Sportfilm i undervisningen – tips från amerikanska sociologer

Det har blivit högsta mode, av allt att döma, inom amerikansk och brittisk idrottsutbildningar av olika slag att använda sport på film. Initiativ till att skapa listor över lämpliga filmer har tagits av en filosof, en psykolog och en sociolog. Den senare, Kyle Green, var snabbast med att publicera en lista över förslagen han fick in, och den återfinns nedan. Vi har bättrat på den lite, genom att skapa länkar där vi hittat något vettigt i andra änden.



  • Go Tigers!
  • A State of Mind
  • Jump! (Awesome jumprope documentary)
  • Rocks with Wings (2002) (dir: Rick Derby)
  • 100% Woman:  the Michelle Dumaresq Story (2004)
  • Golden Gloves (or the Real Million Dollar Babies) (2007)
  • A League of Their Own (the documentary film) (1993)
  • Training Rules (2009)  – for the section on Gender and Sports. It’s available on Hulu, I believe.  It concerns the scandal around former Penn State Women’s Basketball Coach, Rene Portland.
  • When We Were Kings (1996)
  • Playing Unfair (2002)
  • Chasing October
  • Football Under Cover
  • Pink Ribbons – Samantha King
  • A Hero for Daisy (1999) – a documentary about Title IX and rowing
  • Training Rules –  about the anti-lesbian policies of Rene Portland at Penn State–definitely important for a sport and society class.
  • The PBS series “American Experience” has an episode on Jesse Owens that I have wanted to watch–you can screen it online.
  • Ahead of the Majority – about Patsy Mink – covers her political career and has a section on her involvement in the politics of Title IX.  It was made about 3 years ago and I have used the section on T9 for a lecture on the topic in the past
  • Bigger, Stronger, Faster (2008) – examples of hegemonic masculinity and how the media influences males’ self-images (not just females, as is so commonly discussed).
  • Hoop Dreams – I highly recommend the chapter by C.L. Cole and Samantha King, “The New Politics of Urban Consumption: Hoop Dreams, Clockers, and America,”  in Ralph C. Wilcox, ed., Sporting Dystopias: The Making and Meaning of Urban Sport Cultures, pp. 14, 221-246.
  • Viva Baseball
  • Unforgivable Blackness
  • “Two Days In April” – it’s about 90 minutes long so I use it as an outside of class viewing (documentary following 4 college football players as they try to make it to the NFL from just before the the Senior Bowl through the draft) – it is available on YouTube in two parts so is easily accessible for all students. It fits well with sport and social class and discussions of the slim chances of making it to the pros.
  • In Whose Honor
  • Not Just A Game (2010) – by Dave Zirin – provides a sociological analysis of how sport influences our society particularly the parallels between the institution of sport and the military.
  • Pursuing the Perfect 10 – This was a CNN documentary that is available on YouTube in several parts. I used it as a review after lessons on youth sports and deviance in sports (specifically to discuss overconformity)
  • Link:
  • An Enforcer’s Story – This is a documentary style video available in conjunction with a piece that ran in the NY Times about Derek Boogaard’s death. The link to the story is below, and you can click on the video.  I used this to talk about violence in sports and my students told me that they really enjoyed it.
  • Link: )
  • Murderball – Usually none of the students have seen it and they really like it.  In fact I just showed it yesterday and the students couldn’t stop talking about it.
  • Use the ‘reading sport’ method to critically analyze the documentary Murder Ball. Be sure to do a complete analysis, including: manifest and latent meanings, ideologies (e.g. disability, masculinity, femininity, patriotism, family, etc.), particular context (e.g. social, political, historical, etc.), and use of technology to tell a story (e.g. camera, recording, audio, etc.). Your analysis should be organized by theme (I’d suggest either by manifest and latent meanings or by ideologies).
  • Junior – very raw documentary that follows a Canadian Hockey League team from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League called Baie-Comeau Drakker – What this film does is offer some insight into how players dedicate their life in chasing what is quite literally…a dream.
  • Head Games – related to concussion and sport. I’ve also heard good things about but haven’t yet watched it.
  • More Than a Game – A good movie on the influence of commercialization of high school and amateur sports. Documents the early career of the heralded LeBron James’ high school experiences.
  • Race: The Power of Illusion (2003). There are three parts. I would show episode 1 in a Sport and Society type of class (it focuses on the science of ‘race’) and I show episode 2 in my sport history class (it focuses on how race developed as an ideology historically). I haven’t had an opportunity to show episode 3 as much, but it focuses on the lasting economic impact of  the ideology of race — particularly in where we live and the value of housing.
  • FIT: Episodes in the History of he Body (1991). This focuses on the history of the how we understand a ‘fit’ body, including analysis related to race, social class, gender, disability and age.
  • The Journey of the African American Athlete” (Parts 1 and 2)
  • Blood on the Flat Track – documentary on the rat city roller girls
  • Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team
  • Joe Louis – America’s Hero Betrayed
  • Two Days In April – follows four NFL prospects through the process of preparing for and participating in the 2006 NFL Draft
  • 4th and Goal – Tale of six men trying to make it to the NFL
  • Undefeated – Oscar-winning 2011 documentary directed by Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin. The film documents the struggles of a high school football team, the Manassas Tigers of Memphis, as they attempt a winning season after years of losses.
  • Born and Bred – documentary following young latino boxers in LA
  • The Morgan Lacrosse Story (pbs) – This film tells the story of the nation’s first and only college lacrosse team at a historically black institution.
  • Gridiron & Steel – Western Pennsylvania and football
  • On the Shoulders of Giants – Story of the Harlem Rens
  • Bra Boys (2007): A movie about a particularly hyper-masculine group of male surfers (the Bra Boys) in Sydney, Australia. A good example of a fratriarchal sporting group, and all the problematic aspects associated with such groupings. I often use alongside the critique from Clifton Evers in the Sydney Morning Herald:
  • Dogtown and Z Boys (2001): The development of skateboarding in Southern California, great for revealing subcultural dynamics.
  • First Descent (2005): A history of snowboarding and insight into the gender and age dynamics within core action sport groups.
  • This Ain’t California (2012): In German with English subtitles, but offers a fascinating perspective on the development of skateboarding (and youth counter cultures) in East Berlin during the 1980s. Very raw with nudity and drugs, so students may need to be warned in advance.
  • Offside (2006) – from Iran. Interesting to look at cross-cultural understandings and expressions of gender. It looks at how gender is used to define spaces of sport: specifically the soccer stadium. Note that it has some swear words…and is subtitled.
  • The Canadian Broadcast Corporation has put out many documentaries in their “Fifth Estate” series
  • Fearless (2012)  – about Sarah Burke, top athletes who risk their life for high performance sport
  • The Legacy of Brendan Burke (2010) – about Brendan Burke, homosexuality, hockey.
  • The Code (2010) – about hockey’s unwritten law of fighting and the men who live by it.
  • Head Games (2008) – about head injuries in professional football.
  • The Rise and Fall of Theo Flury – (Part 1, 2008) (Part 2, 2010), about sexual abuse, homosexuality, masculinity in Junior A hockey (and professional hockey)
  • The Other Final – Made by two Dutch filmmakers who were dismayed that the Dutch national team did not make the 2002 World Cup, they arranged to have the then two bottom-ranked (by FIFA), Bhutan and Montserrat,  to play a match.
  • A State of Mind – documentary on mass games in N. Korea. Good film, students often mention this one as a favorite.
  • Sumo East and West – a little dated, but still useful.  I’ve found this one good for getting students talking about the idea of traditions in sport, and how they can be mobilized for various purposes.
  • The Game of Their Lives (2002) – not the disney movie of same title–the one by Daniel Gordon on the N. Korean 1966 World Cup Team.
  • Kokoyakyu: High School Baseball – On high school teams competing in Japan’s famous national “Koshien” tournament. I like to pair this with parts of Go Tigers! (Massillon, OH football). There’s an earlier documentary on this as well, but the title escapes me.  This one was on POV, so there’s a nice website connected to the film.
  • Tokyo Olympiad parts – (it’s too long), great for considering how Japan sought to represent itself during the 1964 Games.
  • A Normal Life: Chronicle of a Sumo Wrestler (2009)
  • Gaea Girls (2000) – on female wrestlers in Japan.
  • The Forbidden Team (2003?) – on the Tibetan soccer team. I’ve never been able to get a copy of this, though it seems that parts of it are online now.  Part of the other problem is that there’s not a lot of English language scholarship on Tibetan sports, so this would have to largely stand alone.
  • Seeing Stars: Sports Celebrity, Identity, and Body Culture in Modern Japan –

30 for 30

  • I would encourage you to order the ESPN “30 for 30” series as well as HBO’s “Real Sports” series, which has several insightful documentaries.
  • The Two Escobars – lots of recommendations
  • Winning Time
  • Ghosts of Mississippi
  • Pony Excess – This is an ESPN 30 for 30 that covers the rise and fall of SMU football.  I liked it because it covers the intersection of commercialism, business, education and politics. The students also really liked this one. It’s available on youtube or on DVD.
  • Also, you might consider the movie series that is coming up on ESPN this summer. Here is the list of documentaries:
  • Role Tide War Eagle – ESPN documentary (Auburn Alabama rivalry)
  • No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson
  • Broke
  • Fab Five

Other Lists

  • I personally like It is a lacuna of documentary-style films that can be used in the classroom. It does not always have films related to sport, but is definitely worth using to talk about wider social issues: globalisation, consumerism, community, media, empire, health… etc
  • good old wikipedia:
  • A broad list of sports movies:
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