13 Unmissable Bodybuilding Documentaries [2020]

Bodybuilding is more than an exercise regime or a routine to build muscles. It is an art and a state of mind and body that has the ability to push a person beyond the ordinary. Bodybuilding focuses not only on the in-gym aspect but also on an overall healthy and aware life. What goes through the life and time of a bodybuilder is much more than what could be imagined. Years of rigorous toil matched with determination and dedication is what sets the extraordinary athletes apart from the usual lot.

However, not very often do the stories get the reckoning and the appreciation they deserve. The primary reason for the occurrence is the less amount of awareness present between the people. Most people take bodybuilding just as an act of muscle buildup and display. The reality stands quite far and cannot be any more opposite to this stark belief.

As hard as the task is, even the most professional of bodybuilding athletes are humans too. The relaxation and off time away from the circuit is much necessary for the dedicated professionals. But for people who simply cannot stay aware, there are avenues to watch bodybuilding as well as enjoy it. Not only for the doers but also for the dreamers, these avenues and stories provide the right insight and motivationBodybuilding documentaries are the perfect source of motivation, knowledge, information, and entertainment for such people. These documentaries revolve around real-life stories and the buildup of professional athletes who have crossed the boundaries. These individuals took to the task of professional bodybuilding and aced it through. A thorough depiction of their regime, routines, schedules involved, and every other aspect is covered.

Over the years, the most significant of streaming giants have held the fort for these bodybuilding documentaries. Outlets such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc. provide these on the popular demand and have huge collections of these. Most of the options are available for subscribed viewing while some are available for free.

List of famous bodybuilding documentaries

Bodybuilding films were not abundantly made to start with. As time progressed, some significant athletes made their way to the bigger picture and hit the cinematic industry. What followed was the story that led them into having an impeccable physique and maintain it. Hence, the era of awareness dawned upon the bodybuilding documentaries as people demand hit an all-time high. The audience felt intrigued to connect with the famous ones and what went into their struggle. Moreover, budding and semi-professional builders took to these bodybuilding movies as a source of learning and inspiration.

A potential list of some of the finest documentaries that have hit the small or big screen to create a massive ripple would include:

  1. Generation Iron 1
  2. Generation Iron 2
  3. Generation Iron 3
  4. Pumping Iron
  5. Pumping Iron 2
  6. Dorian Yates- The original mass monster
  7. Muscle and medals
  8. Bigger Stronger Faster
  9. Ronnie Coleman: The King
  10. Stand Tall
  11. The Bodybuilder and I
  12. Man Made     
  13. A Skin So Soft

Generation Iron 1

Directed by: Vlad Yudin

Cast: Phil Heath, Branch Warren, Kai Greene

Release: 2013

Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Netflix

Watch the trailer here: Generation Iron 1

One of the most highly-rated bodybuilding movies ever made and the first one in the franchise too. Generation Iron 1 follows the story of multiple professionals and what they went through during the 2012 Mr Olympia. The narration duties are taken care of by Mickey Rourke, whereas the movie has inspirational appearances from the legends of the field. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jay Cutler have also appeared through the runtime of the movie. It was Phil Heath who took the accolades and the paycheck home at Mr Olympia 2012.

The story revolves around the buildup of the seven professional athletes. It includes every relevant piece of information and insight into their journey through the Mr Olympia competition in 2012. The documentary got a universal release and acceptance, including every major North and South American country, Europe, and Asia too. The movie’s box office stood just under a million-dollar, which is a decent return for the genre.

The fan base and the critical response for the movie were quite unanimous in declaring a significant victory. The story stands on the major platforms of Netflix and Amazon for every major subscriber of the service. Generation Iron also became the Best Documentary Film at the Rincon International Film Festival. The appearances of Dennis Wolf, Roelly Winklaar, Hidetada Yamagishi, Victor Martínez, Mike Katz, and other big names added to the firepower of the whole cast. The inception of Generation iron series proved to be a critically and financially successful venture.


Generation Iron 2

Directed by: Vlad Yudin

Cast: Kai Greene, Rich Piana, Flex Wheeler, Calum Von Moger

Release: 2017

Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Netflix

Watch the trailer here: Generation Iron 2

Another one in the immaculate series depiction of the bodybuilding generations, Generation Iron 2, is a trendsetter. Of all the bodybuilding documentaries, the generation iron series is a visionary project that showcases generation-wise differences. Each movie in itself is an amalgamation of the age-old techniques and also the state of the art facilities that combine together. However, the puzzle’s final piece is the dedication and determination of the real contributing members, the bodybuilders, and their teams.

However, in contrast to the original edition that follows the Mr Olympia contest, this part is broadly spread. The idea of the movie is to cover the life events on a regular basis of the Big-5 of the bodybuilding industry. Moreover, the movie also includes a plethora of additional names from the fitness world. The impact of the ever-changing social media and the uprise of the Internet onto the scene is dealt with effectively. The fact that the changing Generation and their needs for unique methods to succeed is covered in the world of bodybuilding.

The film had a decent run at various critical junctures but stayed behind its predecessor in terms of ratings. The streaming rights for the series remain with the streaming giants Netflix and Amazon. Moreover, the film became an instant fan favorite and sold more Blu-Ray and DVDs than its previous edition.


Generation Iron 3

Directed by: Vlad Yudin

Cast: Rafael Brandao, Chris Bumstead, Sheru Aangrish

Release: 2018

Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Netflix

Watch the trailer here: Generation Iron 3

For those who felt the tremors of Generation iron 2 were just not enough, Vlad Yudin had more in stock. Generation Iron 3 is the next entry in the list of bodybuilding documentaries that changed the trend to a major extent. With a widespread across the globe, the movie has a single aim, diversification, and acceptance. Through the biggest global names’ journey, the movie included the best possible details of “what makes a perfect physique and the perfect bodybuilder?”

As the movie journeys across countries and continents, each individual is scrutinized. From body shape to body form and every idea involved in the training regime, everything gets highlighted. It proved to be one of the reasons that Generation Iron 3 had a better critical response in comparison to its previous project, Generation Iron 2.

 On the contrary to the usual trend, the movie followed up immediately the next year after GI2. Whereas, the gap between the first and second part was quite significant. While the commercial stats were not released in public after the first part, the success remained much evident. The rights for this flick of the franchise remained in the usual hands of Netflix and Amazon Prime too. The movie surprised the usual bodybuilding fraternity with its different take of narration and shot sequences too.


Pumping Iron

Directed by: George Butler

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Ken Waller, Ed Corney

Release: 1977

Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Netflix, iTunes

Watch the trailer here: Pumping Iron

When the bodybuilding films are concerned, Pumping Iron was the pivotal tipping point that initiated the chaos. The making and release of Pumping iron made the industry realize that there is unlimited potential for the storytelling and depiction of bodybuilding professionals. Through a well-managed story and showcase, the movie made the names of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno into public heartthrobs. The movie gained good critical acceptance at that time, but it was also the first million-dollar baby among the documentary movies.

The movie switches between its narratives and the depiction of different stories. The first half is focused more on the intense competition for the amateur section of the Mr. Universe. The focus of attention stays on Mike Katz, as the story provides various insights. From the story of Katz being bullied to the ultimate triumph and what came in between, everything gets the due attention. The other focus of the story is on the man who later became a cult name, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The intense competition of his with Ferrigno and his final victory before calling it a day from the field of professional bodybuilding is what forms the plot. It showcases the struggles, the workload, and also the competition technicalities.

After a decent run at the given time, the movie has been available across the world through DVDs. Since the rise of the streaming platforms, the rights have been distributed, and the popularity has returned. To date, every potential bodybuilder refers to Pumping Iron as the most inspirational reference point for a fruitful career.


Pumping Iron 2

Directed by: George Butler

Cast: Bev Francis, Rachel McLish, Steve Michalik

Release: 1985

Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Netflix, iTunes

Watch the trailer here: Pumping Iron 2

If the sheer magnitude of the Bodybuilding documentaries is considered, the Pumping Iron 2 will stand apart. The other reason for it to stand apart would be the fact that it had a full focus on female bodybuilding. Through a conventional competition in the name of Caesars World Cup created just for the project, the outreach of the project was beyond doubts. The cast mix considered some of the greats from female weightlifting and bodybuilding at that time.

The movie had a significant runtime of almost 120 minutes. For a documentary of this genre, it stood out as a classic. Moreover, the rebirth of the whole scenario and its acceptance with the modern crowd is also a significantly encouraging prospect. Pumping Iron 2 was considered the stereotype-breaking effort that shed the right focus on the right areas in women’s bodybuilding. Not many bodybuilding films have dealt with the subject as beautifully as PI 2 did.


Dorian Yates- The original mass monster

Directed by: Vlad Yudin

Cast: Dorian Yates, Chris Cormier, Jay Cutler

Release: 2019

Where to watch: Amazon

Watch the trailer here: Dorian Yates- The original mass monster

If there ever was a name that revolutionized the whole idea of bodybuilding, it is Dorian Yates. A master of the art and a gold embedded name in Mr Olympia’s halls, Yates proved to be a game-changer. As the name depicts, Yates drew attention on gains that nobody even knew could have existed. More than that, the revolutionary and skilful display matched by the challenging training techniques insight to behold.

The man is also known for the endless contribution to the bodybuilding fraternity and the training initiative through blood and guts. Moreover, he has rejected plenty of mainstream offers to focus on the core development of the field. The story that moves through shows every internal and external battle fought by Yates in the journey through the darkness and beyond. Of all the best possible options for the Bodybuilding documentaries, this one is the true narrative and story style.


Muscle and medals

Directed by: William Gleed

Cast: Romane Lanceford

Release: 2017

Where to watch: Amazon Prime, iTunes, and Google Play

Watch the trailer here: Muscles and Medals

When it comes to inspirational Bodybuilding films, Muscles, and Medals, every prospective viewer is the first preference. Romane Lanceford and his emergence onto the bodybuilding scene was as abrupt as unexpected. The IFBB pro athlete saw the untouched heights at a very early stage in his career. However, the good times did not last long as Romane had to battle against a potential career-threatening occurrence in terms of a foot infection.

What transpires in front and behind the scenes is a story of real grit and inspiration. The series of unfolded events and real-life depiction is the point of inspiration for every budding bodybuilding enthusiast. The movie has found its way to the users also across the various streaming apps and through the usual DVD medium.


Bigger Stronger Faster

Directed by: Christopher Bell

Cast: Mike Bell, Mark Bell, Christopher Bell, Christian Boeving

Release: 2008

Where to watch: Amazon

Watch the trailer here: Bigger Stronger Faster

Unlike the other movies that feature on your list, the Bigger Stronger Faster ideology sets apart. For starters, the movie is focused more on the dimensions of professional wrestling. Moreover, the movie deals with the issue of drug use and abuse, both legal and illegal. The plot follows the unfolding around the Bell brothers’ story, for whom this is a family venture. The involvement of stalwarts and the inspiration drawn from Arnold and Sylvester define the trajectory.

What the movie primarily deals with is the inconsistencies around the US legal system for drug usage. Certain performance enhancement and other drugs which do not occur in the typical raw form and are valid are also scrutinized. While the movie was not supposed to be the typical money-spinner, the project yielded decent results. The further availability across Amazon and the other few digital platforms keep it readily available for any interested user. Interestingly. It is one of those rare bodybuilding documentaries that shifts the focus from the core fleet towards professional entertainment usage of wrestling.


Ronnie Coleman: The King

Directed by: Vlad Yudin

Cast: Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, Rich Gaspari

Release: 2018

Where to watch: Netflix, Amazon

Watch the trailer here: Ronnie Coleman: The King

If there ever is a conversation about the greatest to have ever graced the stage of bodybuilding, Ronnie Coleman is a name that is the absolute certainty. The man stood up to gather the accolades of Mr Olympia a record 8 number of times, the joint-most victories ever seen by the foundation. However, everything that comes also comes with a cost to bear. After a successful career, the grunt of the training and the stretched limits showed as Coleman’s body collapsed.

It brought him to an extent where the man simply couldn’t walk without the support of crutches. But given the true nature of the giant, no battle is ever lost. Hence, the effort is showcased in the flick, which is one of those bodybuilding films that are high on inspiration. It is the true inroad that any professional bodybuilding athlete would need to learn from the big man. The movie showcases Coleman’s past and present and shows why he remains the king of bodybuilding.


Stand Tall

Directed by: Mark Nalley

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Boyer Coe

Release: 1997

Where to watch: Amazon, Youtube

Watch the trailer here: Stand Tall

Among the list of inspirational bodybuilding documentaries, Stand tall surely does follow its name. The story is about the intense struggle and the battles that were faced by Lou Ferrigno. In a simple and classic way, the message is conveyed across of never giving up to the face of adversities. Lou and his hearing loss and the aftermath of his relation with bodybuilding find the right patch in this project. It showcases the happenings around and what other factors counted in for the man’s resurgence. Appearances from Arnold Schwarzenegger and other few stars is also a silver lining.

The movie, not made from the outright perspective of a commercial venture, did a pretty standard job. Moreover, the critics and the bodybuilding fraternity were all left in awe. Dating back to a pre-2000 release, the efforts put into the project are truly wonderful. The flick is also available on the YouTube channel and the ever-present platform of Amazon for every enthusiast.


The Bodybuilder and I

Directed by: Bryan Friedman

Cast: Bill Friedman and Bryan Friedman

Release: 2007

Where to watch: Amazon

Watch the trailer here: The Bodybuilder and I

The bodybuilder and I is a unique existence between the usual bodybuilding films and their themes. The journey of Bill Friedman through the thick and thin of the trade takes him beyond the 50 age mark. However, the man is determined to return back and reclaim his title. In the process, the film is made, and Bill’s reconnection with his son Bryan occurs.

Bryan, who was neglected by Bill since childhood, somehow finds an easy and effective way to connect with the man whom he trusted very little. The film also echoes the efforts of what goes through for a man to post his peak to come back and fight for his dream. Since it belongs to the Canadian origin, the movie gathered a lot of critical praise and also a list of awards across the globe in the documentaries category.


Man Made     

Directed by: T Cooper

Cast: Mason Caminiti, Dominic Chilko, Kennie Story

Release: 2019

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Watch the trailer here: Man Made

An inspiring ode to the LGBTQ community and the fears they need to overcome to perform on the bodybuilding platforms. The journey of Man Made traces the path of four transgender bodybuilders who take it as their aim to perform at the all-transgender bodybuilding event. The movie revolves around the hardships that the LGBTQ participants must face and the inherent struggles attached to the field. A ride through their lives and their willingness to overcome the odds sets the movie apart from the other usual bodybuilding documentaries.

More than the bodybuilding aspect, the structural scheme of struggles deserves a watch at work. The movie found its way to an exceptional critical rating across platforms with an equal amount of user willingness and reviews too.


A Skin So Soft

Directed by: Denis Côté

Cast: Jean-François, Ronald, Alexis, Cédric

Release: 2017

Where to watch: Amazon, iTunes

Watch the trailer here: A Skin So Soft

Standing as one of the plenty of bodybuilding documentaries from a Canadian origin, A Skin So Soft is a unique entity. Except for the usual portrayal of the bodybuilding, the movie portrays the usual limitations and the ways they are overcome. It dictates the sentimental side of the raw men, which often goes unnoticed. Through a perfect portrayal, Denis and the team have been credited to catch the attention of the whole world towards something that nobody knew to have existed.

The original release being in Spanish made it quite difficult to portray the emotions in a second language, which is English. The critics, too, felt that the original linguistics did the right justice to the script and the concept of the movie


The Perfect Time-Off

Through the collection of these movies and bodybuilding documentaries, every enthusiast has the right choice served. Filling in the rest days or drawing some inspiration, the movies serve it all. Through years of exhaustive hard work, the professional athletes display their might in the beautiful sport and profession. Every take in itself is different and one that draws towards a new and unexplored horizon.

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