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Chariots of Fire (1981)

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Two British track athletes, one a determined Jew, and the other a devout Christian, compete in the 1924 Olympics.



(original screenplay)
1,901 ( 1,179)
Won 4 Oscars. Another 14 wins & 19 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Master of Trinity (as Sir John Gielgud)
Jennie Liddell
Charles Paddock
Jackson Scholz


It's the post-WWI era. Britons Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell are both naturally gifted fast sprinters, but approach running and how it fits into their respective lives differently. The son of a Lithuanian-Jew, Harold, who lives a somewhat privileged life as a student at Cambridge, uses being the fastest to overcome what he sees as the obstacles he faces in life as a Jew despite that privilege. In his words to paraphrase an old adage, he is often invited to the trough, but isn't allowed to drink. His running prowess does earn him the respect of his classmates, especially his running teammates, and to some extent the school administration, if only he maintains what they consider proper gentlemanly decorum, which isn't always the case in their minds. Born in China the son of Christian missionaries, Eric, a Scot, is a devout member of the Church of Scotland who eventually wants to return to that missionary work. He sees running as a win-win in that the notoriety of being fast gives him... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


This is the story of two men who run...not to run...but to prove something to the world. They will sacrifice anything to achieve their goals...Except their honor. See more »


Biography | Drama | Sport


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

9 April 1982 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Carros de fuego  »


Box Office


$5,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$68,907, 27 September 1981, Limited Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Stephen Fry is in the film, singing in the chorus of the Cambridge 'H.M.S. Pinafore' production. He is the third face to the right of Harold Abrahams, singing "He Is An Englishman". He's on screen for about 35 seconds, starting at around 32:00. See more »


Before the last race Scholz gives a piece of paper to Lidell with a Bible quote, which he holds in his left hand. This piece of paper disappears during the race and reappears at the finish line. See more »


[first lines]
Lord Andrew Lindsay: Let us praise famous men and our fathers that begat us. All these men were honoured in their generations and were a glory in their days. We are here today to give thanks for the life of Harold Abrahams. To honour the legend. Now there are just two of us - young Aubrey Montague and myself - who can close our eyes and remember those few young men with hope in our hearts and wings on our heels.
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Yankee Doodle
Traditional music of English origin
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User Reviews

Truly an outstanding film.
26 January 2003 | by See all my reviews

I beg to differ with several previous reviewers. This film is neither bland nor is it solely about professionalism vs. amateurism.

This film is about what drives people to do what they do. Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) runs for the glory of God, whereas Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) runs to prove his worth to a society that was anti-Semitic. Even though they run for different reasons, their drive and determination spur them on. They stand up for what they believe in and refuse to sacrifice their principles because it is the easy way out.

The supporting cast is also extraordinary, with Nigel Havers, Nicholas Farrell, Ian Holm and Sir John Gielgud all making important contributions to the final product.

There is absolutely nothing unnecessary in this film. The writing, the direction, the acting, the dialogue are all outstanding. And then there's that haunting score.

Once again, this is truly an outstanding film. One with universal themes that transcend time and place.

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