Running movies have the magical ability to inspire us, motivate us, and even entertain us on those days when we’d rather be doing anything but hitting the pavement!
Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or a newbie just starting out, these films offer something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and prepare to be inspired by the following 10 best running movies of all time.
Table of Contents
- 1 1. Chariots of Fire (1981)
- 2 2. McFarland, USA (2015)
- 3 3. The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young (2014)
- 4 4. Spirit of the Marathon (2007)
- 5 5. Without Limits (1998)
- 6 6. Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019)
- 7 7. Patriots Day (2016)
- 8 8. Prefontaine (1997)
- 9 9. I Am Bolt (2016)
- 10 10. Race (2016)
1. Chariots of Fire (1981)
Chariots of Fire is a classic running movie that has stood the test of time. Based on the true story of two men from vastly different backgrounds who compete for track and field glory at the 1924 Paris Olympics, the film offers a fascinating glimpse into the personal lives of Christian Scotsman Eric Liddell and Jewish Englishman Harold Abrahams.
With its iconic score by Vangelis, Chariots of Fire is an inspiring film that will make you want to lace up your running shoes and hit the track.
Vangelis, a Greek composer and musician, created the iconic soundtrack for the 1981 British historical sports drama film, Chariots of Fire. The film marked director Hugh Hudson’s first feature film, and the soundtrack contributed significantly to its success. The memorable and inspiring theme music composed by Vangelis went on to be used in various sporting events, further cementing its place in popular culture. The Chariots of Fire soundtrack stands as a testament to Vangelis’ talent and his ability to evoke emotions through music.
- True story of two men from different backgrounds competing in the 1924 Olympics, considered to be one of the best running movies of all time.
- Features a memorable score by Vangelis
- Inspiring and motivating for runners of all levels
2. McFarland, USA (2015)
Kevin Costner stars as Jim White, a high school football coach who moves his family to a predominantly Latino rural town in Idaho to start a new teaching job.
After recognizing the running talent of seven young men, White decides to start a cross-country team, with six runners and leading them on a journey to become a state championship team. McFarland, USA showcases the power of determination, teamwork, and believing in one’s own abilities to create one of the best running movies of all time.
- Based on the true story of a 1987 cross country team in Southern California
- Highlights the importance of determination, teamwork, and self-belief
- A heartwarming and inspiring underdog story
3. The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young (2014)
The Barkley Marathons is a mind-blowing documentary about an ultra-marathon in Tennessee that only a handful of people have ever completed.
The secret application process for elite runners, the mysterious race route, and the intense physical and mental challenge make this film a must-watch for anyone who loves pushing their limits.
- Documentary about a brutal and secretive ultra-marathon in Tennessee
- Highlights the incredible physical and mental challenge of the race
- Inspiring and intriguing for runners seeking an extreme challenge
4. Spirit of the Marathon (2007)
Spirit of the Marathon follows six unique stories of six marathon runners while preparing for the 2005 Chicago Marathon.
Featuring interviews with legendary runners like Dick Beardsley, Joan Benoit-Samuelson, and Bill Rodgers, this documentary captures the essence of running a marathon and is perfect for amateur runners or those looking for motivation in their own training.
- Follows six unique stories of runners preparing for the 2005 Chicago Marathon
- Features interviews with legendary runners
- Inspiring and informative for marathon runners
5. Without Limits (1998)
Without Limits is a biographical film about the life of legendary runner Steve Prefontaine. The movie showcases the relationship between Prefontaine and his coach Bill Bowerman, as well running scenes such as Pre’s quest for Olympic glory in the 1972 Munich Olympics.
With its higher production quality and supporting cast of more realized characters, Without Limits is a must-watch for anyone interested in the story of Steve Prefontaine.
- Biographical film about legendary runner Steve Prefontaine
- Explores the relationship between Prefontaine and his coach Bill Bowerman
- A captivating and inspiring story for all runners
6. Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019)
Brittany Runs a Marathon is a comedic and relatable film about a woman who decides to change her life by training for the New York City Marathon.
As Brittany overcomes the first marathon of obstacles and challenges, she discovers that the real transformation is not just physical, but mental and emotional as well.
- Relatable and comedic film about a woman training for the New York City Marathon
- Highlights the mental and emotional transformation that can come from running
- A fun and inspiring movie for all runners
7. Patriots Day (2016)
Patriots Day is an emotional and powerful film about the Boston Marathon bombing, starring Mark Wahlberg. While the movie is intense and heart-wrenching, it also showcases the resilience and determination of young runners and the spirit of the marathon running community in the face of adversity.
- Emotional and powerful film about the Boston Marathon bombing
- Showcases the resilience and determination of the running community
- A moving and motivating film for all runners
8. Prefontaine (1997)
Prefontaine is another biographical film about the legendary runner Steve Prefontaine. This movie focuses on his early life in Coos Bay, Oregon, his running success at the University of Oregon, and his quest for Olympic gold in the 1972 Munich Olympics.
While grittier than Without Limits, Prefontaine is a solid biopic that provides a different perspective on the life of this iconic runner.
- Another biographical film about Steve Prefontaine
- Focuses on his early life and quest for Olympic gold
- Provides a different perspective on the life of the legendary runner
9. I Am Bolt (2016)
I Am Bolt is a full documentary film about the life and career of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. Featuring interviews with other famous athletes like Serena Williams and Pelé, the film offers a glimpse into family life, the many world records of the fastest man alive and his journey to winning nine Olympic gold medals.
- Documentary about the life and career of Usain Bolt
- Features interviews with a long distance runner other famous athletes
- Inspiring and entertaining for all runners
10. Race (2016)
Genre: Historical Drama
Race is a 2016 biographical film about the life of Jesse Owens, an African-American track and field athlete and one of the best elite runners of all time who overcame both physical and racial hurdles to compete at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. The movie sheds light on Owens’ early success at Ohio State, his personal struggles, and his determination to excel in the face of discrimination.
- Biographical film about the life of Jesse Owens
- Highlights the physical and racial hurdles he overcame to compete at the 1936 Olympic Games
- Inspiring and motivating for all runners
These 10 running movies are sure to inspire and entertain, no matter your running experience or running goals as an amateur up to long distance running or preference for running documentaries.
So, grab some popcorn, settle in, and get ready to be motivated by these incredible true stories of perseverance, determination, reaching the finish line, and the power of running!
Do you have a favorite running movie or suggestion for the best running movies? Let us know in the comments! We know about Forrest Gump!