Best Olympic Movies: From Chariots of Fire to I, Tonya

Ahead of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, we look at a list of some of the best must-see Olympic movies, which have been critically acclaimed.

Published : Jul 15, 2021 14:09 IST

From I, Tonya to Unbroken, here is our picks of films on the Olympics that you should watch in the run-up to the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.
From I, Tonya to Unbroken, here is our picks of films on the Olympics that you should watch in the run-up to the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

From I, Tonya to Unbroken, here is our picks of films on the Olympics that you should watch in the run-up to the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

Over the years, several glorious Olympic moments have been made into Oscar-worthy films. These are not necessarily gold medal-winning moments. But those that made the athletes and spectators experience an emotional roller coaster at the Games.

Here are some of the best must-see Olympics-based movies:

Foxcatcher (2014) starring Channing Tatum, Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo


American multimillionaire John Eleuthere du Pont and his Team Foxcatcher, which was initially established to promote American wrestlers, were in the news for all the wrong reasons. Wrestling enthusiast Du Pont's equation with the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics' gold medal-winning Schultz brothers -- Dave and Mark -- and the trio's role in helping Foxcatcher's wrestlers reach the next level were all depicted in a film of the same name. Mark Schultz felt overshadowed by his much more accomplished brother. His journey to the 1988 Seoul Games with support from Du Pont and his relationship with Dave, who was eventually shot by the latter, is shown brilliantly in this multi-starrer featuring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo.

Foxcatcher on Amazon Prime (Run time: 137 minutes)


Chariots of Fire (1981) starring Ben Cross and Ian Charleson.


This film is based on the success of British runners Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Liddell, a devout Scottish missionary born in China, had won a gold (400m) and a bronze medal (200m) at the Games, while Abrahams, an English Jew, had claimed a gold (100m) and a silver (4*100m relay).

Eric Liddell, winner of the 400m event at the 1924 Paris Olympics, is paraded around Edinburgh University after his win. He was known as Flying Scotsman and immortalised in the film Chariots of Fire.

Being a critically acclaimed film, Chariots of Fire had won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, in 1982. Several critics lauded the movie for its portrayal of Olympic greats -- Liddell and Abrahams -- who wanted to run for the glory of God and to overcome prejudice, respectively.


(L): Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan(R): Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding

I, TONYA (2017):

If you hear about the controversial moments in two-time American Olympian Tonya Harding's career, you wouldn't believe something like that could ever happen. The 1991 World Championships silver medal-winning figure skater's life was shot as a movie starring Margot Robbie, who played the titular character. Her co-stars include Sebastian Stan, who played Tonya's husband Jeff Gillooly, and Allison Janney, who won an Oscar for portraying Tonya's mother LaVona Golden. The abusive relationship between Tonya and her mother, Jeff's orchestration of an attack on Tonya's rival Nancy Kerrigan, and all events before and after the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics are well documented in this film.



Two films on the life and tragic death of American long-distance running sensation Steve Prefontaine ---- Prefontaine starring Jared Leto and Without Limits starring Billy Crudup -- were released in back-to-back years (1997 and 1998). The second one was considered 'the better version' by many critics. Without Limits follows the relationship between Prefontaine and his coach Bill Bowerman, who co-founded Nike . Meanwhile, Leto's version tells the story from his assistant coach Bill Dellinger and girlfriend Nancy Alleman's point of view. Prefontaine had finished fourth in the 5000m event of the 1972 Olympics, which was marred by the Munich Massacre. The aggressive runner had led the race until the last 150 metres, only to be beaten by three others. Just when he was preparing to redeem himself at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the Olympian-turned-activist Prefontaine, unfortunately, passed away.


RACE (2016):

Jesse Owens is arguably one of the greatest track and field athletes of all time. From the racial discrimination he faced at Ohio State University to his record-breaking four gold medals (100m, 200m, long jump and 4*100m relay) at the 1936 Berlin Olympics amid a Nazi wave, the African-American sprinter and long jumper came had come a long way. His coach Larry Snyder played a huge role in his historic triumph.

American athlete Jesse Owens, winner of four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games, revisits the scene of his former victory in Berlin. The 2016 film Race speaks about his incredible achievements.

Owens' life story, which involves him proving a politically embarrassing refutation of Nazi Germany's claims about Aryan or White athletic supremacy, has been portrayed in a feel-good manner in the film 'Race'. Another documentary feature film titled 'Olympia', which released in 1938, speaks about the issues surrounding the 1936 Olympic Games on the whole.

Race on Amazon Prime (Run time: 129 minutes)


MIRACLE (2004): 

Kurt Russell is often considered one of the best actors to have never been nominated for an Academy Award. And his performance as the former United States Ice Hockey team's head coach Herb Brooks took him to the brink of an Oscar nomination. The 1980 gold medal-winning U.S. Hockey team wasn't among the favourites to come out on top. It was a matter of pride for the home side to beat the Soviet Union at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics. Miracle runs through the preparations, in-team rivalries and unexpected hurdles faced by Brooks and his men back then.

Canadian-French film Jappeloup (2013)


French Equestrian Pierre Durand Jr. gave up his law career to get into show jumping. He purchased a horse called Jappeloup de Luze and proceeded on his voyage to glory. But little did he know that Jappeloup will reach a legendary status at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Durand Jr. and Jappeloup's incredible exploits were turned into a Canadian-French film 25 years later. After being deemed too small and too stubborn to be an Olympic champion, Jappeloup failed at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. But that didn't stop him as he won Durand Jr. a gold medal in the Individual jumping event and a bronze in Team jumping during the 1988 edition.


Unbroken (2014) starring Jack O'Connell

UNBROKEN (2014):

This Angelina Jolie directorial depicts the struggles of American Olympian Louis Zamperini, fondly known as Louie. Zamperini finished eighth in the 5000-metre race at the 1936 Berlin Games. However, he had set a record in the final lap of the race back then, even impressing the likes of Adolf Hitler. The distance runner of Italian origin then goes on a bombing mission to the island of Nauru to take on the Japanese forces during the Second World War. His aircraft is damaged during the attempts and he is stuck there. The rest of the movie moves from Zamperini’s journey through war in Japan to his eventual participation in the Torch Relay at the Nagano Winter Olympics in the same country at the age of 81.

Unbroken on Netflix (Run time: 137 minutes)

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