This new Netflix movie is a must-watch and it's 86% on Rotten Tomatoes

The Beautiful Game on Netflix
(Image credit: Netflix)

At the tail end of March, Netflix released a new movie called “The Beautiful Game” and it appears to have landed with a bit of thud. 

The comedy-drama is making some respectable waves internationally. It’s currently the No. 2 movie on Netflix in its native Britain, but over on Netflix U.S., it hasn't even managed to crack the lower rungs of the most-watched list. That’s a shame, as it’s a movie with plenty of heart.

I’d argue that “The Beautiful Game” is the best new Netflix movie that you (probably) haven’t watched yet. And you don’t even need to be a sports fan to enjoy this feel-good flick.  

'The Beautiful Game' is easy entertainment 

Set within the world of soccer (or football as the rest of the world calls it), “The Beautiful Game” doesn’t follow a team of elite athletes playing in the biggest league, instead, it’s all about the Homeless World Cup. This real-life tournament is an annual amateur event that promotes charitable causes seeking to end homelessness through sport. 

The movie follows Mal (Bill Nighy) as he puts together an English team to compete in the tournament taking place in Rome, Italy. He assembles a ragtag group that is a little limited when it comes to soccer skills but is big on camaraderie and spirit. But the addition of a maverick striker, Vinny (Michael Ward), threatens to ruin the chemistry. 

Vinny is quite clearly the most talented player in the squad. During their first match at the Homeless World Cup, he instructs his teammates to only pass the ball to him and let him do the rest. It’s a tactic that leads to goals, but also friction and fallout. 

What follows is an easy-watching journey as Vinny must learn to play well with us, while the other team members also battle their personal plights. After its oddly paced opening, “The Beautiful Game” settles into a very generic sports story, but it’s a feel-good movie from start to finish. Ultimately, when the destination is predictable, the journey can still be enjoyably wholesome.  

'The Beautiful Game' reviews — here’s what critics say 

“The Beautiful Game” has been warmly received by critics. The Netflix movie currently holds a solid 86% score on the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Its audience score is a little more mixed at 71%, but that's still a solid number.

“The film rolls along smoothly like many a British sitcom, finding its humor largely in mild embarrassment, ironic understatement and well-rehearsed comic timing,” said Leslie Felperin of the Hollywood Reporter in a review that labeled the movie “sweet” but “predictable”. 

Glenn Kenny of The New York Times expressed similar thoughts, he noted it’s “Peppered with funny and inspiring moments” and declared the film “A model of a modern “nice” movie.

AP’s Lindsey Bahr argued the movie is “a little glossy and sanitized” but liked its exploration of themes including “redemption, invisibility, pride and sportsmanship without being preachy or condescending.” Variety’s Guy Lodge was another who felt the Netflix original was extremely formulaic but noted that “it’s hard not to be won over” all the same. 

Kevin Maher of the Times of London was a tad more mixed: "When the film is off the pitch it frequently sings, and the relationship between Mal and Vinny is especially tender. But the football sequences that dominate the final act are lethally dull."

Don’t skip 'The Beautiful Game' on Netflix 

As the reviews above make clear “The Beautiful Game” is not a revolution for the sports movie genre. It follows the same script used by countless similar films, but it’s got a big heart, and its characters are likable. Plus, its grand finale is very sweet. 

If you’re looking for a Netflix movie that functions as light entertainment, “The Beautiful Game” is a great pick. And you don’t even need to be a soccer fan to find it enjoyable. So long as you can appreciate gentle humor and a predictable, but well-told, story, then “The Beautiful Game” is worthy of a spot in your Netflix watchlist. 

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Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.