5 inspiring sports documentaries we can't wait to see
From hoop dreams to last-chance redemption, these films have us rooting for the underdogs.
The world of sport offers up some of the most exciting and thrilling moments imaginable. But it's not just the game itself. It's often the story behind that pivotal play or the moments off the field that capture our attention. And with the popularity of ESPN's "30 for 30" series, sports documentaries have been transformed into destination viewing.
The alluring attraction of sports movies is their ability to hold sway across the demographic spectrum. Even those not regularly attune to the sporting world can get wrapped up in the inspiring tale of a rookie who makes it the majors, or a scrappy down-on-their-luck team who overcomes the impossible to compete in the championships. Sports documentaries, more than any other film genre, have a special way of inspiring viewers with their true tales of grit, hard work and passion.
Below, we round up five new documentaries that are on our must-watch list for the season.
'Last Chance U'
This new Netflix documentary series follows the football team at Eastern Mississippi Community College (EMCC) for a season as they attempt to win their third consecutive national championship in their Junior College league. What makes this team so unusual is who it's composed of: former Division 1 players who have been kicked off their team for academic or behavioral issues and have gone to EMCC for one last chance at redemption. Imagine if you merged "Friday Night Lights" with "The Blind Side" and you'll kind of get an idea of what this six-part documentary is all about. Critics are already hailing it as "compelling" and "binge-worthy."
'On the Map'
We've all heard of the "Miracle on Ice" hockey game between the U.S. and the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympic Games. But have you heard of a "Miracle on Hardwood"? A documentary called "On the Map," now showing at film festivals and in theaters later this year, tells the story of the 1977 Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team from Israel that made history by defeating the four-time defending champion Soviets and winning the European title. "They won the championship five times since then," director Dani Menkin told From The Grapevine. "They became one of the strongest basketball teams outside of the NBA." Adds legendary basketball player Bill Walton, who was the NBA MVP that fateful year: "It is easily one of the greatest sporting accomplishments ever."
Serena Williams is the No. 1 female tennis player in the world. Along with her sister Venus, she's been in the spotlight for more than a decade. Last year, she was named "Sportsperson of the Year" by Sports Illustrated magazine. So it would be safe to assume that we think we know her. Well, think again. In this engaging new documentary, narrated by Williams herself, the filmmakers follow Williams around for most of 2015 as she attempts to win her fourth Grand Slam title. But we see more than just her tennis prowess. Behind-the-scenes access gives viewers a closer look at all sides of her life as an athlete, designer, businesswoman and role model. "The fly-on-the-wall approach reveals a soft, sarcastic side to Williams few are familiar with," wrote USA Today.
This new documentary from Britain marks the 50th anniversary of England's victory in the 1966 World Cup, and uncovers the truth behind the man who led them to victory. The film is a deeply moving portrait of soccer icon Bobby Moore who gained international stardom – hanging out with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Future James Bond Sean Connery used to babysit for Moore's kids. But once he was out of the limelight, it was a different story altogether. He was shunned by the game and by the very people who once adored him. The story is told by his current wife and ex-wife, his friends and fans (including legendary soccer player Pelé), whose words are mixed with as-yet-unseen archive footage. As Russell Brand, a fan of Moore's, says in the movie: "Some people are knighted by monarchs and other people are knighted by the people."
Fans of the 2005 documentary "Murderball" about physically disabled athletes who play wheelchair rugby have something new to cheer about. "The Rebound" chronicles a season in the life of a Miami wheelchair basketball team on their quest to win the national championship title. (Don't worry, we won't give away the ending.) First-time filmmakers Shaina Allen and Michael Esposito step deep inside the lives of three players as they respond to adversity and find an extraordinary gift in the hand life has dealt them. They hope for an education, a big break and a new life. Wrote the Miami Herald: "The secret weapon of 'The Rebound' – the reason why this movie affects you so deeply, even if you don’t care about sports – lies within the personal stories of the players."
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