After their four year slumber, The 2104 Winter Olympics return tonight to NBC! From the terrorist concerns to the ongoing hotel grievances aired online by the press, these games are sure to be packed with a ton of thrill-worthy excitement. So today I have compiled a list of Olympic-themed films to get you through these cold months.
Let’s start off this list with the first ever Olympics-themed film, shall we? Sure, Hitler may be in the damn thing but that just adds historical merit. Directed by Leni Riefenstahl, Olympia was the first ever documentary film about the Olympics. The main focus here is on the 1936 Berlin games. As mentioned, Hitler is featured in the film for a good 3 minutes or so. This Riefenstahl woman was allegedly connected to the Nazi party but what is interesting is the heroic depiction of African American athlete Jesse Owens. Owens won four gold medals during these games, which kicked Hitler’s propaganda directly in the cojones.
Personal Best (1982)
Robert Towne directed this fictitious film about a group of women who are trying to get on the Olympic track and field team. Mariel Hemingway stars with Patrice Donnelly (real life track star, people!) and if you have yet to have any interest in watching this film, let me add in the small detail that they are lesbians. So in actuality, this is a love story of sorts. It’s also worth noting that for 1982, this movie was a bit ahead of its time.
Jared Leto may not be jumping to accept more roles in films these days (even though he gave a masterful performance in Dallas Buyers Club), but it’s worth noting that the man has real acting chops. During the time period after “My So Called Life” and before Requiem For A Dream, Leto starred as Steve Prefontaine in the 1997 film Prefontaine about the Olympic runner who was killed in a car crash 3 years after the 1972 Olympics.
Guess what? Another movie was made about the same runner. Keep reading, you’ll get to it…
The Cutting Edge (1992)
Sometimes you just have to buckle down and give a cheesy rom-com its due. The Cutting Edge stars Moira Kelly as Kate, a figure skating tour de force (diva) who gets paired up with a washed up hockey player named Doug (played by D.B. Sweeney) for the Olympic finals. It’s the quintessential odd couple pairing that has an obvious ending, but you watch it to the end anyway! Also, it’ll give you major brownie points with the lady in your life. Valentine’s Day movie night anyone? (I’m kidding!)
Without Limits (1998)
Here’s another Olympics themed film from director Robert Towne, and it’s the second film on this list about Olympics track star Steve Prefontaine. Without Limits stars Billy Crudup as Prefontaine and his coach Bill Bowerman is played by Donald Sutherland. One of the main difference between this film and Prefontaine is the story’s point of view. Here, we see the events play out through the perspective of Coach Bowerman, and Sutherland is fantastic here. Also, here’s a fun fact: Tom Cruise produced the film.
Downhill Racer (1969)
One of the many classic films in The Criterion Collection, Downhill Racer is the story about a talented cocky skier by the name of David Chappellet (Robert Redford) who joins the US Olympic team. Starting as an outsider to the group, he becomes their best hope for a medal after a fellow teammate gets injured. Coach Eugene Claire is played by Gene Hackman.
So really, all I should have said in this description was: Robert Redford and Gene Hackman.
Another film revolving around the 1972 Olympics is the Steven Spielberg-directed epic Munich. Based on actual events, the movie tells the story of the Israeli government’s covert mission against the Black September terrorist group who was responsible for the massacre of eleven Israeli athletes during the games. It’s a brilliant film that gained a good amount of controversy when it was released. But it’s from Spielberg, so it’s worth a watch.
Cool Runnings (1993)
This is one of those movies you will see in every conversation about Olympics movies. Cool Runnings is another story based on real life events about the Jamaican bobsledding team who came to the 1988 Winter Olympics and took the world by storm. Starring John Candy as Coach Irv alongside Doug E. Doug and the actor known simply as Leon, the film’s impact can still be felt today. What I mean by that is, the Jamaican bobsled team will be making a return to this year’s Winter Games after they rounded up funding from an internet campaign. So keep your eyes out for them!
Not only is this one of my favorite Olympics-themed film, it’s up there as one of my favorite sports films, period. Miracle tells the true underdog story about how the U.S. men’s hockey team overcome all sorts of odds to defeat the Russians and bring home the gold from the 1980 Olympics. What would only make this better is if they threw Ivan Drago and Rocky Balboa into the mix!
Chariots Of Fire (1982)
Okay, no brainer, I know! Chariots Of Fire has to be on this list because it’s mother effin’ Chariots Of Fire! It’s here, if for no other reason, than that classic Vangelis soundtrack. The film is a masterpiece that follows the tale of two athletes: Eric Lidell, a devout Christian battling with his faith and career; and Harold Abrahams, a Jew that runs in the 1924 games to challenge anti-Semitism. If you keep a close eye out, you’ll see some famous faces as crowd extras like Stephen Fry and Kenneth Branagh.
There you have it folks! What are your favorite Olympics-themed movies? Tell me in the comments below! And don’t forget to tune in tonight for the kick off of the 2014 Winter Olympics on NBC!
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