The opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics was supposed to light up the big torch and our TV screens this month, but with the games postponed because of COVID-19 until 2021, we're all feeling a little Olympics deprived. To feed that love of sport and drama (not to mention marathon TV sessions), we've got this summer's Olympics best: 14 inspiring, gold-medal movies — including two outstanding documentaries — that you can stream in the comfort of your living room (or basement gym). Cue the theme music … it's Olympics time!
Chariots of Fire (1981)
When most people think of this best picture winner about a pair of British runners at the 1924 Olympics, they tend to focus on one of two things: that it somehow unfairly managed to beat out Reds and Raiders of the Lost Ark for Oscar's top honor, and its indelible slow-motion, Vangelis-scored running-on-the-beach sequence. But Chariots of Fire has actually aged better than its reputation would have you believe. In fact, it remains a beautifully moving drama about the power of sport to overcome prejudice and lift the human spirit. It's time for the naysayers to give it a rewatch.
For a movie about no less an Olympic icon than Jesse Owens, Race remains shockingly unknown. Stephan James is quite good as the African American track and field legend who won a record-breaking four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Games while sticking it to Hitler in the process. And Saturday Night Live veteran Jason Sudeikis proves he can dig deeper than just delivering punch lines as Owens’ ornery coach, Larry Snyder. Jeremy Irons also pops up memorably in this stirring biopic about a trailblazing hero who deserves to be remembered for more than just what he accomplished at the Olympics.
Snicker if you must at Kurt Russell's hairpiece, but director Gavin O'Connor's rousing, rah-rah chronicle of the 1980 U.S. men's hockey team and its unlikely “Miracle on Ice” in Lake Placid is the kind of sports movie that will get you out of your seat and onto your feet cheering. Russell, 69, is perfect as the squad's surprisingly complex coach, Herb Brooks. And the film's reenactment of the metaphorical Cold War showdown between the ragtag band of American amateurs and their professional Soviet counterparts is like Rocky IV on ice.
RELATED: Can't get enough of sports movies? We've got all your bases covered with our list of 17 Great Baseball Movies to Watch at Home Right Now.
Personal Best (1982)
Written and directed by Robert Towne, the screenwriter behind some of the greatest movies of the 1970s (Chinatown, The Last Detail, Shampoo), Personal Best stars Mariel Hemingway, now 58, and Patrice Donnelly, now 70, as two female track and field hopefuls who fall in love while training for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. After the U.S. ends up boycotting the games, all of their pain and preparation ends up being for naught. But Towne proves that the spiritual journey (the training, the passion, the sacrifice) is always more important than the destination.