Our top five picks for the best sporting documentaries of all time
To celebrate the 92nd Academy Awards this weekend the Sporting Ferret team have selected their five all time favourite sporting documentaries. From Oscar nods to cult classics we have included a bit of everything within our list – we hope you enjoy.
- Hoop Dreams (1994)
The 1994 Audience Award Winner at Sundance Film Festival garnered critical acclaim upon its release and has become a cult classic in its own right. The film was directed by Steve James and follows the story of two African-American high school students in Chicago pursuing their dreams of becoming professional NBA players.
The film clocks in at just shy of three hours – during those three hours the audience are succumb to every emotion in the playbook. Hoop Dreams on its core level is a documentary primarily about basketball however what made it one of the greatest films of our time was its ability to capture the realness of modern America; delving deep into complex issues such as race, social class, values and education in contemporary America.
2. Long Shot (2017)
Is there nothing Larry David cannot do? The co-creator of Seinfeld can now add another string to his bow – using the footage from his critically acclaimed TV series ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ to clear a man of murder.
Long Shot follows the story of Juan Catalan who is accused of murder for a crime he didn’t commit. Juan’s alibi was that he attended a Los Angeles Dodgers Game the day of the murder, which also happened to be the same day ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ was filming at Dodger Stadium.
Juan’s lawyers build a case for his innocence based on raw footage used by Larry David and co. This short documentary gives a great account of such a unique and bizarre story. For added context be sure to watch “The Car Pool Lane” episode (S4EP06) of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’
3. Dark Horse (2015)
Dark Horse tells the true underdog story of a small mining village in South Wales, a barmaid convincing her fellow residents to form a syndicate for a race horse. The residents bring their money together to buy a mare naming it Dream Alliance, a very telling metaphor for what was to happen next.
The documentary is one of the most heartwarming and enriching underdog stories to grace the screen managing to document Dream Alliances iconic rise in the racing world climaxing at the Welsh Grand National. Alongside Dream Alliances rise director Louise Osmond captures the intricate moments of the small mining village and the unique bond created between one another through that of a racehorse.
4. The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young (2014)
A documentary that somewhat has slipped under the radar, the Barkley Marathons documents 35 runners attempt to complete the hardest trail race in the world. Once a year a tiny town in Tennessee hosts the creme de la creme of ultra marathons, the documentary follows a handful of the racers setting their sights on making history.
The race itself has been deemed nearly somewhat impossible with only 18 people ever completing the ultra marathon since its inauguration in 1986. The documentary shows the harrowing journey taken upon by the runners, a 60 hour deadline to complete the 100 mile marathon through Frozen Head State Park – cue mental breakdowns, excruciating blisters and kooky race founder Gary Cantrell throughout.
5. Undefeated (2011)
Undefeated was graced with the 84th Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and by every right it should. Undefeated documents the story of the Manassas Tigers, a high school football team in Memphis who attempt a winning season after accruing years of losses. Coach Bill Courtney takes the team under his wing hoping to turn the team into State Champions.
The film probably ranks as the most inspiring underdog story told to date with a roller coaster plot that could rival any feature film. The highlight of the film being coach Courtney’s rousing halftime team talks and motivational speeches that would rival Al Pacino’s iconic “inch by inch” speech in ‘Any Given Sunday.’
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