The opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics airs tonight, officially kicking off the summer Olympics in Rio. In honor of the games, we decided to take a look back at some of the most memorable movies that featured or were predominantly about the Olympics. Some of these films are about the athletes themselves while others are about events surrounding the games but in all of them, the games played a major role in the story.
With that in mind, here’s a list of must-see movies about the Olympic Games.
Jim Thorpe: All American (1951): Starring Burt Lancaster, this 1951 feature tells the story of the Native American athlete Jim Thorpe. Thorpe was a legend in the 1912 Olympics. He won several track medals and earned world renown for his feats. According to History.com, "In 1950, the Associated Press named Thorpe the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century."
Unfortunately though, he's known for more than his work at the games. In fact, because of a technicality, he was stripped of his medals. This film focuses on the triumphs and low points of this great athlete, who-- after his death-- earned the medals back posthumously.
Chariots of Fire (1981): One of the most acclaimed sports films of all time, Chariots of Fire scored seven nominations at the 1982 Academy Awards. It won four of them including best picture, best screenplay, best costume design and best music. The feature tells the story of two religious men (one Jewish and one Christian) who rise to victory in the 1924 Olympics.
The feature is an inspiring story about overcoming prejudice and standing by religious values even while pursuing an athletic victory.
Miracle (2004): Aside from the 4th of the July, there aren’t that many major events when thousands of people rally around our country and celebrate our nation’s victories. The Olympic Games is one of those occasions. That is especially true when our nation’s athletes face off against the athletes of a nation that is warring against us.
Such was the case in 1980 when the men’s U.S. Olympic hockey team faced off against the Russians in an intense match-up. The Russian team was favored but the U.S. men’s team defeated them in a historic upset and went on to win the gold medal. The 2004 Disney film Miracle chronicles how coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) defied expectations and led his team — and our nation’s spirit — soaring in the midst of the Cold War.
Munich (2005): Steven Spielberg's provocative and controversial 2005 film focuses on the repercussions of a terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympics. At the games, 11 Israeli Olympians were murdered. The feature, which is loosely based on a true story, shows how the Israelis decided to seek justice against those attackers.
The film co-starred Eric Bana, Daniel Craig and Geoffrey Rush. Despite some of the controversies surrounding the film, it went on to earn five Academy Award nominations.
Unbroken (2014): This 2014 drama wasn't predominantly set at the Olympics (although a few scenes did take place there). Instead, much of this film is set during World War 2 when a soldier was either stranded in the ocean or being held prisoner at a Japanese camp.
However, the soldier at the heart of this story is the courageous Olympian Louis Zamperini and many of his experiences were partially defined by the stardom he received from the Olympics. As a prisoner, for instance, he was singled out as a "celebrity" who was bullied because of his fame. The Japanese even tried to make him betray his country, knowing the propaganda victory they could claim because of that. Zamperini never gave up though and this film captures his powerful spirit.
Eddie the Eagle (2016): Taron Egerton stars as the title character in this 2016 drama about a wannabe ski jumper. Despite the odds against him (and the fact that he only recently began ski jumping), Eddie was the first Olympian who represented Great Britain in the sport. Despite some fumbles along the war, the quirky fellow inspired the world who watched him thrive in the 1988 Olympic Games.