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10 of the best sports films to watch on Netflix

With the Coronavirus outbreak causing people to stay in doors, catching up with great movies and documentaries is one recommended way to kill the time.

A documentary on Katie Taylor makes our list.
A documentary on Katie Taylor makes our list.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

N.B. In no particular order

1. Maradona in Mexico

Director: Angus Macqueen

Premise: An intimate look at the year Argentine football legend Diego Maradona spent as manager of Mexican side Dorados de Sinaloa.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: n/a

Sample review: “These films explore real-life Diego: fervent, complex, charming, impassioned, sentimental and endearingly unhinged. For someone – which I am – who watched Maradona every other Sunday in Naples for two years, drop-jawed, it’s this footage from Mexico that achieves riveting insight, eyeball-to-eyeball.” – The Guardian.

2. The Fighter

Director: David O Russell

Premise: The story of ‘Irish’ Micky Ward, a junior welterweight champion, with the film documenting his remarkable rise in spite of a turbulent life away from the ring.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 91%

Sample review: “The Fighter is, if not a champion film for all time, a very good, poignant, and commendable expression of its era-postindustrial working-class urban America, bereft of history as it is bereft of jobs, strong unions, pride in one’s work.” The New York Review of Books

3. Icarus

Director: Bryan Fogel

Premise: A documentary on how easy it is to break anti-doping rules in cycling suddenly becomes a far bigger story, involving an alleged systematic doping programme in Russia.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 94%

Sample review: ”If you want insight into cheating in sports and the complicated reasons why it happens over and over, Icarus will open your eyes as never before. It is essential viewing for anyone interested in athletics or competitive sports of any type.” The Globe and Mail

4. High Flying Bird

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Premise: A drama based on the 2011 NBA lockout, portraying the figures on both sides attempting to solve this sporting crisis and highlighting the long-term impact the saga has had on professional basketball.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 93%

Sample review: “The actors here, particularly Holland, speak with a relish Soderbergh usually saves for his heist capers. And though much lighter on the action, High Flying Bird still has the pace and feel of one.” Vanity Fair

5. Katie

Director: Ross Whitaker

Premise: A captivating look at the rise of the young Taylor who emerged from an era in which women’s boxing was banned in Ireland, as she defied sexist attitudes along the way and ultimately becoming a sporting icon.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 100%

Sample review: “Buffed with stirring fight sequences, the picture stands as a polite argument for the greatness of a figure almost everyone already loves.” Irish Times

6. Moneyball

Director: Bennett Miller

Premise: A well-executed adaptation of Michael Lewis’ non-fiction best seller, the story of how the general manager of the Oakland Athletics turned a struggling side with a lack of resources into a revolutionary baseball team.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 94%

Sample review: “Consistently exciting and highly intelligent, as you might expect from a script by Steve Zaillian, who wrote Schindler’s List, and Aaron Sorkin, who created The West Wing and won an Oscar for The Social Network.” The Observer

7. Sunderland ‘Til I Die

Director: Various

Premise: A comprehensive and insightful multi-part documentary looking at Sunderland’s ill-fated 2017-18 season, highlighting how the club’s campaign began with heady optimism and soon turned gloomy, while documenting the people affected along the way.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 100%

Sample review: “Maybe the best thing ‘Til I Die does is center the experience of people who love a club whose modern history has been largely defined by crisis, dysfunction, and imminent misery.” The Ringer

8. Rush

Director: Ron Howard

Premise: A movie based on the real-life story of the intense and bitter rivalry between Formula One legends James Hunt and Niki Lauda, with no shortage of twists and turns — literally and figuratively — along the way.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 88%

Sample review: “If you don’t already know the story of that season, lucky you; even now, it exerts a ridiculous thrill.” The New Yorker

9. Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez

Director: Geno McDermott 

Premise: The tragic story of former NFL star Aaron Hernandez — how he went from fan favourite to convicted killer and the underlying issues that contributed to his dramatic descent.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 73%

Sample review: “Killer Inside” puts a finer point on how living in the closet could have contributed to Hernandez’s volatile mental state… But perhaps more captivatingly, “Killer Inside” takes an objective look at chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).” Salon.com

10. Friday Night Lights

Director: Peter Berg

Premise: Based on the acclaimed book by Buzz Bissinger, the movie follows a high-school football team in the Texas city of Odessa, documenting their attempts to win the state championship and the various challenges they must overcome on and off the field.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 81%

Sample review: “The best sports movie for years, as it’s not about sport at all. Forget fears of jingoistic grandstanding, this is an un-American all-American tale that deserves attention.” Empire Magazine

Let us know some of your favourite sports films in the comment section below.

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