Sports Documentaries

When most people think of sports movies they think of films like Bull Durham, Hoosiers, or Field of Dreams.  However, if you’ve seen the standard sports movies countless times and are looking for something new, the documentary section is a great option for entertaining and enlightening films about sports.  Here are some recommended titles from the library’s collection:

Baseball – Ken Burns 10 episode documentary on the history of baseball is a wonderful overview of the national pastime.  The first few episodes on the early years of baseball are especially good.  The highlight of the series is probably the episode on the Negro Leagues, which has something to offer even the most knowledgeable baseball fan.  While some of the later episodes rush by some of the modern events and can sometimes feel a little New York-centric, the stories and enthusiasm of former Kansas City Monarch Buck O’Neil (among others) more than make up for it.

Hoop DreamsHoop Dreams is one of the most critically acclaimed documentaries of all time and for good reason.  Filmmaker Steve James followed Chicago-area teens Arthur Agee and William Gates for six years as they chased their NBA dreams.  The film lets the viewer share in their triumphs and disappointments while at the same time giving a complicated portrait of how the system treats these young men.  Uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time, Hoop Dreams is a movie that sports fans and non-sports fans won’t forget.

The King of Kong – While this is certainly not a traditional sports documentary, it has all of the elements of a great sports movie.  In this case the underdog is a teacher named Steve Wiebe who is on a mission to set a new record for the video game Donkey Kong.  No great movie is without a great villain, and there is none like champion video gamer Billy Mitchell.  The “character” of Mitchell alone is enough to make this an entertaining documentary, but Wiebe’s mission (some would say irrational mission) to set the official record really makes this movie something special.

The Two Escobars – Part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series, The Two Escobars tells the story of Colombian soccer player Andres Escobar and his murder after the 1994 World Cup.  Parallel to this story is that of drug lord Pablo Escobar and the impact he had on Columbia as well as his relationship with the Colombian national soccer team and Andres Escobar.  Whether or not you’re a fan of soccer (or sports) this is a fascinating documentary and one of the best from the ESPN series.

When We Were Kings – The Muhammad Ali – George Foreman fight in 1974, nicknamed the “Rumble in the Jungle” is one of the most famous of all time.  When We Were Kings takes you inside this legendary fight and the personalities that help make it famous.  The fight itself is only part of the movie, as it focuses on everything that happened behind the scenes.  If you only know George Foreman as a pitchman for grills and never saw Muhammad Ali in his prime, this film will help you understand what they were like when they were the two of the most famous and powerful men on the planet.