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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.

Director:

Hugh Hudson

Writer:

Colin Welland (original screenplay)
Won 4 Oscars. Another 14 wins & 19 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

Two men chasing dreams of glory! See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama | Sport

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

9 April 1982 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Carros de fuego See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$5,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$68,907, 27 September 1981, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$58,972,904
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The lesson that Eric Liddell reads in the church in Paris is from Isaiah 40: 26, 29-31, King James version. It's interspersed with shots from the Olympic Games, but is basically: "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." See more »

Goofs

(at around 30 mins) Just before Abrams and Montague register at the Porters' Lodge of "Caius College, Cambridge 1919" their taxi is seen driving along a street and stopping at "the" College entrance. The street is Trinity Lane at the back of Caius College and the entrance is not that of Caius College but of Trinity Hall. Even the Trinity Hall crescent can be seen above the entrance. See more »

Quotes

[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 »

Connections

Referenced in Hewy's Animated Movie Reviews: Winds of Change (2015) See more »

Soundtracks

La Marseillaise
(1792) (uncredited)
Written by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
See more »

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User Reviews

A classic.
13 April 2000 | by admco.cSee all my reviews

On a basic level it is the ultimate British Oscar-winning period piece and influential, uplifting feel-good film. Its two chief qualities are its subsequently strong realism and the resonant Vangelis soundtrack that, as with 'Blade Runner', increases the strength and significance of scenes through sound. Although it has a specific setting or historical background, the music adds an appropriate timelessness to the powerfully relevant human themes. These include winning and losing, of having what it takes to run the race, and of the old gentlemanly values of religion, decency and personal honour. It is the determining of the self, the inner strength, by understanding and will. The real-life characters and events are brought to life with the engaging realization that a climax will arrive at the end. At its core is a rivalry, less of a personal one and more the dilemma of two men wanting to win the same race. However, the climax is not predictable for such a straight-forward competition cannot occur. That is to say, they are both dedicated and honest men, with completely different religions, and it is this combination of resolution and talent which enables them both to win their own race. Around this central thread of training and determination, the film-makers have recreated the world surrounding these university characters in the 1920s. Scenes are filled with the casual, graceful attitudes that are a very British ideal; sophisticated prowess, decency, honesty, religion and intellect, values which seem to be less respected in this modern time. It portrays a credible idealism.

One of the first scenes of the film shows the running students. It celebrates this stage in life of onsetting maturity, comraderie and destiny through this bygone group of individual characters, united by the shared realization of their strengths. Throughout there is also the vague impression of higher powers at work, not so much the embedded attitudes of the old generation, but the position of man's humility in experiencing the challenge of life's great race created for them, and not only feeling the love that can be found, but rising to shine in one's own glory, enabled because of the higher glory. Not many viewers, especially today, accept such adherence and orthodoxy to Christianity, that can be seen as the motivation for the character Liddell. This film reminds us of the prominence and influence it had over so many aspects of society and the beneficial, empowering effects it could give to individuals. Alternatively the character Abrahams is a jew, and relies more on the attributes of his character which include a desperate determinism that reaps a reward of its own, takes him to his limits - although of greater significance is the love of a woman which detracts from perhaps a too heightened focus on himself. Through him we must also realise that there will always be those greater than ourselves, the very fact of our losing, and ultimately swallow pride and feel awe and goodness for the victory of our rivals and our friends. At the end of the film, the race has been run; they have gloriously discovered and revelled in their talents, their time, the fruits of aspiring to something greater than themselves. 'For it says in the good book, he that honours me, I will honour'.


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