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Sports and Culture

Year-ender 2021: 10 best sports movies of the year

If anything had us gripped in a majorly sporty 2021 - it was the outpour of well-produced sports flicks and documentaries. Here are our favorites from the year!

Best sports movies 2021 83 rashmi rocket bad sport netflix
Looking back at 2021 - 83 (left), Bad Sport and Rashmi Rocket

Sohinee Basu

Updated: 30 Dec 2021 6:11 AM GMT

If anything has seen an upward trend in the recent years, it is definitely the rise of the market that caters to sports movies - ranging from biopics to documentaries, anything that presses the buttons of adrenaline, motivation, inspiration backed by the power of a good, raw and gritty story - it has the people willing to sit down for a watch. Sports movies are on the rise and there are good reasons for it - sports being so comparable to life as it is and so majorly relatable. 2021 was no different as it saw some beautiful, inspiring, and deeply moving films and documentaries being released. We take a look back at some of the best and why you should add it to your year-ending watchlist.

Here are 10 sports films from 2021 that deserve a watch:

#1. 83

Still from 83

Perhaps the most-awaited film of the year, the Ranveer Singh-led cricket drama on Indian cricket's 1983 World Cup triumph is making a loot at the box offices currently. With a seasoned cast with the likes of Deepika Padukone, Pankaj Tripathi, Kabir Khan's 83 has covered good ground of making it a quality sports drama that will tug at your heartstrings as the story revolves around India's heartland hero Kapil Dev primarily. While certain bits of it may be overly emotional, it helps ensure the point is driven home and Ranveer cuts out a convincing figure as the former captain - Kapil Paaji and makes for the perfect year-ending watch.

Where to watch: Theatres (currently)

#2. Maradona: Blessed Dream

Stills from Maradona: Blessed Dream

Arguably the greatest player football has ever produced, Amazon Prime's Maradona: Blessed Dream is a riveting watch that portrays the journey of the legend - Diego Maradona, from being a boy from Argentina to becoming a global icon. Representing the ideas of a dream, passion, courage, obstacles - Maradona: Blessed Dream is a must-watch for any football fan who grew up hearing the impact of the legendary figure as the documentary film traces his journey intricately well and takes us through the many up's and downs that dotted Maradona's life. Additionally, it is also available in a number of vernacular languages for watching.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#3. Rashmi Rocket

Taapsee Pannu in Rashmi Rocket

Taapsee Pannu is not one to avoid controversial topics and Rashmi Rocket did just that - venture into the hush-hush, tabooed territories. Picking on the sensitive issues of gender-testing in sports, Rashmi Rocket keeps the case of Dutee Chand and Caster Semenya as immediate contexts to her story. Battling the societal, administrative, and legal battles, Pannu's Rashmi Rocket soars and is an all-important film simply because of its topical matter. And of course, Taapsee, with her athletic figure is once again a perfect fit for the role of Rashmi.

Where to watch: Zee5

#4. Skater Girl

Still from Skater Girl

Manjari Makijany's Skater Girl won hearts with the earthiness of its tale. Focussing on a grassroots story, Makijany takes us to the desert land of Rajasthan for this where Prerna is living the normal life of an Indian teenager, bound by traditions when she chances upon skateboarding. Falling in love with the skateboard immediately, Skater Girl is a coming-of-age story that is honest and feel-good at the heart as it follows Prerna's journey and her dreams to someday participate in the National Skateboarding Championships by defeating all her nay-sayers for her odd choice of sports and being a girl, of course. It is definitely one of the gems from this year to watch.

Where to watch: Netflix

#5. Bad Sport

Still from Bad Sport

Away from the rosy side that competitive sport tries to paint for us, the underbelly of it tells a whole different story. Netflix's Bad Sport is a series of 6 standalone documentaries that roots the audience back to the very dark and gory side of sport - one that is tainted by crime and scandal. Brilliantly produced, Bad Sport makes for a compelling match as scandal stories of match-fixing, horse-killing, drug-smuggling to bribing the referee take center stage and is told by people who were closely associated with the scandals back in the day.

Where to watch: Netflix

#6. Toofaan

Farhan Akhtar in Toofaan

Like Radhika Apte or Nawazuddin Siddiqui is to Netflix, Farhan Akhtar is the similar go-to person for sports films in Bollywood. After his National Award-winning film outing with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Farhan Akhtar's presence in the Bollywood sports space has also grown and Toofaan - where the director-actor plays the role of a boxer - Aziz Ali, seeking redemption is another moving tale. Needless to say, Akhtar's effort to play the role of a pugilist is well-done and his acting is pretty spotless and Paresh Rawal as the motivating coach-guru figure in his life only adds more shine to this rather emotional sports film outing that is deeply rousing in parts too.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#7. 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible

Still from 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossibe

If we are talking gripping documentaries, 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible sits right up there. Following Nepali mountaineer Nirmal'Nims' Purja on his maddeningly impossible trail to climb 14 of the 8000-meter peaks in the world in just 7 months, this Netflix release is a hand-in-your-mouth watch that will leave you inspired to go out there and chase your dreams, no matter how risky the job is. 14 Peaks is brilliantly shot as well and is a visual delight, it's music also creating the perfect ambiance as it tells the cultural tale of the Nepalis as well. Director Torquil Jones's attempt to capture Nims on his Project Possible mission to create the world record is admirable and at its heart, it is a story of the human spirit that learns to survive and fight for its dream.

Where to watch: Netflix

#8. Saina

Parineeti Chopra as Saina Nehwal in Saina

Marking it as the first biopic made on Indian badminton for Bollywood, Saina, obviously is the tale of India's first poster girl and Olympic medallist in badminton, Saina Nehwal. The film had mixed reviews and a certain documentary-like nature to it but Amole Gupte along with Parineeti Chopra in the titular role of Saina is able to do a moving job that succeeds in at least serving the shuttle correctly even though the smash isn't killed properly. Parineeti's efforts to get into the shoes of an athlete and then, the mind of a champion who will only settle for a win and wants to be World No. 1 is quite inspiring and hence, makes for a good watch.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#9. King Richard

Still from King Richard

Based on Richard Williams, the father to tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams, King Richard is a welcome break from stereotypical sports films because of its nuanced storytelling and one Will Smith. Having the ingredients of a sports film and that of a biopic in the same blend, King Richard is a beautiful tale of parental grit as he guides Venus and Serena on their journey to become the tennis superstars they are today. Finally, it makes for a deeply inspiring watch and Will Smith is impeccable in the role of Richard, essaying it to perfection.

Where to watch: HBO Max

#10. Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka with Serena Williams at the US Open

Another gem of a documentary from 2021, Netflix's Naomi Osaka was released a little before the Tokyo Olympics when Osaka's actions from the French Open where she withdrew from was still buzzing in the air. She may be a 4-time Grand Slam champion, but Osaka, an introvert at large and an overnight star, talks about the many pressures of playing at the elite level while fighting her own fights of self-doubt. Naomi Osaka is raw and relatable and the heart will go out for this Japanese wunderkind as her life both on and off the court is explored in the 3-episode series, taking us into her very own shoes.

Where to watch: Netflix

Special Mention:

# The Hand of God

Still from The Hand of God

Shortlisted already for the Oscars as the Best Foreign Language Film, Paolo Sorrentino's The Hand of God is a semi-autobiographical venture that is a welcome gift. With the backdrop of Naples, Italy in the 1980s, the film revolves around an awkward teenager - Fabietto and follows him on his coming-of-age journey. Interrupted by a bitter tragedy that befalls his life, The Hand of God remains subtle and sublime and shows how the figure of Diego Maradona who would be playing for his home team, Napoli then, served as a redeeming factor for Fabietto. While it isn't a 'sporty' story but it is definitely one that revolves around the impact it can create as did Maradona's legendary stint with Napoli back in the day. Sorrentino is a masterful director and with The Hand of God - he has struck emotions so raw that you will have to watch it to absorb it all.

Where to watch: Netflix

Go on and fill that tub of popcorn now - happy watching!

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