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The Best of Sports Documentaries


3. All or Nothing: Manchester City

Symposia : 8.0/10

IMDb : 8.2/10

Amazon's ‘All or Nothing’ sports-documentary franchise goes behind the scenes on several clubs from various leagues. This particular series about the legendary club, Manchester City, stands out as the viewers are taken along on one of its most historic Premier League title charges. The series encapsulates every detail of the 2017-18 season where City dominate English football as they break a series of records and win 2 of the 4 leagues they participate in.

Have you ever wondered what the coach said at the halftime that revolutionized the team's performance in the following half? Have you ever wondered how and why a particular player was signed? Have you ever wondered how the best premier league players celebrate winning the title? Well, the answers to these, and several other questions, have been communicated in this documentary. The viewing experience has been made enthralling by the ‘All or Nothing’ crew that breaks all bounds by showcasing the operations of the club, how they deal with problems, the cruel process of scouting players and the endless drama as the team tackles highs and lows. The docuseries provides exclusive access to the players’ personal lives, their adventures off the pitch and their game of hide and seek in Abu Dhabi.

The passion of the players, staff and coaches is not restricted to the screen you’re watching on. This extremely well produced series breaks the fourth wall and makes you a part of the city squad through the wins, losses and their stress as they tailor their fitness and football while participating in games week in week out. The show is definitely a pleasurable experience for the football fans watching, but an equally majestic one for those unfamiliar with the sport. ‘All or Nothing: Manchester City’ is a fun filled docuseries that reveals the submerged part of the iceberg, and is a documentary I can watch countless times.

2. The Last Dance

Symposia : 8.5/10

IMDb : 9.1/10

In recent years we have been flooded with sports documentaries as various teams grant access to the inner workings of their respective clubs. These documentaries throw light on the operations and what goes on behind closed doors. However, with ‘The Last Dance’ and its focus on the star-studded Chicago Bulls team of the 1990s, Netflix has provided us with a sports documentary that has something over all of the others - a team which can hold claim to be one of the best sporting teams in history.

The 10-part docuseries charts the rise of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1990’s where the historical team won 6 NBA titles in 8 years. The focal point is essentially on their 1997-98 season where they secured the 6th championship title and completed their second threepeat. This was referred to as ‘The Last Dance’ by hall of famer coach of the time, Phil Jackson. In the 1990s, Michael Jordan was not just the most famous sportsman in the world, he was quite possibly the most famous man in the world. Add to the mix the controversial bad boy Dennis Rodman, the massively underappreciated Scottie Pippen, legendary head coach Phil Jackson and the pantomime villain in General Manager Jerry Krause and you get the perfect line up for a sports documentary. Using the film footage of the 1990’s, back when there was no intention of making a blockbuster series out of it, allowed Netflix to showcase their highs and lows transparently. This is supported by interviews of the legends in the present day as they take a trip down the memory lane guiding the viewers along the happenings of the 1997 Bulls team.

The ONLY negative I would say, and it is a big one, is that unlike other sporting docs, you really need to be a fan of Basketball to fully appreciate and understand the series. Nevertheless, it is still something anyone can enjoy as the episodes only seem to get better than the last, making you a part of the vulnerabilities they faced and the adrenaline they felt. It is a doorway to live the untold story of the greatest player of all time, MJ23.

1. Formula 1: Drive to Survive

Symposia’s rating: 8.8/10

IMDb’s rating: 8.7/10

This Netflix original on the riskiest, costliest and fastest sport on the planet, Formula 1, is the best sports documentary I have come across. Becoming one of the most expensive documentaries the streaming platform has ever made, I can confidently say that their investment paid off.

F1 is a sport where a million different factors come into play simultaneously. With an overwhelming number of rules involved and unpredictable outcomes of races, it happens to be a sport that any individual takes a long time to grasp. ‘Drive to Survive’ solves just that by walking you through the sport in the most detailed way possible; entering the world of the teams outside of the track and taking you along on a world tour as the racers participate in approximately 20 grand prix throughout the season.

There are a few standout factors that give ‘Drive to Survive’ an edge over other sports documentaries. Firstly, unlike many, this doc does not present the journey of one particular racing team, but the whole championship, exploring the views and standpoints of all 10 teams. Secondly, something different and new that Netflix has incorporated in ‘Drive to Survive’ that makes it so fun, is keeping it unfiltered. The racers and team managers haven’t been told to speak or act a certain way, giving them complete freedom as to what they want to show the world. This adds to the drama as teams openly take shots at each other, and respond to circumstances naturally. One thing that I admire about this series is that unlike most film crews, the one in ‘Drive to Survive’ takes on a realistic approach rather than utilising an all omniscient perspective as events unfold. This allows raw emotions to be pictured and also adds slight comic relief to the docuseries.

A few drawbacks that need to be pointed out include the repetitive nature of the show; stories about certain drivers are repeatedly discussed across the 3 seasons. Moreover, the drastic format switch between season 1 and 2 can also be considered a negative from a chronological point of view. Nonetheless, the thrill incited by this all-inclusive depiction of Formula 1 makes this show a must watch even for those who know nothing about F1. This series truly captures the unadulterated drama of F1, shining a light on various stories that bring out the high-octane nature of the sport.

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