10 Best Sports Documentaries You Can Stream Right Now | IGN

It’s not easy to recreate that adrenaline rush you get while watching your favorite team go head-to-head against a bitter rival during a live sporting event. However, there are some very special documentaries that are able to capture the thrilling spectacle of live sports, by highlighting the unique lives of athletes on and off the field in a myriad of compelling ways.

From Netflix to Hulu to ESPN+, there are dozens of quality documentaries to consume from almost every sport imaginable. And while we can’t recognize all of the incredible titles out there, we’ve curated a list of 10 of our favorites. Even if you’re not the biggest sports fan in the world, all of the films and miniseries mentioned here are engaging character studies that anyone can enjoy.

Scroll through the slideshow below or read on to find out which sports documentaries made our list:

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Free Solo (Disney+, Hulu)

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Free Solo tells the incredible journey of rock climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to tackle El Capitan’s legendary 900-meter rock face at Yosemite Nation Park. The term “free solo” means to climb without the help of ropes, harnesses, or any other forms of protective equipment. Oscar-wining directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin tells not only a visually thrilling narrative but also one filled with plenty of raw human emotion as we learn more about the toll that free soling takes on Holland and his supportive girlfriend, Sanni McCandless. While not as well known (at the time of filming) as someone like a Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, it’s exciting to watch an athlete at the top of his craft doing something incredible.

The Last Dance (Netflix)

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In this never-before-seen look at the Chicago Bulls’ 1997 championship run, Michael Jordan, many of his teammates, and a slew of celebrities and renowned sports journalists share their insights about one of the sport’s most iconic teams. One aspect of this doc that makes it so fascinating is that it contains unaired footage that a film crew shot during the ’97 season, which provides a unique glimpse at the Bulls on the court and in the locker room. Jordan’s candor about his father’s death, the pressures of winning six NBA titles, and whether or not he was liked by other players in the league offers a vulnerable glimpse at the Hall of Famer that we’ve rarely seen. This 10-episode look at the Bulls and their impact on the NBA and sports culture as a whole should not be missed.

All or Nothing (Amazon Prime Video)

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Amazon’s All or Nothing brand encompasses a variety of sports, including rugby, soccer, and football. Each season (nine at the time of writing) centers on a different team through their respective season. The cameras follow the players and coaches on and off the field, showcasing what it takes to be the best in a particular sport, while also giving viewers a rare look into the personal lives of star athletes like the Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott and Manchester City’s star Sergio Agüero.

O.J.: Made in America (ESPN+)

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This five-part miniseries under ESPN’s 30 for 30 banner gives a gripping account of the famous O.J. Simpson murder trial back in 1995. What makes this documentary so impactful is that it looks at Simpson from a variety of lenses: husband, son, Hall of Fame running back, and convicted felon. The series also sheds light on the cultural impact that the Simpson trial had on race relations in America, and how the trail still resonates today. While we may never know definitively who killed Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman on the night of June 12, 1994, this the most in-depth retelling of those events, and the media storm that followed.

LANCE (ESPN+)

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Infamous road racing cyclist, seven-time Tour de France champion, and Olympic medalist Lance Armstrong faces the cameras in this engaging documentary. The two-part doc delves into Armstrong’s controversial past by exploring doping allegations, cheating, and whether or not other cyclists were taking illegal substances as well. Armstrong gets to bare his soul here, and with the help of director Marina Zenovich’s (Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind) deft hand behind the camera, LANCE makes for a captivating story about loss and trying to find a bit of redemption.

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Cheer (Netflix)

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Just guessing here, but when you first think of what a compelling sports documentary will typically cover, cheerleading is probably not on the top of your list. Well, think again! Netflix’s Cheer highlights the highs and lows of trying to be the best cheerleading squad in America’s collegiate system. The series follows tough-nosed head coach Monica Adams as she demands perfection from everyone who works under her. Cheer also takes a closer look at the individual male and female cheerleaders, showcasing the hardships they face when it comes to family pressure, getting good grades, and ridicule from people who don’t acknowledge cheerleading as an actual sport. If you don’t know anything about cheerleading then take this entertaining and often heartwarming crash course on Netflix.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez (Netflix)

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While not as in-depth as ESPN’s O.J.: Made In America, Netflix’s three-part series about the murder of Odin Lloyd at the hands of ex-Patriot football star Aaron Hernandez is just as enthralling. The Mind of Aaron Hernandez examines the footballer’s life before the NFL to see if there were any signs early on that something of this magnitude might happen. There’s also a fascinating examination surrounding the role of concussions throughout Hernandez’s career, and whether or not it played a role in his mental stability.

The Two Escobars (ESPN+)

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The Two Escobars tells the fascinating but also harrowing tale of two very different men that happen to share the same last name and call the country of Columbia their home. Pablo Escobar was arguably the most well-known drug kingpin ever, while Andres Escobar (no relation) was the shining star of the Colombian national soccer team during Pablo’s reign. At first glance, it appears that these two men were killed for very different reasons, but learning how each of them were linked to the rise and fall of Colombian soccer on a national level is really captivating stuff.

Formula 1: Drive to Survive (Netflix)

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These fearless drives live fast on and off the track in Netflix’s look at the high stakes world of Formula 1 racing. Racing fan or not, this tells an engaging story by approaching the sport from a variety of angles. Each episode looks at not only the managers, drivers, and owners during the races but also the friends and family that support the staff off the track. If you’ve never experienced the world of racing, Formula 1: Drive to Survive is a great introduction.

Last Chance U (Netflix)

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Where many of the titles on our best sports documentaries list explore the ins and outs of professional athletes that have already made it to the top of their respective ladders, Last Chance U examines individuals who many schools in the American college system have forgotten. Last Chance U follows college football players with great potential who either didn’t have the grades to make it to a big Division 1 school or were kicked out of big colleges for disciplinary reasons. Whatever their case may be, many of the players here have what it takes to make it to the NFL, or at least a high-level D1 program like Clemson or Ohio State University. Their stories are often heartbreaking as you learn more about each player’s background and family life. But there is also hope and inspiration too; from talented school counselors to loving coaches, it really does take a village (or a team in this case) to raise a champion.

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David Griffin still watches DuckTales in his pajamas with a cereal bowl in hand. He’s also the TV Editor for IGN. Say hi on Twitter.
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