The Man Who Skied Down Everest (1975)
The first sports documentary ever to win an Academy Award, Japanese poet and Alpinist (now there’s an extreme combo!) Yuichiro Miura’s record of his adventures on the world’s highest peak is renowned not only for its topic, but also its tragedy – several of Miura’s team members died on the ascent.
Criticised by some for its creator’s self-aggrandisement (his crew was 850 strong and he used 27 tonnes of kit costing over $3m – in 1970!), it’s nonetheless a jaw-dropping watch. Miura skied down an 8000ft glacier, at a 40-45 degree angle, from the 26,000ft level near Everest’s summit, crashing to a halt at the lip of a crevice that might have swallowed him. The footage is grainy and there’s not much of it, but the narration, taken from Miura’s diary is massively compelling. As one review says, ‘what a peculiar and wonderful thing we have here in the human ego.’
Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)
Skateboarding films aren’t a rarity these days, but this is the one that propelled the sport into the Extreme Annals. Director Stacy Peralta was a one-time member of the Z-Boys, the surfer gang that pioneered a new style of skateboarding in the streets and empty swimming pools of 1970s Santa Monica. Using old home Super-8 videos made by the gang as well as present-day interviews, it’s voiced by Sean Penn and features Bowie, Aerosmith and Hendrix on the soundtrack. Gorgeous, nostalgic, and very impressive.
Jump London (2003)
Remember the opening scene of 2006’s Casino Royale? Daniel Craig’s Bond chases terrorist baddie, Sebastien Foucan, around a building site in a thrilling parkour sequence that reminded the world just how exciting running could be. Well, Foucan’s no fly-by-night free-runner – in fact, he’s one of the originators of the sport – and he’s also the star of 2003’s Jump London (and its 2005 sequel, Jump Britain), a Channel Four documentary about parkour by filmmaker Mike Christie.
Meet the Parkouristes – Foucan and his colleagues, Aoues and Vigroux – as they take to the streets of London, vaulting and somersaulting over and across all of our favourite landmarks. Well, who else could make us put ‘death-defying’ and ‘the Royal Albert Hall’ in the same sentence?
That’s my top three, exhausting yet exhilarating, extreme sports must sees, but what about yours?
Image credit: Diesel Damon