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Sprint into the cinematic universe where the thrill of the race and human spirit collide.

These narratives capture the sweat, tears, and elation of pushing limits.

Eager to hit the ground running with the top films and series that epitomize the runner’s high?

Best Running Movies, Shows, and Documentaries:

  1. Chariots of Fire (1981)
  2. Forrest Gump (1994)
  3. Prefontaine (1997)
  4. Without Limits (1998)
  5. McFarland, USA (2015)
  6. Marathon Man (1976)
  7. The Running Man (1987)
  8. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)
  9. Run, Fatboy, Run (2007)
  10. Running on Empty (1988)
  11. Saint Ralph (2004)

#1 Chariots of Fire (1981)

  • 🎬 Directed by: Hugh Hudson
  • 🌟 Starring: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nicholas Farrell, Ian Holm

Chariots of Fire is an inspiring true story that explores the lives of two British track athletes competing in the 1924 Olympics.

Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, one a determined Jew running to overcome prejudice and the other a devout Christian running for the glory of God, face personal and societal challenges in their journey to success. The film is renowned for its iconic Vangelis soundtrack and its reflections on faith and determination.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#2 Forrest Gump (1994)

  • 🎬 Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
  • 🌟 Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Sally Field

Although not exclusively about running, Forrest Gump features memorable running scenes that resonate with the theme of perseverance.

The film follows the life of Forrest, a man with a low IQ but a big heart, as he inadvertently influences several historical events in 20th-century America. His cross-country running journey symbolizes his journey through lifeβ€”without a set goal but full of purpose.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#3 Prefontaine (1997)

  • 🎬 Directed by: Steve James
  • 🌟 Starring: Jared Leto, R. Lee Ermey, Ed O’Neill

Prefontaine is a biographical film about the life of Steve Prefontaine, an American long-distance runner who once held seven American track records.

The movie portrays his rise to fame and his struggles with the amateur athletic system, leading up to his tragic death at age 24. Prefontaine is a moving tale about the spirit and passion that drive athletes to greatness.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#4 Without Limits (1998)

  • 🎬 Directed by: Robert Towne
  • 🌟 Starring: Billy Crudup, Donald Sutherland, Monica Potter

Without Limits is another portrayal of Steve Prefontaine’s life and career. This version particularly focuses on his relationship with his coach and Nike co-founder, Bill Bowerman, as they work together towards success in the 1972 Olympics.

This film is a testament to the enduring human spirit and the challenges of pushing oneself to the absolute limit.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#5 McFarland, USA (2015)

  • 🎬 Directed by: Niki Caro
  • 🌟 Starring: Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Carlos Pratts

In McFarland, USA, a small-town cross-country team from a predominantly Latino high school overcomes social and physical hurdles to emerge as champions under the guidance of their coach, played by Kevin Costner.

This moving film is about more than just running; it’s about the power of community, the American dream, and the transformative role sports can play in young people’s lives.

Where to watch: Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV

#6 Marathon Man (1976)

  • 🎬 Directed by: John Schlesinger
  • 🌟 Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider

Marathon Man is a suspense thriller that involves a graduate student and avid runner, played by Dustin Hoffman, who becomes entangled in a dangerous plot involving stolen diamonds, a Nazi war criminal, and government agents.

The film is famous for its intense scenes and one particular line, “Is it safe?”, which has become a classic in cinematic history.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#7 The Running Man (1987)

  • 🎬 Directed by: Paul Michael Glaser
  • 🌟 Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, MarΓ­a Conchita Alonso, Richard Dawson

The Running Man is a science fiction action film set in a dystopian future America where a television show broadcasts convicts running for their lives against armed pursuers.

Schwarzenegger’s character, wrongfully accused of a crime, fights for survival and seeks to reveal the truth behind the corrupt regime. Although not a running film in the traditional sense, its title and some themes are relevant to the subject of running.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#8 The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)

  • 🎬 Directed by: Tony Richardson
  • 🌟 Starring: Tom Courtenay, Michael Redgrave

This British film, based on the short story by Alan Sillitoe, tells the story of a rebellious youth from a poor background who finds an escape from his troubled life through long-distance running.

Confined to a borstal (juvenile detention center), he gets a chance to prove himself in a cross-country race. This film is a poignant study of class, character, and the influence of sport on a person’s identity and fate.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#9 Run, Fatboy, Run (2007)

  • 🎬 Directed by: David Schwimmer
  • 🌟 Starring: Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, Hank Azaria

Run, Fatboy, Run is a comedy that centers around Dennis, played by Simon Pegg, who tries to win back the love of his life by competing in a marathon.

Despite being unprepared and out of shape, Dennis’ journey is a hilarious and heartwarming example of how love and determination can motivate an unlikely hero to run beyond his limits.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#10 Running on Empty (1988)

  • 🎬 Directed by: Sidney Lumet
  • 🌟 Starring: Christine Lahti, Judd Hirsch, River Phoenix

Running on Empty is a drama that tells the story of a couple who, wanted by the FBI for an incident back in the 1960s, spend their lives running and hiding to protect themselves and their children.

The film focuses on the consequences this life has on their eldest son, played by River Phoenix, especially as he comes of age and wishes to pursue his own life and interests.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#11 Saint Ralph (2004)

  • 🎬 Directed by: Michael McGowan
  • 🌟 Starring: Adam Butcher, Campbell Scott, Jennifer Tilly

Saint Ralph is a coming-of-age story about Ralph, a teenager who believes that running and winning the Boston Marathon will be the miracle needed to wake his comatose mother.

Dealing with themes of faith, hope, and the power of a dream, the film shows Ralph’s determination and the various obstacles he faces as he strives to achieve what seems impossible.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

FAQ

What is the best running movie of all time?

“Chariots of Fire” (1981) is the best Running movie of all time, known for its inspiring story of two British track athletes competing in the 1924 Olympics.

What are some good Running movies?

“Without Limits,” “Prefontaine,” “McFarland, USA,” and “Run Fatboy Run” are good Running movies, each portraying the challenges and triumphs associated with the sport.

What Running movies, shows, and documentaries are on Netflix?

The best Running movies, shows, and documentaries on Netflix currently are “The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young,” “Icarus,” and “Personal Best.”

Tanya is a running enthusiast who loves to run 5Ks and 10Ks. She self-trained and has completed marathons, competing in Illinois, Michigan, California, and Wisconsin. She advocates for staying healthy and strong in body, mind, and spirit. When she's not running or writing on her travel blog travelsandtreasures.com, you can usually find her managing IT projects at a global financial services company or discovering new places for family vacations.

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