- Entertainment and Media
Top 10 Olympics Movies
All Time Top Ten Olympics Movies
Summer or Winter, I love everything about the Olympics. I was one of the happiest people around when they split the Olympic years back in the 1980s so that every two years there would be either a Summer Olympic Games or a Winter Games. The problem for me then became that the Olympic games aren't played every year! I had to find another way to feed my Olympics craving in odd numbered years.
Well, I found a way! There are dozens of great fictional Olympics themed movies. Even better, there are some truly excellent movies based on the life stories or on the athletic accomplishments of real Olympians. It was really hard to pick just 10 of those movies to showcase here so I actually picked 15 (well, 17...). Read on and you'll see why I had such a hard time!
My Top Ten Olympics Movies Based on True Stories
Below are my top 10 favorite movies about individual Olympic athletes and Olympic sports teams. Some of these are full on documentaries. All are at least primarily based on a true story but otherwise designed more to be entertaining like the comedy themed movie about the first Jamaican Bobsled Team, "Cool Runnings".
Two of my "Top Ten" actually had more than one subject movie made that won both critical and audience acclaim and that I also enjoyed. I've included links to the alternate movies for those two. Also, I had a hard time stopping at 10 because many worthy Olympians have had their stories told for the big screen. I picked an additional five that were certainly worthy of attention to highlight briefly.
Finally, because fiction is fun, I picked another five highly rated movies to highlight briefly that are Olympic themed but otherwise fictional. Now can you see how hard this was?!
All of these movies are available on DVD. Many are also available for streaming and a few have Blu-Ray versions. I'll do my best to note the options that are available for each movie. In most cases I've used the information for the DVD version but, if you click the Amazon.com link that's provided, you'll be able to see the other options that are available.
Enjoy the movies!
Photo Credit: "Chariots of Fire" - 20th Century Fox (click image for website and information)
Chariots of Fire
"Chariots of Fire", one of my all time favorite movies, period, was the 1981 Oscar winning movie for "Best Picture". It's a dramatization of the story of a pair of 1924 British Olympians Eric Liddell (played by Ian Charleson) and Harold Abrahams (acted by Ben Cross).
The version below is a popular two disc special edition. This comes in many other versions and formats like widescreen, Blu-Ray. You might even be able to unearth a VHS copy if that's what you want.
Miracle - Do You Believe
The story of the 1980 Olympics gold medal winning U.S. Hockey Team. This is not a documentary; it's actually a dramatic adaptation but, by most accounts from the real life people involved, it gets the story right.
In 1980, professionals didn't play Olympic hockey, at least not for country teams that followed both the spirit and the letter of the rules governing Olympic competition. The Soviet Union/USSR was the glaring exception. Their state sponsored team dominated the ice. The world saw them as unbeatable. A cobbled together team of never say quit Americans proved the world wrong.
This is the full screen edition. It's available in wide screen, on Blu-Ray and for streaming.
Do You Believe In Miracles?
The Story of the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team
Extra Movie #1:
The movie just above, "Miracle" is a dramatized version of the entire story of the 1980 Miracle on Ice US Hockey Team's run to the Olympic gold medal. This movie, a documentary about the team, is equally great. Though short, at just one hour, it has serious impact. Do You Believe in Miracles? The Story of the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team
This documentary only covers the final match-up against the then USSR for the gold medal. Players from both sides and coaching staff from the U.S. along with broadcasters and others were interviewed for the film. It's an excellent counterpoint to the "Miracle" film above.
Other movies have been made about the 1980 U.S. team but these two are my favorites.
Dare to Dream - The Story of the U.S. Women's Soccer Team
USA Soccer just can't seem to get it right when it comes to the men's teams. While the country focused on their ills from 2002 to 2004, quietly, the U.S. women began to dominate their competition. While the men were again disgraced, the women's team would go on to win gold in 2004 and ignite a country full of young women with a can do attitude. This is their story and it's very well done.
This appears to be available for DVD only.
Jamaica, We Have a Bobsled Team!
"Cool Runnings" a Disney told story about the 1st Jamaican bobsled team (1988 Calgary, Alberta, Canada Winter Olympics) is one of the highest rated "sports" movies of all time based on sales. Now, anything with John Candy in it is going to have a strong element of humor and, though he plays a somewhat tragic figure here as the team coach, this movie has plenty of laughs.
This is loosely based on a very true story. It's great fun and there's nothing here the whole family can't watch together.
There are many DVD versions of this available (full screen, wide screen, limited edition...) and it is available for streaming.
The First Olympics Athens 1896
This "movie" is actually a compilation from a television miniseries that told the story of the founding of the "modern" Olympics in 1896. The games, of course, go back hundreds of years to ancient Greece, but during a long period of wars, they were halted.
Now, this is based on historical accounts, but since the series actually came out in 1984, 98 years later, it is, of course, more of a dramatized accounting when focused on the lives of individual athletes who have long since passed on. Regardless, it's a very interesting and entertaining film.
Available on DVD and, if you can find it, VHS.
"Without Limits" is the 1998 film release about the life of "out of nowhere" U.S. Olympian Steve Prefontaine, who was a long distance runner. Prefontaine came out of the small, remote coastal town of Coos Bay, Oregon in the 1960s and blazed his way to the 1972 games in Munich, Germany...the ones with the terrorist attack on the team from Israel.
This is available on DVD, VHS and for streaming.
Fire on the Track
The Steve Prefontaine Story
Extra movie #2:
Several movies have actually been made about Steve Prefontaine, the running phenom from out of literally nowhere. The one above happens to be my personal preference but this one, , which was actually produced first, also has many followers. You really can't go wrong with either one of these two. Fire on the Track: The Steve Prefontaine Story
In a move that has been called "The miracle before the miracle" the 1960 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team went undefeated through the Olympiad and took home Olympic gold. This was done at the start of the Cold War, as the Soviets were building their Olympic hockey machine, with a very rag tag bunch of young American men. It's really quite a story and I'm glad it was told. It's forgotten no more!
I could only find this available on DVD.
Four years after the 1st miracle hockey team, the US would experience another Olympic miracle; Billy Mills, an Oglala Sioux Indian who would come from nowhere (that seems to be a theme in these movies!) to win the 10,000 meter race at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
This movie is available on DVD and VHS.
Sync or Swim
This is an excellent documentary about synchronized swimming that lets the viewer see the sport - and it is a sport, as these young women are very talented athletes - from the inside out. This piece focuses on the lead up to the 2004 Olympic games. Watch this and you'll look at synchronized swimming completely differently, that's a promise!
This is available on DVD and for streaming.
Last (on the top 10 list), but by no means least, is the movie Wilma about one of my favorite Olympians of all time, Wilma Rudolph. I have to tell you, I'm a sucker for an Olympic underdog story. I love those 5 minute, human interest segments the broadcasting network does during the Olympics that showcase athletes overcoming extreme adversity to even be at the games. It doesn't matter what country they're from, those just tear me up. I love to cheer for underdogs and Wilma Rudolph was certainly one if ever there was one! From polio to winning Olympian...an amazing story.
I could only find this on DVD at this time.
Which of These Ten (12) is Your Favorite?
Just like the "Big Ten" of the NCAA actually has 12 college football teams, there are 12 great movies above in my "Top Ten" list. Now's your chance to vote on your favorite. So, what's it going to be?
What's your favorite Olympics Movie?
The Five Movies that Should Be in the Top Ten Too!
I told you I had a really hard time picking just 10! I ended up picking 15 and also two alternate story adaptations for two of the top ten above. Here are the other five movies that I feel are worthy of the top ten list, as well.
All about world renowned, gold medal winning, Olympic gymnast Nadia Comaneci of Romania. She took 3 gold medals in the 1976 Olympics under her personal coach Bella Karoli (who was later removed, as shown in the movie and who would go on to become a very successful coach of the U.S. Women's Olympic Gymnastic Team). You get the good, the great and the bad in this movie. It's a good one and deserves to be on the other list too.
A documentary on the life of downhill skier Casey Puckett. Lots of skiing footage.
Filmed in 1951 and starring Burt Lancaster as Jim Thorpe, renowned Native American Olympian in track and field and football star.
The story of World Class multiple Olympic gold medal winning diver, Greg Louganis. Includes his childhood through his coming out / HIV story.
If you like to see lots of snowboarding and skateboarding action, this is the movie for you. Filmed by ESPN, a sports network, it's not an in depth life documentary but you still get a great feel for the enigma that is Shaun White.
Which movie here do you like best? Maybe you love one that I missed? Either way, please feel free to share your thoughts.