SPOILER ALERT! This is not a scientific list; it’s my personal top five… so let the debating begin!
With Entertainment Weekly recently making waves by christening its array of Top 100 lists, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the ongoing conversation about which movies, tv shows, songs, musicians are considered the best of the best.
So it got me thinking – if there was such a list for “running movies,” just which ones would be considered the best?
Below is a down ‘n dirty list I threw together. It’s my “Top Five.”
5. Run Fat Boy Run
This is a comedy. And while it won’t make you forget about the likes of Caddyshack or Airplane! any time soon, it is in fact a funny romantic comedy set against the backdrop of a marathon in London. Plus it co-stars both Simon Pegg and Hank Azaria, so right there we’re already “off to a great start” (see what I just did there).
Why we can relate: Though there’s nothing technical about the sport of running in this movie (except for a somewhat gross scene involving the popping a foot blister), the storyline centers around the all-too-relatable story of an arrogant white-collar marathon runner (Azaria) who fancies himself as God’s next version of Johnny Kelley, and the envious blue collar protaganist (Pegg) who wants to one-up him in order to win back his former girlfriend and baby mama. So he decides to run a marathon…
4. Saint Ralph
An enjoyable movie directly involving my favorite race, The Boston Marathon, taking place in the 1950′s. In short, the plot centers around a young man who is told that if he wins the Boston Marathon he would become a “saint.” However, though this is a heartwarming coming of age story, it is both completely unrealistic and technically flawed (Boston Marathon purists will agree). For example, we see the runners making a series of hairpin turns along the marathon course, when in fact there are no such turns on the actual Boston Marathon course. Everybody knows that…
Why we can relate: As unrealistic as it may be for a 9th grader to try to win the 1954 Boston Marathon, this movie is still a very inviting watch for no other reason than it shows Ralph, the main character, refusing to give in to the countless naysayers who refused to believe he could run (and finish) a marathon. Sound familiar?
Click here to see a previously posted clip.
One of two movies about “Pre” that came out in the late 90′s. I saw them both, and have to side with this one, starring Jared Leto. No need to go into great description as we all are familiar with the story of Steve Prefontaine. I probably could have done without a lot of the politically-motivated cold war stuff that was portrayed in the meeting, but then again that’s all part of the story of Steve Prefontaine.
2. Chariots of Fire
Truth be known, I’m not as ga ga over this movie as everyone else is. For me, it moved kind of slow and lacked a lot of punch. But, then again, when I first saw it I was very young at the time, and I should probably see it again now that I’m (considerably) older.
1. Spirit of the Marathon
Right now I can hear everyone’s reaction – “wait – why are documentaries on this list?” I never indicated that these movies had to be works of fiction. In fact, that’s what makes Spirit of the Marathon so good – its about real people, ranging from elite runners all the way down the spectrum to everyday 12 minute per mile marathoners.
Why we can relate: With multiple stories about different runners, all with distinctly different tales and reasons for running, Spirit of the Marathon has [wait for it] “something for everyone.” But the reason I like this move so much is because it beautifully captures the emotional “weight” of all three aspects of the marathon – 1) training for it 2) running in it, and 3) finishing it. No other movie, in my opinion, depicts these three phases as well as this one does.
NOTE: I have yet to see the second Spirit of the Marathon movie, but like most, I’m anxiously awaiting its release on DVD and look forward to including it on future lists.
Overall Takeaway: Now that I look back on my list, I’ve come to the realization that there really aren’t a ton of great running movies out there. Someday someone in Hollywood will take a chance on producing a movie the next big running movie. Maybe the biopic “The Hoyts” or perhaps the big screen will welcome “The Bill Rodgers Story.” Or maybe the Rosie Ruiz story, aptly named “A Long Way to Boston.”
Only time will tell….
Honorable mention: Without Limits and Running Brave.