There's been a real boom in the quality of sporting documentaries over recent years and 2021 was no different. We’ve been treated to a plethora of top quality docs over the last 12 months from in-depth profiles of the biggest stars to deep dives into the darker side of sport. But which are the best? Below we pick out five of our favourites from the past year…
This two-part documentary which landed on Sky in January gives unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to the life and times of one of sport’s greatest modern day icons, Tiger Woods.
Chronicling the 15-time Major winner’s transformation from prodigy into bona fide superstar, his fall from grace and subsequent return to the top at the 2019 Masters tournament, the documentary brings in a number of figures who have spent time with the legend, including former caddy and friend Steve Williams, Sir Nick Faldo and, for the first time, Rachel Uchitel, the woman at the centre of the scandal that nearly ended Tiger’s career.
Approaching a quarter of a century since he stunned the world by winning the 1997 Masters, Tiger Woods remains as captivating as ever.
Bruno vs Tyson
Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald and Benjamin Hirsch, Bruno vs Tyson portrays the highs and lows of one of the heavyweight division’s most fondly remembered rivalries in recent memory.
The battle between The Baddest Man on the Planet and Britain’s gentle giant made for a stark contrast when Mike Tyson and Frank Bruno fought two heavyweight classics in 1989 and 1996, respectively, but in many ways, as shown in this documentary, they were very much two sides of the same coin. The documentary is capped off with a brilliant reunion between the two, and the respect on show between the two former prizefighters is a sight to behold.
Netflix’s Untold: Malice In The Palace
It feels like a lifetime since those early days of the pandemic when many of us became completely obsessed with Netflix’s excellent NBA docuseries The Last Dance. It captured the imaginations of sports fans across the globe and like The Tiger King, with as much mayhem and nearly as many bad haircuts (we’re looking at you, Dennis Rodman), the series provided a perfect antidote for the self-isolation blues many of us were dealt with in the wake of Covid-19.
The popularity of The Last Dance showed there was hunger for more high-quality basketball docs and that appetite was satisfied somewhat with Untold: Malice In the Palace. The opening episode of this excellent five-part series from streaming giants Netflix tells the story of the infamous 2004 match between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, and its subsequent court-wide brawl, which could be the most bonkers NBA clash ever.
The documentary doesn’t change the narrative of what happened 17 years ago, but it does a great job of showing us the full picture, presenting all the facts without any of the speculation.
Bad Sport: Volume 1
Similar to the aforementioned Untold series, Bad Sport, also a Netflix exclusive, is another that takes a look at the murkier side of the sporting world, examining controversies with firsthand accounts from those involved. From the scandal that rocked Italian football to motorsport superstars who run marijuana rackets - there’s something for everyone.
Our particular favourite episode of the series is entitled “Hoop Schemes.” The series' opener gives us viewers a fascinating insight into the gamblers and players involved in a 1994 Arizona State basketball point-shaving scandal.
Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In
A compelling look at the Premier League’s greatest ever manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. This documentary, directed by Ferguson’s son Jason and produced by BAFTA award-winner and Danny Boyle collaborator Andrew Macdonald, tells the story of the Scotsmans’s rise from his working class upbringing in Govan to becoming one of the most celebrated coaches of all-time, as well as his recovery from a 2018 brain haemorrhage.
Ferguson’s story is one that is tailor-made for Hollywood and this documentary does an incredible job at telling the story of a man whose mark on the beautiful game will be felt forever.