It’s that time of year—well, every couple of years, really—when everyone gets that little bit more patriotic and pretends to be knowledgable in sports that they haven’t even watched in years. Yes, Olympic Fever has taken grip of the U.S. at the same time that we hope that Zika doesn’t take grip of any of the athletes there. But is watching coverage on NBC enough to prove that you’re a true Olympian fan of true Olympians? Probably now—which is why we’re throwing these ten documentaries about the games at you, so that you can really feel the excitement.
30 FOR 30: MARION JONES: PRESS PAUSE (2010)
In the 2000 Sydney Games, it seemed as if Marion Jones was living the dream as she took three golds and two bronze melds at track and field events. Soon enough, though, rumors started circulating about how she got them, leading to her confession in 2007 that she had used steroids. This ESPN doc reexamines her story.
BEIJING PUNK (2012)
Beijing was the host city for the 2008 Summer Olympics, and as the Chinese government attempted to ensure that everything went exactly to plan, the city’s burgeoning punk subculture bubbled up with potential troublemaking. Shaun Jefford tells the eternal story of the state versus the underground. Available to stream on Amazon Prime
TO RUSSIA WITH LOVE (2014)
Ahead of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russian authorities outlawed “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors,” in what was considered a strike against same-sex couples. The decision forced gay Olympians to confront the homophobia of Russia in a way they had managed to avoid until that point — which is the focus of this documentary.
30 FOR 30: THE PRICE OF GOLD (2014)
If anyone tells you that they don’t want to watch a documentary about the 1994 Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding collision (metaphorical and literal), you can just turn around and call them a filthy no-good liar — especially when the doc talks to the main parties involved today to get the lowdown on just what happened and why.
TOP SPIN (2014)
The story of how athletes go from passionate amateurs to taking part in the Olympics doesn’t get old, but this doc about three table tennis teenage players manages to give the sub-genre a fresh spin nonetheless. Surprisingly charming.
30 FOR 30: OF MIRACLES AND MEN (2015)
What was behind the story of one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history? ESPN’s Jonathan Hock gets to the bottom of the victory of the U.S. men’s hockey team in the 1980 Winter Games over their Soviet competitors — and what happened to both teams afterwards.
PERSONAL GOLD: AN UNDERDOG STORY (2015)
In 2012, the U.S. cycling team had to pull out at the last minute when Lance Armstrong’s drug use was revealed — but the US women’s track cycling team not only stayed in the contest, they won a medal for the first time in 20 years. Their story is told in this documentary from a former Olympian herself, Tamara Christopherson.
TEAM FOXCATCHER (2016)
The real-life background to the 2014 Channing Tatum/Steve Carrell movie is laid bare in this documentary about John E. duPont and Dave Schultz, which includes never-before-seen home video footage ahead of the murder than ended a promising athlete’s life.
DESTINATION: TEAM USA (2016)
That’s enough about the past! What about this year’s team of American Olympians? Thankfully, there’s a documentary about that, as well — or, at least, the journey of five U.S. athletes as they prepared to take part in the current Brazil Games. (If nothing else, it’s worth checking out for boxer Cam F. Awesome. Yes, that’s his name.)
HITLER’S OLYMPICS (2016)
From the sublime to the… well, to the horrendous as well as ridiculous, really, via this retrospective on the 1936 Berlin Games, when the world came to Hitler’s backyard to celebrate sportsmanship and international co-operation. How is the legacy of those games felt today?