Best Olympics Movies to Get You Ready for the Games

The Olympics are almost upon us. There will be the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat, and perhaps some truly outstanding narratives will lead to a feature film down the road. Movies are no stranger to mining the Olympics for dramatic material, and it’s led to some fairly enjoyable features along the way. Some movies are about the joy of competing, others are about the wonder of getting the gold medal. However they go, they tend to provide a fun, entertaining look at the events that capture the attention of the world for a couple weeks every couple of years. If you’re excited for this year’s Olympics, check out these movies to get in the spirit of the games.

I, Tonya

Image via NEON

Margot Robbie gives the performance of her career in I, Tonya, the film adaptation of the unbelievable true events leading up to the infamous athletic scandal that rocked the rink in the mid-90s. Robbie stars as Tonya Harding, the gifted but unpolished figure skater who made waves as the first female skater to land a triple axel and ultimately went down in the books as the perpetrator of an ill-conceived, poorly executed, and utterly insane plot that culminated in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan.
Energetic, emotional, and unexpected, Craig Gillespie‘s biopic digs into the horrifying abuses Harding survived, both from her razor-tongued mother LaVona Golden (Allison Janney) and her volatile, violent husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), and mines her suffering for tragedy, pathos, and occasionally, brutal comedy. Janney and Stan are fantastic in their respective roles, but it’s the blunt-force fury of Robbie’s performance as the abused, rejected, and unwaveringly tenacious young woman that makes I, Tonya a brassy bad girl anthem for the ages. — Haleigh Foutch

Cool Runnings

Image via Disney

Yes, as Family Guy joked, the movie “has its moments”, but there’s something to be said for just a nice PG sports comedy (which they don’t really make anymore) based on a true story. In this case, it follows a Jamaican sprinter who’s disqualified for the Olympics so he gets together three of his fellow countrymen to become the country’s first bobsled team. Although that seems kind of outlandish and obviously a fish-out-of-water story, Jon Turteltaub’s movie makes it work. If we got more movies like Cool Runnings that are about unlikely athletes competing in the Olympics, I wouldn’t be opposed to that. – Matt Goldberg

Chariots of Fire

Image via Warner Bros.

The four-time Oscar-winning 1981 film Chariots of Fire has earned its place on the BFI’s list of the best British films ever made. On a character level, it focuses on two leads: The English Jew, Harold Abrahams, whose talents as a runner are often over-shadowed by antisemitism, and devout Christian, Eric Liddle, born to Scottish missionaries in China, who runs for the glory of God. The Olympic-hopefuls face many obstacles in their quest for the gold medal, be it their friendly rivalry with each other, disapproval from friends and family, or real-world conflicts that challenge their own convictions and force them to make difficult decisions. Chariots of Fire does play fast and loose with the time period and the historical facts of the 1924 Olympics, but if it stuck to being a period piece in totality, we never would have gotten to enjoy the fantastic score from 80s electro/synth-musician, Vangelis. So check out Chariots of Fire if you haven’t, or if it’s been a minute. It’s got everything you want in a classic, feel-good, optimistic sports drama. – Dave Trumbore

Eddie the Eagle

Image via 20th Century Fox

Speaking of unlikely athletes based on true stories, we got that a couple years ago with the utterly charming Eddie the Eagle. Eddie Edwards (a lovable Taron Egerton) is an underdog who dreams of being an athlete and decides that he will be a ski jumper for Britain. Working with a down-and-out coach (Hugh Jackman providing a bit of star power), Eddie’s goal isn’t to win goal, but simply to compete, which is a charming message. Like Cool Runnings, there’s something to be said for movies that championing just trying rather than the mad pursuit of a gold medal. That’s not to say that those movies don’t have their place, but that the spirit of competition and succeeding against the odds are also worthwhile. – Matt Goldberg

Blades of Glory

Image via Paramount

Blades of Glory may not be the best Olympics movie of all time, but it’s almost certainly the silliest. Will Ferrell and Jon Heder star as a pair of rival figure skaters forced to team up to take home the gold medal after a fiery display of egos gets them banned from singles skating. Two dudes skating together? Yes, that is the gist of many of the film’s jokes, some of which have a slight homophobic tinge that hasn’t aged well, but there’s so much more to love about this goofy, laugh-til-you-cry love letter to the pageantry and ego of Olympic ice skating.
Ferrell is Chazz Michael Michaels, a sex-addicted rock ‘n roll skating superstar who’s all about the showmanship. Heder is Jimmy MacElroy a child prodigy turned man child who is impeccably trained, precise, and germaphobic to boot — the golden child of the Olympic rink. The odd-couple comedy Ferrell and Heder mine out of their unlikely partnership is pure gold, highlighted by some first-rate comedic wig and costume work along the way.  Everybody has at least one Will Ferrell comedy they can watch infinitely and still laugh — Blades of Glory is mine. — Haleigh Foutch

Miracle

Image via Disney

I would watch a sports movie with Kurt Russell playing the coach every year if they released them. Russell shines here as player-turned-coach Herb Brooks, who lead the 1980 U.S. hockey team against the seemingly insurmountable Russian squad. While the movie gets its title from the announcer’s call, “Do you believe in miracles?!” when the team wins, it’s still just a nice sports team movie, especially when you’ve got Russell in the lead. Miracle may not be a flashy film, but also, like that American hockey team, it gets the job done. – Matt Goldberg

Downhill Racer

Image via Parmount

Downhill Racer, a quietly intense sports drama, stars Robert Redford as David Chappellet, a selfish, driven downhill skier who competes to qualify for the US Olympic team. Based on Oakley Hall’s novel The Downhill Racers, the film marks the directorial debut of Michael Ritchie. Chappellet is the next hot thing who never shies away from a photo opportunity or an interview and is driven to become an Olympic champion. It’s one of the most realistic films depicting what it takes to become an Olympic champion. We see the numerous races, the questions of confidence, the shady equipment merchants, the risk of alienating your teammates or family and the knowledge that you have to push that little extra bit to win. The film illuminates the Olympic truth that even when an athlete gives the performance of their lifetime, there’s always someone driven to do the exact same thing right behind them. It’s what makes their accomplishments all the more amazing. — John Rocha

Red Army

Image via Sony Pictures Classics

This documentary chronicles the Olympics from the other side, and while the Russians may be the “villains” of Miracle, Gabe Polsky’s excellent documentary explores what life was like for a team not only living under Soviet rule, but under a Soviet banner of propaganda where winning was everything. Yes, U.S. victories at the Olympics were also propaganda, but our stakes were a whole lot lower. With hockey star Viacheslav Fetisov as the guiding, dickish, yet oddly sympathetic voice at the forefront of the documentary, Red Army paints a captivating picture of the price of gold. – Matt Goldberg

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