Best 12 Inspirational Running Movies

Some movies just have that special something that inspires you to run. Here's our pick of the best 12 to dip into when you need a bit of running inspiration to get you moving.

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Chariots of Fire

Titled after a line in William Blake's classic poem Jerusalem, Chariots of Fire tells the story of two sprinters, Englishman Harold Abraham and the Scottish missionary, Eric Liddell, in their quest to fulfill two very different ambitions. Abraham's Jewish heritage attracted institutional prejudice at Cambridge and intolerance as he pursued his quest to win an Olympic sprint title. Liddell – a man of deep religious conviction – vowed not to compete on a Sunday and when his Olympic race was scheduled for that very day, he was forced to stand by his principles. What will be the outcome for these two great athletes as their lives intersect at the 1924 Paris Games? Beautifully filmed and decorated with a pulsating musical score from Vangelis, Chariots of Fire is one of the great running films of all time.

Fact about Chariots of Fire: The movie secured four Oscars: Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Score.

Without Limits

Rock and roll music learned long ago that if you want to give somebody the title “legend” they have to be controversial, have a disdain for authority, be blessed with immense talent but, most importantly, have a life that ends too soon. The life of American distance runner Steve Prefontaine fits the mold. He once said: 'I don't run to see who has the best endurance, I run to see who has the most guts. I know that is me.' Without Limits is a powerful movie which tells the story of this colourful character and brilliantly cuts in live footage of his famous attempt to win a gold medal at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. The movie shows how Prefontaine enjoyed almost rock star status due to his running ability, and flouted the conventions of the time –  dragging the sport into a new era.

Fact about Without Limits: The movie was co-produced by Tom Cruise, who had wanted to play the lead role but decided he was too old.

The Games

Michael Crawford plays a milkman who dispatches his produce by running from house to house at record speed. He is identified by a controlling coach who believes he can be the best. Ryan O'Neal takes the role of an American College athlete who relies on stimulants to achieve his performances. Charles Aznavour portrays a retired Russian athlete who is asked by his political masters to run one more time for 'the system'. The last is a young black athlete, played by Athol Compton who is asked to give up his dream of winning the Olympic Games just minutes before the start of the race in a political statement against racial injustice. The Games is a remarkable movie that successfully weaves many themes that even to this day plague the Olympic movement.

Fact about The Games: The film is based on a novel by Hugh Atkinson of the same name.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

This movie concerns a young man, Colin Smith (Tom Courtenay), who is sent to a youth prison for his part in a robbery at a bakery. In the institution, he rises through the ranks on the strength of his prowess as a long distance runner. During his solitary runs he begins to assess his life and his status as the governor's prize runner. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is a gritty movie set in the 1960s and is the story of how the lead character has to make a decision about whether or not to defy authority and win back his own self-esteem at the probable personal cost of continued confinement. Although you wouldn't immediately say this movie could inspire people to run, the fact that Colin uses his 'alone time' while running to devise his plans against the governor is a good example of how running can help you in certain areas of your life.

Fact about The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner: British heavy metal group Iron Maiden included an adaptation of the story in a song which featured on their 1986 album ‘Somewhere in Time.’

The Long Run

This South African drama is a fictional movie which centres on a man trying to turn a rank amateur into a champion. Failed track coach Barry Bohmer discovers Christine (Nthati Moshesh), a young woman he sees jogging one day, and his trained eye tells him that she has the natural gifts and talent to win the Comrades Marathon – a grueling 54-mile race that stretches between two cities in the South African desert.  The Long Run shows how it is possible to train for such a competitive athletic event even if you have a background of little or no running experience. Also, the excellent soundtrack – which has contributions from vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo – gives the movie a very authentic African flavor. It’s certainly a good one to watch if you want to learn a more about the ultra-marathon experience.

Fact about The Long Run: This film is directed by Jean Stewart, a longtime TV director.

Running

A fictional movie about American marathon runner Michael Andropolis (Michael Douglas), who sets his heart on representing the United States at the 1976 Olympic games in Montreal. Through his running, Andropolis hopes that success will help to resolve his problems with work, his marriage, and his family. The protagonist finds a purpose through running that had alluded him previously. While watching this movie you’ll see the determination that is involved in running and get an experience of the Olympic Trials, where Andropolis barely makes the team. And if you don’t find yourself rooting for him during the Olympic marathon, then you must have a heart of stone!

Fact about Running: The marathon scenes of running were filmed in Georgetown, Ontario Canada.

Gallipoli

Although it’s not a movie that focuses solely on running, Gallipoli nonetheless covers the story of a young Australian running star Archy (played by Mel Gibson) whose track career is interrupted by Australia’s entrance into World War I. There are plenty of running scenes in the movie, including a great one near the beginning that is accompanied by Jean Michel Jarre's rousing soundtrack. During the course of the Gallipoli campaign, the movie depicts Archy having to run messages through the trenches – where how fast he runs becomes a matter of life and death. This movie is inspiring in that it shows what people can do in the face of adversity – although be prepared for the tear-jerking ending.

Fact about Gallipoli: At the time this film was made in 1981, Gallipoli was the most expensive Australian film ever produced.

Kicking Bird

The story in Kicking Bird is about gaining hope and using running to find yourself. It tells of the struggles of Martin ‘Bird’ Johnson (Ian Anderson-Priddy), who uses running to avoid his problems in his family life and at school. Johnson runs for the school cross country team as a means of escaping continual beating from his peers. This fictional movie puts across how running can be a good escape and can be a ticket to success, and shows the hardships you have to go through to reach the top and reach your true potential. There’s also an original soundtrack to the movie, which is excellent and comes to the fore when the characters are seen running. Kicking Bird is a really thought-provoking tale with running at its heart.

Fact about Kicking Bird: The film was made on a small budget of only $6,000.

Running Brave

This film tells the underdog story of Billy Mills (played by Robby Benson), the American Indian who came from obscurity to record one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history by winning the 10,000m event at Tokyo in 1964. This fact that this movie is based on real events makes it even more inspiring. The movie portrays Mills’ determination to better the best and not let the stereotypical attitude towards his origins bring him down. In Running Brave, his iconic race at the Tokyo games is portrayed. Mills came from third place to claim the gold medal - overtaking world record holder Ron Clark in the process - thus making it one of the best finishes and biggest upsets in Olympic history. Ron Clark was the first American to ever win the title.

Fact about Running Brave: The film was released in some parts of America in 1983, however was largely released in 1984 around the world to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his gold medal win.

Saint Ralph

This is a Canadian movie about the struggles of a 14-year old boy, Ralph Walker (Adam Butcher), who loses his father in a war and has to deal with the fact that his mother is in hospital in a coma. As a punishment for his behavior in school, Ralph’s stern headteacher forces him to join the cross country team. Ralph takes to running, and his coach recognises his talent and starts training him for the Boston Marathon. The movie follows Ralph’s story as he sets out to perform an almost impossible running feat – winning the Boston Marathon – because he believes that this miracle will bring his mother out of her coma.

Fact about Saint Ralph: The race which Ralph wins in the movie, the 30 kilometre Round the Bay Race, is the oldest structured road race in North America.

Spirit of the Marathon

This documentary film took director Jon Dunham four years to make, and follows the stories of six runners who take on the 2005 Chicago marathon. The runners whose journeys are followed in the film includes a mixture of amature and elite athletes including Paula Radcliffe, Daniel Njenga and Dick Beardsley. Hours of footage filmed on four continents was comprised to follow the journeys of the runners from the many hours of training to completing the marathon. The drama, passion and emotion of the 26.2 mile running event is captured perfectly in Spirit of the Marathon and this inspirational film will give you the courage and motivation to take on your own running challenge.  

Fact about Spirit of the Marathon: A crew of over 100 people was used to film the marathon and follow the runners from the start line to the finish line.

Run Fatboy Run

This comedy tells the story of Dennis, an overweight, middle aged man who sets out to run a marathon in an attempt to win back his ex-fiancee Libby who he left at the altar. With no previous marathon training, Dennis starts from scratch as we watch him battle with blisters, chafing and exhaustion to prove that he can complete something in his life. Whit is the athletic American that Libby is currently engaged to and Dennis decides to match his aspirations and run a marathon in order to prove that the man she is about to marry isn’t right for her. This feel good film shows that no goal is out of reach as long as you put the effort in.

Fact about Run Fatboy Run: This film was directed by David Schwimmer, and was his motion picture debut.

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