Whenever I’m feeling unmotivated from my work in the gym, I personally always turn to a bodybuilding documentary.
It’s just something about the spirit of bodybuilding documentaries that is just so different than everything else on TV. The comradery and spirit of weight lifters in my opinion is unmatched in any other sport in the world.
And, sometimes we need something good to watch while we are eating or recovering from the gym. Nothing better to motivate you to get your protein in than watching a ton of fellow bodybuilders talk about the sport and how they got to their goals.
So, here’s my list of the 20 Best Bodybuilding Documentaries.
How could Pumping Iron NOT be the best bodybuilding documentary on this list? It’s an absolute classic and represents the whole heart and spirit of the Golden Era of Bodybuilding.
There’s nothing better than listening to Arnold’s story as he prepares for the Mr.Olympia competition. Even though this documentary is decades old, something is just so different about it.
You really get a glimpse into the first years of bodybuilding, you see the ‘legends’ we know today in their prime years and you see what their everyday routines were like.
One of my favorite quotes from the documentary is when Arnold tells his friend, “Come on, let’s get serious”- then his friend nearly passes out from squatting. It really represents our bodybuilder spirit- you give the weights your ALL. There’s no giving up.
The documentary follows a very interesting story about Arnold, his main rival, and a few other competitors as they prepare for the Mr.Olympia competition. The plot twists, the rising action, everything about this documentary is great.
If you haven’t watched this yet, get to it. It is one of the best bodybuilding documentaries out there if not THE BEST.
Westside vs The World
- Watch Westside vs The World on Amazon
- Watch Westside vs The World on YouTube Movies
- Watch the Westside Barbell VICE Documentary
Everybody knows the famous Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach, California- the one Arnold trained at.
But now, a gym called Westside Barbell has earned that title too.
Westside Barbell is an incredibly controversial gym due to its intense ‘Conjugate Method’ of training, explosive intensity, incredibly savage, and borderline crazy workout routines.
This was a gym that came out of nowhere, and now holds the most records of any gym in the world.
Some people think they are the scourges of the powerlifting world. All I can say is that after I watched both documentaries on them, all I want to do is JOIN THEM.
These are the guys out there that take weight lifting seriously. So many people today have forgotten that ‘love’ for weight lifting, and these guys have mastered that true love for weight lifting.
They will stop at NOTHING to push the limits of the human body. And that is why many of us that go hard in the gym and take weight lifting seriously will appreciate a gym like Westside Barbell.
But this documentary really covers the INTENSE training regiment, the intense drama, and why Westside Barbell is such a controversial gym. Learning about the legends like Louie Simmons, Mark Bell, and more and learning what it’s like being some of the strongest men in the world is just a crazy experience. It’s captivating.
It’s one of the best bodybuilding documentaries out there for a reason. If you’re really into powerlifting or strongmen, I really recommend you watch it. Even if technically bodybuilding is different from powerlifting, we can all agree that we all push heavy weights and build muscle.
I’ve also included the VICE documentary below this if you want more:
Generation Iron I, II, III, Natty 4 Life
Pumping Iron was a documentary focused on Arnold and a few other competitors in the ‘Golden Era of Bodybuilding’. But, what if they made a documentary following bodybuilders of today?- In the Modern Era of bodybuilding?
That’s actually exactly what Generation Iron is. So, if you liked the style of Pumping Iron, but hoped you could see a more modern version of it- here you go!
It’s actually very interesting to watch both and see the differences between training styles, diet, supplements, and more from back then to now.
Bodybuilders today are so different than back then. They are not only bigger, but they have radically different training styles that push the limits of the body. It’s interesting to see the intense work that bodybuilders of TODAY do and how modern bodybuilding competitions are judged.
- Generation Iron I follows the 2012 Mr.Olympia and the bodybuilders in it.
- Generation Iron II follows the effects of social media, how influencers affect the sport, how the sport has expanded, and how it has changed over time.
- Generation Iron III goes back to following bodybuilders, and this time it covers the 2018 Mr.Olympia.
- Generation Iron IV (Natty 4 Life) takes a look into natural and unnatural bodybuilding, and tries to tackle the issue of roids in bodybuilding.
If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. It’s one of the most famous bodybuilding documentaries released within the last few years for good reason. It gives you a ton of information about the sport as a whole.
Born Strong is one of the best bodybuilding documentaries out there. Sure, it follows strongmen- which isn’t exactly bodybuilding- but most of us can understand that a lot of the time we just want to watch some heavyweights being lifted.
Born Strong follows Eddie Hall, Brian Shaw, Hafthor Bjornsson, and Zydrunas Savickas. It follows them as they compete in the Arnold Strongman Classic!
I think this documentary was so interesting because bodybuilding and being a strongman- while similar- have differences that are just interesting to see. For instance, these guys don’t really have a ‘cut’ phase, they just eat more and more.
And it really makes you take into question your own training. These guys eat nonstop and get really strong- so it’s just motivational overall. Plus, there’s a lot to learn about the whole strongman side of the weight lifting world.
So, I highly recommend you watch this. You can learn a lot and then help understand your strongman friend who is casually benching 700 lbs for reps.
Bigger Stronger Faster
If you’re interested in an unbiased view of roids, Bigger Stronger Faster is one of the best bodybuilding documentaries for that.
Here’s the thing, roids have a weird stigma in bodybuilding. Some people love them, some people hate them. But Bigger Stronger Faster will certainly help paint a better picture in your mind about the truth of it all.
It features prominent weight lifters Chris and Mike Bell. This documentary was so good it in fact won quite a few awards.
I won’t spoil too much, but it’s interesting to see the truth about it all in the industry, and the real death rate of it all.
I highly recommend you check this one out.
A Skin So Soft
A Skin So Soft is one of the more ‘sport-focused’ bodybuilding documentaries out there. The main focus is examining the daily routines of bodybuilders and seeing what their thoughts are, motivations, training styles, et cetera.
This is a bodybuilding documentary you’d want if you’re more interested in just knowing the daily lives and routines of general bodybuilders. If you weren’t interested in the documentaries above that featured individual people or incidents like roids or Westside Barbell, this may be more of your style.
It’s a great documentary to watch, I highly recommend it.
CT Fletcher: My Magnificent Obsession
CT Fletcher: My Magnificent Obsession is one of the best bodybuilding documentaries out there that is almost unheard of.
It’s almost like not even a bodybuilding documentary, but more of a real ‘movie’ that follows an intense- but the real story about CT Fletcher.
He’s one of those more quiet guys in the industry (and is that a bad thing? With how some people in this industry behave, certainly not) but he certainly somebody to respect for his story and character.
I’ve never seen somebody who kept going to become a six-time world champion powerlifter considering nearly every card in the book was stacked against him.
He just never gave up. You learn a lot about this guy’s family and story. He is truly somebody I wish we would hear more from in the bodybuilding industry- instead of some of the jerks we have blabbing their mouths on social media today.
Even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson said this documentary was incredible. I really recommend it.
Without spoiling it- a man from Compton, who had multiple heart attacks, has immense love for his family, grew up in an abusive household- somehow makes it as one of the most famous powerlifters in the world. You need to see this.
My favorite quote from him: “If I die in the pursuit of my magnificent obsession (bodybuilding), then SO BE IT”.
Bigger is one of the more famous bodybuilding documentaries that really took off at the box office.
This documentary almost takes a step back and looks at the ‘commerce’ side of bodybuilding. It features the famous Joe Weider and how he and his brother, Joe, overcame things like anti-semitism and poverty to start a massive company in the fitness world.
Today, his name is still known by every bodybuilder out there.
If you’re more interested in the economics of bodybuilding and how the whole fitness industry started, this is the bodybuilding documentary for you.
The Perfect Physique
The Perfect Physique is as it sounds, a bodybuilding documentary about achieving the perfect physique. But, it’s actually much more than that.
What makes this one of the best bodybuilding documentaries is that it really focuses on the reasons WHY people want that perfect physique. Instead of focusing on getting it, it looks at the reasons that bring people to bodybuild in the first place- and it can get really emotional.
Many of us don’t like to admit it- but we didn’t just stumble into the gym on accident and thought it was cool. A lot of us dealt with bullying, self-confidence issues, relationship problems, health problems, and more…
And this documentary really looks at that and shows how they overcome it and how they achieve it.
I don’t know, the documentary gets a bad wrap. But, I think that’s because some of the critics haven’t been in the gym and they don’t really understand some of the depth of the things said.
Regardless, if you’re into bodybuilding, I think you’ll really like it.
Legends of Strength & Strongland
Legends of Strength & Strongland is almost like if the ‘History Channel’ made documentaries for bodybuilding. It’s one of the best bodybuilding documentaries out there, and it’s for the people that LOVE the actual ‘history’ of bodybuilding.
We are talking like, BEFORE ARNOLD, like BEFORE BEFORE him. We are talking about the Eugen Sandow era of bodybuilding, where the sport was BRAND NEW.
The bodybuilding documentaries were created by Rogue Fitness, and they did a phenomenal job of covering the culture and origins of bodybuilding.
I highly recommend it, great production quality- everything. If you’re a history buff, this is the documentary for you.
- Eddie: Strongman is only avaliable on Netflix currently.
If you find yourself being a bodybuilder that likes to focus on those heavier reps, you might be interested in this.
While again, being a strongman isn’t exactly the same as bodybuilding- they’re very similar.
I think a ton of people would stand to learn a lot about training, dieting, and more from watching this documentary on Eddie Hall as it follows him in becoming the World’s Strongest Man.
It is honestly a story that keeps your attention, and it just kind of gets more interesting the more you watch it. Honestly, after you finish it, you might just want to become a strongman!
The Game Changers
I think all of us can say that at one point or another we have wondered how ‘modern bodybuilding diets’ came to light. And the truth is- a lot of it wasn’t based on science at all- until now.
The Game Changer takes an in-depth look and literally travels the world to answer the question- are our diets helping us grow muscle?
This documentary is actually intense, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger shares a lot of his thoughts about the interesting information that comes up.
Without spoiling too much- I’ll fill you in a little on what this is all about.
So, this guy who trained the military special ops gets injured while training them. He is out for 6 months or so because of how severe his injuries are. Anyways, he decides he wants the best diet to recover- so he does some research on ancient roman gladiators.
Turns out, the research indicated that the ancient Roman gladiators ate little meat to none at all.
This shocked him, so then he went on this quest to find out what food REALLY helps the human body grow muscle. It’s actually super interesting to watch.
If you’re super into the science part of bodybuilding, I HIGHLY recommend you check this out. It’s one of the more well-known bodybuilding documentaries out there.
Man Made is a super interesting bodybuilding documentary. It’s all about trans bodybuilding.
It’s something cool in the industry, and I really like how this documentary followed the lives of these bodybuilders in not only their journey to the big stage, but their childhood.
Plus, I may be biased because one of the cast members was from Minnesota (my hometown) but overall it was a great documentary. It was super interesting to see the whole thing beginning-to-end and I was hooked the whole time.
If you’re interested in trans bodybuilding or just want to learn about something that is new to the industry, I highly recommend you check it out!
Iron and Beyond (Arnold Schwarzenegger Documentary)
Iron And Beyond is best described as an Arnold Schwarzenegger documentary.
It’s very popular and most of Arnold’s fans have seen it.
The thing is, Arnold is the poster child of bodybuilding, and always will be. But, there are a lot of people in the industry (such as Lou Ferrigno) that ruin it for the fans. (Lou Ferrigno is known for charging fans for autographs)
Arnold on the other hand, is probably the best person we could’ve had to be the main face of bodybuilding. He is so respectful of all, is incredibly motivating, is incredibly inspiring, and is just an overall good guy. In fact, he got elected to Governor of California just because of it.
So, Arnold has a really strong fanbase. And if you’re one of his fans (like I am) then I highly recommend you check out Iron and Beyond.
Ronnie Coleman: The King
Ronnie Coleman is one of the best bodybuilders in this generation, if not the best.
I’ve already expressed enough about him and the way he changed bodybuilding. Plus, I’m always screaming “AINT NOTHING BUT A PEANUT” or “LIGHTWEIGHT BABY” before I hit a big rep- just as he did.
Regardless, we all love our former Police Officer and crazy huge bodybuilder Ronnie.
He has done a ton for the bodybuilding world, so I highly recommend you check out this documentary all about him and his come-up.
It truly is one of the best bodybuilding documentaries out there.
Kai Greene – A Day in the Life
Kai Greene is a very famous bodybuilder. He is known for being cordial, yet being incredibly aggressive and unrelentlessness in his weight lifting routine.
He carries a cool hairstyle and is one of the biggest bodybuilders in the world. He has a huge fanbase.
The best part of this documentary was that it wasn’t some weird ‘Hollywood movie’ grotesque documentary. It was a straight-to-the-point, informative, and genuine view of Kai Greene’s daily life.
No gimmicks, no buttering anything up- it showed the reality of being a bodybuilder. And I’ll let you decide if that is something good or bad.
Dorian Yates: The Original Mass Monster
I know a ton of people love Dorian Yates. He is one of the most famous bodybuilders out there.
It’s very interesting to see his story, including his struggles with depression- it’s motivational as it reminds us that even our legend, Dorian Yates, had setbacks at some points- and we will too. It’s a part of the process and I’m glad Dorian Yates opened up about it.
Dorian Yates has a crazy story about his come-up, and he’s definitely one of the more interesting and inspirational bodybuilders out there.
My favorite quote from him is, “They say you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, but I only had one egg”. It really shows, ‘hey, sometimes you have to risk it all and just work with what you have’.
Calum Von Moger: Unbroken
Calum Von Moger is another one of those famous bodybuilders that everybody loves.
I’m telling you- this guy is crazy. I literally could not keep my jaw closed when I wrote the article about how he injured himself after literally FALLING OFF THE SIDE OF A CLIFF.
And then I also had to write an article about his awesome arms workout, that puts on a TON of size and utilizes some of the ‘golden era’ ways of training your arms.
He’s actually a really cool guy, and if you’re interested in knowing a lot about his actually really surprisingly life story- I recommend you watch it.
Lee Priest vs Bodybuilding
Lee Priest is one of the more controversial figures in bodybuilding due to some of the things he posts on social media.
But, the guy has had a crazy life. Even winning a bodybuilding competition at age 13, and then being outed by a bully in school by his own mother? This dude’s life story is interesting.
If you’re looking for a rollercoaster of a bodybuilding documentary to watch, definitely check this one out.
Golden Era of Bodybuilding Documentary
This bodybuilding documentary does less ‘explaining’ and more ‘showing’. It really just shows what the Golden Era of Bodybuilding was like. It’s almost like you’re taking a time machine back.
I won’t lie, it can be a bit boring at times, but this is definitely a cool documentary to check out and see what it was like back then.
In paradise…the California beaches, lifting as the sun hits you. I wish I could go back!