Race Parent Guide
The determination of Jesse Owens is a powerful example of how we can move toward our goals despite the judgments of others.
Parent Movie Review
Stephan James runs ahead of the pack in a fine performance playing the 1936 Olympic champion Jesse Owens in the movie Race. As an African American, Owens faces more challenges than a quick dash down the track: he struggles with harsh prejudice in his own country and he feels the wrath of Adolph Hitler, who engineered the XI Olympiad as a Nazi propaganda tool.
The athlete’s road to Germany begins when Ohio State track coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis) sees the young man’s incredible potential. Bringing Owens into his office, Snyder proposes they work together for the next 28 months and aim to compete in the Berlin Olympics. Yet the fleet-footed racer isn’t sure he’s willing to face the inevitable opposition that will bring. Even the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) would prefer the runner boycott the games in order to send a strong message to Hitler’s racist regime.
In a second storyline we learn that thoughts of a boycott are also brewing at the US Olympic Committee, as they become aware of the dictator’s controversial pronouncements regarding Jews. However, Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons), a vocal proponent of amateur sport and a former Olympian, still wants to send the team. So it is decided that Brundage will go to Berlin to check out the situation. While there he meets with Joseph Goebbels (Barnaby Metschurat), Hitler’s minister of propaganda, who assures the visiting American that local Jews will be allowed to compete—even while they are being rounded up within the country.
The script takes a third detour with the introduction of Leni Riefenstahl (Carice van Houten). Hired by Hitler to film the event, her trailblazing work with its use of multiple cameras is still considered one of the most notable documentaries of all time.
It is too bad this movie gets so far off track instead of focusing on just one historical figure. While the politics of the 1936 Olympics are interesting, and Riefenstahl’s dedication to covering the games accurately at the risk of Hitler’s rage is commendable, both of these subplots would likely have been better as the subject of their own films.
Parents desiring to share Race with teens should be aware that the film includes some mature themes including implied extramarital affairs and the fathering of a child outside of marriage. At least 15 mild profanities and a couple of scatological curses are used. Smoking and drinking is frequently depicted. And in one scene a drunken character gets into a shouting and shoving match.
But getting back to Jessie Owens: the last thing Hitler wanted was for an American, let alone a black man, to become the star of his Olympic Games. Yet Owens did just that… and took home four gold medals. His determination to block out the jeers and insults hurled at him (a technique he learns from his coach) is a powerful example of how we can move toward our goals despite opposition others might place in our way.Directed by Stephen Hopkins. Starring Jason Sudeikis, Amanda Crew, Carice van Houten . Running time: 130 minutes. Theatrical release February 19, 2016. Updated May 30, 2020
Rating & Content Info
Why is Race rated PG-13? Race is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic elements and language.
Violence: The protagonist in this film is the target of prejudice due to his race. In many scenes people attending sporting competitions jeer and mock him, as well as insulting and judging him. The film includes depictions of people in Nazi Germany being forced out of homes and businesses, and then loaded into trucks.
Sexual Content: Discussions about the protagonist’s illegitimate daughter are heard—although Owens still has affection toward her mother. At one point Owens begins to date another woman and a sexual relationship is implied. We see characters embrace and kiss.
Language: About 15 profanities are used, including a couple of scatological terms, along with mild and religious profanities.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters are frequently seen drinking alcohol. A character drinks to excess and on one occasion his inebriated state leads him to begin shouting at and shoving another man. Smoking is seen in some scenes.
Page last updated May 30, 2020
Race Parents' Guide
In this ESPN post you can read about other elements of Owens’ life that are depicted in the movie. Learn more about the real Jesse Owens, Avery Brundage, Joseph Goebbels and Leni Riefenstahl.
While history doesn’t accurately record if Hitler left the Olympic games to avoid shaking Owen’s hand after the athlete won his first gold medal, Owens is on record as saying: “I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either.” Why do you think there was such a lack of recognition of his achievement? Why is it so hard to break down longstanding prejudices?
How do you think history would have changed had Jesse Owens decided to not compete in the 1936 games? Do you agree or disagree with his decision? Have you ever faced a similar dilemma? When is protesting more effective than participating in something that has elements we disagree with? When is the opposite true?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Kids looking for more on Jesse Owens might enjoy "Who Was Jesse Owens?" by James Buckley Jr. Older readers might prefer "Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics", which is geared at an adult audience and is far more comprehensive. "The Crossover" by Kwame Alexander is a Newberry Medal and Coretta Scott King Award Honor winning book about two African-American brothers who find common ground in basketball. Written by real-life NBA pro Stephen Curry, "The Boy Who Never Gave Up" tells the story of a young boy who was determined to make basketball his life, in spite of all the voices telling him he was too small.
The most recent home video release of Race movie is May 31, 2016. Here are some details…
Home Video Notes: Race
Release Date: 31 May 2016
Race releases to home video (Blu-ray or DVD) with the following special features:
- The Making of Race
- Becoming Jesse Owens
- The Owens Sisters
Related home video titles:
Olympic athletes are also depicted in the movies Chariots of Fire, Cool Runnings, Prefontaine, and Endurance.
There are a number of films which examine racism through the lens of sport.Remember the Titans sees Denzel Washington as an African-American coach struggling to keep a recently integrated football team together. Glory Road examines one the first all-black starting lineups in NCAA history. Exploring the tensions of Apartheid in South Africa,Invictus follows Nelson Mandela’s plan to unify the country through rugby.