- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2012

Can’t get enough Olympics? The List this week looks at some of the best films tied to the prestigious, international sports event.

10. International Velvet (1978) — It’s a poor sequel to 1945 National Velvet which made a star of teenage Elizabeth Taylor. Tatum O’Neal plays the niece of the original Velvet Brown as she trains for Britain’s Olympic show jumping team with the help of her trainer played by a young Anthony Hopkins. Christopher Plummer is also part of the supporting cast.

9. Cool Runnings (1993) — The Jamaican bobsled team that competed at 1988 Winter Olympic Games is immortalized in this Disney film. John Candy, Doug E. Doug, Rawle D. Lewis and Malik Yoba star in the movie.

8. Olympia (1938) — Leni Riefenstahl, infamous for the Nazi-propaganda film “Triumph of the Will” followed it up in 1938 with “Olympia,” a propaganda documentary telling the story of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. The film was exploited by the Nazi regime but still is fascinating for its historical interest and cinematic praise to physical strength. One close-up that catches a vein throbbing in Jesse Owens’ forehead as he prepares for the 100-meter final has become a definitive image.

7. Munich ( 2005) — Steven Spielberg delivers a powerful thriller about the Israeli effort to kill the perpetrators of the 1972 Olympic terrorist attack that left 11 Israeli athletes dead. The film reflects on the futility of revenge while feeling grateful for men willing to act ruthlessly in the national interest.

6. Running Brave (1983) — Robby Benson — remember him? — stars as Billy Mills, a man raised on a reservation who rose to become the best distance runner in the world and the second American Indian to win an Olympic gold medal. Mr. Mills, a long shot, won the 10,000 meters run at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It was one of the biggest upsets in the sport. Benson, a fitness fanatic and a runner, underwent heart surgery a year later to replace a congenitally defective heart valve.

5. Prefontaine (1997) — This was the first of two features coming out in a two-year period recalling the career of charismatic Oregon distance runner Steve Prefontaine. “Without Limits” (1998) was the other film, and both were excellent. Prefontaine died at the age of 24 in a car accident after emerging as a promising, charismatic miler at the University of Oregon in the late 1960s. He was a member of the 1972 Olympic team and was later dubbed “the James Dean of track.” The deaths at Munich obviously overshadow the hero’s bid for Olympic glory.

4. Jim Thorpe — All American (1951) — Burt Lancaster plays versatile American Indian athlete Jim Thorpe, who came from obscurity to reach college stardom at Carlisle, eventually becoming “the greatest athlete in the world” after winning gold medals at the 1912 Olympics in the pentathlon and decathlon.

3. Miracle (2004) — Kurt Russell plays the role of coach Herb Brooks in this re-creation of one of America’s finest moments, the defeat of the Soviet Union in hockey in the 1980 Olympics. The win came at an appropriate time for the U.S., which was dealing with gas shortages and the Iran hostage crisis. This film will have you on the edge of your chair chanting “USA! USA!”

2. The Jesse Owens Story (1984) — The syndicated TV docudrama was based on the life of the black track star who won four events at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Dorian Harewood plays the athlete. The drama won a 1985 Emmy Award and was nominated for two more.

1. Chariots of Fire (1981) — This stirring story is about the 1924 Olympics and the athletic careers of Jewish Cambridge student Harold Abrahams and Christian missionary-to-be Eric Liddell. There’s a great line in the film when Liddell’s sister says her brother is distracted from his spiritual mission. Liddell, a Scotsman, responds: “Aye, Genny, I know. But He also made me fast. When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” The film won four Oscars, including best picture.

Sources: Yahoo, IMDb and The Washington Times



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