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The best sports documentaries

The rise of of Netflix, Prime and other online content providers is throwing out some amazing sports documentaries.  Currently showing on Netflix is the Last Dance which could go down as one of the great sports series of them all.  Here are some old and knew sports documentaries that have left the world in awe.

Free Solo

Free Solo was shot by award-winning documentary filmmaker E. Chai Vasarhelyi and world-renowned photographer and mountaineer Jimmy Chin.  It documents Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the face of the world’s most famous rock – The 3,000ft El Capitan in Yosemite National Park… without a rope.  No one had ever done that before, and if you’ve seen this movie you understand why.  This death defying athletic achievement is a unique edge of the seat thriller.  But it’s also a fascinating delve into the mind into the current understanding of human physical and mental limits Alex Honnold overcomes the impossible.

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When We Were Kings

Sometimes the youth of today need to be reminded of past sporting heroes, Muhammad Ali was one of the first sports superstars, he had skill and talent that was awe inspiring, but he also had the personality to match it, becoming a global icon.

Ali is still regarded today as the best sports personality ever and watching When We Were Kings, you will see why. The film is based around the famous 1974 ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.  It took two decades for this film to be completed, but it was worth every minute of the wait.

Director Leon Gast flew out to Zaire for the 1974 ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ but was not able to raise the funds to complete it until 1996.  But that merely serves to add a huge layer of perspective to the fight, which saw underdog Ali again shock the world with his rope-a-dope tactics against the then-undefeated heavyweight champion.

The training footage of Ali alongside local children is astonishing, while the talking heads of Norman Mailer and George Plimpton help to deliver the final word on one of the 20th century’s most remarkable sporting events.

The Last Dance

Are you a basketball fan?  If not you may become one after watching this brilliant Netflix 10 part series about Michael Jordan’s career with the Chicago Bulls.  The Last Dance is made from previously unseen footage of the Jordan era with the Bulls and is riveting from start to finish.

The documentary also gives a good insight to the world of NBA at the time, the coaches, managers and of course the other star players in the Bulls team.  The are lot’s of features on fascinating players such as Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippin and other greatest the time.  But there is only one king, and The Last Dance lays bare why Michael Jordan is by far the greatest of all time.

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Hoop Dreams

An epic three-plus hour documentary that follows two African-American teenagers who dream of making the NBA.

Over a course of five years from the ages of 14 to 19, we follow the progress of Arthur Agee and William Gates and their ups and downs as they look to break out from the Chicago housing projects to the biggest stage of all.

Epic in scale, Steve James’ film tackles a plethora of issues including the weight of expectations, economic discrimination, racism, growing up and the pressure of trying to lift yourself and your family out of poverty.

One scene features possibly the tensest free throw in the sport’s history, while Spike Lee is also drafted in to discuss modern corporatised college hoops: “Nobody cares about you. You’re black… This whole thing is revolving around money!”.

If you’ve not seen it, watch it. There are no other films like it out there.

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Riding Giants

There have been a few good documentary movies made about surfing but we think Riding Giants is king.  It’s beautifully shot, passionate passionate and details the history of surfing, the culture, the myth and the lure of the big wave.  The film puts you centre of the culture and mind of big wave hunters and surfers as it travels to the monster waves in Waimea Bay then on to San Francisco’s famous Mavericks wave. Then documentary then switches to legendary big wave pioneer Laird Hamilton and mission to surf Teahupoo in  Tahiti in gigantic conditions.

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Stop at Nothing

This documentary lifts the lid on the explosive story about the man behind the greatest fraud in  sports history – Lance Armstrong.  It shines a light on how Armstrong stopped at nothing in pursuit success, recognition and money.

Lance Armstrong duped the world with his story of a miraculous recovery from cancer to become a sporting icon and a beacon of hope for cancer sufferers around the world.  But he did it all through cheating and bullying.  The documentary details the long struggle a few brave people went through to expose him as a despicable character, who would stop at nothing to win and protect his dirty secret.

Sienna

A spellbinding documentary that profiles the Brazilian F1 legend Ayrton Senna, unearthing press conferences, home movies and other unseen footage that puts you in the shoes of the enigmatic driver.

Far more than just a posthumous honouring of one of the most talented sportsmen of his generation, director Asif Kapadia shows how concerned with safety Senna was before the tragic circumstances at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994 which ended his life.

Icarus

A chance meeting with a Russian scientist transforms his story from a personal experiment into a geopolitical thriller involving dirty urine, unexplained death and Olympic Gold and exposing the biggest scandal in sports history.  The movie is kind of split in to two very different haves and we won’t ruin it for you!  But stay with it as the second half of Bryan Fogel story makes for one of the most explosive and brilliant sports documentaries ever made.

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