What are the best documentaries on sport?

July 27, 2022
With the summer holidays underway, we thought we'd put together a list of our favourite sports documentaries in case you have some downtime.

Hoop Dreams

If you think The Last Dance is the best documentary about basketball ever, prepare to have your mind blown. Hoop Dreams — painstakingly shot over five years — follows two highly rated schoolboy prospects from Chicago who share aspirations of playing in the NBA. The on-court competition is beyond intense. But it's the boys' journey — their hopes and their heartbreaks along the way — that will have you gripped from the first minute to the last.

Diego Maradona

Few people in history have encountered the searing white-hot heat of fame to the extent of Maradona. This 2019 film charts Maradona's ascent to god-like status after he inspires Napoli to their first-ever Serie A title and single-handedly wins the 1986 World Cup for Argentina. It also vividly depicts how the otherworldly skills he was blessed with later became his curse. On the pitch, Maradona was arguably the greatest there has ever been. Away from it, his life was engulfed by addiction, affairs and links to organised crime.


"Win at all costs" is a phrase anyone who has ever played sport will have heard. But what price do those athletes willing to do anything for victory — including injecting their bodies with banned substances — pay? And why do some countries prioritise the pursuit of gold medals at the expense of their reputation? Icarus explores these questions with captivating testimony from those who cheat the system and those trying to catch them.

Definitely keep the 'Trust Equation' in mind as you watch this:

Credibility + Reliability + Closeness - Self-interest = TRUST

Next Goal Wins

In 2001, American Samoa were described as the world's worst football team following their 31-0 (Yes, you read that scoreline correctly) defeat by Australia. Dutch coach Thomas Rongen — himself coming to terms with a personal tragedy — accepts the challenge of trying to pick up the traumatised players while restoring pride in the team and country. The film explores confidence, resilience, motivation and teamwork. You'll be wiping away tears from your eyes before the final credits roll.

Beyond The Mat

If you think professional wrestling is fake, think again. Beyond The Mat tells the stories of those men and women who sacrifice their bodies for our entertainment. The pain they endure in the ring is regularly eclipsed by the hardships they encounter outside of it. The film gives a fascinating insight into the psychology of a secretive world where the lines between sport and entertainment are deliberately blurred. A young Dwayne "The Rock' Johnson stars.


"We are competing to win. And if you no longer go for a gap, you are no longer a racing driver." This was the mindset Ayrton Senna lived by. It would propel him to legendary status in Formula 1 and make him a national hero in Brazil. Tragically it would also see him killed in a crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Senna tells the story of a man who pushed his skills to the limit and paid the ultimate price.

The Impossible Job

While under Gareth Southgate's leadership, it's felt like, at long last, it could genuinely be 'coming home' — rewind to 1994 and the England team didn't even reach the World Cup. Graham Taylor was the man in charge back then and allowed cameras to record his team's disastrous qualification campaign. The film captures the intolerable pressure placed on Taylor as he fails to get the best out of his star players: Ian Wright, John Barnes and Paul Gascoigne. With each poor result, the calls in the media for him to be sacked grow fiercer. Sadly for Taylor, it proves to be mission impossible.

When We Were Kings

In 1974 Muhammad Ali and George Foreman fought for the World Heavyweight Championship in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). This film charts both fighters' preparations for the fight, explores their backstories and then relives the bout itself. The epic contest — which many commentators consider the most thrilling boxing match of all time — saw Muhammad Ali win the title against all odds for a second time. He had first won it ten years earlier but was stripped of the championship and sent to prison for refusing to serve in the United States military during the Vietnam War. If ever a sportsman understood the importance of message, audience and delivery (MAD), it was Ali. When We Were Kingsis a testament to why he undoubtedly was 'The Greatest'. It also features an absolutely banging soundtrack.

Orient: Club For A Fiver

On the theme of effective communication ... John Sitton, 'the star' of Orient: Club For A Fiver, gives a masterclass on what not to do. During the summer of 1994, Leyton Orient were plunged into severe financial trouble. The club's owner Tony Wood, who made his fortune from a coffee business in Rwanda, lost everything when a horrific genocide was perpetrated in the country. Back in East London, Orient suddenly found they had no money to pay their players' wages or to even hire a bus for away games. Against this backdrop, former O's captain, John Sitton, steps into the managerial hot seat. It would be his first — and last — job in football management. If only he'd known how to keep his Hulk in check with the 'Back To Bruce' model!

IMDb webpage for Orient: Club For A Fiver