The documentaries listed below all seek to answer the questions that plagues their subjects; why would someone risk serious injury, or even at times their lives for a passion often shunned by society at large?
These docos are guaranteed to make you question what lengths you would take in order to reach your own goals, as well as make for riveting, emotional, highly entertaining viewing…
TT: Closer to the Edge (2011)
The Isle of Man TT is a motorcycle road race which has taken place yearly since 1907 and is often touted as the most dangerous motorsport event in the world. Unfortunately, the statistics back this up: just last year 3 riders were lost to the mountain course. Following various personalities in the 2010 season, this documentary will have you sitting on the edge of your seat and is guaranteed to entertain everyone – even non-motorcyclists.
Man on Wire (2008)
This Oscar-winning doco focuses on Phillipe Petit’s death-defying tightrope walk between the since lost Twin Towers at the World Trade Center back in 1974. It’s portrayed in a more docudrama fashion, with re-creations as well as interviews with participants in the modern day. The film is often compared to classic “heist” films for good reason – as the feat was pulled off without permission from authorities at the time. See this and then perhaps follow it up with Robert Zemeckis’ film adaptation of Petit’s vertigo-inducing stunt, the Joseph Gordon-Levitt 2015 film The Walk.
Following the life and career of Formula One legend Ayrton Senna, this highly-lauded documentary is an inspirational and touching portrayal of a man regarded as one of the most talented F1 drivers of all time, as well as a national hero in his native Brazil for his charitable acts. The documentary itself relies mostly on archival footage and home video supplied by the Senna family and offers an engrossing look at the sporting legend.
Free Solo (2018)
Certainly the most known of all the entries in this list is the Academy Award winner Free Solo, which, for the uninitiated, follows certified mad-man Alex Honnold as he attempts to climb El Capitan – a sheer Californian rock formation that’s almost 1km in height from base to summit – without assistance or ropes. It offers one hell of a doco experience, with Alex’s determination to succeed, in his own way, on his own terms, never failing to inspire.
Following the first all-female crew to compete in the around-the-world Whitbread race in 1989, Maiden makes use of both archival footage and present-day interviews. The result is an exhilirating documentary that shows the incredibly ardous road to success the team accomplished in a field traditionally dominated by men.
The Crash Reel (2013)
Perhaps the casual snowboard follower may have heard of the name Shaun White. However, prior to this, there was little known about his rivalry with then competitor Kevin Pearce. While usually portrayed as quite a carefree and quite fun-loving sport, it turns out that the reality of trying to make it in the world of Professional Snowboarding is not only extremely challenging, it can provide permanent consequences for any boarder daring to make their own mark.
Being Evel (2015)
Evel Knievel is the original, bonafide star who proved that fame and money can be made from attempting death-defying stunts – usually involving jumping motorcycles over large distances. The fact that many of his records still stand today, despite the advances in motorcycles since, is a testament to the boundaries Evel pushed at every opportunity. Johnny Knoxville, of Jackass fame, produced this reverential account of Evel’s life and accomplishments.
20 Seconds of Joy (2007)
Not the title of my sextape. Fortunately. This is in fact the chronicle of female BASE jumper Karina Hollekim. While jumping from tall places with a parachute may sound somewhat safe, BASE jumping is notoriously dangerous. This film does a great job of trying to answer why anyone would attempt such stunts and the drive behind them.
Momentum Generation (2018)
Momentum Generation follows a group of teenagers living and surfing in Hawaii in the early 90’s and their impact on the sport of competitve surfing. Featuring surfers such as house-hold name Kelly Slater, the story of the individuals in this group and the name that they made through their exploits in the surfing community is a must see for anyone even vaguely interested in the sport.
Hitting the Apex (2015)
As part of a loose series of films (Faster, Fastest and The Doctor, the Tornado and the Kentucky Kid being the other entries), this Brad Pitt-narrated doco follows six different riders over a period of the MotoGP competition from 2010-2014, with particular focus on the fight for the title in 2014. This documentary balances the competitive aspects of the sport with the personal stories of all riders. It’s also notable for both the humanisation of these elite athletes and the stakes at risk in the pursuit of MotoGP glory.