Quarantine measures across the world have left many people wondering what to do with their time indoors. But if you’re bored at home, planning (yet another) movie night or just looking for some Olympic-level motivation, check out Tokyo2020’s top 10 movies to watch when you’re stuck at home.
I Am Bolt (2016)
If you’re going to make a list, you may as well start it off with a living legend. “I Am Bolt” tells the story of Usain “Lightning” Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter, world record holder and eight-time Olympic gold medallist. Tailing the star from Beijing 2015 until Rio 2016, the filmmakers document the athlete’s journey during one of the most challenging periods of his career, as he battles injury, distractions and growing rivalries in the lead up to the Olympic Games. In true Bolt fashion, the movie journey ends in triumph, as the audience is left in awe of the great athlete’s ability to win, even against mounting odds.
Ever wondered how you would turn the sport of show jumping into a nail-biting silver screen thriller? Well, French actor, screenwriter and professional-level rider, Guillaume Canet did just that with the 2013 movie Jappeloup that tells the true story of a horse deemed too small and too stubborn to be an Olympic champion. Using an impressive array of slow-motion footage and dramatic editing, the audience follows the journey of the horse and athlete as they fight their way all the way to victory at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games.
The Golden Generation (2018)
The Golden Generation, directed by Academy Award-winning director Juan Jose Campanella and Camilo Antolini, is a documentary about the Manu Ginobili-era Argentina basketball team, as they achieved the unthinkable by winning Olympic gold at Athens 2004. Following the team through their performances in the youth ranks through the economic crisis in Argentina and their stunning victory against the USA in the 2002 FIBA World Championship, the movie culminates in their finest moment when they broke the “spell and the aura of an invincible USA” to achieve Olympic victory. You can check out the entire movie - for free - below.
Chariots of Fire (1981)
Next on the list is a bonafide Olympic classic that went on to win the Best Picture prize at the 1982 Academy Awards. Chariots of Fire tells the story of Eric Lidell and Harold Abrahams, two athletes who competed at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, France. The movie covers themes of class, dignity and religion, as the audience follows the main characters on their journey to the Olympics and beyond. Even if you haven’t seen this one, you’ve probably heard the emblematic soundtrack that accompanies some of the most dramatic moments in sports movie history.
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013)
The next stop on this Olympic movie journey is Bollywood. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag recounts the incredible true story of Milkha "Flying Sikh" Singh, an Olympian and world champion runner who overcame the massacre of his family, civil war and homelessnes to become one of India’s greatest sportspeople. And in true Bollywood style, the accompanying soundtrack adds to the drama of an already epic Olympic biopic.
The story of Jesse Owens is one of the greatest in Olympic history, not only because of his triumphs on the track but also the social significance of his performances. Against the historical backdrop of a racially-divided America and the burgeoning influence of Nazism in Europe, Race tells the tale of how Jesse Owens’ fleet-footed brilliance rose above bigotry at home and abroad.
Asterix at the Olympic Games (2008)
Move over Bolt. Step aside Biles. The true hero of the Olympic Games is the legendary animated character Asterix. If you’re looking for some lighthearted fun with an Olympic theme, don’t sleep on Asterix’s adventures in ancient Athens, as the magnificent Gauls take on the Greeks and Romans. With Gérard Depardieu hamming it up in hilarious style, this funny, emotional take on the Olympics will have you grinning from ear to ear.
Free to Run (2016)
Free to Run charts the evolution of running, from a sport perceived of as mainly for elite male track runners to its rise through the 1960s and its transformation into a liberating symbol of freedom. One of the standout aspects of the story is the role running played in the women’s liberation movement, epitomised in a moving moment in history when Joan Benoit triumphed in the first ever Olympic women’s marathon event at Los Angeles 1984. The movie makes for compelling viewing for anyone with a love for athletics.
How did India become a powerhouse of Olympic wrestling? Dangal gives you many of the answers as it recounts the life stories of Geeta and Babita Phogat who broke through the barriers of wrestling as a male-only sport in India to achieve sporting greatness. The Phogat sisters’ path to glory is not an easy one, but they masterly overcome the stubborn resilience of their father, intense training regimes and outside adversity to become perhaps the world’s most preeminent wrestling family.
The People’s Fighters (2018)
The next movie on the list tells the story of how a revolutionary boxing experiment produced Teofilo Stevenson and a legacy of Cuban success at the Olympic Games. Cuba has produced more Olympic boxing medallists than any other country over the past 50 years - despite having a population of only 11 million people. The secrets to the nation’s success are explored in this Olympic Channel documentary, which you can watch right now for free on Tokyo2020.org.
Best of the rest: Bonus tracks
If you’re looking for more movies with an Olympic theme to see you through the lockdown, you’re sure to find something you like in the ‘Best of the Rest’ list below.
The Athlete (2009)
This drama tells the story of the famous Ethiopian marathon runner, Abebe Bikila, who became the first person to win the marathon gold twice in a row following his victories at Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964.
Gun to Tape (2012)
Gun to Tape is a 2012 Kenyan documentary following long distance runners David Rudisha and Edna Kiplagat as they geared up for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Monty Python Olympic clips
And finally, if all else fails, there’s always Monty Python.