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The Top-Grossing Sports Documentaries of All Time

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire August 12, 2011 at 2:23AM

indieWIRE has a new weekend feature: A retrospective box office chart, based on one of the top indie titles opening this weekend. Today, iW is taking a look at the track record of sports documentaries, in honor of "Senna," Asif Kapadia's documentary about racecar driver Ayrton Senna.
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indieWIRE has a new weekend feature: A retrospective box office chart, based on one of the top indie titles opening this weekend. Today, iW is taking a look at the track record of sports documentaries, in honor of "Senna," Asif Kapadia's documentary about racecar driver Ayrton Senna.

Listed below are the top 10 grossing sports-related documentaries of all time, without adjusting for inflation. Clearly, there may be some contention as to what defines a "sports-related documentary." Included are 2005's "Mad Hot Ballroom," which deals with the dancesport of ballroom dancing, 2009's "Man on Wire," which depicts tightrope walker Philippe Petit, and "mind sport" docs like "Spellbound" and "Wordplay," which take on spelling bees and crossword puzzles, respectively. One could definitely make the argument for others not included, from "Paris is Burning" (vogueing) to "Buck" (horse whisperering).

Either way, Marilyn Agrelo's "Ballroom" is the overall top grosser, taking in an impressive $8,117,961. Close behind is Steve James' intensely acclaimed 1994 doc "Hoop Dreams," which grossed $7,830,611 (though if one does adjust for inflation, that's $14,349,600 by today's standards and the overall highest grossing sports doc).

Here's the overall top ten; figures are for North America only and not adjusted for inflation. If an oversight has occurred, kindly let iW know.

1. Mad Hot Ballroom (ballroom dancing, 2005) - $8,117,961
2. Hoop Dreams (basketball, 1994) - $7,830,611
3. Spellbound (spelling bee, 2003) - $5,728,581
4. Touching The Void (mountain climbling, 2004) - $4,593,598
5. Step Into Liquid (surfing, 2003) - $3,681,803
6. Wordplay (crossword puzzles, 2006) - $3,121,270
7. Man On Wire (tightrope walking, 2008) - $2,962,242
8. Freeriders (skiing, 1998) - $2,750,064
9. Snowriders II (snowboarding, 1997) - $2,287,639
10. Riding Giants (surfing, 2004) - $2,276,368