From the infamous kung fu kick of Eric Cantona at Old Trafford to a valiant, hair-raising knock of Cheteshwar Pujara in Sydney, there’s more to sporting actions than what is visible on screen in real-time. The insatiable thirst to know the behind-the-scenes of some iconic moments is quenched only when documentaries are made on them.
If you think about it, sports has a very limited narrative trope — either overcoming the odds or succumbing to the challenges. And, this is clearly reflected in the vast swathes of the sports documentaries that hit the screen. But the best documentaries often rise beyond this simplistic trope, compelling viewers to think where their minds may not have traveled while watching the action.
We bring you the seven best sports documentaries you can stream right now:
Ben Stokes: Phoenix From The Ashes
Released a day ago on Amazon Prime, Ben Stokes: Phoenix From The Ashes is a brilliant portrayal of England’s current test captain, who also happens to be among the most controversial figures and the greatest match-winner of English cricket, depending upon whom you ask. Stokes narrates about his life-altering performances – Ashes 2019 and World Cup 2019 – shedding light on what was running through his mind when he was on the crease. He also talks about the demise of his father, and shares how he got his mental health in order.
The Last Dance (2020)
A majority of people in this world don’t have any interest in basketball, a game restricted in its scope and allure to North America. And yet Michael Jordan is a household name in places far away from where he made his career. The Last Dance is a ten-part docu-series that tells a gripping tale about Jordan’s rise from the ghetto to the top of the basketball world. Available on Netflix, it is the most-watched sports documentary ever.
Bandon Mein Tha Dum (2022)
Neeraj Pandey’s Bandon Mein Tha Dum tracks the gripping tale of the injury-ravaged Indian Test side outsmarting the might Australians to clinch Border-Gavaskar Trophy. The series featured Ajinkya Rahane, the captain who oversaw the turnaround, and R Ashwin, who bowled brilliantly on the foreign pitches and also stitched a gutsy stand with Hanuma Vihari. You can relive the greatest Test win of the Indian team on Voot.
Take Us Home: Leeds United (2019)
For football fanatics, the story of Take Us Home: Leeds United is self-explanatory. The six-part docu-series, produced by Amazon Prime Video, is the story of Leeds United’s resurgence to the Premier League, after close to two decades of absence. The narration by Russel Crowe adds gravitas, while the theme music – Damaged Goods by English post-punk band Gang of Four – feels spot on to describe the chaos that rule the club before Marcelo Bielsa’s arrival in 2018/19.
Free Solo (2018)
American climber Alex Honnold is the protagonist of this Academy Award-winning Free Solo, directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. The documentary follows Honnold as he successfully attempts the herculean feat of climbing El Capitan – the unchartered peak of Yosemite Valley – without rope, harness, or any kind of safety equipment.
Diego Maradona (2019)
Five years before Diego Maradona breathed his last, Asif Kapadia came up with a brilliant portrait of arguably the most complex footballer to grace the game. The documentary relies on archival footage, dating back as far as the early 1980s. Kapadia’s take on Maradona is honest and mesmerizing, which not only restricts the man to just on-field records, but also places him at the center of the wider culture in Italy, predominantly the north-south divide, the class war, and the increasing globalization of the football world.
The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team
Many call The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team a much-needed intervention from Cricket Australia to cleanse their image after the disastrous ball-tampering scandal, that involved two of their most high-profile player – Steven Smith and David Warner. The documentary is featured around the 2019 Ashes, where both Warner and Smith returned back to action after a two-year hiatus.
Lead Image: Amazon Prime