The weather may have you stuck inside the house or summer sports just don’t do it for you. Either way, you’re grasping at some kind of sports programming in these difficult times.
Maybe it’s time to fire up Netflix and see what you can find. Let us be your guide, sports fan. There may be something you’ve missed on America’s favorite streaming service. Trust us, there’s a lot.
The Athlon staff has compiled its favorite sports programming on Netflix — films, documentaries and television series — right here. Luckily all of ESPN’s 30 for 30 programming, not to mention SEC Storied, ESPN Films and Soccer Stories are all available. If you notice that our list is a little 30 for 30-centric that’s because... a) those documentaries are very good and... b) they make up the overwhelming majority of the sports content on Netflix right now.
Feel free to bookmark this page or check back. We’ll do our best to keep up with the monthly changes.
1. Hoop Dreams (1994)
Hoop Dreams one of the greatest sports documentaries of all time — or simply one of the greatest documentaries period. Steve James follows two African-American teenagers in Chicago, William Gates and Arthur Agee, as they try to pursue the NBA from a young age. The film is more than 20 years old (and the footage more than 25), but the themes are all too universal — issues of race, poverty, the education system and precocious kids expected to shoulder the load for an entire family. “People ask me will I remember them if I make it,” Gates says. “I tell them, will you remember me if I don’t.”
2. Jerry Maguire (1996)
Perhaps Jerry Maguire became too quotable for its own good — “show me the money!” and “you had me at hello” — but it’s the perfect crowd-pleaser. A movie about a sports agent just barely fits into the sports movie category but it has enough drama and sports to fit outside of the romantic comedy box. Jerry Maguire is full of sports cameos, and like any Cameron Crowe film, it has a perfect soundtrack. Jerry Maguire took home a best supporting actor nod (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and was nominated for best actor (Tom Cruise) and best picture.
3. The Two Escobars (2010)
Arguably the top installment of ESPN’s acclaimed 30 for 30 series, The Two Escobars is bigger than a sports documentary and portrays a level of politics and organized crime more dramatic than any fiction. The film traces the intertwined stories of drug lord Pablo Escobar, a passionate supporter of Colombian soccer, and defender Andres Escobar, whose own goal cost the country the 1994 World Cup.
4. Friday Night Lights (2006-11)
Genre: TV drama
The low-rated but beloved television series has little in common with the classic Buzz Bissinger book and the movie aside from the title, the West Texas setting and Connie Britton. The on-field action is quality, and the off-field drama is heavy. Just power through that subpar second season, y’all. Trust us.
5. Rudy (1993)
People either love or hate Notre Dame, and the Hollywood version of Daniel Ruettiger’s story may take a few liberties here and there. Still, Rudy is a classic sports movie, the underdog story of the walk-on too small to play college football. But the film doesn’t have to be totally true to life for us to get misty eyed near the end.
6. Without Bias (2009)
Basketball fans of a certain generation vividly remember the when the learned of the death of Len Bias, the Maryland basketball star who died in 1986 after a cocaine-induced heart attack. As college players, Bias was mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jordan. Bias' death, brought about by casual drug use, shook the sports world.
7. You Don’t Know Bo (2012)
Bo Jackson holds no major professional sports records. His trophy case includes “only” a Heisman Trophy and an MLB All-Star MVP award. Yet he was one of the most spellbinding athletes of a generation. This doc, one of the best installments in the second run of 30 for 30s, explains why he came around at the perfect time — just at the start of the modern sports marketing, highlight and video game age and just before the cynicism of the steroid era took over.
8. The Best that Never Was (2010)
Before Rivals.com, before five-star recruits, before 24-hour coverage of National Signing Day and before televised commitment announcements, there was Marcus Dupree. In 1981, Marcus Dupree of Philadelphia, Miss., was one of the most coveted recruits of the era. The high point of his career, though, was his freshman season at Oklahoma. This is how a promising future can detour.
9. Bad News Bears (1976)
Yes, that’s the original Bad News Bears with Walter Matthau, not the more PC remake featuring Bad News Bears. It’s a classic, but this is not one of those saccharine kids sports movies. The language, the casual racism and sexism, the drunk coach — how did this movie get made?
10. Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns (1994)
Baseball romanticism is laid on pretty thick, especially after all that’s happened to the sport in the last 20 years — the dominance of football as the nation’s new pastime, the baseball strike and steroids. Still, no documentary more perfectly portrays baseball as a part of American culture. With 10 installments, Ken Burns’ Baseball is exhaustive, but all of it is necessary.