Documentaries serve not only as an in-detail look at certain topics or events, but as inspiration for viewers. They are a fantastic blend of educational and motivational content. Sporting documentaries often embody the latter as we see the fantastic achievements and struggles of individuals and teams and are in turn inspired by their actions. They may also detail the decline or fall of our heroes, where we can take lessons from mistakes made.

Let's take a look at ten sporting documentaries that will shape how you think!

When We Were Kings (1996)

One of the most well-known sporting documentaries out there, it follows Muhammad Ali as he prepares to fight George Foreman in what is famously known as the “Rumble in the Jungle.” Not only does it contain fantastic footage of the fight between Ali and Foreman, but it covers Ali’s personal beliefs on race in both American and Africa. It is a fantastic profile of perhaps the greatest boxer, and human being, to grace the scene.

Murderball (2005)

Covering the leadup to the 2004 Paralympic Games, ‘Murderball’ is unique in its subject. It centers on the sport of wheelchair rugby, and in particular on the rivalry between the Canadian and USA teams. It’s a fantastic insight not only into the sport of wheelchair rugby itself, but the personal lives of disabled athletes. Unanimously declared a critical success, this documentary covers a sensitive topic in both a serious and entertaining light; making it a must watch film.


Free to Play (2014)

A documentary created by gaming giant Valve, it was released alongside the official public launch of the now highly successful eSports title ‘DotA 2’. While there is still raging debate over whether eSports qualify as a “real” sport, this documentary is sure to help you believe that professional gaming entails the same sacrifices as an athlete would make. The documentary follows three star players as they prepare for the first ever ‘The International’ tournament, with a prizepool of over $1 million on the line. See the triumphs and struggles of these eSports pioneers in a time where professional gaming was still gaining traction in the mainstream here.


Beyond the Mat (1999)

Mickey Rourke’s 2008 movie ‘The Wrestler’ showcased the behind the scenes action of what the world of Professional Wrestling was like past the glamour of the stage and the spotlight. As amazing as it was, however, it still didn’t show the full story. ‘Beyond the Mat’ followed prominent wrestlers in the late 1990s as it highlighted the physical and mental toll every event and every high-risk manoeuvre would take. While naysayers and critics of professional wrestling often remark on how fake the sport is, this documentary shows otherwise and truly showcases the gritty and unforgiving nature of the sport.

Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist (2014)

To most non-Europeans, cycling is a spectator sport only when a local hero is involved. We say Australia display high interest during Cadel Evan’s peak, and America was cycling crazy during the years of Lance Armstrong. ‘Pantani’ takes a look at the famous Italian rider and former Tour de France winner Marco Pantani, in both his successes and his eventual tragic death many years after retirement. While some have criticised the movie for not portraying the doping allegations against Pantani enough, it is a brilliant look at the man who was one of the biggest faces and personalities of road cycling during the 1990s.


Hoop Dreams (1994)

‘Hoop Dreams’ is one of the long standing ‘classics’ of sporting documentaries. Detailing the lives of two African-American teenagers from Chicago as they chase their dreams to play in the NBA, we are truly shown the struggles and the sacrifices that they experienced on their journey. The film covers so much more than basketball, highlighting racial and socioeconomic issues that were rife in contemporary America. ‘Hoop Dreams’ is often referred to as a life-changing documentary, and it truly deserves such praise.


Pumping Iron (1977)

Arnold Schwarzenegger, commonly referred to as just “Arnie”, is one of the household names of cinema across the world. It’s hard to not know who the man is, with his list of achievements ranging across bodybuilding, cinema, and in recent years politics. Where did his fame start? Enter ‘Pumping Iron’; a documentary on the 1975 ‘Mr. Olympia’ bodybuilding competition. The film focuses on the rivalry between ‘Arnie’ and Lou Ferrigno, another former bodybuilder who continued on to successes outside the sport. ‘Pumping Iron’ was so successful that it put Schwarzenegger on Hollywood’s radar, which would kickstart his storied and successful acting career. If you’re interested in where it all started for ‘Arnie’, or simply want to learn more about the niche sport of competitive bodybuilding, this is the documentary for you.


Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)

Set in Southern California in the 1970s, this documentary follows the skater team ‘Zephyr’ (known as the Z-Boys) as they became pioneers of the competitive skateboarding scene. This documentary is not only a fantastic look at how the Z-Boys helped develop and change the scene of competitive skateboarding, but also a colourful profile of their members and founders. The Z-Boys revolutionised skating techniques and styles that to this day remain prominent in the modern scene. Critically acclaimed, this documentary is a frequent feature on many top 10 lists for a reason.


Stop At Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story (2014)

Lance Armstrong was the poster-boy for cancer survivors, winning the prestigious cycling event ‘Tour de France’ seven times in a row after surviving the deadly disease. That myth came undone in 2012, however, when it was proven that he systematically engaged in doping practices to gain an advantage over competition. Many documentaries have been made on the rise and fall of Armstrong, but none are as brutal and honest as ‘Stop At Nothing.’ The film covers the damages that Armstrong’s secret caused for those around him, and how it would eventually all unravel and ultimately destroy what was considered one of the greatest sporting figures in modern history.


Kobe Bryant’s Muse (2015)

One of the NBA’s most dominant players over his 20-year playing career, Kobe was one of the greatest basketballers in the game. Facing a season ending, and potentially career ending, injury in 2015, Kobe sits down in this documentary and recounts his life and career. His story of sacrifice, hard work, and ups and downs both professionally and personally, is one of the most inspirational stories in sport and truly cements why Kobe is a legend of the game. This documentary shows Kobe uncensored, emotional, and vulnerable, and is why his story is so powerful and inspirational.

These athletes all faced their biggest moments in different ways. Some succeeded, some failed. Make sure you are prepared for your biggest moments with Shine+, helping you to make the most of your opportunities.


Feature Image: Variety.com

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