This list and top contains the 25 most exhilarating sports documentaries of the 2010’s. The following titles are mostly either about teams or players who have experienced golden periods or black, miserable doom. There are plenty of stories like that to be found in every sport’s history. It is rather hard to make it interesting for about an hour and a half. That is why some of the following documentaries can be only a half hour long, which is mostly for the better. Some at the top of the list could have been made longer in my opinion.
The documentaries on the list feature stories about soccer, American football, basketball, baseball, Formula 1, cycling, skating and chess.
A lot of these films are part of the ESPN 30 for 30 series, which are easy to find. It is a thrilling initiative to document as many fascinating sports histories as possible. A number of times, they were directed by renown filmmakers.
Sports documentaries to watch out for in 2014 & 2015
First, I will start with sports documentaries that look interesting but are not available yet. After that, you can find the top 25 of the 2010’s.
Red Army (Gabe Polsky, 2014)
Cold War ice-hockey during the seventies and eighties, I’m in.
Happy Valley (Amir Bar-Lev, 2014)
Successful Penn State football team coach Joe Paterno is maybe not the great guy he seemed to be for forty years. He got exposed as a child abuser.
Sinivalkoinen valhe [When Heroes Lie] (Arto Halonen, 2012)
Sport: Cross-country skiing / Langlauf
A history of doping in cross-country skiing from the seventies until now. Seemingly, essentially everyone used it.
Top 25 sports documentaries of the 2010’s
25. Mysteries of the Rimet Trophy (Brett Ratner, 2014)
Stolen a couple of times, even Nazis tried to steal it from Italy during World War II.
24. Barbosa: The Man Who Made All of Brazil Cry (Jonathan Hock, 2014)
Team / Country: Brazil
Focus on: Moacir Barbosa Nascimento
Barbosa was one of the world’s best goalkeepers in the 1940s and 1950s. He didn’t even need gloves. He wanted to feel the ball with his bear hands. Though, people remember him by letting Brazil lose against Uruguay in the World Cup of 1950.
23. The U (Billy Corben, 2010)
Sport: American football
Team / Country: Miami Hurricanes
During the eighties, stimulated by the Miami Bass Hip Hop culture, the Miami Hurricanes players took on these larger-than-life ‘bad boys’ personas. They were not the last, you’ll find more examples further in the list.
22. White, Blue and White (Camilo M. Antolini, 2014)
Team / Country: Tottenham Hotspur / Argentina
Focus on: Osvaldo Ardiles & Ricardo Villa
Two Argentina guys playing at the Premier League during the Falklands War (1982).
21. The Fab Five (Jason Hehir, 2011)
Team / Country: Michigan Wolverines
The Fabulous Five from Michigan were not only ‘the greatest class ever recruited’, in the nineties, they were the first to introduce baggy shorts and black socks to the field. Not the most holy boys, they were extremely good at trash talking.
20. The Myth of Garrincha (Marcos Horacio Azevedo, 2014)
Team / Country: Brazil
Focus on: Garrincha (Manuel dos Santos)
Garrincha, there was something wrong with his leg. It didn’t stop him though.
19. Slaying the Badger (John Dower, 2014)
Team / Country: La Vie Claire
Focus on: Greg LeMond & Bernard Hinault
Same team, still opponents.
18. Ceasefire Massacre (Alex Gibney, 2014)
Team / Country: Ireland
In 1994, in a bar in Northern Ireland, some people were supporting for the national soccer team of Ireland. British protestants dealt with that in their own frightening way. When sports get bloody serious. Shocking. The Loughinisland massacre.
17. The Two Escobars (Michael Zimbalist, 2010)
Team / Country: Columbia
Focus on: Andrés Escobar
Player Andrés and drug baron Pablo had the same name but it did not stop there. They both had a love for football. The first got murdered in 1994, which meant a shock for the nation.
16. You Don’t Know Bo (Michael Bonfiglio, 2012)
Sport: Baseball, American football
Team / Country: Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Raiders
Focus on: Bo Jackson
Bo played baseball and American football in the late eighties and after. He is the only one to be named All-Star in both sports. Get to know Bo and find out why he is called the greatest athlete of all time by ESPN.
15. Maradona ’86 (Sam Blair, 2014)
Team / Country: Argentina
Focus on: Diego Maradona
Maradona? Yes, Maradona. The hand of god, remember? But his play was also awesome to look at.
14. Bad Boys (Zak Levitt, 2014)
Team / Sport: Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons were some dirty m*** in the late eighties, early nineties. Besides incredible physical defense play, they were really good and underrated at it.
13. The Best That Never Was (Jonathan Hock, 2010)
Sport: American football
Team / Country: Portland Breakers, Los Angeles Rams
Focus on: Marcus Dupree
Marcus Dupree ran on the football field through defense like a dream in the early eighties. But he had to take care of his family and he became fat. He became the best that never was.
12. Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals (Ezra Edelman, 2010)
Team / Country: Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics
Focus on: Magic Johnson & Larry Bird
Magic & Bird, black & white, L.A. & Boston. These totally opposites delivered great entertainment in the eighties but became even greater friends.
11. Bobby Fischer Against the World (Liz Garbus, 2011)
Team / Country: USA (vs Soviet Union)
Focus on: Bobby Fischer
How chess can become an important battle between nations in the seventies. And how an autistic genius can be really annoying sometimes.
Top 10 on the next page…