Films with a sports theme tend to be more hit than miss, but the documentary genre has a rich catalogue of works to pull you through the pandemic. 

With entertainment options limited, why not kick back with one of these spine-tingling offerings which prove that fact is often more interesting than fiction?


Without doubt, one of the most acclaimed sports documentaries ever made, which depicts the amazing life and tragic death of Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna. The film takes you back to the 1980s when Senna made his mark in the sport and established a fierce rivalry with Frenchman Alain Prost, and continues up to his death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. The documentary is full of archive footage and personal family video clips and received widespread acclaim upon release, winning many awards including the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival.

Watch: Available on Sky Store

Once in a Lifetime

Long before David Beckham led the footballing exile to the USA for the relaunch of Major League Soccer in the USA, there was a thriving football scene, which brought the beautiful game into the mindset of the baseball and basketball-loving Americans. The documentary tells the remarkable tale of the rise and eventual fall of the New York Cosmos, as Brazilian legend and three-time World Cup winner Pele showcased his skill in a star-studded league. The documentary is told by a range of former players, with the notable exception of the aforementioned Pele, and narrated by Hollywood star Matt Dillon.

Watch: Available to rent on


Documenting the story of former NBA basketball player Allen Iverson, this is a remarkable tale of a young child born into poverty in Virginia who went on to become a 11-time All-Star throughout a 14-year career with the Philidelphia 76ers, the Denver Nuggets and the Detroit Pistons. At school, Iverson excelled at both basketball and American football, before going on to a college career at Georgetown. The documentary brings you back to Iverson’s childhood where he was caught up in a bowling alley altercation and was handed a 15-year jail sentence, while always maintaining his innocence. This story is told in Iverson’s own words, which adds to the authenticity, but perhaps weakens the objectivity.

Watch: Available on Netflix

Legendary Nights: The Tale of Gatti-Ward

This documentary tells the story of perhaps the most remarkable boxing match-ups in the history of the sport. The story relives the trilogy of fights between Arturo 'Thunder' Gatti and 'Irish' Micky Ward, which took place between 2002 and 2003 and proved the final three fights of Lowell, Massachusetts’ boxer Ward. The first of the three bouts was named ‘Fight of the Year’ by Ring Magazine, while Ward offers some excellent analysis and honest assessment throughout. The documentary also touches on Gatti’s still unexplained death in 2009. Ward was later portrayed by Mark Wahlberg in the movie ‘The Fighter’, in which Christian Bale won an Oscar for his role as Ward’s half-brother Dicky Eklund.

Watch: Available on Amazon Prime


A big-wave surfing documentary that focuses on the roots of Irish surfing while recalling the story of George Freeth, who is credited as being the ‘father of modern surfing’. Born to a Hawaiian mother and Irish father, Freeth brought surfing to the Californian coast in 1907. The documentary was made back in 2008 as the fledgling surfing scene starting to grow in the west of Ireland and the photography of the big wave surfing off the Irish coast really showcased the country as one of the elite locations in the world. The documentary is beautifully shot and also includes footage of Easkey Britton, the first female to ride the big wave ‘Aill na Searrach’ off the Cliffs of Moher.

Watch: Available on iTunes

The Basque Ball: Skin Against Stone

If you like your sport served up with a large helping of politics, this tale of the Basque Country should be right down your alley – a handball alley as it happens. The sporting aspect centres around the indigenous version of the game of pelota, which is a court sport, not too dissimilar to handball but played with a wooden racket. The political story really is the main player in this one, as the documentary attempts to outline the constitutional situation in the northern region of the Iberian peninsula. A very similar story to that of the north of Ireland, which may require more than a bit of additional reading to comprehend fully. The documentary was written and directed by well-known filmmaker Julio Medem (Lovers of the Arctic Circle, Sex and Lucia). Made in 2003, like most political documentaries, this story is still ongoing and is relevant to all that is going on in Catalonia. Perhaps Pep Guardiola can make the sequel.

Watch: Available on Amazon Prime


The man who drop-kicked Ireland to their first Six Nations Grand Slam in 61 years, and guided his beloved Munster to two European Cups. This documentary follows the final stages of Irish rugby icon Ronan O’Gara’s career, as the 128-capped international went to coach in France. A thoroughly honest account from a no-nonsense son of Cork. Never afraid to offer his thoughts and opinions, ROG gives a great insight into what drives and motivates the now coach and television pundit. The documentary is over four years old now but always interesting, especially as it examined the relationship between O’Gara and successor in the Ireland jersey, Johnny Sexton.

Watch: Available on the RTE Player

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait

However the makers of this documentary got the green light to proceed is remarkable when you consider the premise. The idea of placing a plethora of highly skilled camera operators inside a football stadium with the sole direction to follow one player’s movements for 90 minutes should not really work. Of course, you need a very special subject for such a venture and as it happens they picked the perfect protagonist by focusing on France’s World Cup hero Zinedine Zidane in a club match for Real Madrid at the iconic Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid. What transpired is a mesmeric portrait of one of the world’s greatest and most elegant footballers. And of course, there is a twist.

Watch: Available on iTunes


Talk about being in the right place at the right time. This documentary started out as a curiosity as director Bryan Fogel plotted to win an amateur cycling race with the help of performance enhancing drugs. Fogel hooks up with Russian scientist Grigory Rodchenkov and the rest, as they say, is history, as the filmmaker finds himself in the centre of an international drugs scandal as a result of Russia’s state-sponsored Olympic doping programme. The Russians are still working to clean up their sport and had to compete at the recent Winter Olympics under a neutral flag.

Watch: Available on Netflix

Four Days in October

"How about them Red Sox" is a phrase you might here in and around Boston’s Fenway Park. Not so good, truth be told, for the guts of 85 years up until 2004. And losing 3-0 to fierce rivals, the New York Yankees, in a best of seven World Series eliminator, it looked as though the curse of Babe Ruth was going to continue to haunt Boston’s baseball heroes for yet another year, having not won the blue riband event since 1918. And so Four Days in October begins. The documentary takes you on a journey of the rivalry between the two most famous American sides and the eventual breaking of The Curse. The documentary is one of ESPN’s incredible 30 for 30 series of sports documentaries.

Watch: Available on demand on ESPN