With all of the inspirational sports films about athletes overcoming obstacles to be the best, you would think there would be a lot more on the Olympics. Stories of underdog Olympic athletes seem to come out of every event, but Hollywood does not think they are worth the time or money. So compiling a list of five Olympic films is a challenge, especially films younger than 20 years old. Since I already covered “Chariots of Fire” in a previous article, here are five other films to jump-start your Olympic fever:
Blades of Glory: The sports movie for people who are not sports fans, this wacky film follows disgraced figure skaters Will Ferrell and Jon Heder (a.k.a. Napoleon Dynamite) who exploit a loophole to compete in pairs figure skating. All of the Will Ferrell comedy tropes are present; from the man-child lead character to the out of nowhere romance subplot to the obligatory gross-out gags. Yet it manages to stick its landing thanks to a competent director, some clever gags and a fun supporting cast including Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Craig T. Nelson and the lovely Jenna Fisher.
Cool Runnings: The story of Jamaica’s 1988 Olympic bobsledding team may not scream inspirational movie, but some Disney producer decided to give it a try with this 1993 release. Directed by John Turtletaub (who went on to direct “National Treasure”), the film certainly has its fair share of Disney-isms, like some “goofy” characters and childish jokes. Nevertheless, it is a fun sports film with genuine heart and an entertaining cast, led by the late John Candy.
The Cutting Edge: This gloriously ’90s romantic comedy follows a figure skating diva and a washed up hockey player who begrudgingly pair up to compete in the Olympics. If you have seen any romantic comedy or underdog sports film, you will know exactly what to expect from that premise. Light-hearted, entertaining, well made and nicely acted, it is a good date movie for the sports-loving couple.
Miracle: Praised by critics and fans alike, “Miracle” follows the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team and fearless coach Herb Brooks as they challenge the “unstoppable” Soviet Union team. The film rises above being a very straightforward sports film thanks to superb filmmaking and a strong cast, led by Kurt Russell in arguably his best performance.
Without Limits: Robert Towne directed this 1998 film following legendary Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine, from his humble origins in Oregon to his untimely demise at age 24. Though a box-office flop due to bad marketing, the film managed to garner critical praise for its insightful look into the relationships Prefontaine built as he went on to break several world records. Donald Sutherland garnered a Golden Globe nomination for his winning portrayal of Prefontaine’s coach, Steve Bowerman.