19 great sports documentaries to stream in Canada right now

Alex Honnold attempts to climb El Capitan without ropes in the documentary Free Solo. (National Geographic)

There may be no live sports right now, but there is tons of long-form sports content — if you know where to find it. To that end, we cross-referenced a bunch of the best sports documentaries with Canada’s various streaming services, and came up with the following list of recommendations.

Note: This list doesn’t represent all the great sports documentaries available to stream right now. In fact, it’s just scratching the surface. If you have recommendations of your own, let us know in the comments. We’re all in this together, after all.

1. Andre the Giant
Where to Stream: Crave

This film made a kind of water-cooler splash when it came out in 2018. As the title suggests, it examines the life of Andre the Giant, one of the most beloved figures in WWE history.

2. At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal
Where to Stream: Crave

If you ever wanted to see what an institution’s total failure to protect those most vulnerable in its community looks like, here you go. The film follows the Larry Nassar USA Gymnastics sexual-abuse scandal and how it persisted for as long as it did.

3. The Carter Effect
Where to Stream: Netflix

Vince Carter may have just taken his last shot in the NBA. Feels like prime time to review the 2017 documentary looking at the impact Carter and his time with the Toronto Raptors had on Canada as a whole.

4. Diego Maradona
Where to Stream: Crave

One of the newest docs on this list, Diego Maradona looks at the soccer legend’s time with Napoli after his transfer from FC Barcelona.

5. Facing Ali
Where to Stream: Prime Video

Based on a Stephen Brunt book of the same name, this film is a look at Muhammad Ali through the eyes of the men he fought, from George Foreman to Canadian boxing legend George Chuvalo.

6. Finding Big Country
Where to Stream: YouTube

True story: When I was 16, you could go to McDonald’s around B.C. and get fries in an extra-large drink cup. They called them Big Country Fries, after Vancouver Grizzlies centre Bryant Reeves, the subject of this documentary. Eventually, both the fries promotion and Big Country himself disappeared — this doc follows one filmmaker’s attempt to track down the latter.

7. Free Solo
Where to Stream: Disney+

Climbing El Capitan, the famous rock formation in Yosemite, is difficult. Climbing anything without ropes feels inadvisable. Climbing El Capitan without ropes is … what world-famous free climber Alex Honnold attempts to do in this frequently heart-stopping film.

8. GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling
Where to Stream: Netflix, Hoopla

“Hey, Sportsnet — nice list. You included a documentary that’s actually a fictional series.” Not so! Well, not only so. The Netflix series GLOW is based on a true story, which also happens to be the focus of this 2012 documentary.

9. Hoop Dreams
Where to Stream: Prime Video

A stone-cold classic. Hoop Dreams centres on two African-American teenagers, William Gates and Arthur Agee, as they enrol at a mostly white high school in an effort to achieve the long-term goal of making the NBA. Siskel and Ebert each called it the best film of 1994.

10. Icarus
Where to Stream: Netflix

A movie you kind of need to see to believe, featuring both a personal exploration of doping in sport and a close-up look at the biggest doping scandal in history.

11. Ice Guardians
Where to Stream: Netflix

Just four years old, this film looks at the lives of NHL enforcers from Kevin Westgarth to Brian McGrattan, and chronicles the end of the enforcer role as we knew it. A must watch for anyone on either side of the “fighting in hockey” debate.

12. Iverson
Where to Stream: Netflix

If you’re a casual observer of Allen Iverson — the master of the crossover, and one of the most watchable and entertaining basketball players of all time — his back story will probably blow you away. This documentary covers his rise and career, and there’s a whole lot there.

13. King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Where to Stream: Prime Video

I don’t want to have the “Are video games sports?” debate. I just want to recommend this documentary about two grown men battling it out for the best Donkey Kong score.

14. Lindsey Vonn: The Final Season
Where to Stream: Crave

Her name is beyond familiar to anyone who watched the last several Winter Olympics. This film follows the final season of Vonn’s career as she tries to break Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark’s record for most World Cup wins.

15. No No: A Dockumentary
Where to Stream: Prime Video

This focuses on former MLB pitcher Dock Ellis (hence the “Dockumentary”), from his life in the game, to the racism he dealt with on and off the field, to the no-hitter he pitched while high on LSD in 1970.

16. The Russian Five
Where to Stream: Hoopla

If it’s good enough for Elliotte Friedman — who described this as a doc “about the Detroit Red Wings unit that changed the NHL forever” — it’s good enough for me.

17. Senna
Where to Stream: Prime Video

A look at the life of F1 legend Ayrton Senna from his earliest go-cart races, to his rivalry with Alain Prost and beyond. From personal experience, it’s incredible even if you know absolutely nothing about any of that going in.

18. The Short Game
Where to Stream: Netflix

In the vein of Spellbound (the classic documentary about the Cripps Spelling Bee, which you can stream on Hoopla), this follows eight seven- and eight-year-old golfers as they prep for and compete in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship.

19. Student Athlete
Where to Stream: Crave

This week should’ve marked the start of March Madness, one of the biggest events on the sporting calendar — which is a perfect jumping-off point for us here. This LeBron James-produced documentary, released in 2018, looks at the big business of American college sports and the lack of compensation for the athletes that fuel it.

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