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10 Documentaries Every Athlete Should Watch

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Documentaries can be a great way to get some insight on a topic you may have had no interest in prior to watching it. I personally love watching documentaries and have spent enough time watching the endless amounts of documentaries on things that have nothing to do with sports but I have also spent even more time watching sport related documentaries.

I am not some movie critic but the following documentaries are just a snapshot of ones that provided me with deeper insight into the sports they cover and even provided me with some valuable life lessons you can use as you move forward.

Icarus

This documentary took Netflix by storm this past year. It is an amazing documentary that takes a look at doping in cycling and then takes an entirely different turn. I will not spoil it for anyone who has not had the pleasure of watching it.

But this documentary shows just how important sport is, the impact it has on lives in many countries and how important it may be for them to be on top of the world. The lengths they will go to in order to be respected on the world stage of athletics.

Outside of the crazy drama, this documentary portrays it is one of the better filmed, produced, and edited works I have watched. One of the best documentaries I have had the pleasure of watching.

The Smashing Machine

For my MMA fans out there this documentary is one of the best combat sports documentaries out there. I found this documentary by accident on youtube if I am being totally honest.

Mark Kerr was a formidable fighter, win match after match with very little trouble. This man had such a bright future when it came to fighting. However, he got bit by the synthetic opioid bug. These pain medications allowed Mark to get hit and not feel it and keep moving forward against his opponents. This grew into a serious addiction that consumed his life.

This documentary will give you a look at what pain medications can do to you whether you are an athlete or not.

Unforgivable Blackness

Probably one of the best boxing documentaries on the planet. This documentary brings to light the first African American heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson was an amazing boxer as well as an amazing person. Amazing in the sense that he did not care what anyone said about him.

He was a man on a mission to be the best boxer on the planet and was not about to sit there and allow the color of his skin define him. He lived in a time where being black was a prison, a sentence that forced them into situations that are sub-human. Jack Johnson did not accept that fate by any means. He lived on his terms and dared anyone to stop him.

This documentary tells the life story of Jack Johnson, his triumphant climb, and his tradgic fall. His indomitable spirit and his lust for life.

Facing Ali

There are many documentaries that cover the greatest boxer of all time. Ali was a beacon for many boxers and all athletes for that matter. He took boxing by storm with his skill as well as his smooth trash talking.

This documentary takes a look at Ali from the eyes of his opponents. The men who stood toe to toe with Ali discuss some of their in the rings exchanges. You can see how great he was but also some of the flaws he may have had. This documentary shows how he GOAT was vulnerable and human which is beautiful in my mind.

Tyson

Mike Tyson could have been the best heavyweight to ever step into the ring. He had an unmatched work ethic, and a punch that could knock out an elephant. However, he had his demons. A troubled childhood that haunted him, a death of a father figure that crushed him, and fame and fortune that broke him down.

This documentary is a great look at Mike Tyson’s life from his point of view as well as many of those closest to him. This cautionary tale is great for all athletes looking to see how fame can destroy you and how things that happen in your life could affect you.

Choke

I have watched this documentary 3 times now. This is another MMA documentary that follows Rickson Gracie as he prepares for one of the toughest Mixed Martial Arts Tournaments of the time.

Rickson Gracies comes from a prestigious martial arts family. The Gracie family pioneers Brazilian Ju Jitsu and brought it to America, showing that their brand of fighting could be used to neutralized almost any threat.

This documentary shows the love of family, the use of holistic training, and the love of the sport. Worth a watch for anyone interested in combat sports.

Stop At Nothing

Lance Armstrong, in my opinion, is one of the greatest if not the greatest athlete to ever walk on this planet. The Tour de France is an amazing cycling tournament that spans the country and requires an amazing amount of endurance and downright grit to even finish. However, in the face of doping, and steroids Lance Armstrong did everyone to cover up the usage as well as did whatever it took to stand on the top of that podium 7 times.

This documentary shows a man who was willing to do ANYTHING to win, his morals and ethics were skewed. The reasons are hard to tell but I would venture to say being diagnosed with cancer, having a testicle removed and going through a variety of other surgeries could give one a different look on life. I am not trying to excuse the man’s actions but in a sport where all the top guys were doping, he was the one it all landed on.

This documentary shows his complete lack of leadership and his total dictatorship with his team and teammates. If anything this documentary is a tale on how not to treat those that are on your side and doing whatever they can to get you onto that podium in the first place. A great documentary and story that is worth watching and learning about.

The U

The University of Miami was the center of a racial shift, it was marred by riots and protests. This documentary gives us a look at the evolution of a team. Showing how new coach Howard Shellenberger recruited from some of the toughest Ghettos in Florida. He created a team that changed the swag of the team.

This newly branded team went on to win 4 national championships and forever changed the way the world would look at Hurricanes!

Touching The Void

This movie is not necessarily a documentary is the conventional sense however it is a showcase of one of the most amazing survival stories. Two climbers decide to climb the Siula Grande in Peru. From Basecamp they reach the peak in 3 days but disaster strikes as one of them break their leg. As they make their way back down the mountain A decision has to be made, one that I wish I never have to make.

Man On Wire

Philippe Petit was a brave soul, he loved tightrope walking, juggling, and street performing. In 1974 he and his friends managed to string a rope between the twin towers and performed a 45-minute walk/dance/performance for the city below to watch in amazement.

The walk itself was fantastic, something that you will probably not see again in a lifetime. It is however not the greatest part of this man’s journey. It is how he did it, how he came up with the plan, his downright stubbornness to achieve the feat that is amazing.

He had a dream of performing this walk for years. He wanted to do it so bad that he was willing to do whatever it took to achieve that dream. A lesson that everyone can learn from.

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