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Courtesy of PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
Courtesy of PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

Footballers in Films: The Good, the Bad and Stan Collymore

Picture of Luke Bradshaw
Sports Editor
Updated: 12 July 2017
With the release of xXx: Return of Xander Cage and Brazil and Barcelona hero Neymar’s cameo, it seems fitting to dig out the best examples of footballers to have graced the big screen. Most are obviously appalling, but there are a select few who can be proud of their performances.

The good

Eric Cantona

Regardless of the fact that King Eric was a footballer, Looking for Eric is a fantastic film, and Cantona is excellent in it. He may deliver all his lines with little regard for whether anybody can understand what’s he actually saying, but he does so with all the same charisma and flair that he played with.

Frank Leboeuf

Not content with winning a World Cup, former Chelsea defender Leboeuf popped up as the Swiss doctor that operates on Oscar-winning Eddie Redmayne’s Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. And the elegant defender is good, not merely acceptable, but genuinely good. Fans of Leboeuf’s work can look forward to 400 Boys and Caravaggio and My Mother the Pope, both in post-production.

Vinnie Jones

Forget the fact that Jones’ Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels character was hardly a stretch for the Wimbledon hardman, ‘Big Chris’ was an incredibly watchable cog in a very slick production. It was playing ‘Big Chris’ in every other film for the next 20 years that was the issue.

Zinedine Zidane

He wasn’t acting, and it was hugely pretentious, but Zidane, A 21st Century Portrait was an interesting concept, nonetheless. Besides, watching Zidane play football is just about as good a thing as anyone can do. Ever.

The bad

David Beckham

David Beckham playing David Beckham should be a straightforward process, and may be something he could carry off today, but unfortunately his appearances in Goal II and Goal III came before his off-the-pitch renaissance. That said, this part of his CV isn’t nearly as excruciating as Luis Figo playing Luis Figo in a Just For Men advert.

Escape to Victory

It may seem harsh on what is undoubtedly a stellar cast of footballers, including members of Sir Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town side – but Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine escaping from the Nazis during a football match was always going to be riddled with issues. As for the players, their acting is abysmal and their football isn’t anything like when they actually played football. Doesn’t leave you with much then, does it?

Ally McCoist

A Shot at Glory sees Michael Keaton as an aggressive American owner and Robert Duvall (‘Scottish’ accent in tow) as the manager of fictional side Kilnockie. Enter McCoist, as Jackie McQuillan, Scotland’s best player who leaves Arsenal to join the small, second-tier Scottish football club and lead them to glory. Duvall is a fine actor and McCoist was a prolific player, but Duvall’s accent is abhorrent and McCoist’s acting is even worse.

The truly awful

Ian Wright

Slightly harsh on the brilliant striker, because he’s got a case for being the best thing about this film. Unfortunately, Gun of a Black Sun is a film about a Nazi pistol from WWII with mystical powers which re-emerges in modern day Bucharest and falls into the hands of a media mogul intent on using its power to bring the return of the Fourth Reich through technology and music.

Stan Collymore

Stan Collymore in Basic Instinct 2. Incredibly, this actually happened. We’d say it needs to be seen to be believed, but then you’d actually have to see the film, and that’s not fair.

Paul Breitner

Breitner was a supremely talented footballer and World Cup winner for West Germany throughout the 1970s, with a thunderbolt of a left foot. He also played a frontier soldier helping plant potatoes in a 1976 spaghetti western called Potato Fritz. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Breitner’s football was better than his acting, or this film.

Worth a mention

A young Fitz Hall in Fifth Element, anyone? The lanky midfielder made a fleeting, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance as a 16-year-old in the Luc Besson film, meaning there are just two degrees of separation between Bruce Willis and Lloyd Doyley.

Darius Vassell in Hannibal. Even eagle-eyed Aston Villa fans may have missed their cult striker sharing the screen with Sir Anthony Hopkins. Admittedly, he’s scoring a goal on the TV in the background of the cafe that Hopkins is sitting in, but still.