The 15 Best Olympics Movies, Ranked

    Just as the Olympics are to run-of-the-mill sporting events, so is the Olympics sports movie to run-of-the-mill sports drama. Sure, they’re both basically the same thing: a celebration of pageantry, a feast of human drama, but when it comes to the Olympics, the stakes are always high. for one thing, they only take place once every four years. on the other hand, unlike our so-called world series, they actually bring the entire planet together in a global competition to determine who is truly the best in each sport. Even in our fractured and distracted modern times, the Olympics remain something that brings everyone together. so it’s no wonder the movies about the games are just as epic.

    With the 2018 Winter Olympics in full swing, we decided to rank the 15 best Olympics movies ever made. and in the spirit of figure skating judges, be warned in advance that this list will be highly subjective. For one thing, we blend narrative films with non-fiction, including three documentaries that are among the highlights of the incredibly comprehensive 100-year collection of Olympic Criterion Films, which premiered late last year. And we ultimately decided not to rank this list based on each film’s Olympic charge: Munich received as much consideration as a day in September.

    Reading: Movies about the olympics

    So between enjoying curling, bobsled, biathlon and hockey, take a look at our roundup. Because if there’s anything more likely to unite a divided nation than the winter games, it’s the angry commentators who oppose an online movie rating.

    15. Blades of Glory (2007) This Will Ferrell comedy actually gets most of its laughs from the rival figure skating combo to Ferrell and Jon Heder, the then-real-life couple of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler. The movie has the moments of him, and that was when Ferrell was more interested in the surreal comedy aspect of him than the family version you see today. it still seems a little too “look at straight men dancing on ice” than you’d like, and it’s not nearly as anarchic as a host or stepbrothers. Fun fact: This is one of several films that failed to secure the rights to the Olympic name itself; the goal here is “the world winter sports games”.

    14. No Limits (1996)if you’re keeping score, this was the movie about long-distance runner steve prefontaine that didn’t have jared leto. This one, the best, written and directed by Robert Towne, features Billy Crudup as Prefontaine and deftly jumps over most of the sports movie clichés that Leto’s movie can’t top. It also features a fantastic performance from Donald Sutherland as Bill Bowerman, the loyal coach and trainer, a staple of sports movies as hackneyed as the big game itself. Unfortunately, Leto’s movie came out first, and once it flopped, this movie had nowhere to go. If audiences didn’t want to see one movie about Steve Prefontaine, they certainly didn’t want to see two.

    13. the cutting edge (1992)this numbers-driven sports rom-com has a semi-clever premise that represents what is probably the only way to make a rom-com on ice: ex-hockey player (d.b. sweeney) gets a He has a head injury and can no longer play hockey, so he is paired with a bratty figure skater (Moira Kelly) in the Olympic pairs competition. that the film tests credulity: there is literally no one else but this hockey player who knows how to skate? – but the two leads have enough chemistry to make it work. silly, but unquestionably joyful and ultimately a winner. Also: It was written by Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton, the first screenplay he produced.

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    12. cool runnings (1993)probably the first winter olympics movie that comes to mind, and that’s worth something right there. Kind of a rudy to bobsleigh, this is a sports movie where the goal is not to win, but simply to stay in the game. Jamaica’s bobsled team make up the perfectly charming underdogs, your proverbial fish frozen out of ocean water, but this movie’s secret weapon is John Candy, who shows some gravitas later in his career as the grizzled coach with a dark past and a chance at redemption. (Even if sweets were once a sled strains credibility.) it signaled a future for candy that we never got to see come to fruition; It was the last of his films released before he died.

    11. personal best (1982) robert towne is back on this list, should he really be interested in running? — with this story of the women’s team (led by mariel hemingway) training for the 1980 olympics. if you just thought, “hey, i thought we boycotted the 1980 olympics,” well, that’s the movie: women, realizing Realizing that their Olympic dreams have been dashed, they have to settle for their “personal best scores” as the pinnacle of their achievement. Towne handles this with warmth and empathy, and it’s also worth noting that this was a mainstream studio movie made in 1982 that features its lead in a bisexual love triangle in a sensitive and mature way. (The film was, perhaps inevitably, a box office flop.)

    10. i, tonya (2017)arguments about the film’s tendency to play fast with the facts of tonya harding’s life and her guilt in the crime of Nancy Kerrigan aside, I, Tonya is a wavy, fun watch that isn’t as smart or as deep as it wants to be; it never really decides whether we’re all supposed to take this seriously or not, and thus the audience remains just as confused as the movie. There’s still some greatness here, beginning with Margot Robbie’s committed performance, along with, of course, Allison Janney’s cruel and reticent mother. plus the actual ice skating scenes are great. Otherwise, the film isn’t particularly well shot, but like Tonya herself, she’s more comfortable on the ice and on the move.

    9. visions of eight (1973)film and television producer david l. Wolper had an idea: what if you hired a group of international directors to make their own mini-documentaries at the same sporting event? In the case of Visions of Eight, it was the 1972 Munich Olympics, and the collection of filmmakers included Milos Forman, Arthur Penn, and John Schlesinger. Like many omnibus movies, some visions-of-eight sections are just better than others. (A man and a woman, director claude lelouch, chose to focus on athletes who lose, offering a rare glimpse of total failure in a sports film.) but the novelty of the approach has its peculiar appeal, arguing that different people can be watching the same show and walk out with entirely different takeaways. However, if you’re looking for a film that captures the terror of the Munich Olympics’ darkest moment, the kidnapping and murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches, Visions of Eight largely dodges the issue. (Don’t worry: Two movies higher on this list tackle it more intensely.)

    8. miracle (2004)feel-good, underdog sports movies are priced at ten cents a dozen. but every once in a while, a movie comes along that just clicks, building real suspense and real excitement, all clichés and reservations cast aside. the euphoric portrait of us director gavin o’connor uu. the men’s hockey team, which despite great odds defeated their favorite rivals to win gold at the 1980 winter olympics, is a wonderful example of how to get one of these movies right. Starring Kurt Russell as curmudgeonly coach Herb Brooks, Miracle copies the winning formula of the team he narrates, relying on unknown actors to play this group of nameless athletes who put egos aside for the good of the club. most viewers knew how the miracle unfolded: the title refers to the Americans’ defeat of the mighty Russian team in the semi-final game, which was dubbed the “miracle on ice”, but few sports movies capture such a sense. of community and the unique personalities within as well as o’connor did. And hey, the ending is absolutely dynamite.

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    7. Tokyo Olympics (1965) Nearly ten years before Japanese filmmaker Kon Ichikawa was invited to participate in Visions of Eight, he made his own best documentary on the atmosphere and pageantry of the games. The Tokyo Olympiad isn’t the definitive portrait of the Summer Games, which still makes it onto our list, but it is a widescreen beauty that goes to great lengths to pack weeks of athletic competition and spectacle into a three-hour runtime. . The 1964 Olympics were the first to be held in Asia, and part of the excitement of the Tokyo Olympics is seeing Japan embrace the Games as its own. (in turn, ichikawa suggests the bittersweet reality of his country becoming part of the modern world, leaving the past behind and embracing the future). those long-distance runners.

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    6. chariots of fire (1981) okay we can all agree that any number of movies (raiders of the lost ark, redheads, body heat, heck, even on golden pond) should have won best picture on this, yeah ? Now that that’s clear, this is still a formidable, occasionally poignant sports film about two British racers pushing each other to be the best they can be while battling anti-Semitism and prejudice. The movie itself isn’t terribly memorable, but it continues to stand the test of time, almost exclusively due to Vangelis’s Oscar-winning score, which will go through your brain every time you finish a long run, probably forever.

    5. munich (2005)on september 5, 1972, at the olympic games in munich, 11 israeli athletes and coaches were taken hostage by the black september palestinian terrorist group; a day later, all 11 were dead. Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated drama uses that tragedy as a starting point for a grim look at the limits of revenge. a mossad agent (played by eric bana) is selected to lead a task force to strike back at palestine, and the most shocking thing about munich is how electrifying this thriller is. But the beautifully executed suspense sequences come with a stinger in the tail, because Spielberg is seducing us with the same feverish desire for revenge that infects Bana’s patriot: he only slowly realizes that he’s on a quest for blood that he never can. be quenched, and can never be resolved. A long-time champion of Israel: “I made this film for the love of my two countries, the United States and Israel,” he said at the time, Spielberg is nonetheless critical of tit-for-tat foreign policy, a trend that He has harmed his two beloved nations. As a result, Munich remains one of his most divisive films and one of the most morally nuanced.

    4. Downhill Racer (1969) How exactly is it that a movie starring Robert Redford as a champion skier, with Gene Hackman as his trainer, has been so neglected? Michael Ritchie’s 1969 character study of a cranky, cocky, overwhelmingly talented skier (Redford) who can’t experience joy anywhere but on the slopes is a welcome antidote to sports movie clichés. like roger ebert said, this is a movie about the way athletes really are instead of the way we want them to be: they’re full of themselves and they’re arrogant and uncompromising… which is exactly what makes them champions. it’s worth revisiting – it knows more about what makes athletes tick than almost any other sports movie.

    3. Olympia (1938)As part of history and an influential turning point in documentary film, Olympia remains indispensable 80 years after its premiere. Her backstory is almost as famous as the film itself: German director Leni Riefenstahl, after captivating Adolf Hitler with her expert piece of Nazi propaganda Triumph of the Will, got the go-ahead to make a film about the Olympics. in the summer of 1936 in Berlin, which was intended to celebrate the athletic superiority of his homeland. But unlike Triumph of the Will, Olympia is not a hagiography: We see African-American sprinter Jesse Owens dominate the Games, along with medal winners from other countries. Along the way, Riefenstahl helped popularize several elements of sports documentary — slow-motion suspense, shots of crowds, the emphasis on the people involved in these incredible athletic feats — that are still incorporated decades later. Beyond all else, Riefenstahl (who went to his grave at age 101 swearing he was not a Nazi) created the template for how we think of the Olympics: as a massive event that celebrates blood, sweat, tears, muscles and will. of athletes pushing themselves to the limit.

    2. one day in september (1999)chronicling the same tragedy alluded to in munich, kevin macdonald’s oscar-winning documentary could be seen as a precursor to espn’s “30 for 30” nonfiction formula, which combines archive news footage and contemporary interviews to recreate a pivotal sporting moment while offering a modern perspective on those events. but that would be to discount the grim and gripping tension of a September day, which seeks to explain why the death of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches during the 1972 Olympics was a human and moral catastrophe, and precisely how it unfolded. Hitting theaters just a year before 9/11, One Day in September has a new resonance for all those who endured those USA. uu. seizures; macdonald’s film captures the loss of innocence engineered by palestinian terrorists, who stripped the olympics of the idea of ​​peaceful competition and global goodwill. Knowing how that terrorist confrontation ended does not help prepare the viewer for the sobering resolution of this documentary, and the painful realization that another attack could strike at any moment.

    1. foxcatcher (2014)One of the reasons Americans watch the Olympics is to support our athletes. it’s a simple but powerful human impulse: we want our boys and girls to beat the people of those other countries so we can have bragging rights and maybe even feel a little superior. That competitive drive is woven into the very fabric of the United States, so to claim otherwise would be plain silly. and yet our pick for the best Olympic movie ever made spits in the eye of that logic. Foxcatcher is a dark, somewhat opaque retelling of the saga of mark schultz (channing tatum) and dave schultz (mark ruffalo), medal-winning wrestling brothers who fell under the influence of john du pont (steve carell), a wealthy and eccentric who wanted to bring glory to the usa at the 1988 Olympics by recruiting the brothers for his wrestling team. what follows is a study of ambition, class, sibling rivalry, and competition that’s a far cry from typical sports movie tropes like winning the big game and growing as a person. Under the watchful eye of Moneyball director Bennett Miller, these characters are grappling with something much heavier and more mysterious: that unspeakable American dream that insists we’re all just a training montage or comeback victory away from greatness. Foxcatcher is a grim and strange little movie, but its three leads play their unhappy characters with such conviction and urgency that it’s hard not to get carried away by their interpersonal rancor. During the actual Olympics, NBC will focus on feel-good storytelling that celebrates the triumph of the human spirit. but foxcatcher stands as a dark reminder of all that simmers beneath that sales job. There’s nothing to cheer about in this movie, but it’s just as absorbing and riveting.

    grierson & Leitch writes about movies regularly and hosts a movie podcast. follow them on twitter or visit their site.

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