The Olympic games only come every two years — the Summer games on leap years, the Winter games two years later.
It’s the ultimate international athletic competition, where politics are supposed to play no role. They nonetheless occasionally come into play, as in the 1972 Munich games ("One Day in September"), and the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin ("Race").
The fierce competition that only comes once every four years for the athletes, together with the action, "the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat" provides the ultimate in human drama and the perfect vehicle for film.
Here are Newsmax’s list of the best 10 Olympics films of all time, presented in alphabetical order.
"Chariots of Fire"(1981)
This is a historical drama centered on true story of two British athletes competing in the 1924 Paris Summer Olympic games: Eric Liddell: a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice.
The film received critical acclaim and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning four of them (including Best Picture).
Said Roger Ebert, who reviewed the film for the Chicago Sun Times, and giving it his maximum four stars, "'Chariots of Fire' is one of the best films of recent years, a memory of a time when men still believed you could win a race if only you wanted to badly enough."
"Downhill Racer" (1969)
Based on the 1963 novel "The Downhill Racers" by Oakley Hall, this is a sports drama depicting skier (Robert Redford) as a cocky loner who joins the U.S. team with the goal of becoming the first American downhill skiing gold medalist, and his clashes with the team’s coach, played by Gene Hackman.
Reviewer Roger Ebert gave "Downhill Racer" four stars as well, saying "it does a skillful job of involving us in the competition without really being a movie about competition. In the end, "Downhill Racer" succeeds so well that instead of wondering whether the hero will win the Olympic race, we want to see what will happen to him if he does."
"Eddie the Eagle" (2016)
This is a biographical film, based on the rise of British athlete Michael "Eddie" Edwards, who was cut from his country’s Olympic ski team and travels to Germany to learn ski jumping. A former jumper turned snow plow driver admires Eddies spirit and agrees to train and coach him.
As a result at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, Eddie became the first competitor to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping since 1928.
Wrote Roxana Hadadi, reviewing for Chesapeake Family Life, "'Eddie the Eagle' is one of those underdog sports stories we all love so much, with an excellent performance from the likeable, empathetic Hugh Jackman" who portrayed Eddie.
This is loosely based on the events that took place at Foxcatcher, the estate of billionaire and wrestling enthusiast John du Pont, heir to the I.E. du Pont fortune. In 1986 du Pont recruited two 1984 U.S. Olympic gold medal wrestlers, Mark Schultz and his older brother David, to help coach U.S. wrestlers for national and Olympic competition.
As time went by du Pont started unraveling, culminating in his 1996 murder of David Schultz. Du Pont was subsequently tried and found guilty of murder, and died in prison.
"Chronicling the events leading up to the 1996 murder of Dave Schultz, the Olympic wrestling champion who tragically found the wrong benefactor in the Pennsylvania multimillionaire John E. du Pont, this insidiously gripping psychological drama is a model of bleak, bruising, furiously concentrated storytelling," wrote Justin Chang, reviewing for "Variety." "Despite its hefty 134-minute running time, 'Foxcatcher' doesn’t have an ounce of the proverbial narrative fat."
"I, Tonya" (2017)
This is a biographical black comedy, loosely based on figure skater Tonya Harding, who was the first American woman to complete a triple axel during a competition, but is nonetheless depicted as a victim. Harding was raised on the wrong side of the tracks by a domineering mother, and later married an abusive and alcoholic husband. Harding was later implicated in the beating of her skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan.
"I, Tonya" earned a 90% Tomatometer rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 385 critical reviews, and an 88% audience score, based on more than 10,000 ratings.
Wrote Mark Kermode for The (U.K.) Guardian, "Whatever your views on the U.S. in general and Harding in particular, you'll leave this cheering for Margot Robbie [as Harding]. Bravo!"
"Jim Thorpe — All-American" (1951)
This is a biographical film in which screen legend Burt Lancaster portrays Native American athlete Jim Thorpe, who was a 1912 Stockholm Olympics medalist and excelled in a range of sports, both in college and professionally. He was given the title, "the greatest athlete in the world."
Variety referred to the film as "One of the great stories in American sports history," adding, "Only a few fictional liberties have been taken in telling of how Thorpe came off an Oklahoma reservation to establish himself as the greatest all-round athlete of modern times."
This tells the story of the incredible "Miracle on Ice," when Team USA, comprised of a group of seemingly misfit and mismatched college hockey players defeated the heavily favored Soviet team of professionals in the 1980 Lake Placid games. Going in, the Soviets took home gold in the previous four winter games.
"Miracle" earned an 81% Tomatometer rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 165 critical reviews, and a 90% audience score, based on more than 50,000 ratings.
"A story about people rather than just one a team going for the win," wrote Ryan Cracknell for Movie Views. "In doing so, O'Connor makes 'Miracle' one of the more thoughtful and enjoyable films revolving around sports."
"One Day in September" (1999)
This documentary-thriller depicts the events at the 1972 Munich Summer Games, when a group of Palestinian terrorists calling themselves Black September, disguised as athletes, held 11 Israeli athletes and coaches hostage at Olympic Village. Six Israeli coaches, five Israeli athletes, and one West German police officer were massacred.
The film concentrates only on the events at the Olympics. The Steven Spielberg 2005 film "Munich" depicts the efforts by Israeli agents to bring the terrorists to justice.
The film earned a 97% Tomatometer rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 31 critical reviews, and a 92% audience score, based on more than 2,500 ratings.
'"One Day in September' grips the attention and is exciting and involving," wrote film critic Roger Ebert. "I recommend it on that basis — and also because of the new information it contains. I was disturbed, however, by Macdonald's pumped-up style."
This biographical sports drama tells the Jesse Owens story, the Ohio State University African American track and field sensation who shattered one record after another in the 1930s. He went on to take home four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics — and crushed both the competition and all dreams of an Aryan "master race."
The critical consensus at Rotten Tomatoes is that "'Race' is nowhere near as thrillingly fleet or agile as its subject, but the story — and a winning central performance from Stephan James — are enough to carry it over the finish line."
"Without Limits" (1998)
This is yet another biographical sports film, depicting University of Oregon distance runner Steve Prefontaine who had an unusual style of running: he gave it his all throughout the entire race, causing initial clashes between him and his coach. Unusual or not, it was enough to get him a spot on Team USA for the 1972 Munich Summer Games — yes, that 1972 Munich Summer Games. He finished 4th in the 5,000 meter race, although he won gold in that event the year before at the Pan-American Games.
"Dazzling, violent, star-driven thrill rides are routine," wrote reviewer Catherine Graham for the Santa Cruz Sentinel. "Finding an intelligent, well-written, old-fashioned movie-movie has become an event. Thus, it is a thrill to watch Without Limits."
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter who can often be found honing his skills at the range. Read Dorstewitz's Reports — More Here.
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