18 Movies and Documentaries About the Olympics That'll Get You Excited For Tokyo 2020
The start of the 2020 Summer Olympics may still be months away, but, if you ask us devoted Olympics watchers, it's never too early to start getting psyched for all the athletic feats you're sure to witness. Unlike Olympic athletes, who spend their entire lives training and preparing for this moment, we have a slightly different way of gearing up for the Games: lounging on the couch, watching as many Olympic films as we can. The best ones are inspired by real-life people and events, and luckily, there are plenty of movies and documentaries available to stream right now that fit the bill. Here are just some of the best, because nothing beats an inspiring sports movie.
When filmmaker Bryan Fogel sets out to explore the world of performance-enhancing drugs in cycling, he uncovers a major international scandal: a state-sponsored Olympic doping program in Russia.
This inspiring Disney flick tells the true story of American hockey coach Herb Brooks, who's tasked with transforming a group of hot-headed college athletes into an Olympic squad capable of beating the heavily-favored Soviet team, a feat known as the "Miracle on Ice."
Though partially fictionalized, this feel-good Disney movie is loosely based on the Jamaica national bobsled team's competitive debut during the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Coached by Irving Blitzer (a character based on real-life American bobsledder Howard Siler), four Jamaican bobsledders get the chance to compete on the international level, despite never having seen snow.
Margot Robbie stars in this biographical flick as the titular Tonya Harding, a competitive figure skater accused of plotting an attack on her rival, Nancy Kerrigan, ahead of the 1994 Winter Olympics.
The Simone Biles Story: Courage to Soar
Based on her book of the same name, this film chronicles the sacrifices Simone Biles made and the roadblocks she faced on her way to becoming the most decorated American gymnast of all time.
At the Heart of Gold
This devastating documentary looks back on the 2016 USA Gymnastics scandal, when it came to light that national team doctor Larry Nassar had been sexually abusing young athletes for decades. Featuring interviews with dozens of survivors, At the Heart of Gold explores how Nassar's abuse was able to persist for so long.
The Crash Reel
Using 20 years of footage, The Crash Reel revisits the long-time rivalry between pro snowboarders Kevin Pearce and Shaun White, which took an unexpected turn when Pearce suffered a traumatic brain injury while training for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Spoiler alert: Pearce didn't let that injury stop him from making a comeback.
Chariots of Fire
This historical drama tells the true story of two very different runners — a devout Scottish Christian named Eric Liddell and an English Jew named Harold Abrahams — who both hope to compete in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. After years of training, both athletes are accepted to compete, and they both return home to the religiously-divided UK with gold medals, despite their very different backgrounds and motivations.
This Hindi-language historical drama is based on the journey of India's first national field hockey team, who allowed India to win its first gold medal during the 1948 Summer Olympics. Following their victory at the Berlin Olympics in 1936, the Indian team promised themselves they would eventually win a gold medal on behalf of their motherland after India became independent, and following World War II, they finally did.
The Last Gold
The Last Gold revolves around the 1976 US women's relay swim team, who managed to unexpectedly beat East Germany in the final race at the Montreal Olympics and take home gold. What's even more amazing: those East German athletes were all using performance-enhancing drugs.
One Day in September
This horrifying documentary follows the events of the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, where 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and a West German police officer were killed by Black September terrorists in what is now known as the Munich Massacre. It's not easy to watch this one, but that's what makes it so necessary.
Touch the Wall
This documentary follows the close bond between American swimmers Missy Franklin and Kara Lynn Joyce as they prepared to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics. As Franklin was younger, she looked up to Joyce as a role model, while Joyce found herself inspired by Franklin's drive, and together, they became an unstoppable force.
Sonja: The White Swan
This biopic tells the unusual story of Norwegian figure skater Sonja Henie, a three-time Olympic ladies' singles champion who went on to take Hollywood by storm. Though she's considered the inventor of modern figure skating, Henie's story isn't well known, and this biopic definitely tells her compelling story well.
Starring Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, and Steve Carrell, this drama revolves around E.I. du Pont family heir and wrestling enthusiast John du Pont, who used his money and influence to recruit two US Olympic gold medal-winning brothers, Mark and David Schultz, to his new wrestling team, Team Foxcatcher. Though this one isn't quite as inspiring as other Olympic films (seeing as it ends in failure at the 1988 Summer Olympics and, eventually, murder), it's definitely worth a watch.
Eddie the Eagle
Starring Taron Egerton, this biographical comedy-drama tells the story of Michael Edwards, a skier who — during the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary — became the first skier to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping in 60 years. He may not have taken home any medals, but he did become the British ski jumping record holder and a national hero, which is just as sweet a victory.
Based on the 2010 non-fiction book by Laura Hillenbrand entitled Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, this incredible film tells the story of Louis "Louie" Zamperini, a runner who competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics and later became a prisoner of war during World War II. Despite the terrible conditions of the POW camps, Zamperini miraculously survived, and he went on to run a leg of the Olympic Torch relay for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, not far from where he was held.
Based on Tony Fingleton's autobiography of the same name, this Australian biographical drama follows the dysfunctional upbringing of the former competitive swimmer, who — after winning a silver medal in 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games — was invited top participate in 1964 Summer Olympics, but instead accepted a swimming scholarship to Harvard. Rather than regretting his decision to turn down the Olympics, Fingleton concluded that he had successfully escaped his childhood, which was his real goal.
This uplifting flick follows the relationship between record-breaking distance runner Steve Prefontaine and his coach Bill Bowerman, who later went on to co-found Nike. Though the former University of Oregon track star initially clashed with Bowerman after qualifying for the 1972 Olympics in Munich, the two ended up developing an unbreakable bond, and you better get your tissues ready for this one.