Sports movies to get you off the sofa

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Hollywood sports stars

If you lack motivation at this time of year, you’re certainly not alone.

Christmas is over, we’re back to work and all we have to look forward to is more months of cold, wet weather.

So how about a little inspiration to help get you off that sofa and back down the gym? To get you motivated, here are a few movies about the lives of true sporting heros – sports stars of the silver screen.

When we were kings – Muhammed Ali

Muhammad Ali

Image source: Wikimedia
Learn how to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee

The man who floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee, Muhammad Ali is arguably the greatest boxer of all time and certainly one of the most extraordinary sporting heros of the 20th century. He was part pugilist part poet; arrogant, and egotistical he was also deeply principled and a staunch advocate for religious freedom and racial justice.

After refusing the Vietnam draft, Ali was stripped of the world heavyweight title he won in 1964 and didn’t box again for four years. But he came back stronger than ever to win the title again in 1974 and 78. His fights have names; the ‘thrilla in Manila’, the ‘rumble in the jungle’ – no wonder filmmakers are so enamoured of his story.

Try Will Smith’s ‘Ali’. Or the star’s own 1977 film, ‘The greatest’. But in our opinion, for a real insight into the life of one of boxing and sport’s true legends – the 1996 documentary film, ‘When we were kings’ does it best.

Chariots of Fire – Eric Liddell & Harold Abrahams

Chariots of Fire

Image source: Wikipedia
Scooped up 4 Oscars

But back in the 1924, Liddell and Abrahams were big names – their sport, sprinting. Olympic hopefuls, one ran for the greater glory of God, the other to overcome racial prejudice. These were the days when elite sport was in its infancy – not a sports supplement or drink in sight. The film is Chariots of Fire. It won four Oscars: best picture, best screenplay best original score and best costumes.

Gifted athletes, Liddell and Abrahams meet at Cambridge University in the aftermath of the first world war. As they train for the 1924 olympics, Liddell has to overcome pressure from his sister to devote himself to God rather than running. When Abrahams is criticised by Cambridge professors for his decision to bring in a professional trainer, it’s thinly veiled anti semitism and snobbery that’s at play.

Liddell refuses to compete in the 100m in Paris because he’d have to race on a Sunday. He is pilloried in the press, but goes on to succeed in the 400m. As for Abrahams, he loses the 200m but powers to glory in the 100m. As a film, it’s dated, but it remains a great tale of sporting grit and determination, principle and perseverance. Inspiring stuff that’ll have you reaching for your running shorts.

Cool Runnings – Jamaican Bobsleigh

Jamaican bobsleigh team

Image source: Sander van Ginkel / Wikimedia
The real Jamaican bobsleigh team

For a feel good take on the Winter Olympics, you can’t beat the 1993 film, ‘Cool runnings’. Loosely based on the adventures of the first ever Jamaican bobsleigh team at the 1988 winter olympics in Calgary, this film is pure sunshine for a dreary day.

The real story of what happened at the winter games is nothing like as exciting as the story adapted for the silver screen. The racers weren’t top sprinters who’d tripped during qualification for the summer games, but runners selected from the army. The team were well received by other countries rather than scorned. As for the crash at the end – it actually happened in qualifying rather than the finals and was the result of driver inexperience rather than mechanical failure.

But when all’s said and done, a novice team made up of people who’d never seen snow made it to the Olympics. it’s a great story – one that should inspire you to give a new sport a try. And with 2014 the winter games fast approaching, you’ll be glad to know the Jamaicans have once more qualified – this time for the two man bob.

Invictus – The Springboks

Nelson Mandela

Image source: Leonard Zhukovsky /
Not just about sport…

When Nelson Mandela is elected president of South Africa, the brutal discrimination of the apartheid era is over, but racial tensions, poverty and inequality threaten to tear the new country apart.

The 1995 rugby world cup looms and with it the new president senses an opportunity to unite the nation in sport. But the Springboks are hated by many as a symbol of white supremacy. Mandela recruits the help of springbok, Francois Pienaar to engage with South Africans of every hue.

Slowly attitudes change and when the tournament begins, crowds begin to get behind their national team. Against the odds the Springboks advance to the finals which they win with a last minute drop goal. It’s stirring stuff.

Soul Surfer – Bethany Hamilton

Bethany Hamilton

Image source: jarvis gray /
A classic feel good flick

The film is ‘Soul surfer’ and it’s the story of Hawaiian teenage surfer girl, Bethany Hamilton. She has her arm bitten off by a tiger shark, loses 60% of her blood and is left fighting for her life. When she recovers, she finds she can’t compete effectively because she can’t stay on the board.

She turns to God and missionary work, travelling to Thailand to help out in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. While there, she helps local children overcome their fear of the water by surfing.

On her return to the US, Bethany discovers that a specially made handle can help her stay on board while paddling through swell, and is able to return to competitive surfing. A good story, despite being pure Hollywood cheese.

Rush – James Hunt and Niki Lauda

Hunt and Lauda

Image source: Rodrigo Garrido /
A slick racing film

The 2013 film Rush is a neatly packaged, slick piece of movie making. It’s about the intense rivalries at the top of elite sport. That the sport in question is motor racing only adds to the sense of drama, danger and adrenaline.

Some fantastic high speed racing scenes as Hunt and Lauder battle it out on the track. This film is guaranteed to have you on the edge of your seat.

Because it only came out last year, we won’t spoil it for you by telling you what happens. But if you’re looking for something to get those competitive juices flowing, this is the movie for you. Compelling viewing – watch it then get out there and get training!

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