If 2018 Oscar-nominated film I, Tonya, was one of your faves this year, we’ve got some suggestions what to watch next.
It’s been nearly 24 years since that fateful attack at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships left the figure skating community and the United States as a whole in shock. As skater Nancy Kerrigan, who was vying for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, walked down a hallway following practice at a Detroit ice rink, she was attacked in the leg with a police baton by Shane Stant — who was hired to hurt Kerrigan by Jeff Gillooly and Shawn Eckardt, the ex-husband and bodyguard of Kerrigan’s main competitor Tonya Harding, respectively.
While Kerrigan’s leg wasn’t broken in the incident, she was forced to withdraw from the championship, which would determine the U.S. Olympic team. Tonya Harding went on to win the championship and a spot on the Olympic team, while Kerrigan was voted onto the team anyway. Harding was never prosecuted for her potential role in Kerrigan’s attack, but her guilty plea of hindering the prosecution not only ended her career as a skater, it has effectively made her one of the most controversial figures in recent sports history.
With I, Tonya, the new critically acclaimed film, the 1994 event is being revisited — and offers a different look at Harding and what led to the shocking attack. After seeing the film, you’re probably going to have a renewed curiosity in the scandal and others like it.
Part of what led to the Kerrigan attack, mostly through the action of others, was the strive to make Harding the ultimate competitor and top of her field. But the disgraced skater isn’t nearly the first to have the dream of being an Olympian or the best athlete in the world. So, we’ve rounded up a group of documentaries that explore what it means to be the best athlete, and the dangerous consequences that goal can have.
From the Harding scandal to the frequent doping allegations, it’s clear that some athletes are prepared to do anything to make it to the Olympics. But what happens if an entire country is cheating? In this 2017 documentary, filmmaker Bryan Fogel went in looking to explore the conspiracy of Russian doping and what he found was so much worse.
Lance Armstrong was once the most revered figure in cycling. Not only was he the subject of the world’s most feel-good comeback story — he was diagnosed with testicular cancer just before the peak of his career — he was also the best, with seven consecutive Tour de France wins. But all that came crashing down in 2012 when an investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency found that Armstrong had been doping since late 1998 and he was stripped of all of his professional accolades from August 1998 onward — including all seven Tour de France titles. This documentary explores Armstrong’s career built on lies and how he eventually fell from grace.
The role of “enforcer” in professional ice hockey has long been a controversial one. Not expected to be the top scorer or most talented player on the team, enforcers are best known for being the tough guys — literally enforcing an honor code by means of fighting on the ice. The documentary explores how these professional hockey players ended up in this brutal position and the impact violence on the ice has had on the professional hockey community.
This documentary follows a group of talented, athletic children, whose parents will stop at nothing to make them the best in the world. While many of the parents believe they’re providing for their children out of love, their need for results and success often gets in the way. And while it’s certainly difficult and heartbreaking to watch the kids being pushed to their physical and mental limits by their parents, it gives an insightful look at how detrimental the need for success can be for the people around an athlete.
Dock Ellis was a star pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, leading them to become World Series champions in 1971. But in 1970, Ellis pitched a no-hitter, later revealing that he was high on LSD the whole time. This documentary explores Ellis’ storied career and how his drug addiction not only robbed him of the memory of such an incredible feat, it also had a terrifying impact on his career.
This 2016 doc from Jacqueline Joseph doesn’t feature a shocking attack or national scandal, but it explores the careers of five legendary athletes — Martina Navratilova, Jack Nicklaus, Nadia Comaneci, Edwin Moses, and Esther Vergeer — to better understand the mentality of what it means to know you’re the best.
Thanks to 2014’s Oscar-nominated Foxcatcher, most people are familiar with millionaire John du Pont’s murder of Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler Dave Schultz. But this documentary explores how du Pont became a fixture of amateur sports, opening a training facility at his Foxcatcher Farm estate, and how his paranoia and erraticism led to him murdering his friend and trainee, Schultz.
The Kerrigan attack made Harding a controversial figure in sports history, but she’s definitely not alone — or even the most controversial. A former heavyweight champion and professional boxer, Mike Tyson is probably best remembered in infamy, from his rape conviction and prison sentence to the numerous issues with coaches and opponents, most notably Evander Holyfield. This documentary explores how Tyson became one of the most revered boxers in the world and how personal decisions have cost him almost everything.
In recent decades, the line between amateur and professional sports has become thinner and thinner. Despite technically being amateurs, many college athletes are practically professionals — but are simply lacking in title. And while NCAA doesn’t pay players or allow sponsorships, many of these top college teams are run not unlike their professional counterparts. But in many cases, the professionalization of amateur players starts even younger than college. This documentary explores how the next generation of star players are groomed to become the next big brand in professional basketball through Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) leagues.
Professional cricket is one of the biggest sports around the globe. In this documentary, two journalists and cricket fans explore how Cricket Australia (CA), England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) — otherwise known as the “big three” in the cricket world — have come together to exploit the beloved game for monetary purposes, while smaller countries and fans are left cheated. The documentary begs the important question of what happens when corruption deeply infiltrates a beloved sport and how this crisis can be fixed.
For most athletes, being the best competitor in the world is an unattainable dream. But what’s it like to actually be the best in the world? This documentary follows the life of Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world. It explores what goes into being the fastest, his worry about a time when he’s no longer the fastest, and what it’s like to have all eyes — and an entire nation’s pride — on you.