20 of the Most Gripping Sports Documentaries Ever Made

20 of the Most Gripping Sports Documentaries Ever Made
Contributor: Mariam Gabaji, Lauren Rouse and Stephanie Nuzzo
At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.

Sport is such a big part of our lives these days, and it’s not just the live games that take up our attention. Plenty of legends have come out of the sporting world and hearing their stories is often just as inspiring as seeing them play. In honour of sports geniuses all over, we’ve pulled together a list of some of the most inspiring sports documentaries to come out in recent years and detailed exactly where you can find them.

Check out our list below.

The best sports documentaries you can stream right now


With the tragic passing of football legend, Pelé, folks are likely searching for ways to reflect on his life and career. Netflix’s documentary does exactly that, chronicling the journey of this Brazilian icon.

The definitive story of the man who personified soccer, which he called “the beautiful game”, and how he changed the history of the sport.

Watch it on Netflix

Formula 1: Drive to Survive

It’s never been a better time to be a Formula 1 fan. Not only are a new batch of races set to kick off in the coming months, but Netflix will drop a new season of its racing docuseries Formula 1: Drive to Survive, too.

The series goes behind the wheel with the drivers, both rookie and pro, of the F1 circuit showing the drama that happens both in front of and behind the camera.

Watch it on Netflix

Diego Maradona (2019)

The passing of football legend Diego Maradona in 2020 left sports fans across the globe heartbroken.

Sports fans hoping to relive the incredible talents of Diego Maradona can do so with this 2019 HBO documentary. The film kicks off in 1984 with Maradona arriving in Naples. Amazon’s summary of the documentary reads:

Maradona was blessed on the field but cursed off it; the charismatic Argentine, quickly led Naples to their first-ever title. It was the stuff of dreams. But there was a price.

Watch it on Stan and Prime Video


Cheer is the gripping docuseries that follows the ups and downs of Navarro College’s competitive cheer squad as they work to win a coveted national title. The series gives insight into the brutal world of this sport and how its athletes face incredible adversity to achieve incredible triumph.

Watch it on Netflix

The Last Dance (2020)

Sports-starved fans were thrilled when The Last Dance dropped on Netflix. This 10-part docuseries takes an in-depth look into Michael Jordan’s career and the 1990s Chicago Bulls, showcasing unaired footage from the 1997-98 season.

Available on Netflix

The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team (2020)

This sports docu-series takes the audience behind the scenes to witness one of the darkest times in the Australia cricket team’s history to date, and how it picked itself up to reclaim its title and integrity. It takes you back to the 2018 ball-tampering saga in Cape Town, which rocked the Australian sporting landscape.

Available on Amazon Prime


More for Formula 1 fans, Schumacher explores the incredible career of German driver Michael Schumacher, a seven-time F1 champion. The movie uses a combination of interviews and archival footage to paint a picture of Schumacher’s impressive achievements.

Watch it on Netflix

The Final Quarter and The Australian Dream (2019)

It only makes sense listing these two documentaries together. They’re both based on Adam Goodes, the former Australian rules footballer who played more games in the AFL than any other Indigenous player. He also won the Brownlow medal twice; two Premierships with the Sydney Swans; and was named Australian of the Year in 2014. However, he retired the following year after facing persistent racial abuse.

Both sports documentaries are based on his career, and how he publicly called out racism. Goodes was involved in the making of The Australian Dream.

Watch it on Stan

All or Nothing: Manchester City (2018)

Follow Manchester City behind the scenes throughout its Premier League winning and record-breaking 2017-2018 season. The docu-series, which looks into the lives of the players on and off the pitch, also highlights never-before-seen dressing room footage with manager Pep Guardiola at the helm.

Available on Amazon Prime

The Class of ’92 (2013)

If there was one feature-length sports documentary you had to watch to examine the breakthrough of young players, this would be it. The Class of ’92 looks at the impact made by David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes at Manchester United, and how they helped the Red Devils dominate the 1990s, including winning the famous treble in 1999.

Rent on Apple TV

Last Chance U (2016)

In this docu-series, you’ll follow the lives of elite athletes in America who’ve had difficult pasts and struggled academically. However, the players turn to junior college football for a last chance at turning their lives around to fulfill their dreams.

Available on Netflix

Fire in Babylon (2010)

This 2010 British documentary is based on the record-breaking West Indies cricket team of the 1970s and 1980s, and how captain Clive Lloyd leads them to dominate the sport for many years to come.

Watch on Stan

Free Solo (2018)

Follow professional rock climber, Alex Honnold, in his quest to conquer the first free solo climb – that’s with no rope attached – of famed Yosemite National Park’s 3200-foot El Capitan. You’ll definitely be at the edge of your seat watching this sports documentary by National Geographic.

Available on Disney+ 

Hoop Dreams (1996)

The American sports documentary film is based on the story of two African-American high school students in Chicago and their dream of becoming professional basketball players. It’s a window into the city’s street culture. After an intense editing of three hours of footage (it took three years), it emerged as a landmark documentary in 1996.

Available on Stan

Facing Ali (2009)

Based on the story of Muhammad Ali, arguably the greatest boxer of the 20th century, this sports documentary pays tribute to the legend through the perspective of 10 of his former rivals. Even if you don’t know about the three-time world heavyweight champion’s history, you would have surely heard his worldwide famous quote, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.

Rent on Google Play

Riding Giants (2004)

This one’s going to entice all you Aussie surfers out there. Riding Giants focuses on the history of surfing and more specifically, the art of big wave riding. The sports documentary has been directed and narrated by famous skater and surfer Stacy Peralta and features other big names like Laird Hamilton, Jeff Clark, and Mickey Munoz.

Rent on Google Play

The Endless Summer (1966)

Filmmaker and competitive surfer, Bruce Brown, follows surfers Michael Hynson and Robert August around the world in this sports documentary. They visit Hawaii, Australia, South Africa and other secluded surfing spots in search of ‘The Perfect Wave’.

Rent on Google Play

Icarus (2017)

Controversies in sports are not a new thing, but when a documentary happens upon a major international doping scandal, you’re going to sit up and listen (and watch, in this case). Bryan Fogel, the brains behind the film, explores the option of doping to win an amateur cycling racing before stumbling on something much bigger. He then asks the head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory to help him out.

Available on Netflix

Senna (2011)

The sports documentary depicts the life and death of Ayrton Senna, the famous Brazilian motor-racing champion who died in an unfortunate incident at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. He was just 34 at the time.

Watch on Stan

The Alpinist

Climbing a mountain is no easy feat, let alone climbing it solo. The Alpinist follows Marc-André Leclerc, a bold yet reclusive climber who scales some of the most difficult and remote peaks in the world.

Watch it on Prime Video

This article has been updated since its original publish date.


One response to “20 of the Most Gripping Sports Documentaries Ever Made”

Leave a Reply