The 25 Best Sports Documentaries You Need to Watch, from ‘Athlete A’ to ‘Beckham’

These are a must-see

best sports documentaries
Courtesy of Netflix

I may not be the most knowledgeable person when it comes to sports, but I will gladly spend hours of my day watching athletes open up about their childhood or discuss the challenges of navigating fame.

I've found that the best sports documentaries tell the most compelling stories, whether it's David Beckham pulling the curtain back on his fascinating personal life or cyclist Bryan Fogel accidentally exposing a major Russian doping scheme. Some focus on the legacy of great athletes (like It Ain’t Over), while others dive into the history of certain sports (like Riding Giants). And of course, I can't forget about the captivating films that tackle the biggest scandals in sports history—like The Price of Gold.

Whether you're a basketball enthusiast or a bonafide soccer fan, keep reading for 25 of the best sports documentaries you can stream right this second, courtesy of Netflix, Hulu, Max and more.

1. Hoop Dreams (1994)

  • Cast: William Gates, Arthur Agee
  • Rating: PG-13

Hoop Dreams follows two teenage boys who try to make it out of inner-city Chicago and pursue their dreams of becoming pro basketball players, despite several setbacks and challenges. (It's worth noting that the documentary was famously snubbed at the 1994 Oscars, which caused so much backlash that the Academy overhauled its documentary nominating process.)

2. Being Serena (2018)

  • Cast: Serena Williams, Alexis Ohanian, Oracene Price
  • Rating: TV-MA

​Curious to know how Serena Williams balances her life on and off the court? Here's your chance to see how the tennis icon navigated marriage, her first pregnancy and her highly-anticipated tennis comeback.

3. Athlete A (2020)

  • Cast: Maggie Nichols, Gina Nichols, John Nichols
  • Rating: PG-13

The sobering film breaks down how The Indianapolis Star reporters exposed the toxic culture at USA Gymnastics, as well the major scandal involving former doctor Larry Nassar, who used his position to sexually assault young athletes. Multiple gymnasts, including Maggie Nichols, come forward to share their heartbreaking stories.

4. The Last Dance (2020)

  • Cast: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson, Steve Kerr
  • Rating: TV-MA

The ten-part ESPN docuseries offers an intimate look at the life and career of the legendary Michael Jordan. With exclusive interviews and archival footage and commentary from the star athlete himself, The Last Dance follows his personal life, his rise to fame and his success with the Chicago Bulls.

5. Senna (2011)

  • Cast: Alain Prost, Sir Frank Williams, Ron Dennis, Viviane Senna
  • Rating: PG-13

Get an up-close look at the life of Ayrton Senna, the famed Brazilian racing driver who won three Formula One World Drivers' Championships before his tragic death in 1994. Expect plenty of archival racetrack footage and a deeper look at his rivalry with driver Alain Prost.

6. Untold: Johnny Football (2023)

  • Cast: Johnny Manziel, Eric Bolling, Blake Bortles
  • Rating: TV-MA

This documentary details the rise and fall of star quarterback Johnny Manziel (or "Johnny Football"), who played for the Cleveland Browns and fumbled his shot at thriving in the NFL due to mental health struggles. Fortunately, he takes on a different path that leads to a quieter and more peaceful lifestyle.

7. LFG (2021)

  • Cast: Rachel Maddow, Jessica McDonald, Sam Mewis
  • Rating: TV-MA

The movie follows Megan Rapinoe, Jessica McDonald, Becky Sauerbrunn and several other members of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team as they sue the United States Soccer Federation for pay discrimination. Although it doesn't explore the case in much detail, it sheds light on the team's continued efforts to create social change. (FYI, the acronym "LFG" stands for the team's go-to phrase, "Let's f**king go!")

8. Beckham (2023)

  • Cast: David Beckham, Victoria Beckham, Fisher Stevens
  • Rating: TV-MA

Before fans around the globe started chanting "Bend it like Beckham," the star athlete led a much simpler life with his middle-class family in east London. Learn more about his family, his upbringing and his meteoric rise to fame in this inspiring documentary, which includes never-before-seen footage.

9. Sisters on Track (2021)

  • Cast: Rainn Sheppard, Brooke Sheppard, Tai Sheppard
  • Rating: PG

Set in New York, the movie revolves around a young trio of sisters—Tai, Rainn and Brooke—who pursue track and field while living in a homeless shelter with their single mom. It documents their many challenges, how they heal from trauma and how they navigate their rise to fame.

10. Giannis: The Marvelous Journey (2024)

  • Cast: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Veronica Antetokounmpo
  • Rating: PG

Kristen Lappas delivers an intimate portrait of NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who went from growing up in poverty in Greece to becoming one of the best basketball players in the world. The Prime Video original features his many career highlights and interviews with his family.

11. Beyond the Mat (1999)

  • Cast: Terry Funk, Mick Foley, Jake Roberts
  • Rating: R

Calling all WWE fans! If you have burning questions about whether those painful stunts are fake or just want to learn more about the industry, allow me to introduce Beyond the Mat. The documentary mainly follows the lives of pro wrestlers Terry Funk, Mick Foley, Jake Roberts and Darren Drozdov, but it also addresses popular criticisms.

12. The Deepest Breath (2023)

  • Cast: Alessia Zecchini, Stephen Keenan, Leigh Baker
  • Rating: PG

This engrossing documentary follows Italian freediver Alessia Zecchini as she embarks on a risky mission to set a new world record, with the help of an expert safety diver. Expect to see breathtaking footage as they explore the ocean's depths.

13. It Ain’t Over (2022)

  • Cast: Yogi Berra, Lindsay Berra, Bob Costas
  • Rating: PG

Although Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra has ten World Series rings, three MVP awards and 18 All-Star Game appearances under his belt, his accomplishments are often overshadowed by his unique personality off the field. Here, Sean Mullin seeks to go beyond the "Yogisms," and shed light on his lasting legacy as a baseball player.

14. Riding Giants (2004)

  • Cast: Darrick Doerner, Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, Brian L. Keaulana
  • Rating: PG-13

Even if you've never set foot on a surfboard, you'll learn plenty from this documentary about the history of surf culture. The movie leaves no question unanswered, from exploring the activity's Hawaiian beginnings and exploitation by the media to breaking down the art of wave riding.

15. Diego Maradona (2019)

  • Cast: Diego Maradona, John Foot, Gonzalo Bonadeo
  • Rating: PG

Director Asif Kapadia dives into the complicated life of the legendary Diego Maradona, one of the most famous (and controversial) soccer players in the world. The movie details his rise to fame, his success on the field and his struggle with cocaine addiction.

16. Red Army (2014)

  • Cast: Scotty Bowman, Viacheslav Fetisov, Anatoli Karpov, Alexei Kasatonov
  • Rating: PG

Red Army tells the story of the Soviet Union's famous Red Army hockey team, as seen through the eyes of coach Slava Fetisov. The movie details his transition from national hero to political enemy, as well as the rise and fall of the hockey team.

17. Next Goal Wins (2014)

  • Cast: Thomas Rongen, Jaiyah Saelua, Nicky Salapu, Gene Ne'emia
  • Rating: PG

After a devastating defeat against Australia in 2001, the American Samoa soccer team was officially deemed the worst team in the world. However, it didn't stop them from trying to bounce back and qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

18. Undefeated (2011)

  • Cast: Bill Courtney, Montrail "Money" Brown, O.C. Brown
  • Rating: PG-13

Bill Courtney volunteers to coach a football team at an underfunded, inner-city high school. The team has yet to win a playoff game, but Coach Courtney is determined to change this by nurturing the young players, both on and off the field.

19. When We Were Kings (1996)

  • Cast: Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Don King, B.B. King
  • Rating: PG

Boxing enthusiasts are in for a treat with this Oscar-winning documentary, which explores the highly-publicized match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman—or shall we say, the “Rumble in the Jungle.” In addition to discussing their careers, the film includes commentary from Spike Lee, Norman Mailer and more.

20. Pumping Iron (1977)

  • Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Roger Callard, Franco Columbu
  • Rating: PG

As professional bodybuilders prepare for the 1975 Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe contests, the famous Arnold Schwarzenegger faces off against Serge Nubret and Lou Ferrigno to defend his title. If you're curious to learn even more about the world of bodybuilding, then consider the sequels Pumping Iron II: The Women, Raw Iron and Generation Iron.

21. Free Solo (2018)

  • Cast: Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Jimmy Chin
  • Rating: PG-13

In this edge-of-your-seat doc, the incredibly brave Alex Honnold embarks on one of his riskiest adventures yet: a solo climb of the 3,200-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without a rope. Major kudos to filmmakers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin for expertly capturing this wild journey.

22. 30 for 30: The Price of Gold (2014)

  • Cast: Tonya Harding, Connie Chung, Tony Kornheiser
  • Rating: G

Two weeks before the 1994 Winter Olympics on January 6, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed on the right knee by a mysterious attacker. It was later revealed that fellow skater Tonya Harding's ex-husband plotted the attack to remove Kerrigan from the competition. Several years later, the documentary further explores the shocking incident and its aftermath.

23. Over the Limit (2018)

  • Cast: Margarita Mamun, Yana Kudryavtseva, Irina Viner
  • Rating: NR

This intimate documentary offers a behind-the-scenes look at the life of Russian gymnast Margarita Mamun, specifically from the 2015 World Championships to the 2016 Olympic Games. Considered the Black Swan of sports documentaries, Over the Limit sheds light on her mental health struggles and stressful training sessions with an abusive coach.

24. Icarus (2017)

  • Cast: Bryan Fogel, Dave Zabriskie, Don Catlin
  • Rating: TV-MA

In this Oscar-winning documentary, filmmaker and cyclist Bryan Fogel is on a mission to find out the truth about doping in sports. What he ends up finding is a major doping scandal that involves a brilliant scientist and the Russian government.

25. At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal (2019)

  • Cast: Simone Biles, Scott Blackmun, Richard Blumenthal
  • Rating: TV-MA

Erin Carr dives into the unsettling scandal that involves Larry Nassar, a USA Gymnastics team doctor who was convicted of sexual abuse crimes against young athletes. The film features archive footage and tell-all interviews with gymnasts who were under Nassar's care.

nakeisha campbell bio

Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...