The opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics airs tonight, officially kicking off the summer Olympics in Rio. In honor of the games, we decided to take a look back at some of the most memorable movies that featured or were predominantly about the Olympics. Some of these films are about the athletes themselves while others are about events surrounding the games but in all of them, the games played a major role in the story.
With that in mind, here’s a list of 10 must-see movies about the Olympic games.
Jim Thorpe: All American (1951): Starring Burt Lancaster, this 1951 feature tells the story of the Native American athlete Jim Thorpe. Thorpe was a legend in the 1912 Olympics. He won several track medals and earned world renown for his feats. According to History.com, “In 1950, the Associated Press named Thorpe the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century.”
Unfortunately though, he’s known for more than his work at the games. In fact, because of a technicality, he was stripped of his medals. This film focuses on the triumphs and low points of this great athlete, who– after his death– earned the medals back posthumously.
Chariots of Fire (1981): One of the most acclaimed sports films of all time,Chariots of Fire scored seven nominations at the 1982 Academy Awards. It won four of them including best picture, best screenplay, best costume design and best music. The feature tells the story of two religious men (one Jewish and one Christian) who rise to victory in the 1924 Olympics.
The feature is an an inspiring story about overcoming prejudice and standing by religious values even while pursuing an athletic victory.
Personal Best (1982): There are those who train for the Olympics and get the gold and there are those who train but never have the chance to compete. This 1982 drama tells the story of several women who trained to compete in the 1980 Olympics but never got the opportunity, thanks to the U.S. boycott of those games.
Mariel Hemingway and Scott Glenn star in this 1982 drama, which was wrriten and directed by Robert Towne. You can check out the trailer below.
Cool Runnings (1993): This inspiring Disney family comedy stars John Candy as the coach of a Jamaican bobsled team. The film was loosely based on the true story of a Jamaican team who defied the odds and went on to compete in the 1988 Olympics.
The popular film surprised critics and families alike, who praised its positive message and its distinctive comedy. You can watch the movie’s trailer below.
Prefontaine (1997): Director Steve James might be best known for his 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams but a mere three years after that film, he told another sports story on the big screen. Prefontaine tells the story of Oregon athlete Steve Prefontaine, an ambitious runner who never gave up in his desire to compete and ran in the 1972 Olympics.
Long before he won an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club, Jared Leto starred as this incredible athlete. The uplifting sports drama also featured Ed O’Neill and R. Lee Ermey in suporting roles.Check out the film’s trailer below.
Miracle (2004): Aside from the 4th of the July, there aren’t that many major events when thousands of people rally around our country and celebrate our nation’s victories. The Olympic Games is one of those occasions. That is especially true when our nation’s athletes face off against the athletes of a nation that is warring against us.
Such was the case in 1980 when the men’s U.S. Olympic hockey team faced off against the Russians in an intense match-up. The Russian team was favored but the U.S. men’s team defeated them in a historic upset and went on to win the gold medal. The 2004 Disney film Miracle chronicles how coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) defied expectations and led his team — and our nation’s spirit — soaring in the midst of the Cold War.
Munich (2005): Steven Spielberg’s provocative and controversial 2005 film focuses on the repercussions of a terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympics. At the games, 11 Israeli Olympians were murdered. The feature, which is loosely based on a true story, shows how the Israelis decided to seek justice against those attackers.
The film co-starred Eric Bana, Daniel Craig and Geoffrey Rush. Despite some of the controversies surrounding the film, it went on to earn five Academy Award nominations.
Unbroken (2014): This 2014 drama wasn’t predominantly set at the Olympics (although a few scenes did take place there). Instead, much of this film is set during World War 2 when a soldier was either stranded in the ocean or being held prisoner at a Japanese camp.
However, the soldier at the heart of this story is the courageous Olympian Louis Zamperini and many of his experiences were partially defined by the stardom he received from the Olympics. As a prisoner, for instance, he was singled out as a “celebrity” who was bullied because of his fame. The Japanese even tried to make him betray his country, knowing the propaganda victory they could claim because of that. Zamperini never gave up though and this film captures his powerful spirit.
Race (2016): Stephan James stars as Jesse Owens in this moving 2016 drama. The feature shows Owens competing in the 1936 Olympics, despite the fact that the Olympics were being held in Germany and were being overseen by the psychotic white supremacist Adolf Hitler.
Click here for our complete review of the film and you can check out the trailer below.
Eddie the Eagle (2016): Taron Egerton stars as the title character in this 2016 drama abut a wannabe ski jumper. Despite the odds against him (and the fact that he only recently began ski jumping), Eddie was the first Olympian who represented Great Britain in the sport. Despite some fumbles along the war, the quirky fellow inspired the world who watched him thrive in the 1988 Olympic Games.
Click here for our review of the film and you can check out the trailer below.