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Still shot from the movie: Chariots Of Fire.

Chariots Of Fire

Set in post World War I, this film is based on the true-life story of two elite British athletes pursuing Olympic gold in 1924.

Overall Grade: B+
Violence: B+
Sexual Content: A-
Language: B+
Drugs/Alcohol: C+
Release Date: 09 Oct 1981
Run Time: 123
MPAA Rating: PG


In-Depth Review

I live with a family of runners. At least annually they face off to see who is the fastest among them. So it's no surprise that around our house, the moving musical score from Chariots Of Fire inspires slow motion sprinting.

Set in post World War I, this film is based on the true-life story of two elite British athletes pursuing Olympic gold in 1924. Dark-haired and handsome, Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), the son of a wealthy Jewish immigrant, attends Cambridge University while adding to his growing list of achievements on the track. Defeat is unknown to this young man until he challenges Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a young Christian missionary with an awkward gait and propensity for winning races. Crushed by the loss, Abrahams struggles to come to grips with the blow and find new purpose for his running. Engaging the expertise of professional trainer Sam Mussibini (Ian Holm), Abrahams refines his stride by rehearsing repeatedly the intricacies of his athletic art.

Eric Liddell, the renowned "Flying Scotsman," preaches on Sunday and dashes through the green rolling hills of his Scottish homeland during the week. Believing that God made him fast for a purpose, Liddell races to bring honor and glory to his Maker. His challenge lies in balancing the demands of his talent with the obligations of his religious service.

Chosen to represent Great Britain during the 13th Olympiad, Abrahams and Liddell are en route to France with their teammates when Liddell discovers that the heats for his100-meter race will be held on Sunday, leaving him grappling between achieving his Olympic dreams and honoring the Sabbath day.

While the use of alcohol and cigarettes are amply depicted in this movie, this story focuses on the internal struggles of gifted athletes and the mental and physical preparations that precede their feats. Unfolding at a gentle pace, this Oscar winning production filled with the music of Vangelis, and featuring excerpts of Gilbert and Sullivan, is worth a weekend run to the video store.

Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...

Overall: B+
While the use of tobacco and alcohol among athletes may cause concern, this thought-provoking film succeeds at examining the varied motives that compel men to compete and excel.

Violence: B+
Minor characters are depicted with war injuries, starting guns are used at races, character is upset about losing race.

Sexual Content: A-
Men shown without shirts in locker room, brief kissing between unmarried adult couple.

Language: B+
At least: Six uses of mild profanity, name calling among young men, Terms of Deity used as proper noun.

Alcohol / Drug Use: C+
Smoking and drinking is portrayed among college students and athletes, drinking is depicted at social gatherings, man is shown drinking and smoking to relieve stress, men are drunk in bar, Olympic officials are shown smoking and drinking.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

Eric Liddell must choose between trying for his Olympic dream or following his conviction to honor the Sabbath day. After the race is over and everyone goes home, do you think it is easier to live with missing an opportunity to fulfill a dream or turning your back on your convictions?

Abrahams feels that his Olympic race is 10 seconds to justify his existence. Although competing at this level is an admirable achievement, does Abrahams puts too much emphasis on that one moment? Compared to a whole lifetime, how important is one event?

Although it is not mentioned in the movie, both Liddell and Abrahams won other medals at the 1924 Games. Liddell won a bronze in the 200-meter and Abrahams won silver in the 4x100 race.

Video alternatives

Prefontaine and Endurance are other films that look at the lives of Olympic runners.

Home Video Notes

Blu-ray Notes: Chariots of Fire

Release Date: 10 July 2012

Chariots of Fire races onto Blu-ray with the following bonus extras:

- Commentary by Hugh Hudson

-Wings on their Heels: The Making of Chariots of Fire

- Chariots of Fire: A Reunion

- Sprint Around the Quad

- Famous Opening Shot

- Deleted scenes

- Screen tests

- Paris, 1924: Birth of the Modern Olympics

- David Puttnam: A Cinematic Champion

- Hugh Hudson: Journey to the Gold

DVD Notes: Chariots of Fire Special Edition (2 Disc Set)

Release Date: February 1, 2005

This Special Edition of Chariots of Fire includes a commentary by director Hugh Hudson, the actors’ screen tests, seven deleted scenes, as well as two features, Wings on their Heels: the Making of Chariots of Fire, and Chariots of Fire- A Reunion. It also provides an Easter Egg with director Hugh Hudson, producer Lord Puttnam and actor Nigel Havers; and another with actor Ben Cross. The English audio track is available in Dolby Digital 5.1, with English subtitles.

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About the Reviewer: Kerry Bennett

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