The 25 Best Sports Documentaries

by z_ingle | created - 27 Aug 2012 | updated - 27 Aug 2012 | Public

The term "sports" is very loosely understood. Basically, it is a documentary about anything that could air on ESPN or get coverage in Sports Illustrated.

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1. Hoop Dreams (1994)

PG-13 | 170 min | Documentary, Drama, Sport

8.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
98 Metascore

A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.

Director: Steve James | Stars: William Gates, Arthur Agee, Emma Gates, Curtis Gates

Votes: 20,874 | Gross: $7.83M

2. Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations (1938)

Not Rated | 111 min | Documentary, Sport

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

The document of the 1936 Olympics at Berlin.

Director: Leni Riefenstahl | Stars: David Albritton, Arvo Askola, Jack Beresford, Erwin Blask

Votes: 3,386

3. Olympia 2. Teil - Fest der Schönheit (1938)

Not Rated | 90 min | Documentary, Sport

7.9
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The document of the 1936 Olympics at Berlin, orchestrated as Nazi propaganda.

Director: Leni Riefenstahl | Stars: Sheigo Arai, Jack Beresford, Ralf Berzsenyi, Ferenc Csík

Votes: 2,454

4. Baseball (1994–2010)

TV-PG | 1,140 min | Documentary, History, Sport

9.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.2/10 X  

A documentary on the history of the sport with major topics including Afro-American players, player/team owner relations and the resilience of the game.

Stars: John Chancellor, Daniel Okrent, Ossie Davis, Paul Roebling

Votes: 2,970

5. Tôkyô orinpikku (1965)

Not Rated | 170 min | Documentary, Sport

8.0
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Ichikawa's cameras follow the 1964 Summer Olympics from opening to closing ceremonies. Sometimes he focuses on spectators, as athletes pass in a blur; sometimes he isolates a competitor; ... See full summary »

Director: Kon Ichikawa | Stars: Abebe Bikila, Jack Douglas, Hirohito

Votes: 1,219

6. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)

PG-13 | 79 min | Documentary, Biography, Sport

8.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
83 Metascore

Die-hard gamers compete to break world records on classic arcade games.

Director: Seth Gordon | Stars: Steve Wiebe, Billy Mitchell, Mark Alpiger, Adam Wood

Votes: 32,114 | Gross: $0.68M

7. When We Were Kings (1996)

PG | 88 min | Documentary, Sport

8.0
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83 Metascore

A documentary of the 1974 heavyweight championship bout in Zaire, "The Rumble in the Jungle," between champion George Foreman and underdog challenger Muhammad Ali.

Director: Leon Gast | Stars: Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Don King, James Brown

Votes: 13,198 | Gross: $2.67M

8. Murderball (2005)

R | 88 min | Documentary, Sport

7.8
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87 Metascore

Quadriplegics, who play full-contact rugby in wheelchairs, overcome unimaginable obstacles to compete in the Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece.

Directors: Henry Alex Rubin, Dana Adam Shapiro | Stars: Joe Soares, Keith Cavill, Mark Zupan, Joe Bishop

Votes: 9,319 | Gross: $1.52M

9. The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998)

PG | 90 min | Documentary, Biography, Sport

7.6
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75 Metascore

The life and career of Hank Greenberg, the first major Jewish baseball star in the Major Leagues.

Director: Aviva Kempner | Stars: Reeve Brenner, Hank Greenberg, Walter Matthau, Alan M. Dershowitz

Votes: 728 | Gross: $1.70M

10. Touching the Void (2003)

R | 106 min | Documentary, Adventure, Drama

8.1
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82 Metascore

The true story of two climbers and their perilous journey up the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985.

Director: Kevin Macdonald | Stars: Simon Yates, Joe Simpson, Brendan Mackey, Nicholas Aaron

Votes: 29,244 | Gross: $4.58M

11. One Day in September (1999)

R | 94 min | Documentary, History, Sport

7.9
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82 Metascore

The Palestinian terrorist group Black September holds Israeli athletes hostage at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich.

Director: Kevin Macdonald | Stars: Michael Douglas, Ankie Spitzer, Jamal Al Gashey, Gerald Seymour

Votes: 5,199 | Gross: $0.16M

12. Bigger Stronger Faster* (2008)

PG-13 | 105 min | Documentary, Sport

7.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
80 Metascore

An examination of America's win-at-all-cost culture from the perspective of bodybuilding and performance enhancing drugs, as it focuses on a pair of siblings chasing their dream.

Director: Chris Bell | Stars: Chris Bell, Mike Bell, Mark Bell, Hank Aaron

Votes: 12,385 | Gross: $0.31M

13. Spellbound (2002)

G | 97 min | Documentary, Comedy, Thriller

7.6
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80 Metascore

Spellbound follows eight teenagers on their quest to win the 1999 National Spelling Bee.

Director: Jeffrey Blitz | Stars: Angela Arenivar, Ubaldo Arenivar, Jorge Arenivar, Scott McGarraugh

Votes: 11,339 | Gross: $5.73M

14. The Endless Summer (1966)

PG | 95 min | Documentary, Sport

7.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

The crown jewel to ten years of Bruce Brown surfing documentaries. Brown follows two young surfers around the world in search of the perfect wave, and ends up finding quite a few in addition to some colorful local characters.

Director: Bruce Brown | Stars: Robert August, Michael Hynson, Lord James Blears, Bruce Brown

Votes: 4,281

15. Pumping Iron (1977)

PG | 85 min | Documentary, Sport

7.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

From Gold's Gym in Venice Beach California to the showdown in Pretoria, amateur and professional bodybuilders prepare for the 1975 Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe contests in this ... See full summary »

Directors: George Butler, Robert Fiore | Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Matty Ferrigno, Victoria Ferrigno

Votes: 18,165

16. Beyond the Mat (1999)

R | 102 min | Documentary, Biography, Sport

7.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
73 Metascore

A heartfelt documentary focusing on the lives of professional wrestlers and how their sport is not fake.

Director: Barry W. Blaustein | Stars: Terry Funk, Mick Foley, Jake Roberts, Barry W. Blaustein

Votes: 7,207 | Gross: $2.05M

17. Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)

PG-13 | 91 min | Documentary, Sport

7.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
76 Metascore

Documentary about the pioneering 1970s Zephyr skating team.

Director: Stacy Peralta | Stars: Sean Penn, Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Jeff Ament

Votes: 10,982 | Gross: $1.29M

18. Riding Giants (2004)

PG-13 | 105 min | Documentary, History, Sport

7.9
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80 Metascore

Documentary detailing the origins and history of surf culture.

Director: Stacy Peralta | Stars: Laird John Hamilton, Darrick Doerner, Dave Kalama, Jeff Clark

Votes: 4,025 | Gross: $2.28M

19. Tyson (2008)

R | 90 min | Documentary, Biography, Sport

7.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
83 Metascore

A mixture of original interviews and archival footage and photographs sheds light on the life experiences of Mike Tyson.

Director: James Toback | Stars: Mike Tyson, Mills Lane, Trevor Berbick, Cus D'Amato

Votes: 11,207 | Gross: $0.89M

20. Step Into Liquid (2003)

PG | 88 min | Documentary, Sport

7.5
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72 Metascore

Surfers and secret spots from around the world are profiled in this documentary.

Director: Dana Brown | Stars: Laird John Hamilton, Layne Beachley, Dan Malloy, Robert August

Votes: 2,412 | Gross: $3.67M

21. More Than a Game (2008)

PG | 105 min | Documentary, Biography, Sport

7.7
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59 Metascore

This documentary follows NBA superstar LeBron James and four of his talented teammates through the trials and tribulations of high school basketball in Ohio and James' journey to fame.

Director: Kristopher Belman | Stars: LeBron James, Dru Joyce, Romeo Travis, Sian Cotton

Votes: 4,579 | Gross: $0.94M

22. A State of Mind (2004)

93 min | Documentary

7.8
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63 Metascore

A British documentary that follows two young North Korean girls as they prepare for the Mass Games, the world's largest choreographed gymnastics performance.

Director: Daniel Gordon | Stars: Daniel Gordon, Hyon Sun Pak, Song Yun Kim, Kim Jong-il

Votes: 963 | Gross: $0.04M

23. Go Tigers! (2001)

R | 103 min | Documentary, Sport

7.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
69 Metascore

"Go Tigers!" is a rare behind-the-scenes chronicling of a remarkable season for the Massillon Tigers high school football team, played out in a small rustbelt town that draws its identity ... See full summary »

Director: Kenneth A. Carlson | Stars: Dave Irwin, Ellery Moore, Joe Paterno, Danny Studer

Votes: 768 | Gross: $0.15M

24. Senna (2010)

PG-13 | 106 min | Documentary, Biography, Sport

8.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
79 Metascore

A documentary on Brazilian Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna, who won the F1 world championship three times before his death at age 34.

Director: Asif Kapadia | Stars: Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Frank Williams, Ron Dennis

Votes: 50,091 | Gross: $1.61M

25. A League of Ordinary Gentlemen (2004)

R | 93 min | Documentary, Sport

7.1
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66 Metascore

Filmmaker Christopher Browne documents the mission of a group of middle-aged bowlers as they attempt to revitalize the sport and get the television-watching public interested in it again.

Director: Christopher Browne | Stars: Walter Ray Williams, Charles Barkley, Timothy Busfield, Bernard Goldberg

Votes: 305 | Gross: $0.02M

26. Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (2004)

TV-PG | 214 min | Documentary, Biography, Sport

8.3
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The story of Jack Johnson, the first African-American Heavyweight boxing champion.

Director: Ken Burns | Stars: Jack Johnson, Keith David, Samuel L. Jackson, Adam Arkin

Votes: 1,122