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'Chariots of Fire'? 'Miracle'? Here are the best movies about the Olympics

Are you more of a "Cool Runnings" person or a "Chariots of Fire" fan? Check out this list of the best Olympic movies ahead of next month's Tokyo Games.
TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

They feature inspiring journeys, fist-pumping moments — and Will Ferrell in spandex.

Whether you're tearing up at "Chariots of Fire," watching Jesse Owens make history in "Race," or smiling at the exploits of the Jamaican bobsled team in "Cool Runnings," the top Olympic movies can always get you in the spirit of the Games.

With the Opening Ceremony for the last Olympic Games in Tokyo coming on July 23, here are some of the top Olympic-related films of all time.


Not too hard to wring emotion out of one of the biggest upsets in sports history, let alone Olympic history. Take an underdog group of U.S. college and amateur hockey players at the 1980 Winter Olympics, add a supposedly unbeatable Goliath from Russia, mix it with Kurt Russell as coach Herb Brooks, and you'll be pumping your fist and chanting, "U-S-A! U-S-A!" by the time broadcaster Al Michaels is done asking, "Do you believe in miracles?"

"Miracle"Alamy Stock Photo

"I, Tonya"

She's one of those Olympians who doesn't even need a last name at this point. The life of one of the most infamous Olympians of all time is chronicled in this biopic, which earned Margot Robbie an Oscar nomination for playing Tonya Harding, the figure skater who rose from hardscrabble roots to become one of the best in the world before a fall from grace. The film shows the aftermath from Harding's point of view of the violent 1993 attack on her Olympic rival, Nancy Kerrigan, and Harding's denial of a role in it. Allison Janney also won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Harding's abusive mother.

"I, Tonya"Alamy Stock Photo

"Cool Runnings"

The 1993 Olympic comedy about the misadventures and triumph of the bobsled team from the tropical island of Jamaica making it to the 1988 Winter Olympics can't help but bring a smile. It also features a great comic performance from the late John Candy.

"Chariots of Fire"

Just the theme music alone is iconic. Who hasn't run in slow motion and imagined crossing the finish line first while humming that music? The 1981 movie, which won four Oscars, still holds up. It's based on the story of a pair of athletes from the 1924 Olympics — Eric Liddell, a devout Christian from Scotland, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew determined to overcome prejudice.


The rare feature film about Olympic wrestling, this 2014 movie that received five Oscar nominations shows the dark side of the Olympic dream and the burning quest for gold. Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum play brothers Dave and Mark Schultz, a pair of Olympic gold medalists who get taken in by rich heir and wrestling supporter John E. du Pont, played by Steve Carell in a film based on a true story. Du Pont is driven to bring glory to the U.S. team in the 1988 Olympics by providing support for the brothers to train, but his malign influence causes a rift between the brothers and interpersonal drama between the three of them. It builds to a crescendo that ends tragically after Mark Schultz decides to leave du Pont's Team Foxcatcher.

"Blades of Glory"

Will Ferrell and Jon Heder are dueling ice skaters who become a pairs skating team in a movie filled with feathered hair, ridiculous outfits and a boatload of one-liners. It technically is set at the World Championships and not the Winter Olympics, but the film takes the theatricality of figure skating that captivates the world every four years and turns it up 10 notches.

Dec. 26, 2006 - K53281ES.'' BLADES OF GLORY ''.TV-FILM STILLS.SUPPLIED BY    Jimmy MacElroy (JON HEDER, flying) and Chazz Michael Michaels (WILL FERRELL)(Credit Image: (C) Globe Photos/
"Blades of Glory"Alamy Stock Photo


If you're looking to get into the Olympic spirit, the story of one of the greatest triumphs in the history of the Games should hit the spot. Stephan James plays legendary track star Jesse Owens, whose triumph of winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler's Berlin is one of the most iconic moments in Olympic history. This 2016 movie shows Owens facing bigotry during his career at Ohio State and portrays his hesitance to participate in the 1936 Games because of Germany's discriminatory policies and pressure from the NAACP to boycott the event. Years before he was coach Ted Lasso, Jason Sudeikis played Owens' college coach, Larry Snyder, who believed Owens could be an Olympic star.

"The Cutting Edge"

Actor D.B. Sweeney did this 1992 movie with Moira Kelly about a hockey player and a figure skater recovering from Olympic disappointment to become a skating team pushing for gold. Do they fall in love? It's a romantic comedy from the 1990s: Of course they do. But that still doesn't mean it won't suck you in.

THE CUTTING EDGE, Moira Kelly, 1992, (C)MGM/courtesy Everett Collection
"The Cutting Edge"Courtesy Everett Collection

"Eddie the Eagle"

Part of the fun of the Olympics are the endearing characters who seemingly have no business being there but find a way to live their dream. This alternately goofy and heartwarming biopic shows the journey of British ski jumper Michael Edwards from a child struggling to walk to becoming Britain's first ski jumper in six decades when he makes the 1988 Winter Olympics in improbable fashion. Taron Edgerton plays the man known as "Eddie the Eagle," the rough-around-the-edges folk hero who finished last in his event in the Olympics yet set a British record with his jump.


This is the most serious movie of the group. Steven Spielberg's Oscar-nominated film tells the story of the Israeli plan to hunt down and kill the terrorists behind the attack at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich that resulted in the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes.

"Without Limits"

Within the the span of two years, two movies were released about the life of University of Oregon distance-running star Steve Prefontaine. He died at age 24 in a car accident, cutting short a promising career after he competed in the 1972 Olympics. This film, which came out in 1997, stars Billy Crudup, while the 1998 movie called "Prefontaine" stars Jared Leto. Both do justice to Prefontaine's tragic story. And both feature the stars sporting '70s porn 'staches as Prefontaine.