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For the next four weeks, that big section of the planet obsessed with the round-ball form of football, i.e. soccer, will be spending most of their waking hours watching, discussing and debating — loudly on social media and beyond — the 2022 World Cup. The globe’s No. 1 sporting event runs Nov. 20 through Dec. 18 in the tiny Middle East emirate of Qatar. The controversy surrounding Qatar’s human rights record has taken the shine off this year’s tournament, but some 5 billion people — that’s a billion with a B — are still expected to tune in.
Given soccer’s phenomenal popularity — even the U.S. is catching football fever, thanks to a resurgent national team and, well, Ted Lasso — it’s no surprise that filmmakers have for years tried to distill on celluloid the essence of the sport. Results, to put it mildly, have been mixed. But for every by-the-numbers Brit hooligan gangster drama — we’re looking at you, Football Factory, Green Street Hooligans and Rise of the Footsoldier — there have been touching rom-coms, powerful social dramas, insightful documentaries and even charming animated features that use the on-pitch action as a jump-off point to explore the passions the sport evokes.
So if the World Cup has you itching for more on-screen soccer, here are the 22 best-ever movies on the beautiful game.