Muscles & Mayhem: 8 Similar Documentary Shows You Must See

Nosediving into memory lane, Netflix’s ‘Muscles & Mayhem: An Unauthorized Story of American Gladiators’ is a documentary series that offers the untainted reality of the stars on the ‘80s reality television show, ‘American Gladiators.’ Enthralling viewers with its complex challenges and test of strength, the show features a fight for glory. The premise pits contestants face-to-face against Gladiators who do not back down from a fight. As the contestants vie for the top prize, mind and body unite to fight till the end. While the show’s riveting premise managed to entertain countless, the truth was a little different.

The documentary series dives into the contestants’ unprecedented rise and chronicles their dramatic fall that eventually led to struggles with addiction and other problems. A gripping docuseries that offers behind-the-scenes of the famous stars, ‘Muscles & Mayhem: An Unauthorized Story of American Gladiators’ includes a number of gripping points. So, if you are equally intrigued by the mettle, and power of human will, here is a list of shows like ‘Muscles & Mayhem: An Unauthorized Story of American Gladiators.’

8. Killer Sally (2022)

Following the story of heralded bodybuilder Sally McNeil, this limited documentary series looks into the irreverent and ugly truths of bodybuilding. Uncovering the mask of muscle prostitution, physical abuse, sexual violence and child abuse, the series follows the events that led Sally McNeil to shoot her husband and fellow bodybuilder Ray McNeil. While it delves into a number of dark themes, ‘Killer Sally’ also looks at the harsh truth that comes with the demanding lifestyle of a bodybuilder. So, if you enjoyed the inquisitive breakdown of the entertainment stars’ life in ‘Muscle & Mayhem,’ then you’ll find this investigative documentary series equally intriguing.

7. Alex Schwazer: Running For My Truth (2023)

Following the story of Olympic medalist racer Alex Schwazer, the document series follows the inspiring comeback of the runner who was banned from the sport after being accused of doping. The documentary series offers a look into the obsessive need to win that drives athletes to mental and physical exhaustion. Reflecting the highs and lows of the sport, this docuseries focuses on the controversial journey of the famous athlete who wasn’t just accused of doping but was publicly renounced and had to face a high-stakes trial. Just like the stars of ‘American Gladiators’ who had to fight addiction and struggled with additional issues, ‘Alex Schwazer: Running For My Truth’ also follows the athlete’s return to the tracks.

6. Fearless (2016)

In a test of human will and life, ‘Fearless’ focuses on the deadly sport of bull riding. The documentary follows the rodeos from Brazil to Las Vegas and the famous championships where professional bull riders take center stage. As the technocrats divulge the blood rush that comes with their sport, they also showcase the risks that come with the title. Like ‘American Gladiators’ whose physical abilities were put to the test in a brutal arena, these bull riders also find themselves overcoming mental, physical and familial concerns in order to earn money, respect, title and success. So, if you enjoyed looking at the harsh realities of the show through the prism of ‘Muscles & Mayhem,’ then you’ll find this series equally entertaining.

5. Losers (2019)

When the only goal becomes winning, limits and boundaries become invisible. This documentary series features the stories of athletes who have suffered a number of losses and still overcome the mental pressure of defeat. Having to move past the high stakes of winning and losing, ‘Losers’ centers on a number of grave issues that come from this sort of pressure. From facing abusive parents to getting relegated in the field due to color and race, this documentary series showcases the harrowing experiences that make sports more than just a test of endurance and strength. Similar to the ‘American Gladiators’ who became obsessed with delivering their best in order to keep up with their success, ‘Losers’ also profile a number of athletes who have felt such emotions at times.

4. McGregor Forever (2023)

This documentary series profiles the dynamic career of Conor McGregor, the Irish mixed martial artist. Making a return two years after the Covid-19 pandemic hit and the world shut down, the show maps the struggles and challenges that athletes face when they lose momentum. As the UFCs biggest draw, his reputation hangs in the balance as he comes back to defeat one of the greatest fighters. Much like ‘American Gladiators’ who carried a chip on their shoulder that drove them to the end of the human limit, ‘McGregor Forever’ also features the inspiring journey of a man who takes brutal strikes professionally.

3. Arnold (2023)

Directed by Lesley Chilcott, Netflix’s ‘Arnold’ maps the life and journey of the revered actor, politician and professional bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger. Breaking down the barrier between reality and his image, ‘Arnold’ follows the highs and lows that come with fame and success. Examining the vociferous resolve and determination that plummeted the young dream into varied fields, the docuseries pays an ode to the success of the great actor. However, just like ‘Muscle & Mayhem,’ ‘Arnold’ also showcases that success isn’t unilateral and always brings its side of issues and problems, making this the right documentary show to watch next.

2. FightWorld (2018)

A test of resolve and caliber, ‘FightWorld’ focuses on the people who fight for more than just hobby and profession. The docuseries follows actor and fight enthusiast Frank Grillo traveling across the world to explore the myriad of fight cultures that are nurtured in respect of different social and cultural norms. From offering a community to young children to creating discipline, ‘FightWorld’ drifts from the one-dimensional conception of fighting as violence and gore. Instead, the series dives deep into the emotional, social and cultural aspects of the sport. Just like the Gladiators who sought to inspire and succeed, ‘FightWorld’ also focuses on the immersive capacity of a sport that’s perceived to be unidimensional.

1. Home Game (2020)

A combination of weird and violent regional sports that features human spirit and determination, ‘Home Game’ profiles a number of unique and dangerous sports with traditional roots around the world. The Netflix documentary, narrated by Mark Strong, encapsulates unimaginable sports, such as rugby mixed with martial arts which has no rules. Much like ‘Muscles & Mayhem,’ which explores the heights of human will, ‘Home Game’ also profiles the cultural and social roots that give way to inconceivable sports. From mysticism to deadly physical combat, ‘Home Game’ depicts the kind of sports that push the limits of the human body, making this the right documentary to watch next.

Read More: American Gladiators: Where Are They Now?