A Loving Lookback At Bend It Like Beckham 20 Years On

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

Bend It Like Beckham turns 20 years old this week and the cult film has provided a significant cultural contribution to sport, music, fashion and queer coming of experiences that the creators of the film could have never imaged.

In fact they thought the film would flop.

Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha thought the film would perform badly at the box office and Kirea Knightly thought she acted terribly in the film.

Both of which turned out to be untrue.

In fact Bend It Like Beckham is literally so good that it was the first Western-film to screen in North Korea, heavily edited yes, but screened nonetheless.

The film champions women’s soccer and inspired a generation of women to pick up the sport like Melbourne City Captain Emma Checker.

“It was probably my most watched film as a kid, and I think at the time it probably was a pretty accurate reflection on where women’s sport was at.”

“When you look back at it now we’ve just come so far and women are now playing on the big stage and not not in a men’s team. We’ve got our own space in the sport,” Checker told Junkee.

The film highlights the gender inequity within soccer in terms of opportunities, salaries and women just generally being taken seriously as professional players.

20 years on and the needle has been pushed forward in numerous aspects for women in sport, but rewatching this film in 2022 many of those themes still remain for professional female athletes.

In addition to making me, a non-soccer play, feel like I have the ability to play professionally, the Bend It Like Beckham soundtrack is undeniably one of the best movie soundtracks of all time.

It encapsulates the perfect mixed CD you’d have on your discman walking around in 2002.

It’s got absolute gee-ups with songs from Basement Jaxx, perfect 00’s R&B club music from Melanie C and Victoria Beckham even makes an appearance on the playlist.

It’s got soul tracks from the likes of Curtis Mayfield and some Blondie sprinkled in there too, but the songs that really tie the soundtrack together are the bhangra tracks.

Bhangra is a genre of music created by the Punjabi diaspora in Britain and it fuses together Punjabi folk music with western pop. Previously bhangra was a form of dance but in the 70s and 80s it took off as a new musical fusion and tracks from artists like Malkit Singh really come through on the soundtrack.

Bend It Like Beckham not only has iconic music but iconic fashion.

The early 00’s had some questionable looks and this film is the perfect time capsule from tracksuits, V-necks, joggers, crop tops, tank tops, chunky gold hoops, boxy denim jackets, chunky belts, headbands and cardigans.

For a film about soccer one of the best themes of this movie is its depiction of 2002 fashion. Jules’ mesh-metal top in the Germany club scene lives on to this day as nothing short of perfection.

But one undeniably of the best parts of the film is Jesminda and Jules’ relationship. It’s not only an iconic coming of age movie but also a jewel in the queer coming of age cannon. For many young queers this film was a queer awakening and the relationship between Jes and Jules was a lot more than just a friendship.

“They say it’s not a queer film but obviously subtext they were meant to be together,” said Jenna Suffern.

“I remember watching it and just being very confused about my feelings. I was obsessed with this movie but if I had the knowledge I do now I’d be like, oh, I like girls. And this is a queer love story without being a queer love story,” said Suffern.

Bend It Like Beckham unquestionably still holds a place in our hearts and for good reason. 20 years on and this film is just as moving, iconic and energising as it was when it first hit cinemas in 2002.