We all love YouTube, and hell, we all love documentaries. When the two are combined we are on to a winning combination. The only issue is that there are so many great docs on YouTube we just don’t know where to start! Have no fear, 3 Wise Men are here to guide you into the depths of documentary film to lead you to enlightenment with the 10 best sport documentaries out there.
1. When we were kings (1996)
The deep insight into the gladiatorial rumble between Mohammad Ali and George Foreman in 1974, Zaire. The fight was of course a media field day exploiting the two boxers who simply, just wanted to fight. But with appearances from Spike Lee, James Brown, BB King and Don King it can’t be argued that this documentary is a knock-out! Check it out here.
2. Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)
The 2001 doc, directed by original ‘z-boy’ Stacey Peralta, highlights the origins; highs, lows and dope fueled era of the1970’s Venice Beach skateboard scene. The doc shows off the evolution of skate culture, being born out of old school surfing. How cool is the documentary? Fucking cool! Check it out here.
3. Hoop Dreams (1994)
Filmed in Chicago, the doc followers two poor black kids, Arthur Agee and William Gates whom are exceptional B-ball players. They are soon recruited to play for St. Joesph High School, a school known for breeding talented Basketball players. However, with high expectations and a ruthless ethos, the school will cut any player if they don’t keep up the pace or shall I say ‘slam dunk-the-funk’. With sick high-tops, buzz cuts and hip hop as fresh as yo’ mama’s mash potatoes, the film has a dark side as it portrays the tough existence for poor Africa-American families trying to battle off the temptations of gangs and opportunities to make a quick buck pushing drugs. Check it out here.
4. In The Hands Of The Gods (2007)
FOOTBALL! Finally a great football doc that will entertain, inspire and make you want to lace your boots up and do something with your life. Five skint Brits grab their balls (no, not those balls) and catch a cheap flight to New York to head down the continent towards Argentina to meet their footballing hero, Maradona. They try busking, pleading, begging and even wind up on Latin American television to ask supporters to get them to their hero. An epic journey that looks at five mates wanting only one thing, to shake the hand of God. Check it out here.
5. Once Brothers (2010)
Another B-ball doc here except we’re getting a little more high profile. Once Brothers follows the careers of Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic. United as friends under the Yugoslavian national team and the game itself. The film exposes the career of high-profile eastern European basketball players in the late 80’s and early 90’s. However when war breaks out, the two ethnically different friends do not see eye-to eye as their country dismantles. Friendship as well as careers are truly tested. Real eye opener. Check it out here
6. The Two Escobars (2010)
Going back to the ‘beautiful game’, except this time we’re taking it to the home of Latin flare, salsa and dodgy haircuts. The film explores the rise of the Colombian national side during the era of Pablo (the drug lord) Escobar and his influence within the country. As the film shows the progression of national football, as well as the beloved drug lord, we see how the two become entwined and of course only problems can be foreseen. Check it out here.
7. Murderball (2005)
In 2005 the documentary Murderball was released for a ‘mainstream’ audience. This was a revelation in the sports community, probably due to the fact that a feature length film covering a ‘disabled’ sport had never had such success. When watching the doc it is hard to look at any of these men as ‘disabled’. The audience is given a deep insight into the life of a paraplegic athlete and we soon forget about any of their physical issues. Rather, the doc covers the competitiveness of the games, showing off the rivalry and rifts that occur in any competitive sport. A breath of fresh air as the traditional and more conventional approach to the disabled is thrown out the window. Instead, we as the audience look at the highly inspiring, touching and fucking hard nut reality of a Murderball athlete. Check it out here.
8. Riding Giants (2004)
Another Peralta doc except this time he’s going back to the roots of his skateboarding career, an entirely different angle altogether, surfing. Yes the skateboard legend credits his success to the sport. Before carving those concrete pools he was carving big waves on Venice Beach. His homage to the sport is the beautifully made Riding Giants. Similarly constructed to his first film, Dogtown and Z-Boys, Peralta examines the origins of the sport, the men who inspired millions as well as the future stars of the waves. Like Dogtown and Z-Boys the documentary has the cool vibe you would expect from a Peralta production and trust me when I say this, you won’t be disappointed by this one. Check it out here.
9. Senna (2010)
Let me just mention, that this list is not in order of preference, if it was this would probably be at the top! Directed by Brit, Manish Pandey, the film uses ONLY archive footage of the legend. The entire doc interviews those who knew Senna professionally, personally, romantically and enviously. There is no footage of the interviews, only audio clips. The film depicts the life of a man (and what a man) from the early days of carting up until his untimely death on the racing track. The film explores not only his professional career but all aspects of the man’s life; his personal life, his love for Brasil and the people of Brasil, his charities, his friends, his foes etc etc. Enough said from me, check it out here.
10. Beyond the Mat (1999)
This one has a special place in my heart. I mean, come on, who didn’t love this shit when they were younger? The film is awesome and it explores every aspect of the gladiatorial sport including the really bad times. From business to costumes, from blood to breaks, the show never stops! In all honesty I don’t want to say too much about this one. Just kick back and watch the blood fly (don’t eat anything saucy before you watch). Check it out here.
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