Great athletics movies

With Fast Girls due to hit British cinemas on June 15, here is the AW editor’s top 10 athletics-related films

Posted on May 23, 2012 by
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Chariots of Fire

The big Olympics-related movie due to hit the screens on the eve of the London Games is Fast Girls. The background behind the film is in the latest, May 24, issue of Athletics Weekly and you can watch the trailer here. But its imminent launch had me wondering what the greatest athletics or running films in history are.

Being an avid film goer, I enjoyed writing this list. Although I have not seen every film ever made, so there are doubtless one or two worthy additions that could potentially be made. Anyway, here goes…

1 Chariots of Fire
British Oscar-winning film from 1981 that told the story of sprinters Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams in the run-up to the 1924 Olympics. Re-released this summer and has stood the test of time, even if we’re all a bit sick of the theme tune by now.

2 The Games
This Michael Winner film sees Michael Crawford, Ryan O’Neal and Charles Aznavor play athletes training for the Olympic marathon. Cheesy but great fun with Crawford’s character Harry Hayes on a suicide mission to run the two-hour marathon under instruction from maniacal coach Sir Stanley Baker.

3 Gallipoli
A young Mel Gibson stars as one of two runners who travel from the professional sprint scene in Australia to the battle front of Turkey in the First World War. Serious athletics action mixed with gripping war story.

4 Geordie
Alastair Sim and Bill Travers in a tale about a Scottish weakling who follows a body building plan as a child and eventually heads to the Olympics as a hammer thrower. Brilliant, if now rather dated.

5eq Running Brave
How Billy Mills of the United States struck surprise gold in the 10,000m at the 1964 Olympics.

5eq The Jericho Mile
Fictional story of a man who trains to run a sub-four-minute mile from inside the walls of a prison.

7 Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
A rebellious youth, sentenced to a boy’s reformatory for theft, rises through the ranks of the institution through his prowess as a runner.

8 Run! Lola! Run!
Imaginative German film starring Franka Potente, who spends most of the film running through various alternative scenes in a bid to raise money for her boyfriend. Not a genuine athletics film, but has so much running it sneaks into this list.

9 Forrest Gump
Also not entirely about running, but Tom Hanks’ ultra-distance exploits led to the phrase “Run, Forrest, Run” becoming entwined in contemporary culture.

10 Run, Fat Boy, Run!
Silly comedy in the Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead mould about an out of shape loser, Simon Pegg, who runs a marathon to win his girlfriend back.


» The May 24 issue of Athletics Weekly magazine has a big feature on Fast Girls. But what’s your favourite athletics movie of all time? Join the debate on Twitter with #fastfilms

6 Responses to “Great athletics movies”

  1. Vince says:

    You left our Marathon Man

  2. Malcolm says:

    And how could you leave out Prefontaine??

  3. Tucks says:

    You need to see Saint Ralph.

    Not many people will have heard of it because it's a Canadian filem but it is a MUST see!

  4. ali says:

    Dear lord you did not include Prefontaine.
    Then there was that docudrama Endurance with Haile as the star.

  5. Go Pre says:

    'Without Limits' has been missed – one of the best athletics films – Chariots of Fire is an inspirational film but factually the story is all over the place.

  6. Tom says:

    Saw a documentary Town of Runners recently, about long distance runners from Ethiopia, was very good

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