There have been numerous fictional and factual movies about running over the years. But while some are incredibly realistic and enjoyable, others fail to get off the starting blocks. Here are our top five picks.
On the Edge
Actor Bruce Dern was a former track star, at Pennsylvania University, so he is perfectly cast in the lead role of the 1986 film On the Edge as ageing runner Wes Holman. The plot involves Holman returning to California after a 20-year absence. Back in the day, he was banned from competition after whistle-blowing about illegal backhander payments to amateur athletes. Now, with the help of his old trainer, Holman is determined to make his comeback in a long-distance race. The fictional race is based on the real-life Dipsea Race; a treacherous track that was first run in 1905. The race-action in this film is everything you could want from a running movie. It’s also unpredictable and features some beautiful Californian scenery.
The 1983 Canadian biographical sports drama Running Brave is based on the true story of Billy Mills. The North American Indian was raised on a reservation, and he beat all the odds to become the greatest distance runner on the planet in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He sprinted from third place to win gold in the 10,000 metres. Mills is still the only American to accomplish that feat. The movie sees Mills struggling to overcome stereotypes and fighting for approval with his idiotic coach, as he vies for his place at the Olympic Games, which makes for a very absorbing and engaging storyline.
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The famous American long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine is notable for many accomplishments, including setting records at every distance, from 2,000 metres to 10,000 metres. He also competed in the 1972 Olympics. Along with other notable runners like Jim Ryun and Bill Rodgers, Prefontaine helped to inspire the running boom of the 1970s. The 1998 biographical movie Without Limits follows the relationship between Prefontaine and his coach Bill Bowerman. Donald Sutherland’s performance as Bowerman is especially striking. He won a Golden Globe nomination for his performance. And Billy Crudup manages to capture the iconic and charismatic nature of Prefontaine. Runners and movie-lovers alike are sure to enjoy the gritty realism of this film.
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
The 1962 coming-of-age film The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is one of the most iconic running movies of all time. Based on a short story by Alan Sillitoe, who also wrote the screenplay for the movie, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner tells the story of a rebellious youth becoming imprisoned at borstal after participating in a burglary. The protagonist Colin Smith soon gains privileges from the governor, though, due to his fantastic abilities as a long-distance runner. Although it wasn’t a box office success at the time, the movie has since become somewhat of a classic. It is often praised for its multidimensional characters and its realistic depiction of class structure in 1950s’ Britain.
Chariots of Fire
The most famous movie about running is undoubtedly the 1981 picture Chariots of Fire. The plot is based on the true story of two British athletes in the 1924 Olympic Games: Eric Liddell, who is a devout Christian running for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, who is a Jew attempting to overcome prejudice. With iconic scenes like the race around a college courtyard at Cambridge and a perfectly-accompanying theme tune by Vangelis, it is no wonder that Chariots of Fire is ranked 19th in the British Film Institute’s Top 100 British Films. The movie was also nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Chariots of Fire is the greatest movie about running there has ever been. If you haven’t yet seen it, you don’t know what you’re missing.