The 2014 Winter Olympics competition in Sochi, Russia is underway. Everyone in the world is watching to see the best athletes in the world compete against each other, while they keep track of their country’s medal count for bragging rights. It is an obsession that is not exclusively confined to live television but books, video games, and movies as well. This is especially true for the latter medium, as audiences get to see dramatic recreations of their favorite Olympic moments at any time without dealing with the harsh realities of the sport. Unsavory facts such as bureaucratic corruption, diplomatic misunderstandings, and wild packs of stray dogs can be swept aside (or not), so audiences can see their heroes triumph over and over again.
Here are the top five Olympic sports based movies at the box office according to boxofficemojo.com. All monetary figures have also been adjusted for inflation. As an added bonus, I’ll give my thoughts on whether you should watch these movies or pretend like they never existed.
5. The Cutting Edge (1992), Lifetime Box Office: $50,513,050
Famous Quote: “God’s gift to reckless abandon revealed as nothing but a prude in wolf’s clothing.” — Kate Moseley (Moira Kelly), U.S. Olympian
Synopsis: Kate Moseley (Moira Kelly) is a legendary figure skater training for the Olympics who is too stuck-up and spoiled for anyone to work with. Doug Dorsey (D.B. Sweeney) is an arrogant hockey player whose Olympic dreams are crushed due to an eye injury. The duo must work together and fall in love in order to earn an Olympic gold against the cheating Russians.
My Thoughts: This is an early ’90s romance comedy movie that uses every trope in the book. There is literally nothing new to see here when talking about the plot and the genre of this film would normally be enough to make me want to jump off a building. However, the writer’s determination to develop his characters, combined with the chemistry between Moira Kelly and D.B. Sweeney. make this worth watching once. Get your significant other to watch this with you and score brownie points for being “romantic”.
4. Miracle (2004), Lifetime Box Office: $86,563,100
Famous Quote: “Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? YES!” — Al Michaels (Himself), Sports Announcer
Synopsis: Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) is given the tremendously important task of leading the 1980 U.S. men’s hockey team to Olympic gold by beating the unstoppable Soviet Union (those damn Russians again!). The experts may say that the U.S. doesn’t have much of a chance but Brooks doesn’t believe them. He is able to keep the U.S. together in order to beat the Russians. This leads to the now famous quote from Al Michaels believing in miracles.
My Thoughts: Some consider this film to have too many phony inspirational moments but I disagree. The 1980 U.S. hockey scene was in a bit of a dark period for a long time and it took an amazing victory such as this one to pull people out of it. It’s also nice to see that Kurt Russel can act occasionally when he really wants to. Go back in time, watch this movie, and then re-read this article so you can nod your head and agree with me.
3. Cool Runnings (1993), Lifetime Box Office: $137,720,000
Famous Quote: “Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, it’s bobsled time! COOL RUNNINGS!” — Sanka Coffie (Doug E. Doug), Jamaican Bobsledder
Synopsis: Derice Bannock (Leon) convinces ex-U.S. gold medal winner Irv Blitzer (John Candy) to train him and his team in the ways of bobsledding, after an accident crushes Derice’s career as an Olympic sprinter. After a few ups and downs, Derice and his team qualify for the Winter Olympics. Things may not go as expected but they win the hearts and minds of their fellow athletes and that’s all that matters.
My Thoughts: It’s rare to see a PG-rated comedy that is good. I’m sure that the stereotypical accents and attitudes of the Jamaican characters in the film are hard to watch for real Jamaicans, but I feel that this device is used for more than cheap gags. It sneakily allows the audience to empathize with the characters considering the absurd premise that actually happened in history. Also, I really miss John Candy.
2. Blades of Glory (2007), Lifetime Box Office: $143,933,800
Famous Quote: “No one knows what it means, but it’s provacative…it gets the people going!” — Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell), U.S. Figure Skater
Synopsis: This parody of The Cutting Edge examines the rivalry of male figure skaters Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder). The duo are banned from figure skating when they fight each other on the ice rink when they have to share a gold medal. However, all is not lost when they find a break that allows them to compete once again. That loophole is to enter as a team for the figure skating competition. Michaels and MacElroy have to put their differences aside with the help of Coach (Craig T. Nelson) and a lot of low-brow humor.
My Thoughts: Audiences tend to either love Will Ferrell movies or hate them and Blades of Glory is no different. The not-so-subtle homosexual connotations of the plot is a funny experiment that takes a back seat to comedic improvisation. I can’t say that this is my favorite Will Ferrell movie or Olympic movie in general, but it makes me laugh and I appreciate the way it consistently spoofs The Cutting Edge.
1. Chariots of Fire (1981), Lifetime Box Office: $167,508,400
Famous Quote: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” — Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), British Olympian Track Star
Synopsis: Two runners named Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) and Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) with very different perspectives, train for the 1924 Paris Olympics. Both athletes must overcome different forms of prejudice and personal struggles for two years to make the cut. Even though Liddell is a devout Christian and Abrahams is Jewish, the two men form a mutual understanding of how their religious beliefs drive them to victory.
My Thoughts: This movie has a lot more depth underneath the surface than the Vangelis soundtrack, linked below, that has been lampooned in comedy films for decades would lead you to believe. The portrayals of both Liddell and Abrahams are compelling. This really applies to Abrahms since his desire to be equally accepted in society as a Jew is heartbreaking. However, there is something about the movie that rubs me the wrong way. I can’t put my finger on it, but maybe it’s the slow pacing and the dated filming techniques. I just wasn’t as emotionally involved as I probably should’ve been. Maybe I just need to watch it again.
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