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SWM Reviews: The Best Sports Docu-Films of 2023/24

In a month where the Cannes Film Festival arrives to the storied steps of le Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, the power of film is everywhere. Particularly in sport, where a fruitful selection of informative sports doc-films have depicted the lives of past legends and told unforgettable true stories of teams and tournaments over the past 12 months.

Here, SWM round up our favourite sports films released recently, from the riveting story of the forgotten 1971 women’s World Cup to Netflix original documentaries on the biggest figures in world sport.


A timely arrival, the much-anticipated film COPA 71 was released on International Women’s Day 2024 – a documentary film that unearths the incredible story of the Women’s Football World Cup that was held in Mexico City in August 1971, but was written out of history because of the widespread misogyny and prejudice in the world of football. The film has been widely acclaimed by critics who have labelled it one of the most important films of its time. But what’s so excellent about it? Why do the nuances of women’s football and gender within sport play themselves out in such meaningful fashion?

Simple, the context. Featuring archive footage, it has been produced by tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams and the story is told by the pioneering women who competed in the tournament. Not only is the film remarkable for retelling an incredible story and helping female athletes find their rightful place in history, but it shows how women can forge their own paths to success and follow their dreams at any age. The Williams sisters are multi-major-winning tennis players and will go down in folklore as legends of the game, but this marks a rebirth of their careers as executive film producers – a distinctive shift that smashes the glass ceiling and opens the door to full creative freedom for women.

The Beautiful Game

Led by the legendary Bill Nighy, this Netflix original film is an uplifting tale of the power of football. Not only can it liberate and inspire but the game can help those in unfortunate circumstances drive towards a brighter future – which is the exact underpinning of this screenplay by Thea Sharrock. Based on the Homeless World Cup, founded in 2001, the film follows the story of ex-talent-scout Mal as he builds a squad for the tournament in Rome. Star player Vinny takes the plaudits, but there are two problems: he won’t admit to being homeless and he’s not exactly a team player.

The story continues and reaches a crescendo after the knockout stages of the tournament. A classic plot of outcast turned hero, a one-time football prodigy who got knocked back in his teens, The Beautiful Game is the epitome of its title – a story showcasing the unassailable glory of the game of football.

Break Point

Firmly putting the myth that ‘tennis is boring’ to bed, Break Point is a Netflix behind-the-scenes documentary series following the lives of top tennis players as they travel across the globe for all four Grand Slams and the ATP and WTA tours. Executive-produced by Paul Martin and the Oscar-winning filmmaker James Gay-Rees, it gives us exclusive access to bad boy Nick Kyrgios, providing insight into his expressive nature and style and shining a light on the mental pressures of tennis.

Unlike most other sports, tennis is a lonely pursuit – and the cinematography focuses on the singular psychodrama of obsessive tics like hiking up socks or adjusting racket strings. It’s an interesting portrayal of the life of a sole athlete and offers unparalleled access into the close quarters of some of the best players in the world, while unearthing the unwavering highs and lows of the game in all their authenticity.


Could there be a more poignant documentary focus? David Beckham, the great Manchester United midfielder, one half of one of the most famous couples in the world and a game changing face of commercial football, David’s life is told in the most authentic, honourable sense with a huge focus on his family values and personal depiction of detailed career-defining moments. From the now-iconic “don’t lie” scene where Victoria rejects claims she was dropped off at school in her father’s Bentley to the archival footage of Beckham in his prime on the pitch, it’s a must-watch for anyone interested in luxury lifestyle and football.

Creed III

For this third instalment of the smash hit ‘Creed’, Michael B. Jordan has taken over as both the star and the director with absolute aplomb. Striking the chord between intimacy and spectacle; grit and glamour perfectly, the film aptly outlines the cross-section between emotion and sport and how the two are so beautifully intertwined. Slo-mo close-ups, visceral editing and a plot designed to move and influence only add to the drama.

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