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Best Olympic Movies to Give You an Adrenaline Boost

Cheryl Mascarenhas
Olympics or no Olympics, one good way to get inspired and charged up is to watch a good Olympic themed movie. So gear up, get set and get inspired with these Olympic movies...
A story of joy and of heartbreak, a story of struggle and of accomplishments, a story of dreams coming true and missing it by a tenth of a second. Call them highly influential or inspiring, these movies based on the Olympics are definite mood boosters.
These movies have the capability to invoke a plethora of emotions, making you jump with joy or swoon in disappointment. These movies have, in essence, captured the 'Olympic Spirit' and that's what makes them worth watching, especially during the Olympics.
The movies mentioned in this list cover the Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics. To make it easier we have categorized them under movies and documentaries.

Movies on Summer Olympics

Chariots of Fire (1981)

Directed by: Hugh Hudson
A movie that went on to win 4 Oscars and 16 other awards, Chariots of Fire tells the true story of two British athletes who competed at the 1924 Summer Olympics held in Paris. The story revolves around Eric Liddell, a devout Christian and Harold Abrahams, a Jew; each competing to satiate a higher calling.
Chariots of Fire is a period piece, that explores the theme of temporal ambition and higher purposes of commitment and sacrifice and of ability and spirit.
Memorable Quotes:
"I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure." - Eric Liddell
"I'm more of an addict. It's a compulsion with me, a weapon I can use." - Harold M. Abrahams
P.S.: The theme music from Chariots of Fire is being used to promote the 2012 Olympics in London.

Personal Best (1982)

Directed by: Robert Towne
Bending towards more mature content, Personal Best deals with the intertwined love lives of three American athletes aspiring to make it to the 1980 Olympics.
Their personal record became the only symbol of achievement for Chris Cahill and Tory Skinner, after America boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics, due to political reasons. Fraught with sensitive issues, the movie manages to portray the realistic world of women's athletics.
Memorable Quotes:
"The high jump is a masochists event - it always ends on failure." - Terry Tingloff

Running Brave (1983)

Directed by: D.S. Everett, Donald Shebib
Running Brave retells the true story of Billy Mills an American Indian who won the 10,000 meter race at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964.
The event, which was considered to be the greatest upsets in sports history, made Billy Mills the only American to have accomplished this feat. The story about the young man who was brought up on a reservation in South Dakota, beating record holder Ron Clarke is definitely extraordinary and awe-inspiring.
Memorable Quotes:
"My life is a gift to me from my Creator. What I do with my life is my gift back to the Creator." - Billy Mills

Without Limits (1998)

Directed by: Robert Towne
The movie portrays the life and times of Steve Prefontaine, a runner from Oregon who quested for gold at the Munich Olympics. The biopic revolves around the gutsy, long-distance runner who refused to part with the lead spot.
It lays focus on Pre's unquenchable thirst to reach the finish line first. The man who was credited for inspiring the 'running boom' of the 70's fell short of fulfilling his dream following a tragic death prior to the 1976 Olympics. The message that comes forth through this movie is Believe in Yourself.
Memorable Quotes:
"I don't want to win unless I know I've done my best, and the only way I know how to do that is to run out front, flat out until I have nothing left. Winning any other way is chicken-shit." - Steve Prefontaine

Peaceful Warrior (2006)

Directed by: Victor Salva
Peaceful Warrior is adapted from Dan Millman's bestselling autobiographical novel, Way of the Peaceful Warrior. The Peaceful Warrior tells the story of the struggle and transformation brought about in the gymnast's life, after a chance encounter with a stranger.
Memorable Quotes:
"A warrior does not give up what he loves, he finds the love in what he does" - Socrates
"The journey is what brings us happiness not the destination" - Dan Millman

Movies on Winter Olympics

The Cutting Edge (1992)

Directed by: Paul Michael Glaser
The movie revolves around Kate Moseley, a world-class figure skater and Doug Dorsey, an ice hockey player, who pair up to make it to the Olympics Figure skating team. Keeping the romance aspect aside, the movie dwells on how they overcome obstacles both in their personal and public lives to make their ultimate dream come true.
Memorable Quotes:
"I swear you let me down, and it will take them a month to count the blade marks up your back." - Kate
"Do me a favor and take the rock of while we work. Its cutting the hell out of my hand." - Doug

Cool Runnings (1993)

Directed by: Jon Turteltaub
Cool Runnings is an adventure-comedy based on the Jamaican bobsledding team, who made it to the 1988 Olympics. John Candy coaches the Jamaican team who are willing to risk everything they have to get a position at the Olympics. Cool Runnings manages to inspire and lighten up the mood thus keeping its audience hooked on to the film.
Memorable Quotes:
"Our Father, who art in Calgary, Bobsled be thy name. Thy kingdom come, gold medals won, on Earth as it is in Turn Seven. With Liberty and Justice for Jamaica and Haile Selassie. Amen." - Irv

Miracle (2004)

Directed by: Gavin O'Connor
A story based on the men's hockey team led by Herb Brooks, that won the 1980 Winter Olympics. Miracle captures the perseverance, and the passion of the players to make their dream materialize. The victory, that was dubbed the Miracle on Ice, is sure to fill you with a renewed ray of hope.
Memorable Quotes:
"Great moments... are born from great opportunity. And that's what you have here, tonight, boys. That's what you've earned here tonight." - Herb Brooks

Blades of Glory (2007)

Directed by: Josh Gordon, Will Speck
Blades of Glory is an American comedy, dealing with two rival male figure-skaters Chazz Michael and Jimmy MacElroy who have to put their differences aside to perform at the championships. Competing as the first all-male pair, the two succeed winning gold at the winter Olympics, a dream that they had always cherished.
Memorable Quotes:
"Hi, you've reached Jimmy, if you can dream it, you can do it!" - Jimmy


Olympia (1938)

Directed by: Leni Riefenstahl
Considered to be one of the greatest films of all-time, Olympia is a documentary of the 1936 Summer Olympics held in Berlin. Known for its excellent cinematography, Olympia celebrates the human body with close-up shots of athletes in action.
The documentary consists of two parts, namely Olympia Part One: Festival of Nations (Olympia 1. Teil - Fest der Völker) and Olympia Part Two: Festival of Beauty (Olympia 2. Teil - Fest der Schönheit).
The first part sees Adolf Hitler looking on in amazement as American athlete Jesse Owens wins four Gold Medals; while the second part highlights the Pentathlon and Decathlon won by American Glenn Morris.

The Grand Olympics (1961)

Directed by: Romolo Marcellini
Nominated as the Best Documentary at the Academy Awards, La Grande Olimpiade or The Grand Olympics is a documentary of the 1960 Olympics held in Rome. Considered to be the most attractive and comprehensive sports marathon ever filmed, it reminisces the ideals and the true spirit of the games. It definitely enchants the audience from start to end.

Tokyo Olympiad (1965)

Directed by: Kon Ichikawa
Tokyo Olympiad captures every moment of the 1964 Olympics and celebrates the passion of the athletes. Ichikawa has captured the athletes pushing themselves to the ultimate limit, focusing on the complete atmosphere of the games.
Considered to be one of the best Olympic documentaries, Ichikawa's Tokyo Olympiad has found itself mentioned in the must watch movies list. Tokyo Olympiad with its catalog of exemplar observations is nothing short of the tag line that describes it best, 'The man's picture every woman will love'.

16 Days of Glory (1986)

Directed by: Bud Greenspan
16 Days of Glory is a documentary or rather a photographic record of the 1984 Olympics. It is a sports film about athletes who, as Bud rightly states, are people stepping into the arena. The film deals with the philosophy of life, focusing on the strife for personal excellence. Watch the movie for its many stirring moments, filled with close-ups revealing the effort put in by the athletes.

Unbeaten (2009)

Directed by: Steven C. Barber
Definitely high on the inspirational quotient, Unbeaten chronicles 31 paraplegics as they make their way through the 2008 Paralympics. The documentary follows the course of self-discovery and strength. It is also the epitome of the determination possessed by the elite racers making their way through the toughest road race. Take it from here, it's the best movie to get your adrenaline pumping.
For some serious movie bluffs there's a list of movies that have not been included in our master list. But yes, they do have the Olympics in the background. Do check out these movies as well:
  • Munich
  • International Velvet
  • Prefontaine
  • D2: The Mighty Ducks
  • Ice Castles
  • Four Minutes (TV Show)
  • Million Dollar Legs
  • Walk Don't Run
  • Charlie Chan at the Olympics
  • American Anthem
  • The Flying Scotsman
That's about all the movies I could come up with to keep you inspired and on the go. The list doesn't stop here, movies that you feel are inspiring and good enough to give you an adrenaline rush are welcome to be mentioned. Do keep the list going.