The top 20 Films About the Olympics
The best movies about the Olympics: Chariots of Fire, Miracle, Munich, Foxcatcher, I, Tonya, The Cutting Edge, Without Limits, Blades of Glory, Cool Runnings, Richard Jewell, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Eddie the Eagle, Prefontaine, International Velvet and more
Here is our ranking of the best Olympic-related movies, including the Summer and Winter Games.
1. ‘Chariots of Fire’ (1981)
From the beloved original score to the famed running-on-the-beach scene, Chariots of Fire is a movie that resonates with sports fans and film buffs more than 40 years after the fact. The true story of British athletes Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) and Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), who competed in the 1924 Olympic Games for different, important reasons, remains powerful and poignant. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, including Best Picture.
2. ‘Miracle’ (2004)
When the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team’s gold-medal run made it to the big screen, it had to be something special. Miracle did not disappoint. Led by Kurt Russell’s stellar portrayal as determined coach Herb Brooks and reinforced by the actual original play-by-play audio in the Olympic game scenes, Miracle has solidified itself as one of the great sports movies of all time. Those who watched the “Miracle on Ice” unfold in real-time in 1980 should feel the chills of that experience while watching this film.
3. ‘Munich’ (2005)
The murders of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes, coaches, and staff during the 1972 Summer Games in Munich were the backdrop for this riveting Steven Spielberg-directed film about the Israeli government’s covert retaliation against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was responsible for the initial attack and hostage crisis that followed during the Games. Highlighted by memorable performances from Eric Bana and Daniel Craig, Munich was nominated for five Academy Awards.
4. ‘Foxcatcher’ (2014)
The story of philanthropist, wrestling fan, and eventual murderer John du Pont is highly intriguing and severely disturbing. The movie details du Pont’s interaction and obsession with Olympic-champion wrestlers Dave and Mark Schultz at his infamous Foxcatcher wrestling training facility in Pennsylvania. Steve Carell is brilliant as du Pont, while Mark Ruffalo is equally good as Dave Schultz. Channing Tatum held his own in portraying Dave Schultz. The movie was nominated for five Academy Awards.
5. ‘I, Tonya’ (2017)
The true story of Tonya Harding’s rise to international figure skating prominence and swift fall to late-night talk show joke was made for Hollywood. This particular film, which earned star Margot Robbie an Academy Award nomination and Allison Janney a Best Supporting Actress Oscar win as Harding’s mother, almost makes light of the entire plot in a tastefully entertaining fashion. The black comedy doesn’t claim to be a straightforward biopic but offers various viewpoints regarding Harding’s involvement in the attack of American skating rival Nancy Kerrigan.
6. ‘The Cutting Edge’ (1992)
Call it a cult classic or guilty pleasure, but The Cutting Edge has become one of the more popular romantic comedies over the last 30 years. A former standout hockey player (D. B. Sweeney) teams with a prima donna figure skater (Moira Kelly) for a shot at Olympic pairs skating gold while trying to avoid their obvious attraction to each other.
7. ‘Without Limits’ (1998)
This is the other film about the life of the aforementioned Steve Prefontaine. It stars Billy Crudup in the main role and received more critical acclaim than 1997’s Prefontaine. Crudup is completely genuine as the distance legend, while the movie also digs deeper into the person that Steve Prefontaine was — showing the audience that there was more to the person than just running. He had a drive for life, which was tragically cut short at age 24 from a car accident in May 1975. The film benefitted from Oscar-winner Robert Towne directing the film and Tom Cruise serving as a producer on the project
8. ‘Blades of Glory’ (2007)
The premise of guys paired together to win Olympic figure skating gold is not the norm, even in today’s accepting world. In a fictional film universe, it’s a gold-medal-winning concept, especially when funnyman Will Ferrell and Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) are the principal participants. Throw in splendid supporting performances from Will Arnett and Amy Poehler, and Blades of Glory might be the best Olympic-related comedy of all time.
9. ‘Cool Runnings’ (1993)
The story of the Jamaican bobsled team that improbably debuted at the 1988 Winter Games remains one of the best stories in Olympic history. This comedy starred the late, great John Candy as the team’s coach, and it’s loosely based on that story while adding the typical Hollywood punch that made it as feel-good a movie as it was a real-life story.
10. ‘Richard Jewell’ (2019)
This Clint Eastwood-directed, Academy Award-nominated drama follows the tumultuous life of security guard Richard Jewell after he is wrongly deemed the primary suspect of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing during the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games. Paul Walter Hauser delivers a breakout performance in the lead role. The great Kathy Bates as Jewell’s devoted mother and Olivia Wilde, brilliantly portraying bulldog journalist Kathy Scruggs, shine in supporting roles.
11. ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ (2013)
For those unfamiliar with the life of Indian sprinter Milkha Singh, this biopic is well worth the time. Singh, introduced to the world of track and field while serving in the Indian Army, competed in three Olympics from 1956-64. He’s one of India’s most celebrated athletes, who overcame much throughout his life to reach the heights he achieved. With Farhan Akhtar in the starring role, the film does a brilliant job of chronicling it all. Sadly, Singh passed away related to complications of COVID-19 in June 2021 at age 91.
12. ‘Eddie the Eagle’ (2016)
At the time Michael “Eddie The Eagle” Edwards competed in the 1988 Winter Games as Great Britain’s first Olympic ski jumper in 60 years, we weren’t totally privy to his intriguing and inspirational back story. While some considered Edwards a joke, his story is one of perseverance — overcoming health issues, a lack of gifted athletic talent, bullying, and emotional hardship to fulfill a dream. The movie is schlocky, but that’s OK. It’s a feel-good biopic, with solid performances from Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman.
13. ‘Prefontaine’ (1997)
Two movies chronicling the collegiate and Olympic pursuit of a legendary distance runner and athlete activist Steve Prefontaine were released within a roughly 18-month span. This was the first, directed by Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and featuring Jared Leto in the lead role. The film garnered decent reviews. Leto was praised for his performance of Prefontaine, and veteran character actor R. Lee Ermey was excellent as famed University of Oregon track and field coach Bill Bowerman.
14. ‘Race’ (2016)
One of the more recent Olympic-related movies worthy of praise. It’s the most modern take on the life of legendary sprinter Jesse Owens. He was a standout college athlete who earned his status as a legend when he became a figure transcendent of sport as a Black man, winning four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Actor Stephan James earned critical acclaim in his breakout role as Owens.
15. ‘Personal Best’ (1982)
The combination of Olympic aspiration and unintended romance makes for movie gold. That’s the case with Personal Best, which stars Mariel Hemingway as an American Olympic track-and-field competitor looking for redemption at the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow while also finding love. She must then deal with the fact that the U.S. will boycott those Games.
16. ‘International Velvet’ (1978)
The sequel to 1944’s National Velvet starring Mickey Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor. Tatum O’Neal stars as Sarah Velvet Brown, an American teenager who moves to England to live with her aunt after her parents are killed in an automobile accident. Following in her aunt’s footsteps, Sarah takes up show riding. With help from horse Arizona Pie, she becomes an Olympic-caliber rider.
17. ‘Breaking the Surface: The Greg Louganis Story’ (1997)
Saved by the Bell star Mario Lopez took on the lead role as the Olympic champion diver in this above-average made-for-TV production. After smacking his head on the diving board at the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, the HIV-positive Louganis’ trials and tribulations are told through a series of life flashbacks and conclude with the effects of the Olympic injury.
18. ‘Nadia’ (1984)
This made-for-TV movie chronicled the life of beloved Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci and how she came under the tutelage of infamous coach Béla Károlyi and his wife, Márta. She became an Olympic champion — the first woman, at age 14, to score a perfect 10. The movie, however, was not without a bit of controversy since Comăneci reportedly had nothing to do with the production.
19. ‘Miracle on Ice’ (1981)
Back in the 1970s and ’80s, made-for-network-television movies were all the rage. One of the more forgotten films of this era was the ABC story of the historic United States hockey team’s improbable run to Olympic gold in 1980, including a massive upset of the Russians. While nowhere near as celebrated as the Disney-related feature film on the same topic (more about that later), Miracle on Ice is time well spent. If for nothing else than to watch Karl Malden deliver a surly, cliched-filled take as coach Herb Brooks. Funnyman Steve Guttenberg portrayed conflicted netminder Jim Craig, and pretty-boy Andrew Stevens tried out a Boston accent while portraying team captain Mike Eruzione.
20. ‘Asterix at the Olympic Games’ (2008)
Based on the Asterix comics, this French comedy film from 2008 is likely not too familiar to mainstream movie fans. The premise is unique. Astérix and Obélix need to find success at the Olympic Games to help a friend’s love life and also destroy Julius Caesar. The picture has enjoyed somewhat of a cult following over the years, so it’s worth a view.
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