Everybody loves a good documentary. But not everybody loves sport. However, a really good sport documentary will bridge this gap perfectly and before you know it you’ll feel like the biggest fan of [insert sport] there is and that you want to know every tiny detail of it. One of those is BEST (George Best – All By Himself), which you can see on 24th of February, and to celebrate we’ve taken a look at some of the best sporting documentaries there are on offer that anyone and everyone can enjoy, from Formula 1, to professional bodybuilding. And truly, you don’t even need to be a sports fan to enjoy any of these gripping documentaries…
Before the heartbreaking Amy, Asif Kapadia applied his immense documentary making skills to the story of Formula 1 ace, and three time world champion Ayrton Senna, widely considered one of the greatest drivers the sport ever had. Until the tragic 2015 incident involving Jules Bianchi, Senna was the last person to die in a Grand Prix, with his death sparking a complete overhaul of the almost non-existent safety measures in place, including the introduction of, would you believe it, crash barriers. Compiled entirely of archive footage, with no talking heads or retrospective commentary, the inspired documentary style is both a tense look at the events leading up to and surrounding the charismatic driver’s death, as well as establishing Kapadia as an auteur of documentary filmmaking.
2. The Armstrong Lie
Alex Gibney is no stranger to ground-breaking documentary exposés, with the likes of Mea Maxima Culpa and Going Clear in his back-catalogue. Originally intended as a look at the improbable, incredible, and inspiring comeback of one of not only the greatest cyclists of all time, but a cancer survivor. The most decorated Tour De France winner ever, with seven titles, was coming out of retirement after four years. This proved to be Lance Armstrong’s undoing, and in the three years that followed it all unravelled. Naturally Gibney had no choice but to take the documentary in an entirely different direction, and so The Armstrong Lie was born. Gibney later declared that he’d never met a better liar than Lance Armstrong, who to this day insists that stripping him of his titles was wrong.
3. I Am Ali
A rare and intimate look at Muhammad Ali, self styled ‘Greatest of all time’, with unseen footage, unheard recordings of phone calls, and wonderful anecdotes from his friends, foes, and family. For a man who was so publicly brash and outspoken, and truly The Greatest in his field, the likes of which have never been equalled, little was truly known about the private family life of Muhammad Ali. This documentary gave a thrilling insight into his relationships, his connections with his children, with a particularly sweet moment where you can hear him singing to his daughter over the phone. Ali kept an audio journal throughout his life, and even the most die-hard fans can find something now in this deeply personal account.
4. Class of ‘92
George Best played for Manchester United in his heyday, and years later, a crop of new talent appeared, the ‘Class of ‘92’ – David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes. Directed by Ben and Gabe Turner, the former’s most recent sports documentary being Bolt, the film features interviews with all of the aforementioned footballing superstars, and there’s comment on the wider cultural impact from Danny Boyle and Mani from The Stone Roses. It’s a 360 look at the circumstances and feel of the age, and the atmosphere of the early 90’s. It’s impossible to come away from this documentary without a smile on your face.
5. Pumping Iron
This documentary very nearly never saw the light of day, after the filmmakers ran out of money during production. Luckily, the bodybuilders involved with the film raised the money and made sure it was released. Foremost amongst the bodybuilders was one Arnold Schwarzenegger, so we have this 1977 documentary to thank for the Terminator, which made him a household name. The documentary itself looks at rivalry between Arnie and Lou Ferrigno (yup, The Hulk) as they compete for the title of Mr Olympia. A huge critical success, this look into competitive bodybuilding is highly worth your time.
BEST (George Best: All By Himself) is in cinemas on February 24th. Visit the official site here.