In the past, great sports documentaries would come along once every five or so years, and even then it would often not get the recognition it deserves. However, with the rise of streaming sites such as Amazon Prime, iPlayer and of course Netflix, they’re not only reaching their audiences, but the demand for it is continuously growing. So if you’re in the mood for something to ignite your streaming experience, here’s our rundown of the 10 best Netflix sports documentaries available to watch right now.
The Last Dance
IMDb rating: 9.1/10
Running Time: 10 episodes, 45-50 minutes long
A joint ESPN-Netflix production, and one the most talked-about documentaries during lockdown, ‘The Last Dance’ follows basketball and sporting legend Michael Jordan during the 1997-98 NBA season, which would be his last in a Chicago Bull Jersey, while also looking back at his life and career. Using a combination of modern-day and archival footage and interviews, which include coach Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, many famous sports journalists, not to mention the great man himself, this has established itself as one of the great sports documentary series and is a must-watch (if you haven’t already).
Did you know? The Last Dance is the most viewed ESPN documentary since the broadcaster was founded in 1979.
Formula 1: Drive To Survive
IMDb rating: 8.6/10
Running time: 31 episodes over three seasons, 27-41 minutes each
Netflix and Formula 1 have come together to produce this exciting docuseries, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at the drivers and races of the Formula 1 World Championship. The first season covers the 2018 World Championship, the second season covers 2019, and the third covers 2020. A fourth season covering the 2021 World Championship has been announced and is set to be released in 2022, so keep your eyes peeled. Even if you’re not a motor sports fan, ‘Drive To Survive’ sure is binge-worthy.
Did you know? Mercedes and Ferrari refused to participate in F1's Netflix debut. However, both teams have taken part in subsequent seasons.
The Dawn Wall
IMDb rating: 8.1/10
Running time: 1 hour 41 minutes
If you’ve seen the much-talked-about 2018 Free Solo, you may or may not remember Tommy Caldwell’s role as an interviewee. However, this documentary from the same year puts Caldwell centre stage as he attempts to scale the Dawn Wall of the El Capitan mountain in Yosemite Park. With the backdrop of Caldwell’s tumultuous rock climbing career, we track him and his partner Kevin Jorgson as they tackle the previously undefeated rock face.
Did you know? Caldwell lost half his finger in a woodworking accident in 2001.
IMDb rating: 7.9/10
Running Time: 2 hours 1 minute
A Netflix Original and the winner of the 2017 Oscar for best documentary, Bryan Fogel’s investigation dives deep into sports doping. The documentary begins with Fogel attempting to prove the way athletes are tested for performance enhancing drugs is insufficient. To do this he has a doping programme created for him by Russian scientist Gregory Rodchenkov. However, as Fogel is taking part in the programme, Rodchenkov reveals information regarding Russian state sponsored doping programmes that have been taking place since 1968. As these allegations become broadly known, the walls begin to close on Rodchenkov, with Fogel fearing his interviewing subject might be in danger. A sports documentary that should not be missed, that shows the dark side of the sport.
Did you know? Although it was a hit at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, many believe it was for that reason the festival was targeted by Russian hackers.
Last Chance U
IMDb rating: 8.4/10
Running time: 40 episodes over five seasons, average 55 minutes each
‘Last Chance U’ follows a group of young men training to become the future stars of the NFL. Set over five seasons, this Netflix original series gives us an intense look inside the world of junior college football, chronicling the stories of players and coaches in the classroom and on the field. Based at East Mississippi Community College (EMCC), each player has incredible talent and drive to be the best, but each also faces their own unique struggles both on and off the field. As their season takes an unexpected turn, the methods of this unconventional team are called into question. And if you like ‘Last Chance U’, be sure to check out ‘Last Chance U: Basketball’, which focuses on aspiring basketball players in East Los Angeles hoping to make it to the pro ranks.
Did you know? Dakota Allen was the first player to be drafted into the NFL. He was drafted in the 7th round (251st overall) by the Los Angeles Rams in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Sunderland ‘Til I Die
IMDb rating: 8.1/10
Running Time: 14 episodes over two seasons , 37-42 minutes each
In 2017, Sunderland Athletic Football Club was relegated from the English Premier League for the first time in many seasons. This fly on the wall Netflix sport documentary looks at the highs and lows, talking to the chairmen, the managers, and the players. As well as speaking to lifelong fans around the city of Sunderland, we see just how much impact the fortunes of sports clubs can have on the lives of those that love them most.
Did you know? The production company Fulwell 73 were previously interested in buying Sunderland AFC before filming began.
IMDb rating: 7.5/10
Running Time: 5 episodes, each 35 minutes
It’s commonplace in sport to put the athletes on a pedestal, without ever really looking at those behind the scenes, like the coaches that combine both strategy and management to make the impossible possible. This Netflix original docuseries interviews some of the world’s great modern sports coaches, including football managers Jose Mourinho and Jill Ellis, basketball coaches Doc Rivers and Dawn Stately, and elite tennis coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who give their fascinating insights on what it takes to succeed at the highest levels of sports management.
Did you know? Basketball superstar Lebron James is one of the series’ executive producers.
Ronda Rousey Story: Through My Father’s Eyes
IMDb rating: 6.2/10
Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes
From struggling with health issues from a young age, to rising through the ranks and becoming an iconic face in mixed martial arts, this documentary shows Ronda Rousey behind the larger than life persona. It’s perfect for anyone that wants to know more about Rousey, and to take a look at an amazing example of how sport can inspire people to fight on, whatever their situation.
Did you know? Rousey’s mother Anna DeMaris, was the first American winner at the Judo World Championships.
The Short Game
IMDb rating: 7.7/10
Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes
A 2013 documentary that follows the trials and tribulations of eight young golfers at the children’s US World Golf Championship. Starting 6 months before the tournament begins, we get to understand the background and cultures of these 7- and 8-year-old golfers, the pressures they go through from their parents and what they love most about golf. Although a charming story, it also shows the tough elements of being a child sporting prodigy.
Did you know? ‘The Short Game’ was produced by Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel.
IMDb rating: 8.1/10
Running time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Released in the early part of 2020, this is a documentary that focuses on the history, or rather the ignored history of parathaletes. As well as looking at some of the ways sporting governing bodies have treated those with disabilities in the past, even as recently as in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it also talks to modern-day parathletes such as sprinter Jonnie Peacock, fencer Bebe Vio and Tatyana McFadden, the wheelchair track and field athlete. In these interviews they do not focus on their disabilities, but instead what sport means to them and how they fought against the odds to become what they are today. An inspiring sports documentary that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.
Did you know? The Paralympic Games are the third most-watched sporting event in the world.
IMDb rating: 7.7/10
Running time: 8 episodes, each episode 25-37 minutes
Sports films are so often about those that achieve greatness but rarely look at the other side of competition. This docuseries follows some of those sportspeople that have tasted defeat in the harshest of circumstances, and how they drew strength from those losses and how it shaped them. Although it features a wide range of sports including golf, figure skating, curling, and boxing, you’ll be able to both enjoy and empathize with it regardless of your interest in that said sport. Because everyone has been a loser at some point in their lives!
Did you know? Director Mickey Duzyj also directed an ESPN short film called ‘The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere’.