244 user 94 critic

Chariots of Fire (1981)

1:31 | Trailer
Two British track athletes, one a determined Jew, and the other a devout Christian, compete in the 1924 Olympics.


Hugh Hudson


Colin Welland (original screenplay)
4,212 ( 391)
Won 4 Oscars. Another 13 wins & 19 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Nicholas Farrell ... Aubrey Montague
Nigel Havers ... Lord Andrew Lindsay
Ian Charleson ... Eric Liddell
Ben Cross ... Harold Abrahams
Daniel Gerroll ... Henry Stallard
Ian Holm ... Sam Mussabini
John Gielgud ... Master of Trinity (as Sir John Gielgud)
Lindsay Anderson ... Master of Caius
Nigel Davenport ... Lord Birkenhead
Cheryl Campbell ... Jennie Liddell
Alice Krige ... Sybil Gordon
Dennis Christopher ... Charles Paddock
Brad Davis ... Jackson Scholz
Patrick Magee ... Lord Cadogan
Peter Egan ... Duke of Sutherland


It's the post-World War I 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 ... 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:

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Did You Know?


The funeral service at the beginning of the movie was deleted when the movie was shown on the in flight entertainment. See more »


The movie they're watching in the movie theater in France wouldn't be battered and flickery. It would have been brand new film then-clean and without fading, wear or shrinkage. 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.
See more »

Alternate Versions

There is at least one slightly different version of the movie, issued in Europe on homevideo. The beginning is different - shorter - and introduces Harold Abrahams while playing cricket with his colleagues. The scene in the train station, where Monty meets Harold is absent, as well as the loading of the baggage in the taxi they share. We simply see Monty writing a letter to his parents, mentioning that "Harold is as intense as ever" (cut to the cricket scene, maybe 30 seconds long), and then continues with "I remember our first day... we shared a taxi together" (cut to the two students unloading their stuff from the car). This alternate version also have slightly different end credits, and does not mention Harold marrying Sybil. The differences are minor (the U.S. version provides a more shocking memento of WWI, when it shows crippled baggage handlers in the station); one of the reasons the cricket scene was dropped in favour of the station one was due to the distributor's worry that the American market would not understand it. See more »


Spoofed in Mr. Mom (1983) See more »


Jesus Shall Reign
(1793) (uncredited)
Music by John Hatton (1793)
Lyrics by Isaac Watts (1719)
See more »

User Reviews

Fascinating drama based on true story of two runners , Eric Liddel and Harold Abraham , including unforgettable score by Vangelis
10 January 2015 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

This is the story of two men who run to prove something to the world . They will sacrifice anything to achieve their goals , except their honor . Two young men fighting for their objectives , one a determined Jew Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) and the other a devout Christian (Ian Charleson) . In a warmup 100 meter race, Scottish Eric defeats Harold, who hires a pro coacher (Ian Holm) to prepare him . After that , both compete in the 1924 Olympics where their courage and determination to be tested . Eric Liddell , whose qualifying heat is scheduled for a Sunday, denies to run despite pressure from the Olympic committee formed by high authorities (Nigel Davenport , Patrick Magee , David Yelland as Prince of Wales) . Eric and Harold win their respective races and go on to achieve fame as missionary and businessman/athletic advocate, respectively . In fact , during the Japanese occupation of China, Eric as a missionary was taken into the Japanese Weihsien internment Camp, where he was to die from a brain tumour just before the camp was liberated.

This is is a sensitive as well as riveting story, being told in flashback , dealing with two young British sprinters , competing for fame in the 1924 Olympics , both of them compellingly performed by Ben Cross and the early deceased Ian Charleson . About six years after the film's release, Trinity College reenacted the quad dash with British Olympic athletes Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe taking part.

This marvelous film has an all-star-cast such as Ben Cross ,Ian Charleson , Nigel Havers , Ian Holm , Cheryl Campbell and Alice Krige . Great secondary cast formed by prestigious British players and with a number of well known USA and UK performers for the tiny cameo roles such as John Gielgud ,Nigel Davenport , Lindsay Anderson , Patrick Magee , Peter Egan , Richard Griffiths and uncredited Kenneth Branagh as Cambridge student , Stephen Fry and first cinema film of Nicholas Farrell . Brad Davis and Dennis Christopher appeared as a favor to producer David Puttnam, waiving their fees, in order to attract finance from backers who wanted "marquee names" . Besides the lead actors, most of the white-clad runners training on West Sands in St. Andrews during the title sequence are St. Andrews golf caddies .

Colorful and evocative cinematography by David Watkin filmed on location in Edinburgh, Scotland, Liverpool , Cambridge University , Eton College, Eton, Berkshire, England . When the athletes are running off the beach , in reality it results to be West Sands at St Andrews in Scotland , they run towards a large red building clearly marked as a hotel ; this is in fact Hamilton hall of residence, a student accommodation hall belonging to the University .

Lavishly and luxuriously produced by great producer David Puttnam , he was looking for a story in the mold of A man for eternity (1966), regarding someone who follows their conscience ; he felt sports provided clear situations in this sense, and happened upon the story by accident while thumbing through an Olympic reference book in a rented house in Los Angeles , then the screenwriter Colin Welland took out advertisements in London newspapers seeking memories of the 1924 Olympics.

Film debut by filmmaker Hugh Hudson , he originally wanted Vangelis' 1977 tune "L'Enfant", from his 1979 'Opera Sauvage' album, to be the title theme of the film, and the beach running sequence was actually filmed with "L'Enfant" playing in the background for the runners to listen and pace to. Vangelis, however, finally convinced Hudson he could create a new and better piece for the film's main theme - and when he played the new and now-familiar "Chariots of Fire" theme for Hudson, it was agreed the new tune was unquestionably better. But the "L'Enfant" tune still made it into the film : When the athletes reach Paris and enter the stadium, a brass band marches through the field, and first plays a modified, acoustic performance of "L'Enfant" . Vangelis's electronic "L'Enfant" track eventually was used prominently in the film The years of living dangerously (1982). The picture deservedly won Academy Awards for Colin Welland's screenplay , Vangelis' magnificent soundtrack , Mila Canonero's costumes and Best picture .

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English | French

Release Date:

9 April 1982 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Chariots of Fire See more »


Box Office


$5,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$68,907, 27 September 1981

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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