Chariots of Fire
Chariots of Fire, based on the story of British Olympians Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1981. The film stretches the boundaries of both the biopic and sports genres as it presents a series of vignettes from the lives of these two athletes in the years and months leading up to the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. As an athlete and a Jew, Abrahams strives to find acceptance at Cambridge University while Liddell struggles to reconcile running with the dictates of his Protestant faith.
While a few of the facts surrounding the lives of these two athletes were altered for dramatic effect in the film, the narrative remains true to the historical record. But even as it explores the details of this inspiring story, Chariots of Fire is constantly asking bigger questions. What is the meaning of personal identity, national identity, spiritual identity?
Director Hugh Hudson filmed and edited most of the running sequences to emphasize the internal struggle of the runners rather than the drama of the races themselves. The film’s soundtrack, by Vangelis, is one of the most recognized of all time. These elements, along with strong performances from the cast (which includes an often scene-stealing Ian Holm as a running coach), helped make Chariots of Fire a profound and moving film.
—Darryl A. Armstrong