Classic Movie Round-Up, Part IV – Running Edition

It’s been quite a while since my last series of new-to-me classic films, hasn’t it? I guess when the fall semester started I lost a little steam with my project of watching all of those old classics I had never gotten around to seeing before. (Previous versions are here, here, and here.) Recently, though, I have been firing up the Netflix queue with a bunch of running-related films. My big race is coming up on Saturday so I figured it would be wise to get my fill of running movies when it counts!

Some of these are genuine classics, some are recent and haven’t yet stood the test of time. Others might never be classics. So it’s not really right of me to call this part of the classic movie project, but let’s just go with it anyway, okay?

Chariots of Fire

This movie is most definitely a classic — and I thought I had seen it before, but as I recently watched it, I realized I hadn’t. I think at some point in my youth I got the theme music in my head and connected it with a chariot race scene from maybe Ben Hur or something and conflated it all, believing I had seen Chariots of Fire. I know this movie received so much attention and acclaim, but for me it was just fair. I didn’t dislike it, but I did sort of dislike both of the protagonists. Abrahams seemed to do nothing but whine, while Liddell was just so effing sanctimonious. Not my kind of guys, really. And they were sprinters, so it figures. That scene on the beach with the theme song, though? Worth a watch for sure.


I had seen most, but not all of this movie one day when I was glued to the couch with the flu, the first spring I lived in Eugene. When I flipped to it on TV I realized they were at the UO, which caught my attention long enough to make me stick with the film. My memory of it was foggy, though, so I needed to see it again. What this movies has going for it: Ed O’Neill and Jared Leto (hel-lo there), beautiful Pacific Northwest landscape, and lots of great running scenes, especially the slow-mo ones where we can see Leto’s moneymakers all a-flex. The race finish at the Munich Olymipcs is just grueling to watch. I felt like I had run it myself, except of course for the fact that running 5000 meters in thirteen minutes still seems like some kind of cruel joke to me. The only thing I really didn’t like was the somewhat creepy scene where the hearse carrying the late Pre drives twelve laps around the track in 13:xx. It should have been poignant but came off as unpleasant at best. Otherwise, great. But wait, the movie wasn’t filmed in Eugene? That’s not the real Hayward Field?! Okay, let’s try this one again:

Without Limits

This version of the Prefontaine story stars Billy Crudup as the young superstar and was filmed in the real Eugene (TRACKTOWN U.S.A.!) at the real Hayward Field. It also features my friend Dangermoose’s brother as an extra. Can’t go wrong with that! I like most of the cast better, I think, but only slightly better. Donald Sutherland is sort of dark and strange as legendary coach Bill Bowerman, and I think he did a better job than R. Lee Ermey did in the above version. The soundtrack is better in this movie (exception: “Rocket Man” in the car scene) and they captured the rain and the coast the way I remember them — also plusses. The Munich Olympics race is just as heart pounding, but instead of rippling quads we get slow-mo wobbling cheeks and jowls. They really should have asked me about this.

Run, Fatboy, Run

Written by Michael Ian Black and Simon Pegg, this story about an unfit guy training for a marathon to win back the love of his ex seemed like it would be funny at least, even if not so inspiring when it comes to pure running. It was funny enough, I guess, but a lot of times they went for the easy gross-out humor. For example, there was a disgusting blister-popping scene, which is not only not my kind of humor but also, blisters are largely irrelevant in marathon training, in my opinion. Thandie Newton plays the love interest, and I have an irrational dislike of her ever since her brief stint on ER. No, I won’t explain it; it’s irrational. Anyway, even my affection for Simon Pegg and a great scene that visualizes “hitting the wall” at mile 20 couldn’t save this movie for me. I suppose Hank Azaria was OK.

Run for Your Life

This is a documentary about the life of Fred Lebow, the founder/director of the New York City Marathon. It was less about just running and had more to do with what it takes to build up a race, gain support, and form a community of runners in the city. I found that to be a lot more fascinating than it sounds, although if you aren’t interested in marathons and/or NYC, this movie may not hold your interest. I don’t know if I mentioned it here or not, but I entered the lottery to run in the NYC marathon in November 2011. While my chances of getting in are, I believe, pretty slim, I certainly enjoyed the fantasy of participating in that great race as I watched the film. One wonderful scene: because Lebow was race director, he didn’t get to run in his own race, being too busy with the back-end of the event. Instead, he ran several other races a year, traveling all over the world. At the end of the film, though, he finally gets a chance to run his own race. I won’t tell you how or why or what happens, but it was pretty moving.

Lola Rennt

I have loved this movie for years. It’s a bright, heart-pounding post-modern adventure with a great soundtrack. I’ve used a few of the tracks on past running mixes. Franka Potente is great, of course. Admit it: doesn’t this one make you want to dash out the door and just run somewhere?

Spirit of the Marathon

This is a great documentary about runners training for the Chicago Marathon. It follows elite runners Deena Kastor and Daniel Njenga, as well as several regular old amateurs like you and me. It’s really inspiring and I enjoyed it a lot when I first watched it as I was gearing up for my first half marathon in February. I haven’t actually re-watched it yet, but I plan to tomorrow night before I leave town for my next race.

Am I missing any great running movies? Do you have any favorite sports movies?


  1. All I remember is ugly crying every time I have tried to watch _Without Limits_. I’m sure a lot of it is the movie itself, but I just can’t stand to see my dear Billy Crudup in pain of any kind. Anyway, I’m not sure I’ve ever made it to the end.


  2. I love Lola too — so fun, so weird, and yes, great music.

    And I enjoyed Fat Boy, but, then again, blister popping humor doesn’t bother me because one of my personalities is that of a 12 year old boy.


  3. C – Gah, I know. I will say, though, the car accident scene is much more graphic in the Leto version.

    K – I tend to be very 12-year-old-ish about sex humor, but for some reason gross-out humor doesn’t work the same way for me. I did like parts of the movie, though. It wasn’t as good as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, though. (Also different writers, so…that’s probably why.)


  4. I just (yesterday) registered for a June marathon, so this is timely! I don’t have a favorite running movie, but for sports movies that totally motivate me:

    – The Cutting Edge (what? COME ONE. It’s awesome!)
    – Miracle
    – Seabiscut, but I haven’t seen that in awhile – I may have to rewatch to be sure.


  5. I LOVE Spirit of the Marathon and Run for Your Life (still considering entering the NYCM lottery…). I haven’t seen Run Lola Run in ages, certainly not since I started running in any serious fashion.

    There’s a great documentary about the Kona Ironman that you can find on Hulu. I consider it a running movie since they run a freaking marathon (oh and swim and bike about a billion miles before that). I love it. It’s like Spirit of the Marathon in that they profile elite and everyday tri-athletes. If you can call someone competing at Kona an everyday athlete.


  6. I’m glad you posted this. I was trying to remember which running movie my eighth grade English teacher let us watch. All I could remember were the wobbly jowls! My teacher told us that the slippy-face thing was the mark of a natural runner. He was a little nuts.


  7. This is probably going to be so random, but I actually really love the running back-story in Cool Runnings. Ha! But seriously, the reason two (or maybe all?) of the guys end up agreeing to try bobsledding is because they disqualify each other during an Olympic sprint trial. They were runners first, and yeah, I just sort of love that movie.

    The running bit of Forrest Gump is also pretty rad, and is definitely my favorite part of the entire movie.

    (Also, um, hi, YOU JUST RAN A MARATHON. I can’t stop thinking about how bad-ass you are.)


  8. Well, I think this was a made-for-TV movie, but perhaps you can find it somewhere – it’s called “The Terry Fox Story” and is about a famous Canadian runner (Terry Fox).


  9. Liz – Oh, I definitely need to see The Cutting Edge again! Gonna put that on the old Netflix queue.

    Aj – Oooh, I need to see that Kona documentary. I am slightly obsessed with Ironman stuff.

    Samantha – Huh, who knew jowls were the sign of a good runner! That’s hilarious.

    KerriAnne – I was just thinking about Forest Gump! “And from that day on, everywhere I went, I was running.” Also, I did not know that about Cool Runnings. Maybe I need to see it? And thank you! I appreciate it!

    John – I will look that up!


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