Looking for some good running movies that can feed your soul with inspiration and motivation?
Or maybe you are looking to start running and you need some more impressive convincing?
Movies give us that nostalgic feeling we long for. They also provide a sense of relaxation—almost like therapy—for our tired souls.
If you are a runner and a movie lover, running movies are the perfect combination. In this post, we share with you 25 running movies that will set your heart on fire. There are documentaries, non-fiction stories, and fictional movies that you may use as a source of inspiration for your next marathon.
Let’s get to it!
Without Limits is a biographical movie about one of the world’s greatest distance runners, Steve Prefontaine. It was directed by Robert Towne, and stars Billy Crudup as Prefontaine and Donald Sutherland as Bill Bowerman (Pre’s coach). It was reported that Tom Cruise wanted to play the role of Pre, but he was too old for it, so, he decided to co-produce the film instead.
The film revolves around how Pre became a legend in the running scene. It brings life to his colorful character during his career’s peak. The film also emphasizes Pre’s relationship with running and his coach, Bowerman.
Directed by Hugh Hudson and written by Colin Welland, Chariots of Fire is a historical drama sports film released in 1981. It won several Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. It was also included on the British Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 British Films.
The movie tells the story of two sprinters: Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) and Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross). Liddell was a Scottish Christian, while Abrahams was an English Jew. They both represented Britain during the 1924 Olympics in Paris, with one ultimate goal—to run and prove something to the world. But they had two very different purposes. While Liddell ran for the glory of God, Abrahams wished to overcome prejudice against the Jews.
The Jericho Mile did not make it to the big screen, but it is a legendary TV film that is worth checking out. It is the story of Larry Murphy (Peter Strauss), a convicted murderer who gained the attention of officials for his running skills. Because of his talent, he was allowed to join the Olympic Trials and train inside the prison.
Written and directed by Michael Mann, with Patrick Nolan having the credits for the original story, this 1979 TV crime film won three Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Film Editing for a Limited Series or a Special, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special, and Outstanding Writing in a Limited Series or a Special.
Saint Ralph is the story of a boy who wanted to win the 1954 Boston Marathon because he believed that a victory would bring about a miracle and wake his mother up from a deep coma. He was an outcast and had been labeled a troublemaker, but he believed that he was destined to be great.
Although no one believed in him at first—and although he himself knew that the Boston Marathon was an impossible dream—he defied all odds and continued to pursue the race with the help of Father Hibbert. In the end, he took second place and his mother woke up.
The film was written and directed by Michael McGowan. It stars Adam Butcher as Ralph Walker and Campbell Scott as Father Hibbert, and received several awards, including the Young Artist Award for Best International Family Feature Film. Critics have given the movie a positive rating and called it “a beautiful gem”—truly inspirational and endearing.
Spirit of the Marathon is a documentary film released in 2007 that captured the essence and unique spectacle of the famous 26.2-mile marathon. It features five runners—three amateurs and two elites—and their journey to prepare for the 2005 Chicago Marathon.
The film is a collaborative effort between Mark Jonathan Harris (three-time Academy Award winner), Jon Dunham (Telly Award winner and marathon runner), and Gwendolen Twist (producer and marathoner). Critics claim that it is more than mere footage of the athletes’ training—it is a movie that portrays the triumph and perseverance in every runner’s heart.
Written by Alan Sillitoe and directed by Tony Richardson, this is the story of a boy named Colin Smith (Tom Courtenay) who was placed under juvenile discipline for burgling a bakery. Through his running skills, he was able to impress the school’s governor (Sir Michael Redgrave), who encouraged him to compete in a five-mile, cross-country run against another school.
The movie is based on Sillitoe’s short story that was published in 1959. The short story’s title is actually a symbol of revolution during those times—an indication of the writer’s deep hatred for the British class system. But overall, the main point of the story is to let people know that running can be a great medium to better understand the world and its dealings.
On the Edge is an American drama film released in 1986. It was directed by Rob Nilsson, and stars Bruce Dern as the main protagonist named Wes Holman—a 44-year-old man who was denied entry into a running race after whistle-blowing an illegal race transaction two decades before.
But Holman was determined, and entered the race even without official registration. As he ran the 7.5-mile course, the race organizers attempted to kick him out, but his fellow racers escorted and protected him all the way to the finish line.
In this classic film, Forrest Gump decides to run after hitting rock bottom. He spends three years, two months, 14 days, and 16 hours just running to escape the pain that his mother’s death and Jenny’s parting bring. Although the movie is not entirely about running, running is a major part of Forrest’s life all throughout this feel-good film.
This is a documentary about the Barkley Marathons, which is an ultramarathon trail race in a small town in Tennessee, originally designed by Gary Cantrell. The idea behind the marathon is based on the escape of James Earl Ray (Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassin) from Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in 1977.
The movie talks about the Barclay Marathons, and how challenging the event is. Only 10 people finished the race in its first 25 years! It is a test of determination, mental strength, and physical endurance.
This movie was written by Christopher Cleveland, Bettina Gilois, and Gran Thompson. It was directed by Niki Caro, and stars Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, and Morgan Saylor. Costner plays the role of Jim White, a man who loses his job as a football coach and finds a new home at McFarland High School in California.
He eventually discovers the running talents of seven students, and asks for permission from the school’s principal to start a cross-country team. White goes on to turn a team of outcasts into one of the world’s most outstanding cross-country teams.
McFarland is based on a true story of a 1987 cross-country team from a Latino high school in McFarland. Just like in the movie, the real Jim White was never a runner himself, and would follow the boys on a bicycle during training.
Running Brave is based on the true story of Billy Mills, a former track and field athlete who made one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history by winning a gold medal during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Coming from third place, Mills overtook Ron Clark in the blink of an eye, taking one of the greatest and most unexpected victories of all time.
Mills’ character was played by Robby Benson, who was accompanied by Pat Hingle as his running coach. Billy Mills is an American Indian who remains the only American in sports history to win an Olympic gold in distance running.
“However fast you are running, run faster!” Legendary Joe Newton was York High School’s cross country and track coach. He coached for 60 years, from 1956 to 2016. He died in 2017 at the age of 88, but is a four-time awardee of the National Cross Country Coach of the year.
The Long Green Line is a documentary film of his life and success throughout the years. It follows his journey as the York Duke’s 2005 cross-country coach in their attempt to win their 25th state title in 50 years. The movie emphasizes the fat that Coach Newton was not just a cross-country coach. He was also a life coach, and one that will be remembered forever.
Run, Fatboy, Run is the story of a guy who wants to win his ex back by winning a marathon. On the day of their wedding, Dennis Doyle (Simon Pegg) gets cold feet and leaves Libby (Thandie Newton), his pregnant fiancé. Five years later, he learns that Libby has a new guy, Whit, who is a marathon runner. To prove that he is the better man, he decides to run the same race Whit is running.
This feel-good movie is perfect for beginners. It teaches us that nothing is impossible if you are determined to reach your goal.
Personal Best is the story of two female athletes—Chris Cahill and Tory Skinner—who were part of a group of women trying to qualify for the 1980 Olympic Games on the track and field team. But despite their sincerity and commitment to their training, their dreams were shattered when the government announced that it was boycotting the Games for political reasons.
Although it was not a big hit in the box office, critics have given this film a high score because of its life lessons. In addition to running, the film revolves around taking risks, defying uncertainties, and freely expressing one’s sexuality.
Another documentary on our list, this film is a tribute to Fred Lebow, the founder of the New York City Marathon. According to the film, the marathon simply wouldn’t have existed if it weren’t for Lebow. His imagination, unbeatable determination, and undying love for running is what made the New York City Marathon one of the world’s greatest running events.
Unbroken is based on a non-fiction book by Laura Hillenbrand entitled “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.” It is the true story of WWII veteran, USA Olympian, and army officer Louie Zamperini, and how he survived the brutal treatment of the Japanese during his detainment as a prisoner of war.
Running on the Sun: The Badwater 135 is a documentary film directed by Mel Stuart that was released in 2000. It follows the story of athletes as they prepare, train, and compete in the 135-mile 1999 Badwater Ultramarathon.
The movie focuses on the experiences of each athlete as they face their daily preparations. It also reveals what inspires and motivates them to give the race their best shot.
This film is based on the story of Johann Kastenberger, a gifted Austrian marathon runner who is also a bank robber. The movie stars Andreas Lust as Johann Rettenberger, the main character. It was directed by Benjamin Heisenberg.
The story is about a man who has been given a chance to change his life after being released on parole. Johann goes on to win several marathons after being released, and developing pride for what he has achieved. However, he can’t avoid the temptations of his old life. Eventually, he decides to go back to his old habits—robbing banks and running from justice.
The Running Man is a 1987 film set in the year 2017. Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, it is the story of a TV show where convicted prisoners called “runners” try to escape the police force of the United States to avoid getting killed. The show is called “The Running Man” and follows the adventures of these prison runners.
Technically, the movie is not actually about the sport of running, but we included it on this list because it can still give you the thrill and excitement that every runner feels during a marathon!
Malcolm Law had a great but seemingly impossible dream—to run 50 mountain marathons over 50 peaks in 50 consecutive days, all across New Zealand. But nothing is impossible with a heart that is set on a purpose. Law made that clear as he attempted to complete his challenge and raise money for the Mental Health Foundation.
Running experts agree that this movie is truly a remarkable one. Trail Magazine even describes it as a landmark film. It is more than just the stunning views of New Zealand and a runner’s physical endurance—it is about running with a purpose, and one that can defy all odds.
Gun Runners is about two Northern Kenyan warriors—Julius Arile and Robert Matanda—who trade their AK-47s for running shoes and ultimately become marathon runners. The movie follows the Kenyan runners as they take on the world in pursuit of their goals. It also demonstrates how hard it is for those who are in the countryside to battle with the big names in the city.
If you are interested in learning how running evolved to where it is right now in mainstream sports, this documentary film is for you. It traces the roots of running from when it started to become popular in the 1960s to the liberating events that took the sport beyond the stadium and into the streets. Moreover, the film emphasizes how running legends like Fred Lebow and Steve Prefontaine taught the world to run with heart.
The Long Run stars Armin Mueller-Stahl as Barry Bohmer, a failed track coach, and Nthati Moshesh as Christine, a young amateur runner with little to no experience running marathons. When Barry sees Christine jogging, he knows that she could one day be a champion. So he trains her for the Comrades Marathon, a grueling 90-km race between two cities in South Africa.
Written and directed by Steven Hilliard Stern, Running is a fictional movie about a marathon runner named Michael Andropolis who had one goal: to represent the United States at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. But while he strives to achieve this goal, a series of unfortunate events interrupt his life, and he begins to have problems at work and with his family.
Defeating his demons while continuing his training, Andropolis finds the motivation to push himself beyond his limits. He hopes that he can win the race, and win his family back at the same time.
Desert Runners follows the story of a group of non-professional runners who attempt to finish the 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series. This marathon has been called the “ultimate test of human endurance” by Time magazine, and is considered by most running experts to be the most difficult marathon in the world. The movie is a depiction of how runners focus their minds and bodies during long running events.
We hope that, with the list we provided above, you were able to find the perfect running movie. You can watch these films alone, with your friends or family, or with your running team to help develop camaraderie and inspiration.
On a restful Saturday night, after a long, enjoyable run, dive into these movies while your legs recover. There’s no better way to get motivated for your next run!