Review: Next Goal Wins

Review: Next Goal Wins

Next Goal Wins (2023)
PG-13  ‧ Sports Biopic/Comedy/Drama ‧ 1 Hours 44 Minutes
Written by Taika Waititi and Iain Morris
Based on the Documentary Next Goal Wins 
Directed by Taika Waititi


 Michael Fassbender as Rongen, alongside Oscar Kightley, Kaimana, David Fane, Rachel House, Beulah Koale, Will Arnett, and Elisabeth Moss.


(In their own words). A hotheaded mainlander is hired to coach the pathetic American Samoa national soccer team that has never even scored a goal in international competition.


The BEST things about the film

  1. The Story – This is based on a true story about the American Samoa National Soccer Team and their attempt to bounce back after losing a World Cup qualifier match 31-0. The worst loss in the history of international play. Knowing this didn’t even happen long ago makes it feel relevant and easy to connect to. Then, the story around this main story is the story of the characters striving for acceptance, comfort, and redemption. Like life, there are stories around the story.
  2. Jaiyah Saelua – One of the stories within the story is of the real-life character Jaiyah Saelua, who could be the center of their very own fascinating film. They are the first-ever transgender athlete to compete in the World Cup qualifiers. It’s a small story within the film’s bigger picture, but it is thoroughly fascinating.
  3. The Quirky Comedy – Taika Waititi doesn’t hold back with his humor. If he thinks it’s funny, he will try it. And I think he is more often right than wrong. This is a very funny film, which many people might miss on their first viewing. I know that seems odd…but it happens. Especially when movies are going against theatrical norms.


The WORST things about the Film

  1. Takes time to realize this isn’t just a regular inspirational sports movie. The slow burn throws you off. 
  2. Acting – It’s not full of the best actors. That’s my kind way of putting it. But in some ways, it almost adds to the charm. They aren’t good at soccer, and several aren’t good at acting like they aren’t good at soccer.


Taika Waititi has a real quirky sense of humor. And I’m there for it. Every second. 

Next Goal Wins starts off quirky but still seems like it will be a run-of-the-mill underdog inspirational sports team movie. But it isn’t. At first, I thought these lines are so generic they could be in other movies. Then I realized, “oh, that coach is just quoting sports movies and passing them off as his own.” It gets to a point where finally a character says to him, “Wait, that’s the speech from Any Given Sunday,” to which the coach responds “No, it isn’t!” 

There’s some slow-burn comedy in this film; it’s not in your face, it’s subtle, and I think it is easy for some people to miss. I think a problem you’ll see with most critics’ reviews of the film is that most people watch these films in press screenings with no audience. Comedies are meant to be communal events. The energy of laughter is shared and helps you get in the right mood to accept more subtle comedy.

I love the fact that the primary mission of the team isn’t even to win. This isn’t a film about turning the team around to become champions. All they want to do is score one goal.


It’s really a story about not giving up. It’s about keeping going despite your losses. Not that you won’t stop losing, but life’s real goal is to keep going.




A quirky, fun, and funny sports comedy based on the real-life American Samoa National Soccer Team in the aftermath of their 31-0 loss in a World Cup Qualifying match. While many movies in this genre focus on overcoming all odds to win, these protagonists dream of simply scoring one goal. A reminder that winning isn’t always winning; sometimes winning is making progress. The film’s weakness on the acting front is made up for by its charm, humor, and skillful comedic direction.


My 3L system gives me the choice to Love It, Like It, or Lose It. 

Next Goal Wins gets a Like It. 



This post was written by
When he’s not reviewing films or interviewing people for the Black & A Half podcast, Silas Lindenstein can be found in the greater metro Seattle, WA working as a real estate agent helping people buy and sell homes, or performing stand up comedy to fellow nerds. He has a wife and three children and desperately wants to learn to make the perfect homemade pizza.

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