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The 10 Best Sports Documentaries of All Time

The 10 Best Sports Documentaries of All Time

Countless feature films have been made about the world of sports over the decades. Boxing has given us such classics as “Million Dollar Baby,” “Raging Bull,” and the Rocky franchise. The world of auto racing has been depicted in movies like “Rush,” Ford v Ferrari,” and Will Ferrell’s offbeat take on the sport, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”

Football has starred in “Jerry Maguire,” “North Dallas Forty,” “Friday Night Lights,” and countless others. Baseball fans flocked to “Moneyball,” “Field of Dreams,” “The Natural,” and more, and for basketball lovers, there’ve been such entries as “Hoosiers,” “Glory Road,” and of course “Space Jam.” And just about every other sport you can imagine, including hockey, wrestling, martial arts, golf, tennis, skiing, and swimming, has been depicted on-screen as well.

These are all fictional films, though many of them are based on actual events and real people. But there’s a whole other class of sports movies that strips away the artificial drama and depicts the heartbreak, hopes, and triumphs that are common to both team and solo sports – without the help of screenwriters, directors, and actors.

To determine the best sports documentaries of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed a study conducted by the sports betting site OLBG, assigning a wide range of such films an overall score based on critics’ and audience ratings on IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon, and Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator.

Click here to see a ranking of the best sports documentaries of all time.

The top two films on the list deal with America’s second-favorite spectator sport (after football), and the fourth place entry tells the story of one of the most famous boxing matches of all time. Also represented here are gymnastics and motorcycle and auto racing. You might be surprised to learn, however, that the other endeavors hailed for their cinematic excellence are skateboarding, rock climbing (honored here twice, both times with the same mountain as antagonist), and even video gaming. (These are the most followed video game franchises in the U.S.)

Here is a list of the 10 best sports documentaries of all time:

10. Athlete A (2020)

Athlete A (2020) | Bela Karolyi and Marta Karolyi in Athlete A (2020)
Source: Courtesy of Netflix

N/A

Source: Courtesy of Netflix
  • Subject: The U.S. women’s gymnastics team sexual abuse scandal involving team doctor Larry Nassar
  • IMDb rating: 7.6/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100%
  • Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92%
  • Total score: 6.21/10

9. TT3D: Closer to the Edge (2011)

TT3D: Closer to the Edge (2011) | Guy Martin in TT3D: Closer to the Edge (2011)
Source: Courtesy of 3DX Media

N/A

Source: Courtesy of 3DX Media
  • Subject: The Isle of Man TT motorcycle race
  • IMDb rating: 7.9/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100%
  • Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95%
  • Total score: 6.59/10

8. The King of Kong (2007)

Source: Courtesy of Picturehouse

Source: Courtesy of Picturehouse
  • Subject: Champion video game player Steve Wiebe’s attempt to set a new record in the 1981 arcade game “Donkey Kong”
  • IMDb rating: 8/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97%
  • Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93%
  • Total score: 6.67/10

7. Free Solo (2018)

Source: Courtesy of National Geographic Documentary Films

Source: Courtesy of National Geographic Documentary Films
  • Subject: Solo free-climbing El Capitan in Yosemite National Park
  • IMDb rating: 8.1/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98%
  • Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93%
  • Total score: 7.12/10 (tie)

6. Senna (2010)

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures
  • Subject: The life and death of Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna
  • IMDb rating: 8.5/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93%
  • Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95%
  • Total score: 7.12/10 (tie)

5. Minding the Gap (2018)

Source: Courtesy of Hulu

Source: Courtesy of Hulu
  • Subject: Skateboarders in Rockford, Illinois
  • IMDb rating: 8/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100%
  • Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91%
  • Total score: 7.2/10

4. When We Were Kings (1996)

Source: Courtesy of Gramercy Pictures

Source: Courtesy of Gramercy Pictures
  • Subject: The “Rumble in the Jungle” heavyweight boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Africa
  • IMDb rating: 8/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98%
  • Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94%
  • Total score: 7.27/10

3. The Dawn Wall (2017)

The Dawn Wall (2017) | The Dawn Wall (2017)
Source: Courtesy of 1091 Pictures

N/A

Source: Courtesy of 1091 Pictures

N/A

  • Subject: Free-climbing El Capitan in Yosemite National Park
  • IMDb rating: 8.1/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100%
  • Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95%
  • Total score: 7.81/10

2. Hoop Dreams (1994)

Source: Courtesy of Fine Line Features

Source: Courtesy of Fine Line Features
  • Subject: African-American high-schoolers William Gates and Arthur Agee and their dreams of playing in the NBA
  • IMDb rating: 8.3/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98%
  • Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93%
  • Total score: 8.18/10

1. The Last Dance (2020)

Source: Courtesy of ESPN

Source: Courtesy of ESPN
  • Subject: Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls season
  • IMDb rating: 9.1/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97%
  • Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95%
  • Total score: 8.87/10
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