top 10 mental toughness documentaries

Top 10 Mental Toughness Documentaries That Will Make You Better

Spoiler alert— Life is hard! 

We now have three posts dedicated to documentaries… Here are the two others. 

  1. Another Top Ten Must Watch Mental Toughness documentary checklist. 
  2. Most Important List of Top 10 Mental Strength documentaries. 

Jon Morrow is a quadriplegic who is also one of the most accomplished bloggers on the planet. He’s overcome a ton of challenges and he shared one way that he rose to success was what he fed his mind

He would listen to podcasts, audiobooks, and watch the top 10 mental toughness movies of successful people for 6-8 hrs every day!!! Yes, this required patience. 

He marinated his mind with so much positivity, strategies, and models of success, that his reality changed.

The impossible was now very possible!

It makes sense, because after watching these Top 10 Mental Toughness Documentaries, I signed up for a 50k trail race, with less than one month of training. I also completed a full-Ironman WITH training and a 50-mile trail run. That’s how powerful these documentaries are. 

Who doesn’t want to get tougher and be more resilient, full of grit, and able to handle adversity in a positive fashion?

Let Us Be Your Guide To Mental Toughness Coaching. 

In order to have Mental Toughness, there must be some sort of adversity, struggle, or challenge. Mental Strength does not happen in the absence of competing against ourselves. The list of Top 10 Mental Toughness Documentaries exemplifies these skills in various ways.

In these movies, some people endure through disasters tough to ever imagine, whereas some persevere through decision making, some overcome battling injuries, and some display grit through sheer determination.

You can watch all of these documentaries FREE via Amazon Prime.

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10. The Ouray 100-

Non laurus luctatio- “Not the prize but the struggle” is the theme of this race! Avery Collins is the race favorite, but is near the last place at one of the world’s most difficult trail races because of a wrong turn! Avery spends the next ninety miles enduring high altitude terrain and foul weather in a daring attempt to reclaim his lead. Running time: 59 minutes

9. Running For Jim-

Running for Jim is the inspiring story of a high school running coach Jim Tracy and his battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease.) It follows his 2010 women’s championship team that brought his story to international attention. Running time: 117 Minutes

9B. Heart: From FlatLine to Finish Line-

It’s 9B because both of these documentaries ( 9 & 9B) raise awareness to causes larger than themselves. This one involves heart disease and the story about six cardiac patients from hospital beds to the finish line of one of the world’s most grueling endurance events, the Ironman triathlon. A harrowing twist in the middle of this documentary was NOT expected. Running Time: 1 hr 39 minutes

8. Long Green Line-

A cross-country coach has over hundreds of high-school kids show up every single year to run! That’s impressive enough! Coach Joe Newton has used the sport of Cross Country to teach important lessons to high school boys for the last 50 years. This mental toughness documentary is focused on a single season in his career and follows the team from Elmhurst, Illinois as they reach for their 25th state title. The film focuses not only on the top athletes, but an autistic runner, and an athlete with cerebral palsy. Running time: 1hr 29 minutes

7. Being Evil-

This is most well-polished of the top 10 mental toughness documentaries. Johnny Knoxville is the producer and the narrator. This story unfolds the man who started the term “daredevil.” His life on and off the stunts is as you can imagine, filled with highs and lows. It’s a modern-day epic Greek trilogy. Running time: 1 hr 40 minutes


6. Finding Traction: The Ultra Marathon Documentary-

Nikki Kimball attempts to beat the men’s record of the 273- mile Long Trail in Vermont. Yep, 273 miles! Follow along with her journey with her support team across four (4) days. This is a no joke, “a tough person” and it’ll have you in awe of her and her toughness. I highly recommend it for the empowerment of females as well. Running Time: 55 Minutes

5. U.S.S. Indianapolis-

This documentary may have you in tears. It’s the story of the worst naval disaster in U.S. history. The tragic story that the survivors go through is jaw-dropping. The U.S.S. Indianapolis was sunk in the waning days of WWII and it was not reported, so the sinking is an epic tale of survival for five (5) harrowing days. Running Time: 1 hr 38 minutes

4. Alone Across Australia-

Jon Muir simply walks across Australia, unassisted, for 1600 miles. This is desolate land through the middle of Australia! It took him 128 days with just him and his dog, surviving off of the land. An amazing battle of inner-strength. Running Time: 51 Minutes

3. Ultimate Triathlon-

I interviewed Luke Tyburski for my podcast- 15 Minutes of Mental Toughness. I interviewed him because of his grit and his ability to not only handle and overcome pain but to stay relaxed when all is against him.

The Ultimate Triathlon is his race From Morocco To Monaco – Swim / Bike / Run – 2000km (1200 miles) in 12 days. Running Time: 1 hr 37 minutes

2. Meru-

Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk attempt a first summit on the mountain Meru.

It’s located in India and the route that they take as a team has never been done. NO JOKE! This is big-time climbing. You’ll be in awe of these guys at what they attempt, the decisions that they have to make, and the perseverance and obsession with accomplishing this goal of Meru. Running Time: 1 hr 30 minutes

1. Barkley’s Marathon- The Race That Eats It’s Young.

This previously occupied the top spot on the Mental Toughness Documentary list. This is the race that has become a cult favorite amongst Ultra distance runners. This documentary outlines the history of the race, follows one entire race, and the eventual failures and successes of the field. This race is so arduous, that there were only 10 finishers of this race in its first 25 years! 

The Barkley’s Marathon is so difficult that in 2018 alone, amongst the world’s best racers, NO ONE even finished this race! Running Time: 1 hr 29 minutes

1B. The Dawn Wall-  

This list will continue to evolve. I watched this and immediately was in awe of Tommy Caldwell. He and Kevin Jorgeson attempt to climb the toughest part of El Capitan. He overcomes so much including losing a finger, being taken hostage in Afghanistan and his marriage falling apart.

They plan for 6 years! The BEST part is that this is the ultimate in TEAM! You’ll LOVE IT.

Running Time: 100 Minutes

1A. Free Solo- 

As you can see, the climbing movies occupy three of the top four spots in the best mental toughness documentaries. It’s probably because I don’t climb and am in awe watching these feats! Well, Alex Honnold takes the title here in Free Solo. 

He is a free solo climber.

In essence, he climbs with no ropes, or pullies.  He attempts to summit Free Rider on El Capitan.

He does this incredible climb with precise planning and walks through the fear he is faced. This is the best documentary I’ve seen thus far. Jimmy Chin directs it as well.  Running Time: 100 Minutes 

If you want a more detailed list of documentaries and even popular “movies” with some Hollywood added in, then please check out the awesome list compiled by Dr. Sam Forlenza or Brian Lomax Inspirational List Of Movies 

It’s a great resource for anyone in search of mental toughness coaching or sport psychology resources.


dr rob bell speakerDr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. DRB & associates coach executives and professional athletes. Some clients have included three different winners on the PGA Tour, Indy Eleven, University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens.