In 1980, tensions between the US and USSR reached a height both in the political world and on the ice. Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) coaches a team of college-aged hockey players that goes on to defeat the impenetrable Soviet Union team, a victory that restored hope in America’s ability to withstand the worst of the Cold War conflict in its penultimate days. We know how it ends, but it’s the journey and reflection that makes Miracle one of the best Olympics-set movies ever made.
Everyone knows the theme music from this movie, but few have actually watched the two hours of greatness that accompany its hopeful Olympic theme. Two British track runners with different backgrounds and motivations compete in the 1924 games. Devout Christian missionary Eric “Flying Scotsman” Liddell (Ian Charleston) and Harold Abrahams, a Jew, compete in the races with a single goal — win the gold. Values are tested and both find a connection with each other through their love of running.
Steven Spielberg’s homage to the 1972 Olympics killings revolves around the five men chosen to kill those responsible for murdering Israeli athletes in Munich. Prime Minister Golda Meir appoints Avner (Eric Bana) to lead a team of “expendable” agents in eliminating 11 targets involved with the Black September massacre. Although sports are almost nonexistent, Munich is a film that calls into question national relations and actions, as well as what it means to serve a country outside the athletic arena.
Disney’s loosely based-on-a-true-story film about the first Jamaican bobsled team is fun but has little nutritional value. After being stripped of his gold medal for cheating and retreating to paradise, Irving Blitzer (John Candy) helps his sprinter friend Derice Bannock (Leon) put together the first of the island’s Olympics-qualifying bobsledding teams. While much of the film is dramatised, it does carry the theme that perseverance and hope make anything possible.
Before there was Miracle, there was the made-for-TV movie Miracle on Ice, starring Karl Malden as coach Herb Brooks. Although the film isn’t as intriguing as Disney’s later remake (and lacks Aerosmith’s “Dream On”), it still tells the exciting story of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team’s defeat of the Russian team and winning of the gold medal. Because it was produced a year after the event, it has a more emotional look at the victory rather than the examination of its importance in the Cold War’s final days.
Whether you enjoy Will Ferrell’s sports comedies (Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby, Semi-Pro) or find them idiotic, Blades of Glory is a top pick for Olympics movie fans. Two male figure skaters, played by Ferrell and Jon Heder, are banned from competing at the Olympics after their rivalry turns to blows on the awards platform. Three years later, they join forces to compete as the first two-male pair in the history of the sport. Forget the prejudice they face in the movie — just imagine if they tried to compete in a country dominated by Putin’s anti-LGBT policies.
For someone interested in an Olympic take on romance, this old-school redemption story centres on the ice. After figure skater Kate Mosely (Moira Kelly) injures herself at the 1988 Games, her trainer resorts to recruiting also-injured hockey player Doug Dorsey (DB Sweeney) as her new partner. The hours they spend training for the next Olympics results in budding romance and on-ice fame. It’s tacky 1990s fluff, but it comes with laughable one-liners.
Get ready to cry at the Beaches of Olympics movies. When skier and shoo-in for the 1956 Olympics Jill Kinmont (Marilyn Hasset) falls in the last race of the season, she becomes paralysed from the shoulders down and has to restart her life. The film is based on the true story of the 18-year-old skier who learned to conquer a different kind of mountain through her experience as a paraplegic. Beau Bridges also stars in this lesser-known story of redemption and recovery.
Before he was getting Oscar buzz for playing a transgender woman in Dallas Buyers Club, Jared Leto played Olympic athlete Steve Prefontaine. The Oregon long-distance runner died in a car accident after competing in 1972 and has since been known as the James Dean of running. The film tells his story from his coach and girlfriend’s points of view, documenting his fight for the gold and tragic death at age 24.
Check out from dramatic biopics and tear-jerking redemption stories with this 1960s romp starring Cary Grant. British businessman William “Bill” Rutland (an elderly Grant) finds a place to stay during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics in the unlikeliest of places — with young Christine (Susan Eggers). A third man, athlete Steve Davis (John Hutton), joins the group and Bill starts playing Cupid for his two roommates. Although the film doesn’t include very much of the actual games, it centres around the Olympics and their way of bringing nations — and lovers — together.
Written by Kate Everson