With 2022 being an Olympic year, and with the weather getting colder, we’ve compiled a list of movies inspired by the Games. Sports movies are always a safe bet, and the best of them inspire us and leave us feeling motivated by those who have achieved the seemingly super-human. From documentaries, to classics, to wild true stories, sports fans can hopefully find inspiration on this list as we get ready to watch the chaos that is the Olympic Games.
I, Tonya (2017):
I, Tonya is an absolute masterclass in making the audience cheer for probably one of the most reviled women of the 1990s. Margot Robbie is at her peak in this performance, giving an entirely new spin on a story everyone has had an opinion on since 1993. I, Tonya strikes a perfect balance, and never seeks to excuse the actions of anyone who was a part of the attack on U.S. figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. Tonya Harding’s past filled with crushing poverty and abuse is handled with compassion, while also never excusing the events that shook more than just the figure skating world. Sebastian Stan fans will also love seeing him in one of the most deliciously hatable roles of his career, which he plays to perfection.
The Price of Gold (2014):
For those looking for a documentary look at the events detailed in I, Tonya, ESPN released The Price of Gold as part of their ‘30 for 30’ series. With archival footage leading up to the infamous attack on Nancy Kerrigan and interviews with first hand witnesses, it’s compelling viewing that gives an alternate account of a story everyone thinks they know so well. Like I, Tonya, additional context is offered with alarming accounts by Tonya Harding herself about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother. Again, this is never excused, but presented to the viewer to make up their own mind. Fascinatingly, there’s also the callout of the Olympics themselves, and the theory presented that Oksana Baiul was ultimately awarded the gold medal at the 1994 Olympics because the Olympic committee could not abide awarding the top award to Kerrigan after the publicity the case had garnished.
Eddie the Eagle (2016):
At the 1988 Olympics, the world was enthralled with the antics of British ski jumper Michael Edwards, dubbed “Eddie the Eagle”. Placing dead last, his was the ultimate feel-good story, an inspiring attitude when confronted with professional failure. Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman play so well off of each other as the eternally optimistic British ski jumper and his long-suffering coach. This is a sports movie of the best kind. It leaves viewers with a warm feeling inside, with the illustration of the message the journey is far more important than the destination.
Another ultimate sports movie, Miracle tells the much-mythologized victory that was the American men’s hockey team at the 1980 Olympics. All of the laziest geopolitical tropes are on display, including the evil, never-smiling Russian opponents. That being said, Kurt Russell is the coach we all need, doling out tough love to his players that ultimately brought them together and led them to victory. Interestingly, the hockey players were portrayed by actual hockey players as it was presumably thought to be easier to train athletes to act rather than actors to play hockey.
Of Miracles and Men (2015):
Another entry in ESPN’s ‘30 for 30’ series, Of Miracles and Men also re-examines the events portrayed in Miracle and comes to a different conclusion. Although the 1980 men’s hockey final inspired a nation, there was much more to the story than sports fans were able to see on their TV from the comfort of their homes. The documentary examines the geo-political context in which this game was played, and why the Soviet team was so feared and maligned. On closer examination, the Soviet team was made up of men who by all accounts are very kind and were doing the best that they could with the circumstances in which they found themselves. The most poignant moment of the documentary came when the infamous call by Al Michaels was replaced by Soviet commentators calling the same ‘Miracle on Ice’ moment when the Soviet team was defeated.
Cool Runnings (1993):
It’s a rare enough thing to find an old movie that stands the test of time. Cool Runnings was based on the true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team to compete at a Winter Olympic Games. This cast of characters that includes Leon, Doug E. Doug, Rawle D. Lewis, and Malik Yoba is incredibly endearing. Their natural chemistry explodes off of the screen, and their struggle to ultimately come together as a real team is a relatable one. The great John Candy ties the whole thing together as the miserable but grudgingly supportive coach. Even though the team ultimately comes in last place in their debut Olympic performance, the journey to get there and to prove themselves was more than worth it. The story is such a joy to follow each step of the way.
Downhill Racer (1969):
Robert Redford and Gene Hackman fans may enjoy Downhill Racer, a fictional story of an Olympic skier. Based on the book The Downhill Racers by Oakley Hall, it’s focus is less on the actual sport itself and more on one particular skier and his problems. Fair warning, this movie is incredibly slow-paced. However, if you’re willing to tolerate the slim veneer of a plot and terrible dialogue in favor of shots of gorgeous scenery broken up by the occasional glimpse of actual skiing, this movie may be right for you.
The Summer Olympics are by far the more popular of the two mass sporting events. Correspondingly, there are less Winter Olympics-inspired movies from which to choose. However, this is a short list of some of those that may attract your attention. They just might get you into the mood for what is sure to be an…interesting Winter Olympics that at the time of writing is merely days away.
The 2022 Winter Olympic Games begin in Beijing February 4, 2022.