Running Movie Reviews, by John Molvar

Without Limits:

Fire up the ole flame throwers. I saw this movie and I liked it. It was accurate and entertaining. As a running movie, believe it or not I was actually disappointed. Very little training was shown. It was mostly races and drama (in a failed attempt to draw in the masses). I liked what I saw but without the training scenes, it just didn't make me feel like going out and doing a killer workout after watching it. It made it seem to a non-runner as if running was just talent and running hard in a race. Training, who needs training. Where were the gut wrenching track workouts, the struggle, the morning runs, etc.? Also there were no college XC scenes at all. Good movie, but not a movie to fire you up for your next workout in my opinion. I read 2 reviews by runners who were actually there in the early 70s. They were euphoric reviews but it you read their reviews they seemed more excited about being there, the era, the excitement of Pre, not that actual movie itself. Pat Porter (Viren) should have grown the beard.


Basically, see the review above. It was good movie, but not one to fire you up for your next workout. Also, contrary to popular perception, it was just about as good of a movie as Limits, despite the shoestring budget. It had almost the exact same strengths and weaknesses as Limits and unfortunately fared the same at the box office.

Running Brave:

This was a damn good movie and very inspirational for a runner to watch. This movie about the Siberian American Billy Mills will have you salivating just thinking about your next run. I saw the movie before I saw the actual race and I thought they over dramatized the last lap of the '64 OG 10000. Later I saw the Japanese documentary and it was not over dramatized at all in the movie. It was just one shocking race to see! Apparently Bert Nelson said the 6 mile duel between Mills and Lindgren the next year was even more wild. If we could only see that one on video.

Chariots of Fire:

If you flamed me for what I said about the Pre movies, then you better use a hydrogen bomb on me for this. Chariots of Fire won 1000 Academy Awards, was loved by every movie critic and some respected critics have even called it one of the ten greatest movies of all time. Fatty and Skinny (S&E) went wild over it. I hated it with passion. I hated the tacky music, I hated the actors trying look like runners, they were pathetic. Probably sensing this, I remember the actors on the pre release hype interviews saying they studied training manual from that era on how to run. Yeah sure! These guys were unathletic, uncoordinated, goofy and laughable to watch. I would be willing to bet in real life these guys couldn't have run a 32 second 200 to save their lives. I remember seeing the movie after the massive hype thinking I would love it. When I saw the actors trying to run I was slouching in my seat, cringing and thinking what an embarrassment to our sport. I found the plot hopelessly boring. If I were a POW and I was given a choice of torture between this movie and Out of Africa, it would be a jump ball! Ok everyone, Nuke me.

Personal Best:

An extraordinarily entertaining movie about 2 female multi-eventers vying for spot on the Carter doomed 1980 team. Great story and intense. I loved the high jump scenes.

Across the Tracks:

This was an excellent movie staring every female's heartthrob Brad Pitt. He plays a high school half miler who has run 1:57 and is trying to get down to the low 1:50s and win the county championship in front of a Stanford coach dangling a scholarship on a stick. The only complication is that he finds out that his younger brother who is a soph, has far more talent. One sad irony emerged at the end. One of his rivals states he is trying to get a scholarship to BC. Thanks to Title IX, there is no such thing as a men's track scholarship at BC. There are 18 for the women, though. Larry Rosen's old school is as the PC sheep say, "doing the right thing."

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner:

April Fools! Don't be fooled by the title, it has little to do with running but is a cult classic coming of age movie. I would rent it.

Marathon Man:

Even less to do with running, but a riveting movie. Your heart will be beating as fast as that last 400 interval for 2 hours straight and the visions and dreams of Abebe Bikilia were eerie. Also you will never look at your dentist in the same light again.


This movie was absolutely shredded by critics, the movie going public, runners and joggers alike - except me. I actually liked it. Maybe because my expectations going in were so low. The race scenes were pathetic to the point of being funny. Runners will be rolling on the ground watching them. Doesn't that count as entertainment? But why I really liked the movie, was it had something that the Pre movies lacked. It showed the training, the struggle, the individuality, the me against the world, the pariahed life of the serious distance runner. It had one my all time favorite dialogues from any movie. The unemployed runner who is in serious training for the Olympic Trials Marathon asks his ex wife "I want to know how you feel about what I am doing? What you think is important to me." The ex wife responds "Uh... honey, I don't understand, umm... just exactly what is it that you are doing?" Classic line. Another great scene is Mike's reaction when he is late for something, is drenched in smelly sweat and clammy clothes from his morning run, is waiting in a long line at the registry of motor vehicles, his legs are starting to stiffen up and just as the 375 pound female sloth behind the counter decides to take a break and goes back and sits down and begins to slowly but methodically devour a box of chocolate chip cookies. There has to be someone on this list besides me who liked this movie.

The Jericho Mile:

This is a great movie about an inmate trying to train for the Trials 1500 while incarcerated. Pretty inspirational. The only silly part was the final race scene. The director apparently had the actor run an all out 200 in about 26 seconds. He then had him run another all out 200 on the other side of the track. For the race he spliced these two scenes together and kept showing them over and over again from different angles and at different speeds to simulate a mile race. It would have been a 3.28 mile but that's show biz. Still a good movie for a runner to rent. Great Stones sound track also.


The over the top film of the Who's rock opera is has nothing to do with running but there is a pretty crazy running sequence which shows Roger Daltry running 100 miles per hour, running on the beach, running on water, running on air and charging up a mountain with the booming soundtrack in the background.

A Shining Season:

I haven't seen it, someone else will have to fill us in on that one.

Bill Brist adds:

[A Shining Season] was a remake of an old black and white movie called the John Baker Story. Both movies were based on the life of University of New Mexico distance runner John Baker. A book by the same title by William Buchanan was released in 1978. The story covers the life of a talented runner who is stricken by cancer at the height of his running career, and sets his focus on elementary school children and their track club, called the Duke City Dashers. Timothy Bottoms played the role character in the Movie. I really liked both the movie and the book.

The Four Minute Mile:

I accidentally taped it one late night and missed taping the first 5 minutes. It was an British movie about Banister and it was real good until my VCR swallowed the tape. I never saw the second half of the movie...

On the Edge:

There is a movie staring Bruce Dern in some sort of ultra marathon competition. I did not see it, but a fellow runner did and he was raving about it. Anyone seen this?

Again, Bill Brist adds:

[On the Edge] was about an over 40 runner who had been booted from amateur competition for coming clean about under the table payments while road racing in his prime. After living in anger over the situation for nearly 15 years, he comes out to prove he can still compete with the best in a handicapped trail race (similar to the Dipsea Race held in California) He learns the terrain and gets back in shape to give it all he's got. It was a decent movie, with an OK plot, but some of the characters were not as developed. I understand a lot of the movie ending up on the cutting room floor, from what I read about the movie.

Any running movies that I failed to mention?

John Molvar

And more from Bill Brist:

I do have a major disagreement of your assessment of "Chariots of Fire." When I first went to see it at the theater, I was very disappointed. Since then I've watched the movie over 100 times, and enjoy it more with each viewing. You need to watch it on video, and several times. It's not the acting that makes it a great movie, but the attention to detail. One example would be when the Abraham's character is sitting in the stands after getting beat in the 100 by Liddle in the England vs. Scotland meeting, when he could not accept his defeat. Or when he tried to hire Sam Mosambini as his coach, and later when Sam actually accepted. The coach/athlete relationship was covered quite accurately in the movie. Plus, the role in society that the athletes/students played when dealing with school administration was outstanding, especially when Harold was called in to discuss his methods in his training and his hiring of a Turkish coach.

If you want pure excitement, it's not the movie to watch, but if you want to get inside of a runners head, and find out the reasons why they run, and why those that surround them have the views that they have, it's an excellent movie. It is by far my favorite movie.

I agree with the enjoyment factor of several of the movies you mentioned. "Running" with Michael Douglas was very fun to watch when it first came out. I agree about the lady "stuffing her face with those cookies." I really disliked the ending. He deserved a medal for all the crap he put up with.

"Running Brave" was a great movie, as was "Without Limits." In both movies, coaches played important roles in the development of the athletes, and both Eastman and Bowerman did it in completely different ways, and in both movies, I think it was shown that the coaches made bad decisions regarding their athletes and were man enough to admit it between the lines of the movie.

"Across the Tracks" showed what a great Prefontaine character Brad Pitt would had been, if he wanted to play the part in either Pre movie.

Thanks for bringing back the memories of some great movies.

Bill Brist