Most inspirational sports movies, series and docs available for streaming


"Kobe Bryant's Muse" is a documentary about the Los Angeles Lakers great that aired on Showtime. SHOWTIME Sports

Sports junkies aren’t satisfied with just watching games and sports coverage. They need more, which is where streaming services come to the rescue with top-notch sports documentaries, dramas and television series that inspire passion and action.

There's just something about seeing the hard work, dedication and difficulties people must move past to achieve success, whether we're talking true stories or fictional characters. Nowhere is this more true than in sports.

Here are 20 of the most inspirational sports viewing options available on streaming.

"Creed"

If you have somehow managed to avoid Michael B. Jordan’s extraordinary acting, choose "Creed" as your introduction to his work. Jordan teamed back up with director Ryan Coogler, whom he worked with on "Fruitvale Station" in 2013. 

Jordan plays Adonis Johnson, Apollo Creed’s son, and Sylvester Stallone reprises his role as Rocky Balboa. The film balances the firepower of the Rocky franchise while achieving its own nuance in self-identity versus family legacy.

Available on: Amazon Prime, Hulu

"Gleason"

Steve Gleason’s name first came to prominence in 2006 when he blocked a punt during the New Orleans Saints' first game back since Hurricane Katrina. For most people, that would be it: a name mostly recognized for a heroic football act. But not Gleason. 

Gleason is most known now for his battle with ALS, efforts to raise awareness and funds for ALS, and attitude through it all. "Gleason" is a documentary about ALS and a relationship between father, who doesn’t know how much longer he’ll be here, and son, who is too young to remember his father. Get ready to cry.

Available on: Amazon Prime

"Forever Strong"

This 2008 film centers around rugby, but rugby is just the vehicle for a story about a young boy, juvenile detention and a new life born through sport. There are not many sports films made about rugby so, if nothing else, this watch is a palette cleanser with inspirational elements. 

Though rugby is an unfamiliar sport in America, there are familiar faces in the cast: Penn Badgley ("Gossip Girl"), Gary Cole ("Dodgeball," "Talladega Nights"), Sean Astin ("Lord of the Rings," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "Stranger Things") and Neal McDonough ("Arrow," "Suits").

Available on: Netflix

"Friday Night Lights"

If you have gone this long without Coach Taylor, Tim Riggins and the wonderful world of Dillon Panthers high school football in Texas, that is a feat — a sad feat, but a feat. Take the time to binge-watch all five seasons of "Friday Night Lights" from start to finish. It’s got Texas high school football, relationship drama and sociological elements. 

The series is a spinoff of 2004 film by the same name, which was inspired by a Buzz Bissinger’s non-fiction book.

Available on: Netflix

"Invincible"

"Invincible" is a 2006 Disney movie based on the true story of former Philadelphia Eagles fan-turned-player Vince Papale. 

In the 1970s, head coach Dick Vermeil held an open tryout — that part is true. Papale (played by Mark Wahlberg) is a bartender who makes the cut — that part is also true. There are creative liberties taken between what happened in real life and what happens in the movie, but it's an inspirational and entertaining film nonetheless.

Available on: Netflix

"Pitch"

The future of FOX series "Pitch" is unclear, but season 1 episodes that have already aired are now available to watch on Hulu. The series’ premise follows the MLB’s first woman to play in the MLB, pitcher Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury) and all that comes with defying any barrier.

Available on: Hulu

"Southpaw"

There have been many movies about boxers and fighters, and "Southpaw" follows a similar stencil: Former champion Billy Hope’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) life intersects with tragedy, and he has to decide whether he wants to keep fighting. 

The trailer shows Hope’s wife (played by Rachel McAdams) dying and an uncertain future surrounding custody of his daughter.

Available on: Amazon Prime, Hulu, Showtime 

"Iverson"

In the present world, the strong connection between basketball and hip-hop goes without saying. That's thanks largely to Allen Iverson. "Iverson," originally debuting in May 2016 on Showtime, is the documentary chronicling the life and career of the Hall of Fame guard who influenced, and continues to influence, the NBA.

And yes, it includes his infamous press conference practice rant.

Available on: Netflix, Showtime

"T-Rex"

Perhaps the only thing better than an underdog story is an underdog story that not many people even know about. "T-Rex" is a doc about 17-year-old (at the time of release) boxer Claressa Shields. The documentary was released in March 2015 and follows Shields as she fights to become the world’s youngest female Olympic boxer. Spoiler alert: Shields won gold as a middleweight boxer at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

Even knowing the results, watching Shields’ unusual path from Flint, Mich., to the top is worth the watch.

Available on: Netflix

"The Hurt Business"

MMA has entered the mainstream. Every UFC fight night is glamorized because at the top of the sport life is mostly glamorous. But Vlad Yudin’s documentary "The Hurt Business" puts a camera on every aspect of life as a professional fighter, including risks of brain trauma, Jon “Bones” Jones, Ronda Rousey and the definitely not glamorous life before hitting it big.

Available on: Netflix 

"Nash"

Steve Nash is one of the best point guards to ever play in the NBA. The two-time league MVP last played in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2013-14 season, but this documentary explores all of Nash’s dimensions — featuring contributions from David Beckham, Kobe Bryant, Owen Wilson and Snoop Dogg.

Watch the highlights of Nash’s basketball life as well as shades of his pursuits in activism and filmmaking. The documentary was released in 2013, after one season with the Lakers.

Available on: Netflix

"Further"

Quite literally off the beaten path, this 2012 snowboarding documentary takes you deep into the mountains. "Further" is the middle film in a trilogy of documentaries ("Deeper," "Further," "Higher") focused on unharmed terrain by extreme snowboarder Jeremy Jones. Jones was recently severely injured in the backcountry of Utah in January.

Watch as Jones battles the elements only to reach the highest point of euphoria while riding freely down dangerous mountains in Japan.

Available on: Netflix 

"Cristiano Ronaldo: The World at His Feet"

Cristiano Ronaldo is soccer’s prettiest boy, not to mention one of the best players in the world, but he’s usually seen first as really pretty. "Cristiano Ronaldo: The World at His Feet" allows people to see behind the aesthetic and into him as a human being. The documentary was released in 2014, a precursor to "Ronaldo" released in November 2015 worldwide.

Available on: Amazon Prime 

"All or Nothing: A Season with the Arizona Cardinals"

If you’re an Arizona Cardinals fan, or an intense NFL fan, this series is for you even though it might be a bit outdated chronicling the team’s 2016 preseason. Heading into the 2016 NFL season, the Cardinals were highly touted as a Super Bowl contender, which would make this docu-series enticing at the time it was released in June 2016. The season did not play out that way as Arizona finished 7-8-1.

Nonetheless, characters Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Bruce Arians provide entertainment at any viewing time.

Available on: Amazon Prime

"The Other Kids"

Spend an hour watching "The Other Kids" juxtapose some the poorest children in the world with some of soccer’s biggest stars, such as Fernando Torres, through a common love for the sport. The film opens with a Nelson Mandela quote: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers.”

An interview with Torres transitions to a small boy walking up a pile of rubble wearing a Torres jersey, and the next 54 minutes live up to that opening in beautiful fashion.

Available on: Amazon Prime

"O.J.: Made in America"

No synopsis written here can match the magnitude of this Ezra Edelman eight-hour opus or what has been written about "O.J.: Made in America" already. This is the only program on this list nominated for the best Documentary (Feature) award at the Oscarsmarking the first of any ESPN documentary to be nominated for an Oscar, and ultimately taking home an Oscar.

It has been a little over 22 years since O.J. Simpson was controversially acquitted in the “trial of the century” to determine who murdered Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. And yet, it took until 2017 for someone to make something that totally encapsulates every aspect of life before the trial, during the trial and downward turn after the trial. This documentary is about Simpson and the trial, but it is also about the culture America created that largely allowed Simpson to walk free.

Available on: Hulu

"Kobe Bryant’s Muse"

Kobe Bryant’s self-produced documentary "Muse" was released in 2015. The documentary explores all facets of Bryant’s life in the spotlight, including his childhood in Italy, brief rap career, alleged rape charge and reconciliation with his wife afterward. Of course, there is also basketball. Lots of basketball.

Available on: Hulu, Showtime

"Serena: The Other Side of Greatness"

Serena Williams is the greatest tennis player on Earth. This is not subjective at this point in her career. But what does the world really know about Williams without a racket? Enter: EPIX documentary "Serena: The Other Side of Greatness." She is funny, complex and worth the watch.

Available on: Hulu

"More Than a Game"

Yes, LeBron James is one of the most covered athletes of our time. There is very little we don’t know about his career and life journey up to this point. But now that he has brought his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers an NBA championship and lived up to all of the hype that surrounded him as a teenager, the 2008 documentary "More Than a Game" is even more interesting to view in retrospect. 

The documentary captures James and his four teammates and best friends at his high school, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio.

Available on: Hulu

"WIN!"

As the 2017 MLS season kicks off with two more clubs (Minnesota United FC and Atlanta United FC) set to join the league, "WIN!" is a timely watch. The documentary was selected for the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016 and focuses on New York City FC as it joined MLS in 2015. Even if you’re not a soccer fan, the film gives an interesting behind-the-scenes perspective of what it really takes to build a sports franchise from scratch.

Available on: Hulu

"Slam"

This Italian Netflix original (adapted from Nick Hornby’s 2009 novel by the same name)  is about skateboarding sort of in the way Juno was about Paulie Bleeker’s cross country career, only Slam adds the element of idolatry. Our main character is 16-year-old Sam, who loves skateboarding and takes Tony Hawk’s autobiography as gospel even as he gets his girlfriend pregnant. Everything about this movie is a passive and entertaining watch tapping into the personal role athletes have in their fans’ lives, except for it being in Italian and requiring you to read subtitles. 

Available on Netflix

"From the Rough"

Disclaimer: this will not be the best movie you’ve ever seen. But if Taraji P. Henson is in anything, I will recommend you watch it. If Taraji P. Henson stars alongside Tom Felton (best known for his portrayal as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series) in a movie about golf, I will definitely recommend you watch it. 

Henson plays Catana Starks, who was the first African-American woman to coach a men’s collegiate golf team. Felton, one of the Tennessee State University golf team members who joins Starks on an improbable journey to the top of men’s collegiate golf.

Available on Netflix

"Trouble With The Curve"

In this 2012 baseball film, Clint Eastwood stars as Gus Lobel, an aging and legendary baseball scout who struggles to accept that the game has passed him by. To top it off, his daughter (Amy Adams) feels like she has always been the one prospect her father never took an interest in. Nonetheless, she is following in his footsteps. The movie follows Gus coming to terms with the end of his career and attempting to mend his relationship with his daughter on one last scouting trip. Oh, and if that doesn’t sell you, Justin Timberlake plays a crucial supporting role.

Available on Netflix

"Big Fan"

Comedian Patton Oswalt stars as New York Giants superfan, Paul Aufiero. Paul is an attendant at a parking garage, still lives at home with his mom and generally experiences all of the least glamorous aspects of life. The one thing he has is the Giants. And then, one night, a New York Giant is in his neighborhood and he can’t help but follow him. The 2009 movie follows how a fan approaches a chance encounter with a hero.

Available on Amazon Prime

Megan Armstrong (@megankarmstrong) is a writer with previous works appearing in places such as Bleacher Report, MTV, espnW, Sports Illustrated and others. She's constantly taking what the world gives us and re-expressing it in fresh ways.

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QUIZ: Name the athletes who appeared in these movies

Can you name the famous athlete that was in each of the listed movies?

Note: Excludes athletes in primarily athletic roles - hence no Space Jam. Also list is limited one movie per athlete.

 

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Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Dan Marino
Airplane!
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Any Given Sunday
Lawrence Taylor
Black & White
Allan Houston
Blazing Saddles
Alex Karras
Cannonball Run
Terry Bradshaw
Conan The Destroyer
Wilt Chamberlain
The Dark Knight Rises
Hines Ward
The Dirty Dozen
Jim Brown
Dodgeball
Lance Armstrong
Dumb And Dumber
Cam Neely
Ernest Goes To Camp
Lyle Alzado
Fast Break
Bernard King
Fast & Furious 6
Gina Carano
Furious 7
Ronda Rousey
Goon
Georges Laraque
The Goonies
John Matuszak
The Hangover
Mike Tyson
Happy Gilmore
Lee Trevino
He Got Game
Ray Allen
Holes
Rick Fox
Kicking And Screaming
Mike Ditka
Kingpin
Roger Clemens
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Vinnie Jones
The Long Goodbye
Jim Bouton
Major League
Bob Uecker
Men In Black
Bernard Gilkey
My Giant
Gheorghe Muresan
The Naked Gun
Reggie Jackson
On The Right Track
Bill Russell
The Other Guys
Derek Jeter
Philadelphia
Julius Erving
Pitch Perfect 2
Clay Matthews
Police Academy
Bubba Smith
Scrooged
Mary Lou Retton
Senseless
Patrick Ewing
Singles
Xavier McDaniel
Smokey And the Bandit
Joe Klecko
Spiderman
Randy Savage
Stone Cold
Brian Bosworth
Talladega Nights
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Tarzan
Johnny Weissmuller
Ted
Shawn Thornton
Ted 2
Tom Brady
That’s My Boy
Rex Ryan
There's Something About Mary
Brett Favre
Thunderstruck
Kevin Durant
The Towering Inferno
O.J. Simpson
Trainwreck
LeBron James
Van Wilder
Darius Miles
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