The 10 Best Movies To Watch if You Like Chariots of Fire, Ranked
These are inspiring stories about the triumphs of the human spirit.
10. "The World's Fastest Indian" (2005)
"The World's Fastest Indian" isn't about running on tracks but racing on two wheels. Based on the true story of New Zealander Burt Munro, played by Anthony Hopkins, this film takes us on a ride across the salt flats of Bonneville.
Munro's dream is to push his 1920 Indian motorcycle to its limits. From his tinkering in a humble shed to the flats where he stakes his claim for speed, it's a fascinating journey towards Munro's biggest life goal.
9. "Fire on the Track: The Steve Prefontaine Story" (1995)
"Fire on the Track" takes us back to the story of Steve Prefontaine through a documentary lens, filled with the voices of those who knew him. It's less about dramatization and more about the man behind the legend, stitching together archival footage and personal testimonies.
Prefontaine's charisma, talent, and defiance against the amateur athletic system are on full display, sprinting through his rise to stardom and the heart-wrenching turn at the Munich Olympics.
8. "Gallipoli" (1981)
In "Gallipoli," directed by Peter Weir, we're not just watching a movie; we're enlisting in a historic campaign alongside two Australian sprinters — Archy (Mark Lee) and Frank (Mel Gibson). The film starts in the calm before the storm, as the young men bond over their running aspirations. However, the outbreak of WWI takes them far from the tracks to the rugged landscapes of Gallipoli.
The plot hurdles through their grueling training in the Egyptian desert to the fateful battlefields.
7. "The Four Minute Mile" (1988, TV Movie)
"The Four Minute Mile" chronicles the riveting true story of Roger Bannister, the first man to break the once-thought-impossible four-minute barrier for the mile run.
This TV movie captures the essence of determination, portraying Bannister (Richard Huw) not just as an athlete but as a medical student, juggling his textbooks with his training shoes. We witness his rivalry with Australian runner John Landy, the sweat and strategy of their training, and the tension that mounts with each tick of the stopwatch.
6. "The Jesse Owens Story" (1984, TV Movie)
"The Jesse Owens Story" delivers a heartfelt story of Jesse Owens, whose performance at the 1936 Berlin Olympics stands as a beacon of athletic prowess and a statement against racial bigotry. Dorian Harewood plays Owens, capturing his journey from the humblest beginnings in Alabama to the track of Ohio State University, and ultimately, to the Olympics under the shadow of Nazism.
It's not just a tale of a man winning four gold medals; it's about a man racing against the prejudices of his time, each stride a defiance of Hitler's Aryan supremacy doctrine.
5. "Endurance" (1999)
The story of Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopia's long-distance running legend. We follow Haile as he grows up in a farming family, running ten kilometers to school every day, discovers the option, the opportunity to run professionally, as an athlete.
Through Gebrselassie's eyes, we experience his triumphs and setbacks, from the humble beginnings to the electrifying climax at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
4. "Prefontaine" (1997)
The turbulent true story of Steve Prefontaine, a runner who became an American icon before his life was cut tragically short. With Jared Leto stepping into Prefontaine's shoes, we're taken on a run through his life, from his assertive personality that challenged the status quo to his fierce competitiveness on the track.
The film's most dramatic point is the Munich Olympics, where Pre's fighting for that elusive gold.
3. "Without Limits" (1998)
Another take on Steve Prefontaine's compelling life is "Without Limits," which might share a subject with "Prefontaine" but carves its own path. Billy Crudup embodies Pre with a raw intensity that burns up the track.
In the spotlight here is the other side of the athlete's life: the relationship between Prefontaine and his enigmatic coach Bill Bowerman (played by Donald Sutherland), the co-founder of Nike. From the demanding training sessions to the Munich Olympics and beyond, their bond frames Pre's relentless push against physical limits and Olympic-sized controversies.
2. "Running Brave" (1983)
"Running Brave" takes us to the starting line with Billy Mills (Robbie Benson), the real-life underdog who sprints through socio-cultural barriers to athletic stardom. As a Native American in the '60s, Mills faces discrimination and identity crises, yet his feet keep pounding the track, echoing his inner resolve.
We're spectators to his challenges at the University of Kansas, his blossoming love with Pat (Patricia Richardson), and his psychological and physical hurdles. The climax is a heart-racing recreation of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics 10,000-meter race.
1. "Personal Best" (1982)
The film, set against the backdrop of the 1980 Olympic trials, follows a group of women track and field athletes as they compete for the ultimate goal: a spot on the Olympic team. Mariel Hemingway stars as Chris Cahill, a pentathlete whose relationship with competitor Tory Skinner (Patrice Donnelly) adds layers of complexity to their pursuit of athletic greatness.
Director Robert Towne crafts a narrative that's as much about the struggles off the track as those on it.