On Sunday, the story of Lance Armstrong will once again be headline news in the world of professional cycling with the debut of Lance, ESPN’s latest 30 for 30 expose.
While the latest doc on Armstrong is promising never before revealed secrets, a fuller truth and all the hot gossip on what really went down at the Tour de France, it is hardly the first film to tackle the Texan’s story.
For the latest episode of the Armstrong saga to have its full effect, you need to know the back story. Not just winning, then losing the 7 Tour de France titles. The relationships, the betrayals, the plot twists that played out on and off the roads leading to Paris.
That story has been extensively documented. The seven documentaries below – one for each Tour de France title – span from the height of his fame to the depths of his fall. The latest and most well known, released after the infamous Oprah interview, carry the weight of certainty. Earlier docs either still fully believe in the magic or are fighting against popular opinion to pull back the curtain.
There are books, too. Many of them. But at least with these movies, there’s a chance you’ll get through them all before the first episode of Lance airs Sunday.
Road to Paris (2001)
Originally produced by Nike in 2001 when Armstrong only had two Tour titles to his name, Road to Paris follows the US Postal team as they prepare for that year’s Grand Tour. From the pre-admission era, this one takes viewers back to a time when the rumors of his doping were widely disregarded. Since Nike has severed ties with Armstrong, this one is trickier to track down on official channels.
The Armstrong Lie (2013)
The Armstrong Lie started off as a triumphant comeback story. In 2009 filmmaker Alex Gibney being given unprecedented access to document the Texan’s return to the Tour de France. The story, and the movie, take are rewritten in dramatic fashion with Armstrong’s admission of doping and fall from grace.
Stop at Nothing (2014)
In the fallout of Armstrong’s confession, filmmaker Alex Holmes creates an explosive portrait of Armstrong as a disgraced athlete. It tells the story of how Armstrong cheated for personal gain, but also the story of how the “former friends whose lives he destroyed would prove to be his nemesis.”
Tour de Pharmacy (2017)
The HBO comedy starring Andy Samberg is about a fictional version of the 1982 Tour de France, not Armstrong. But the Texan does make a good cameo, so we’re counting it. Plus, the movie is a parody of the 30 for 30 series, so it’s especially timely viewing on the eve of ESPN obliging and releasing its earnest look at cycling with Lance.
Race Across the Sky (2010)
Race Across the Sky is the story of Lance Armstrong against Dave Wiens at the 2009 Leadville 100 mountain bike marathon race. Made shortly before his doping revelations, Armstrong still plays the part of the protagonist.
During the interlude between his first retirement and final Tour de France appearances, Armstrong raced mountain bikes. After losing to Wiens at Leadville 100 the year before, Armstrong is back for redemption.
The World According to Lance (2012)
This documentary talks to those who spoke out against Armstrong, including former teammates, and bills itself as a “forensic analysis of the biggest sporting fraud ever.” Unlike Stop at Nothing, this doc was finished before UCI delivered its final decision, and before the Oprah interview. The many former teammates and friends interviewed in The World According to Lance were still trying to convince the world of Armstrong’s guilt.
Paul Kimmage – Rough Rider (2014)
Set over two years against the backdrop of Armstrong’s fall from grace, Rough Rider follows Irish journalist Pual Kimmage at the 2013 Tour de France. Kimmage asks what is being done to prevent doping in cycling since the release of his book of the same name back in 1990.
The Program (2015)
Ok, The Program isn’t really a documentary. It’s a dramatic retelling of the true story of Armstrong’s rise and fall. The movie is based on the book Seven Deadly Sins by David Walsh. Along with Kimmage, Walsh was one of the key journalists responsible for revealing Armstrong’s cheating.
In the clip above, the actual David Walsh talks about bringing down Armstrong after years of pursuing the story.