With a bit more time on our hands than normal, and with the reduction in live sport we have been experiencing, my attention turned to some of my favourite sports documentaries on offer.
In no particular order here is my top 5, with a few honourable mentions.
It was difficult to get down to these 5, so if you have any recommendations or thoughts then let us know through the relevant channels.
1. Lions: Living with the pride
British and Irish Lions’ tours are special occasions and this film captures this perfectly. The film follows the squad through tour matches against provincial teams before the three-match test series against the world champions South Africa.
Following a heavy 3-0 whitewash on the 2005 tour to New Zealand, much of the focus of this film is on salvaging the pride in the Lions jersey for the future and justifying the existence of the lions. As a result, inspiring and motivational moments are in plentiful supply, with some hugely emotional moments intertwined with the specific brand of humour you often find with touring sports teams.
Similar films have been made documenting the 2013 tour to Australia and 2017 tour to New Zealand, which are equally captivating viewing for all sports fans, whether you possess a specific interest in rugby or not.
A brilliant film depicting the career of Ayrton Senna in a period of Formula One that seems a long time ago now. Although not a devoted fan to the sport myself this is a story that transcends the sport.
Produced from real footage combined with recent interviews the media and people involved in the sport this tells the story of some of Senna’s greatest performances. From his performance in the wet at Monaco in 1984 through a victory at Interlagos when his car was stuck in 6th gear for the final seven laps and up until his tragic death at Imola in 1994.
The film demonstrates just how much of a different breed motorsport drivers are. To normal people the risks that drivers take in the pursuit of winning seem huge and unnecessary, but to the people taking them there is almost no choice to be had.
3. Class of 92
I should probably state here that I do not have a strong allegiance to any particular club, so it was not a painful experience to watch a film detailing Manchester United success.
Most people will be familiar with the Manchester United youth products integral to their achievements in the 90s, culminating in the 98/99 season, but this documentary offers some deeper insight into the club at the time. The six players from the class of 92 share stories of dealings with Sir Alex Ferguson, past matches and dressing room initiations which offer an insight into a past generation of sport and football that will never be repeated in the same way again.
As well as the football side of the documentary there is also attention given to the development of the country outside in the world of music, film and politics, with surprising appearances from Danny Boyle and even Tony Blair.
Whether a United fan or not, to quote Eric Cantona “Only sport can give you this kind of emotion”.
4. The Edge
Following the England cricket team’s rise to number one in the world and 2010-11 ashes victory in Australia, through to the fallout and subsequent whitewash in 2013-14, The Edge is about more than just cricket.
Demonstrating the incredible mental challenges that sportspeople go through and showing the human side of all involved the film shines a light on what is becoming a much better-regarded topic, the mental health of sportspeople.
The main representative of this is Jonathan Trott who speaks of almost being unable to go out to bat and face the Australian bowling. This highlights the lack of understanding from coaching staff in appreciating the mental challenges imposed on their players, potentially exacerbated by the team culture promoted at the time.
5. The Dawn Wall
Something a bit different, but an inspirational story nonetheless. This covers the climber Tommy Caldwell and his climbing partner Kevin Jorgeson’s attempt to free climb the dawn wall of El Capitan in Yosemite national park, a 3000ft rock face that has been deemed impossible by many experts.
Free climbing means climbing by using aids such as ropes and clips purely to maintain safety and not to assist with the climb.
For someone such as myself with little prior knowledge of climbing this was captivating, for a start seeing two men pitching a tent and essentially camping on a cliff face for weeks is incredible to see. As well as footage of the climb attempt itself the film also describes the events leading up to the attempt including Caldwell’s childhood and previous climbing experiences which are enough to make a film out of in themselves, including being held hostage in Kyrgystan and losing his index finder using a table saw.
If you want to see an inspirational and unique story then I would highly recommend watching this. Since The Dawn Wall, a film covering a subsequent solo attempt on the same rock face (but different route) has been made called Free Solo, which is certainly next on my list.
Icarus: Film investigating the state-sponsored doping programme taking place in Russia, that goes far deeper than you would ever think. At times seems fictional but unfortunately is not.
The Test: Amazon prime series following Australia’s cricket team following the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa 2018 which resulted in bans for three players. Particularly enjoyable in this one for England fans is the World Cup semi-final.
Rising Sons: The YouTube series giving behind the scenes access to England at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, giving great insight into coaching methods, fitness regimes and the thought process from pre-tournament training camps to the world cup final.
Resurfacing: The Amazon Prime documentary following Andy Murray’s recovery from hip surgery. An interesting look at the mental challenges a sports person goes through when recovering from serious injury.
These films are available on a mixture of platforms including the old-fashioned DVD, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus and YouTube. I hope you enjoy these if you decide to give them a try.
This article was written exclusively for golear.co.uk.