have banned her from the sport. Little do they know, however, that she regularly sneaks out of the house to train at her local girl's team.
It all falls apart when she's caught. But after seeing how upset she is to miss her team's final appearance, her strict dad finally relents and lets her dash away from her sister's wedding to take part...
Goal: With Texas and Pavarotti in the same scene, BILB was always going to place highly. The wall of disapproving family members is a nice touch, as is the nod to Beckham's winner against Greece—but what exactly is the keeper doing here?
First of all, she's essentially positioned herself on the corner flag. Then she decides to bunny hop towards the ball as slowly as possible, before flailing helplessly under it, like her body is made up of paperweights and steel.
For that reason, despite its dramatic strengths, Bend it Like Beckham cannot be top.
2 | MIKE BASSETT: ENGLAND MANAGER
Situation: Ina storyline that feels weirdly prophetic since Sam Allardyce's appointment, salt-of-the-earth lower league manager Mike Bassett gets the England job and struggles to control his off-pace and unruly squad. The tabloids hound him as the team stumble through the World Cup, putting particular focus on the madcap drama surrounding boozehound midfielder Kevin Tonkinson. They need to beat Argentina to make it out of their group, and we're entering into the last minute...
Goal: This was released before Beckham scored his redemptive penalty against Argentina in 2002, so the country still hadn't found revenge for Maradona's 'Hand of God' goal in 1986.
It's with that context that you need to enjoy Kevin Tonkinson shamelessly punching the ball into Argentina's net. It might have been fictional, but it went some way towards quenching the country's forty-odd year thirst for vengeance.
And the fact that he doesn't receive a yellow card for ripping his entire kit off takes us back to better days.
1 | ESCAPE TO VICTORY
Situation: A team of allied prisoners of war (including Sylvester Stallone, Pele and actual Bobby Moore) agree to play a German team, only to find that it's all part of a Nazi propaganda stunt. Their manager, Michael Caine, helps them challenge the Germans, who are receiving heavy preferential treatment from the referee. They manage to make a spirited comeback to 4-3, when the ball is put out wide...
Goal: This isn't just the best movie goal ever scored - this is the greatest goal ever scored, full stop. All goals should be randomly interceded by close-ups of mugged-off Nazis. All goals should be of the bicycle kick variety. This is the only movie where the goalkeeper looks even moderately competent.
And look! Pele! Iconic, and never to be beaten.
(Yes, we know, Germany did get a penalty directly afterwards—but it's still the last minute, so cut us some slack).
From: Esquire UK.