For much of human history, athletes have inspired unity, strength, and respect. Popular culture idolizes athletes, and today that doesn’t just mean that their achievements are documented in books or that they are written about in newspapers’ it means that there are feature films made about them, that they star in reality shows, and have an unprecedentedly large number of followers on social media.
People are drawn to stories of perseverance. We feel and respond to the plight of aspiring athletes, struggling to represent their countries and pursue their dreams. That’s why we love watching sports and movies — anything that presents us with a tale of redemption or success. And we love watching the Olympics; the world comes together to compete in a healthy — and hopefully fair — competition, an event populated by dedicated, hard workers.
As 2016’s games in Rio begin, here is a quick look at some Olympics films, including true stories and side-splitting parodies.
“Cool Runnings” (Jon Turteltaub, 1993)
Jamaica’s first-ever bobsled team must battle expectations and inexperience as they take on uncharted, frozen territory: the Winter Olympics. Based loosely on a true story, “Cool Runnings” will make you laugh out loud and bite your nails — and you’ll have the bobsledders’ chant stuck in your head for weeks beyond viewing the film. “Feel the rhythm. Feel the rhyme. Get on up, it’s bobsled time!”
“Chariots of Fire” (Hugh Hudson, 1981)
A pair of runners prepare for the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. Set in the U.K. in the 1920s, the two young men differ in their religious beliefs — one a Christian, the other a Jew — but not in their desire to run and prove themselves.
“Without Limits” (Robert Towne, 1998)
“Without Limits” is one of several feature films that tell the biographical story of Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine. Often credited as one of the media stars who inspired the 1970’s “running boom,” Prefontaine was a national record holder and star. He died shortly after his career began,at age 24, in a tragic driving incident. About 20 years after his death, the film industry took great interest in his life.
“Blades of Glory” (Josh Gordon & Will Speck, 2007)
Two male figure skaters are banned from the sport after tying for a gold medal and getting into a fist fight. Figuring out that they can enter later competitions as a pair, they revive their skating careers and shock the world with their excruciatingly odd yet impressive routines. This is a classic Will Ferrell comedy and a nice way to get some chuckles while feasting the eyes on what appears to be some excellent figure skating.
“Munich” (Steven Spielberg, 2005)
Based on Operation Wrath of God, the Israeli counterterrorism mission carried out in retaliation for the 1972 massacre at the Summer Olympics, “Munich” is a political action film. It is also an acclaimed and lesser-known Spielberg movie. Though this telling of the operation is fictional, critics say that its general depiction of events is historically accurate — sans the parts left out, dramatized, or treated with creative liberty.