post 17 Best Bodybuilding & Fitness Documentaries (2024 Updated)

17 Best Bodybuilding & Fitness Documentaries (2024 Updated)

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: January 3, 2024
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What’s the best way to stay motivated and focused on your gym goals, even on your days off? Well,  sometimes, a comfortable sofa, popcorn, and Netflix are all you need.

Whether you are after knowledge, inspiration, or just fun, each of these bodybuilding movies can offer that, in a unique way.

Here’s a list of 17 amazing films that you can stream on Amazon Prime or Netflix, the movies you definitely shouldn’t miss.

Quick Summary

  • 17 must-watch documentaries on bodybuilding and fitness provide deep insights into the lives, challenges, and evolution of renowned bodybuilders, highlighting the sport's transformative journey.
  • The "Generation Iron" series and "Pumping Iron" are particularly notable for their portrayal of famous bodybuilders' journeys and their substantial influence on the fitness industry.
  • The release of "Pumping Iron" in 1977 played a pivotal role in igniting the 1980s fitness boom and significantly boosted the growth of commercial gyms across the United States.
  • Personally, I find these documentaries to be more than just fitness motivation; they offer a comprehensive and inspiring view into the world of bodybuilding, making them invaluable for enthusiasts and those curious about the sport's deeper aspects.

17 Must-watch Bodybuilding Documentaries

1. Generation Iron 1-3 (2013)

Movie Poster of Generation Iron

Director: Vlad Yuding

A contemporary take on Pumping Iron, this series spotlights famed bodybuilders like Phil Heath, Rich Piana, Kai Greene, and Branch Warren and their journey to the 2012 Mr. Olympia.

Featuring bodybuilding greats like Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Jay Cutler, Roelly Winklaar, and others, Generation Iron dives into their world, adding depth to the documentary.

Generation Iron 2 (2017) sheds light on how the younger generation and social media shape bodybuilding. Meanwhile, the 2018 release of Generation Iron 3 revisits Mr. Olympia, exploring global bodybuilders' quest for perfection.

‘’Through the biggest global names’ journey, the movie included all the relevant information and the best possible details of what makes a perfect physique and the perfect bodybuilder?”

These films offer a balanced view of bodybuilding, mixing intrigue and information, making them ideal for both aficionados and newcomers. They provide a rare glimpse into the evolving realm of bodybuilding, a world often unknown to the average person.

2. Pumping Iron 1-2 (1977, 1985)

Movie Poster of Pumping Iron

Director: George Butler, Robert Fiore

Pumping Iron, the docudrama that skyrocketed Arnold Schwarzenegger to fame, captures the 1975 golden era of bodybuilding, focusing on the IFBB Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia contests.

The film, highlighting different athletes like Mike Katz, sparked the 1980s fitness craze and boosted commercial gym growth in the US.

Pumping Iron 2 shifts the lens to female bodybuilders at the 1983 world championship in Las Vegas, featuring Bev Francis, Rachel McLish, and Carla Dunlap.

It's celebrated for challenging stereotypes and reshaping the narrative of women's bodybuilding.

3. Dorian Yates - The original mass monster (2019)

Movie Poster of The Original Mass Master

Director: Vlad Yudin

As someone who has pushed physical limits, I relate to Dorian Yates' story.

This film not only highlights his intense training but also delves into his post-retirement life in Costa Rica, a phase of his career that resonates with my understanding of the mental and physical toll of extreme fitness regimes.

It offers a compelling look at the life and career of one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time and his signature ’’blood and guts’’ routine that revolutionized bodybuilding.

4. Muscle and medals (2017)

Movie Poster of Muscle and Medals

Director: William Gleed

Success stories are usually not a straight line, which is what Muscle and Medals is all about.

IFBB pro-Romane Lanceford had a promising career until he ended up in the hospital due to a foot infection. Will he be able to beat the odds and make a comeback?

The movie depicts his highs and lows and his journey through the fitness industry, starting from when he was just a novice in the world of bodybuilding.

5. Ripped: Inside Women’s Bodybuilding (2017)

Movie Poster of Ripped

Director: Neil Grahn

Having trained female bodybuilders, Ripped's exploration of the personal journeys of two women preparing for a national competition strikes a chord.

Teresa Popowicz and Krystia Petrossie both share their personal, emotional backgrounds behind their decision to enter the world of bodybuilding, which makes them push their physical and emotional limits.

With just a 20-minute runtime, this movie doesn’t fail to inspire and send more than one meaningful message.

6. Iron and Beyond: The Story of Arnold (2002)

Movie Poster of Iron and Beyond

Directors: George Butler, Robert Fiore

As someone deeply involved in the fitness industry, I resonate with how Iron and Beyond depicts the way Pumping Iron revolutionized fitness.

Schwarzenegger's journey parallels the transformative impact such icons have had on my career and approach to health and performance.

While it’s mainly focused on Arnold Schwarzenegger as a rising bodybuilding star, the film also offers some interesting background information on the sport and spectacle of bodybuilding culture.

If you're a fan of Pumping Iron, you definitely shouldn't miss this one.

7. Bigger Stronger Faster (2008)

Movie Poster of Bigger Stronger Faster

Director: Christopher Bell

In my career, I've encountered the complex issue of steroids, making Bigger, Stronger, Faster a particularly relevant watch.

This documentary's focus on performance-enhancing drugs in bodybuilding aligns with the ethical dilemmas I've observed in the industry.

This entertaining and informative film deserves credit for painting a fairly unbiased picture of both the legal and illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports.

The plot follows the events surrounding the Bell brothers, for whom this is a family matter.

8. Ronnie Coleman: The King (2018)

Movie Poster of Ronne Coleman's The King

Director: Vlad Yudin

What does it take to become the best in the world and win the Mr. Olympia title eight times?

Only a few athletes can compare to Ronnie Coleman, whose astonishing determination pushed him to his absolute limits to get to the top and become a bodybuilding legend.

The King focuses on his legacy while also documenting the consequences of his refusal to quit working on his physique, even when he faced severe challenges.

9. Stand Tall (1997)

Movie Poster of Stand Tall of Lou Ferrigno

Director: Mark Nalley

Another movie that involves a true bodybuilding legend.

This film chronicles the return of Lou Ferrigno to competitive bodybuilding after 19 long years of absence.

It also showcases the events surrounding Ferrigno’s resurgence, while appearances from Arnold Schwarzenegger and other champions add to the value of this film.

Similar in style to Pumping Iron but set in a different time, Stand Tall offers an exciting look into the 90s bodybuilding scene.

10. The Bodybuilder and I (2007)

Movie Poster of The Body Builder And I

Director: Bryan Friedman

The director of this heartwarming documentary reunites with his estranged father, Bill Friedman, a bodybuilder in his late 50s who is preparing for a Masters competition.

As the preparation progresses, so does the relationship between the two men as they discover more about each other.

11. Man Made (2018)

Movie Poster of Man Made

Director: T Cooper

It’s hard to find a powerful and realistic story about transgender bodybuilders such as the one told in this movie.

Man Made challenges the traditional outlook on bodybuilding and tells a story from the perspective of transgender bodybuilders and their journeys:

‘’Bodybuilding offers a ready metaphor for personal transformation, and the film embraces it, showing how exhibiting one’s strength, after years of privately embodied pain, can be freeing—even euphoric. ‘’

- R. L. Lipstein, Newyorker.com

This documentary not only showcases transgender physical prowess but also illuminates the social challenges and triumphs encountered. It goes beyond bodybuilding and expands on gender, compassion, and humanity.

12. A Skin So Soft (2017)

Movie Poster of A skin so soft

Director: Denis Côté

This Canadian documentary tells a story about a group of six men dedicated to a rigorous workout routine with just one aim: to overcome the limitations of the human body.

The group consists of an ex-champion-turned-trainer, high-level bodybuilders, and a strongman.

Unlike other bodybuilding documentaries, the film also touches on the sentimental side of the story.

It explores the concept of beauty and proportions in bodybuilding, hovering somewhere between idealization and reality, which makes the delicate title appropriate.

13. Kai Greene: A Day in the Life (2012)

Movie Poster of Kai Greene A day in the life

Director: Mike Pulcinella

No bells and whistles and cinematic gimmicks, only the raw reality of rigorous daily training and struggles that come with it.

An excellent source of workout advice from the legendary Kai Green, this three-part documentary motivates and inspires with its simplicity.

Whether you are just a fan, an aspiring bodybuilder, or a veteran, this documentary should definitely be on your list. It’s available for free on YouTube.

14. Born Strong (2017)

Movie Poster of Born Strong

Directors: Ross Hockrow, Gary Cohen

The documentary vividly captures the physical and emotional odysseys of four of the world's strongest men - Eddie Hall, Hafthor Bjornsson, Brian Shaw, and Zydrunas Savickas.

It begins with their individual journeys in their home countries, detailing their rigorous training regimes and personal lives as they strive to triumph in the Arnold Strongman Classic.

The film showcases their diverse approaches to strength and physique, revealing how each athlete uniquely adapts and excels in various aspects of physical prowess.

Enhanced by compelling interviews and high-quality visuals, the movie appeals to a wide audience, transcending traditional sports documentary boundaries.

15. Eddie: Strongman (2015)

shirtless eddie strongman

Director: Matt Bell

This inspiring British documentary tells the story of a truck mechanic, husband, and father of two, Eddie Hall, who wants to be the World’s Strongest Man.

The documentary vividly portrays an astonishingly driven man and the sacrifices he made to achieve his goals.

The movie features footage from the Arnold Classic, World’s Strongest Man events, and UK Strongman competitions, and it’s packed with great interviews, showing what motivates Eddie to be the best.

But what gives this movie additional value is Eddie's flamboyant character.

16. No Pain, No Gain (2005)

Movie Poster of No Pain No Gain

Director: Samuel Turcotte

The film tells the story of a bodybuilder who desires to be respected for his intellect.

A small-town  Ohio champion bodybuilder, Mike Zorillo, with a genius IQ, sets out on a journey to the Mecca of bodybuilding, Los Angeles, determined to beat his nemesis by using science instead of steroids.

Unlike other bodybuilding documentaries on the list, this one is closer to the comedy-drama genre.

17. The Game Changers (2018)

Movie Poster of The Game Changers

Director: Louie Psihoyos

The Game Changers focuses on the benefits of a plant-based diet, covering a number of success stories of plant-based athletes.

There’s a lot to learn about this food protocol, and the documentary references scientific studies and touches on other arguments for plant-based diets that extend to non-athletes.

It’s a great source of information on diet plans, training methods, and workout routines adjusted to fit a plant-based lifestyle.

What Are Your Favorite Bodybuilding Documentaries?

So, now that you have enough information and a long list of awesome films to enjoy on your days off, which one would be your first pick?

If you have already seen some or all the documentaries on the list and are feeling inspired to get into bodybuilding, check out some of our recommended high-quality whey protein powders that you can incorporate in your diet.


References:

  1. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/man-made-a-film-about-transgender-bodybuilders-upends-the-traditional-documentary-gaze
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2 thoughts on “17 Best Bodybuilding and Fitness Documentaries

  1. These bodybuilder films are so underrated. I hope more people watch them.

  2. I hope I see more women bodybuilders documentaries.

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