Lists

10 Medal-Worthy Movies for Those Who Can't Get Enough of the Olympics

In Craig Gillespie’s biopic I, Tonya, Margot Robbie takes on the role of Tonya Harding, an ice skater who dreamed of Olympic gold while proclaiming her “white trash” heritage.
In Craig Gillespie’s biopic I, Tonya, Margot Robbie takes on the role of Tonya Harding, an ice skater who dreamed of Olympic gold while proclaiming her “white trash” heritage. Courtesy of Neon
It's not just the pandemic that makes this year different for the Olympics. New sports that aren’t exactly familiar to ancient Greeks are being included for the first time, including karate, sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding. Is horseshoe pitching next? Maybe we can try to lobby the Olympics committee before the games land in Los Angeles for summer 2028.

If for whatever reason this worldwide celebration of connectivity and peace starts to bore you (or more likely, if you don’t have cable), Hollywood has frequently mined the games for inspirational stories. So, if you need something else to watch, check out some of these great movies about the Olympics.
I, Tonya
Did we need a dark comedy about one of the most famous scandals in Olympics history? Actually, yeah! Margot Robbie landed an Oscar nomination for her surprisingly sensitive performance as a victim of violence and abuse who aimed to take home the gold using any means necessary.
Munich
Not exactly a fist-pumping inspirational romp, but Steven Spielberg’s 2005 masterpiece is an essential depiction of the Israel-Palestine conflict that follows the aftermath of the Munich bombings at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games.
Molly’s Game
Molly Bloom had quite a rebound; after failing to land a trophy as an Olympic figure skater, the savvy athlete ran an underground high stakes poker game whose players included both Russian mobsters and Hollywood celebrities (all of whom conveniently aren’t mentioned by name).
Race
One of the great inspirational Olympic stories of all-time, this refreshingly earnest 2016 biopic told the story of Jesse Owens and the defiance of fascism on the world stage. Check out Ted Lasso himself, Jason Sudekis, in a more serious role as Owens’ coach.
Eddie the Eagle
Olympic ski jumping might not garner the excitement of gymnastics or fencing among casual viewers, but we’d dare you to not reconsider your stance on the winter sport after watching this hilariously heartfelt biopic of Great Britain’s first ski jumper, Michael Edwards.
Foxcatcher
What’s the price of victory? This chilling drama told the uncomfortable true story of gold medal winning brothers Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave (Mark Ruffalo) Schultz, and how murderous coach John du Pont (Steve Carrell) drove them apart in an intense and ultimately tragic Olympic wrestling training regime.
Icarus
Most of the films we’re recommending are depictions of historical events, but Icarus is the rare case in which a film itself changed the course of Olympic history. The 2017 documentary expose on the Russian doping scandal told the story of whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, whose brave actions resulted in Russia’s ban from the games.
Chariots of Fire
You probably can hum the theme song. Have you actually seen the movie? While we don’t know if it deserved the Academy Award for Best Picture over Reds and Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s hard to not get swept up in this story of British runners overcoming prejudice.
Miracle
Sometimes a little bit of schmaltziness is OK, especially if it involves Kurt Russell’s chiseled beard. Russell stars as Herb Brooks, the U.S. hockey coach who led the team to a victory over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympic Games.
Unbroken
Olympic heroism sometimes goes beyond the games themselves, as is the case with this film about Louis Zamperini, the American distance runner who survived being adrift at sea for two months and later spent years in prisoner-of-war camps during World War II.
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Liam Gaughan has been covering film and television since before he had a driver's license, and in addition to the Observer has been published in About.com, Schmoes Know, Taste of Cinema and The Dallas Morning News. He enjoys checking classic films off of his watchlist and working on spec scripts.