WE'VE already given you a list of the best sports programs on Netflix recently, but we know some people prefer to watch the real deal—those that are based on real facts and real sports moments at its rawest and most unfiltered. That's why we've made a separate list of the best documentaries about the world of sports for you.
Let’s be honest, some of the best documentaries ever made were about sports. Films like Hoop Dreams, When We Were Kings, and Undefeated remind us of how compelling, controversial, maddening, and uplifting sports can be. And if you're craving for the kind of sports entertainment that can be both awe-inspiring and sometimes quite infuriating and in-your-face, these documentary films and series just may be all you'll ever need to get through the weekend.
This Oscar-winning documentary delves into the drug-laden underbelly of competitive cycling. It doesn’t even feel like a docu at times, playing out more like an edge-of-your-seat thriller in the capable and inquisitive hands of director Bryan Fogel. This Academy-winner recounts the filmmaker's chance encounter with a Russian scientist who later helped to expose the inner workings of a state-sanctioned Olympic doping program, a scandal that's still considered one of the biggest in sports history.
Losers (2019 - )
Ever wondered how the vanquished makes peace with the most stunning defeats of their respective careers? This lovable and smart docu-series have—and what you'll get are affecting glimpses into the lives of survivors using archival footage, interviews, and brilliant animation. It tells stories of ignominy, missed opportunities, persistence, and defiance as recounted by the achievers who've risen above their notoriety as they made something of themselves years later. And their touching tales will leave you feeling triumphant in the end.
Last Chance U (2016 - )
The East Mississipi Community College is home to gifted student-athletes rejected by other systems elsewhere. Under the guidance of coach Buddy Stephens and nurturing of academic advisor Brittany Wagner, this highly touted football team overachieved to become one of the most decorated programs in the US. What makes this docu-series gripping is its engrossing look at the academic and economic hardships faced by the players—and how their concerned mentors help them overcome the odds to win more than just a game.
Sunderland ‘Til I Die (2018)
Unlike other Netflix shows about big-time football clubs that often come off as glorified AVPs, Sunderland is a slice-of-life take on the miserable side of the so-called beautiful game. It's a tough watch if you hardly care about the misery shared by a third-tier soccer team and its fanatical Black Cats who love Sunderland despite its seemingly unstoppable descent into irrelevance. But if you're a true-blue sports fanatics who revel in uplifting narratives about heartbreak and redemption, give Sunderland a go. It won't disappoint, we promise. Just don't be shocked if you find yourself crying in the end.
This unfiltered look at the rags-to-riches rise of Allen Iverson and how his unapologetic individuality and defiance of conservative NBA conventions shaped not only his Hall of Fame career but the NBA itself. Largely told by the once-in-a-generation Sixers icon himself, Iverson predictably charts his gloriously rocky ascent to legendary heights. It could have shone a light on Iverson's cultural impact some more, true, but what you'll get is satisfying enough. And, yes, we're not just talking about practice here, folks.
The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014)
Did you know that actor Kurt Russell's dad owned a baseball team—and that he played for him once? The team at the heart of this delightful documentary is the scrappy Portland Mavericks, a defunct minor league baseball team in the '70s. Backed by actor Bing Russell, the Mavericks were an indie team comprised of offbeat journeymen and lovable has-beens with legit MLB cred. This rip-roaring underdog story is all the more made trippy by archival footage of the team's on-field derring-do, expertly interlaced with contemporary interviews of Kurt and the gang. As films go, this one's a solid best-enjoyed-with-popcorn treat.
The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young (2014)
That a film about the 2012 edition of this super-mysterious 160-mile ultra-marathon that's run annually in rural Kentucky happened is a feat in itself. Expertly overseen by secretive race maestros Lazarus Lake and Raw Dog, the event notorious for its quirkiness and toughness has been a favorite of many an endurance racer over the years. Truth is, failure is pretty much expected. But the more unfazed and determined participants get, the more the filmmakers' match their subjects' chutzpah by deftly capturing into film their weirdly inspirational ups and downs.