Actor-turned-director George Clooney has a new film in theaters this week called The Boys in the Boat. This adaptation of Daniel James Brown’s non-fiction novel of the same name tells the true story of the University of Washington rowing team that represented the U.S. at the 1936 Olympic Games. Joel Edgerton stars as the coach of the team, Al Ulbrickson, while Callum Turner portrays Joe Rantz, a student who joined the team to escape from the poverty of the Great Depression before he found himself chasing an improbable dream of Olympic glory.
That premise may sound familiar because there’s no shortage of underdog sports stories in Hollywood, even when the subject matter is the Olympic Games. If you’re looking for inspirational films to close out 2023, check out our picks for the three movies like The Boys in the Boat that you should watch right now.
Given the decades that have passed since Chariots of Fire was released, it may be more well-known for its ethereal score by Vangelis instead of its story. The film chronicles the story of two rival runners: Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) and Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson). Abrahams wants to compete in the Olympics to overcome the rampant anti-Semitism he faces daily, while Liddell is a devout Christian who is convinced that using his gifts as a runner is the best way to serve God.
Both Abrahams and Liddell are chosen to represent Great Britain in the 1924 Olympic Games, and they each face their own personal trials as they attempt to rise above their competition and take their place on the podium as two of the best runners in the world.
Like The Boys in the Boat, Race is also a story of the 1936 Olympic Games. However, its subject, Jesse Owens (Surface‘s Stephan James), is far more famous than the Men’s row boat team. This film is a biopic of Owens, who became one of the most successful track and field athletes of all time while facing enormous prejudice in his own country.
Because the Olympic Games are being held in Nazi Germany, Owens is pressured to stay out of the event. But rather than bend to anyone else’s demands, Owens travels to Germany and proves that he is far superior to any other runner in his era… much to the irritation of the host country’s politicians.
Watch Race on Netflix.
When it comes to underdog Olympic stories, there are few more inspiring than the Miracle on Ice that occurred during the 1980 Olympics in the game between the Soviet Union’s professional hockey players and the American team, which was comprised of college players. Miracle rewinds the clock to the point where former player Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) is hired to take over as head coach of the U.S. Olympic Men’s Hockey Team.
Brooks’ first challenge is that his players, Mike Eruzione (Patrick O’Brien Demsey), Jack O’Callahan (Michael Mantenuto), Rob McClanahan (Nathan West), Mark Johnson (Eric Peter-Kaiser), and more are still holding on to their petty college rivalries rather than gelling as a team. Somehow, Brooks has to reshape this group of rivals into an actual team and then guide them through a nearly impossible Olympic journey.
Watch Miracle on Disney+.
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