All the Best Sports Documentaries to Watch While Live Games and Matches Remain Canceled
As coronavirus continues to spread around the globe, most professional sporting events have been either canceled or postponed.
The lack of sports — from March Madness to the Indian Wells tournament to Spring training games — has left a very obvious programming gap on television for countless fans across the country.
So while there continues to be no live basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis, golf, racing or more to tune into, there are many other viewing options for those currently using best practices as outlined by the CDC and social distancing at home.
Here are the best sports movies and documentaries to stream right now, as chosen by the PEOPLE staff.
Climber Alex Honnold’s death-defying club of the 3,000 ft. El Capitan rock formation in Yosemite National Park — without a rope — is documented in Academy Award-winning film Free Solo. Daredevil Honnold became the first person to ever achieve the climb without ropes or safety gear in June 2018, scaling the peak in the hours and 56 minutes after a year of training. The successful climb was done on only his second attempt — and you can watch through gritted teeth.
The Price of Gold
Tonya Harding’s story is one known by most — seven weeks before the 1994 Olympic Winter Games, her skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan, was clubbed on the knee by an assailant. Authorities soon determined that Harding was involved and that her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, had allegedly hired the attacker. The narrative was perfect: Kerrigan was the pretty, poised, innocent victim. Harding was the rough-around-the-edges assailant from the wrong side of the tracks. Still, Harding denies her involvement. The entire mess is explored with fresh eyes in this ESPN 30 for 30 documentary.
As the debate rages on over payment of college athletes, learn more about the strong opinions on both sides of the argument in Student Athlete, from producers Maverick Carter and Steve Stoute and executive producer LeBron James.
Last Chance U
While most eyes are on the country’s Division 1 college football teams, in 2016, a Netflix documentary series decided to look elsewhere: East Missisippi Community College. East Missisippi is the home of one of the most successful junior college football programs in America and follows the players as many seek redemption from academic struggles or difficult backgrounds. After the series’ first two seasons, Last Chance U shifts to a similar program at Independence Community College of Kansas for seasons 3 and 4.
Icarus — a 2017 Oscar-winning documentary — begins as an investigative look into illegal doping, but quickly turns into a borderline action-thriller when the director makes a connection with Grigory Rodchenkov, a scientist and the director of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory. See, Rodchenkov was also running a state-sponsored Olympic doping program … and, well, watch and find out.
Stream It! Stream on Netflix
The 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams is a basketball classic following two underprivleged high school students in Chicago and their dream of playing in the NBA.
Women of Troy
Women’s basketball gets the much-deserved spotlight in this HBO documentary, which follows the USC Trojans during the early ’80s — particularly under Cheryl Miller’s lead. Women of Troy tracks the team on their storied run to the 1983 national championship, and the game’s ripple effect on the sport.
Minding the Gap
While Minding the Gap isn’t about pro sports players like many of the other films or series on this list, the doc explores the real-life impact athletics can have on lives. In this case, it’s three skateboarders in Illinois, who escaped the sometimes-harsh realities of growing up through the action sport.
Stream It! Stream on Hulu.
The Short Game
Golf’s cutest up-and-comers are featured in this 2013 documentary. Following then-7-year-old golf stars at the World Championships of Junior Golf in North Carolina, The Short Game gives a peek at what it’s like to begin training to be a pro athlete before even hitting puberty.
Just four years after Allen Iverson retired from his 14 seasons in the NBA, he was featured in what’s described as an “unfiltered” documentary about his career — highlighting the now-44-year-old’s complexities on and off the court.
Winning Time: Reggie Miller Vs. The NY Knicks
Another 30 for 30 addition to the list follows New York Knicks fans’ much-documented hatred of Reggie Miller during the 1995 NBA playoffs. Miller — who spent his entire career with the Indiana Pacers — played into the rivalry, and sports history was made.
Stream It! Buy on Amazon.
The Last Gladiators
Enforcers, though unofficial, have a prominent role on most NHL teams: sometimes dubbed goons, they represent the more violent nature of hockey. The Last Gladiators explores those men, and particularly highlights Chris “Knuckles” Nilan, who spent his career with the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers.
Stream It! Rent on iTunes.
Another Oscar-winning addition to the list, Undefeated plays out like a real-life Friday Night Lights for underdogs as it follows the football team at Manassas High School in North Memphis, Tennessee, in their efforts to finally win a playoff.
Andre the Giant
WWE legend André the Giant’s career in the ring and turns on the big screen are profiled in this HBO documentary named for its subject.
Ken Burns’ Baseball
Ken Burns’ lengthy series on the history of America’s national pastime is currently streaming for free, thanks to the director, himself. Tweeted Burns, “With events canceled & so much closed, I asked @PBS to stream BASEBALL for free so we can participate in the national pastime together. Watch at the link below or on any streaming device. And please look out for those with greater needs. Play ball.”
Stream It! Stream on PBS.
If you somehow missed the fervor over Cheer earlier this year, now is the perfect time to get on board. The Navarro College cheerleading team’s journey to a national championship last year is an emotional one — and proof that the sport is just as rigorous and dangerous as the ones that get more air-time.
Of Miracles and Men
We all know the “Miracle on Ice” — America’s hockey defeat of the then-Soviet Union at 1980 Winter Olympics. The moment was turned into a classic Disney film. But this documentary from ESPN tells the story of probably the greatest upset in sports history from the Soviets’ perspective — and the lasting aftermath of the loss when they returned home.
Stream It! Stream on ESPN+.