21 Olympics-Fueled Films to Go with Your Sochi

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It’s no wonder the Olympic games have so often provided great fodder for filmmakers. In the Olympics, we find inspirational stories about underdogs overcoming challenges, heroes falling from glory (and rising back up), competition igniting romance, and teamwork solidifying lifelong friendships—all within the drama-friendly confines of competition. What follows is a list of 21 films involving the Olympics that have all vied for a spot on the podium. (Alas, not every effort can bring home the gold.) Note, made-for-TV films are excluded, as are films that just have an Olympics-like setting (Blades of Glory, for example).

1. Astérix at the Olympic Games (2008)


One of two foreign language films on this list, this movie featuring beloved comic book characters Astérix and Obélix is also the only one set in the ancient Olympics. (It also answers the question: “What has Gérard Depardieu be up to lately?”) In the movie, Astérix and Obélix attempt to win the Olympics to help their friend Lovesix marry a princess. Brutus and Julius Caeser have cameos in this silly French film.
Final Results: Did Not Place (DNP), finishing far out of medal consideration

2. Backwards (2012)


A female rower makes it on the Olympic team as an alternate, but quits the team out of disappointment for not making it further. She rekindles an old flame with an ex, coaches a youth rowing team, and learns to love life again outside her Olympic goals. The plot is predictable and the characters are undeveloped, but it’s not a bad film if you’re looking for something lighthearted.
Final Results: DNP

3. Berlin 36 (2009)


This German film tells the story of Jewish high jumper Gretel Bergmann, who was removed from the national team by the ruling Nazi party only two weeks before the 1936 Summer Olympics. (The athlete who replaced her was later revealed to be a man.)
Final Results: Bronze

4. Chariots of Fire (1981)


Winner of four Academy Awards, including best picture, Chariots of Fire is a clear gold-medal winner. Two young, extremely honorable and committed runners compete in the 1924 Paris Olympics not for themselves. (The Vangelis soundtrack would become the go-to music for any parody involving slo-motion running.)
Final Results: Gold

5. Charlie Chan at the Olympics (1937)


Detective Charlie Chan heads to the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin to track down international spies. This well-made movie stands the test of time and can still entertain a modern audience. But the really cool thing about this movie is that it actually features footage from the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Final Results: DNP

6. Cool Runnings (1993)


Cool Runnings is based on the true story of disgraced American Olympian ex-bobsledder Irv Blizter. Living in Jamaica, working as a bookie, he is approached by young Jamaican athletes who want to start a Jamaican bobsledding team. This unique story has everything it takes to make a good movie: fallen hero, great underdog, hilarious moments, and an amazing soundtrack.
Final Results: Gold

7. Downhill Racer (1969)


Two bits of eye candy in this movie: a young Robert Redford and Michael Ritchie’s highly stylized cinematography. Like its protagonist, this film takes the gold.
Final Results: Gold

8. Goldengirl (1979)


This bizarre movie about an Olympian athlete (played by Susan Anton in her film debut) created by a Nazi doctor takes place at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and features cameos from track-and-field stars Bob Beamon and Dwight Stones.
Final Results: Unobtainium

9. International Velvet (1978)


When the parents of Sarah Brown (Tatum O’Neal) are killed in a car crash, she moves in with her Aunt Velvet, a national horse rider. Fighting against her anguish, Sarah uses horseback riding and competing in the Olympics to overcome her sorrow. This sequel to the beloved 1944 film, National Velvet (starring Mickey Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor) has some good moments, but is a tad melodramatic and not of the highest cinematic quality.
Final Results: DNP

10. Jim Thorpe – All-American (1951)


A biopic of Native American athlete Jim Thorpe, who won two gold medals in the 1912 Olympics. Unlike many Olympic tales, this story does not end with Thorpe’s wins, but follows the various challenges he faces after the Olympics. It’s in black and white and a little stiff, but for those who love classic Hollywood cinema and the Olympics, this film is worth checking out.
Final Results: Bronze

11. Miracle (2004)


This movie gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “Cold War.” In this Olympic tale set in 1980, the U.S. hockey team faces the much better Soviet hockey team. The odds are against the U.S. hockey team, but their intense coach trains them to exceed their expectations.
Final Results: Silver

12. Munich (2005)


Though an excellent film, Munich loses points for not centering around an Olympian or the Olympics. The story begins during the 1972 Munich Olympics, with the tragic event where 11 Israeli Olympic athletes were killed by Palestinian terrorists. An Israeli assassination team is put in place to take revenge on those responsible for the killings, but the assassins have to battle with the morality of taking vengeance.
Final Results: Disqualified, for the purposes of this list, for being almost the anti-Olympics spirit movie.

13. Personal Best (1982)


This movie is one of the two on this list directed by Robert Towne, and marks his directorial debut. During the 1980 Moscow Olympics, two female rivals fall in love on the road to the competition.
Final Results: Silver

14. Prefontaine (1997)


This biopic starring Jared Leto follows track star Steve Prefontaine’s inspiring and tragic story. A tad melodramatic, this film is overshadowed by Without Limits, the second Prefontaine movie (which came out only a year later).
Final Results: Silver

15. Rowing Through (1996)


What makes it stand out more is its cheesy voice-over and the actors’ bad rowing. Tiff Wood, an amateur rower, makes it to the Olympic team in 1980. But when President Jimmy Carter boycotts the Olympics due to political tensions with the U.S.S.R., the competition is put on hold. Tiff holds on to the dream, training himself to his utmost potential so that he can be in shape to compete with younger athletes in the next Olympics.
Final Results: DNP

16. Running Brave (1983)


A true story about runner Billy Mills (played here by Robbie Benson), the underdog in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics who became the second Native American to win an Olympic gold medal. While the movie’s editing is a little dated, the story stands up to the test of time.
Final Results: Silver

17. The Bob Mathias Story


A movie about athlete Bob Mathias, his path to the Olympics, and the woman that stood by him. The cool thing about this movie is that the protagonist is played by the athlete himself, Bob Mathias.
Final Results: Bronze

18. The Cutting Edge (1992)


A rom-com about a cocky, has-been hockey player and an unbearable, diva figure skating princess who turn into an unlikely pair as an ice skating team. This film is just as much about overcoming challenges as it is about the romance, and is great if you’re in the mood for a snuggle and a laugh. The movie was so popular it spawned three sequels.
Final Results: Silver

19. The Other Side of the Mountain (1975)


This film is the true and touching story about Ski Racing Champion Jill Kinmont, who was supposed to compete in the Olympics but was left as a quadriplegic after a skiing accident at the age of 19. A passionate love story inspires her to get back up and put her life back together. Though the story is timeless, the style of this film is a little stiff.
Final Results: Bronze

20. Walk, Don’t Run (1966)


Set during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, this “Odd Couple” scenario stars Cary Grant who, due to a housing shortage in Tokyo, becomes roommates with an American Olympic competitor. This film marks Grant’s final performance, which makes it worth watching.
Final Results: Bronze

21. Without Limits (1998)


Billy Crudup stars in this second movie about track star Steve Prefontaine, but focuses on his relationship with Coach Bill Bowerman (Donald Sutherland), who later became the founder of Nike. This movie is the second on this list directed by Robert Towne. Towne must be an avid Olympics fan.
Final Results: Gold