The 30 Best '30 for 30′ Films: The Fab Five, Reggie and 'The U' - Rolling Stone
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The 30 Best ’30 for 30′ Films

As ESPN’s groundbreaking series celebrates its fifth anniversary, we pick our favorite films: tales of triumph, tragedy and (of course) ‘The U’



In a 2009 interview with TV critic Alan Sepinwall, ESPN writer/producer/personality Bill Simmons laid out his plans for the (then) new documentary series 30 for 30: "We want to do stuff that people haven't seen," he said. "To tell stories that are different."

Five years later, 30 for 30 has stayed true to its mission. Mostly. The documentaries haven't always been that offbeat – and the series has long since outgrown its original "30 films about events from the last 30 years" premise – but 30 for 30 continues to connect top-notch filmmakers with subjects that they convey with passion and artistry. Along the way, the series has become a franchise, spawning web videos and spin-offs that have dealt with everything from Clyde Frazier's sartorial flair to the history of the high five.

On November 25, ESPN Films is releasing the 30 for 30 Fifth Anniversary Collection, a sprawling, 32-disc DVD (or 20-disc Blu-ray) set that contains 50 episodes from the 30 for 30 series, 11 "ESPN Films Presents" documentaries, two of the SEC Storied films, all nine of the Nine For IX episodes, all eight Soccer Stories, and selections from the 30 for 30 Shorts. That's a generous helping of some of the best sports journalism of the past half-decade. So to mark its release, we've chosen the best of the best: The Top 30 30 for 30s.


‘June 17th, 1994’ (Dir. Brett Morgen)

When the 30 for 30 series was first announced, ESPN and producer Bill Simmons touted the combination of big-name directors and unusual subjects, promising something more like actual cinema than the typical sports documentary. But for the most part, even at their best, the 30 for 30 films have been fairly straightforward as pieces of filmmaking. One major exception is June 17th, 1994, which looks at everything that was happening in the world of sports on the same day O.J. Simpson led the LAPD on a chase in his infamous white Bronco. Jumping from event to event like a channel-surfer – flipping back and forth between the NBA Finals, a Stanley Cup parade, a historic home run, the end of Arnold Palmer's U.S. Open career and more – director Brett Morgen captures how viewers process television, and how the media struggles to make sense of events that have no clear outcome.

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