The drama of sports has been an irresistible subject for filmmakers throughout the history of film, and there is virtually no sport that has not played a central role in at least one film. Boxing, with its undisguised conflict between two characters, has been a popular subject for films. Sports as diverse as football and mountain climbing have also served as the basis for the plots of dramatic films. Sports films allow filmmakers to use games as a metaphor for life and show us characters engaging in struggles that are much more clear-cut than those we typically face.
Many sports films follow a common plot trajectory. In these films, an underdog competitor is subjected to a humiliating defeat, often at the hands of a villainous opponent, at the beginning of the film and then must work tirelessly to build his or her skill and overcome the expectations of naysayers in order to get a chance at redemption. The hero-or heroes in the case of a team sport-encounters numerous obstacles along the way, but in the end, the hero almost always triumphs, proving that hard work and earnest suffering will always win the day.
The sports documentary often explores the same kind of competitive drama that a fictional sports film does, but the sports documentary draws its characters and situations from real life. These films examine famous sports figures, historic sporting events and issues within the world of sports that have particular dramatic impact. Sometimes these documentaries are structured like fictional films in that they hide outcomes and plot twists from the viewer so that suspense builds and the narrative can reach a climax like that of an actual sporting event.