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Chariots of Fire (1981)

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1:31 | Trailer
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)
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Popularity
2,642 ( 1,603)
Won 4 Oscars. Another 13 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:

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 »

Genres:

Biography | Drama | Sport

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The scene in which Abrahams (Ben Cross) runs around the quad was based on the 1928 Olympic Gold medalist in the four hundred meters, David Burghley, who had run around the great court at Trinity College in the time it took the clock to strike 12. Technically, Burghley was the second person to accomplish that feat, as someone had done it before in the 1890s, but then again, it took five seconds longer back then for the clock to complete its toll. See more »

Goofs

In the first Cambridge scene, set in 1919, passengers are seen on the railway station's footbridge. In fact, pressure from 19th century Cambridge University leaders opposed to railways led to special conditions being imposed on the station before it was constructed, and one of these was that it must have no footbridges; although one was added later, it was demolished again in 1863 and since then the station has had level access to all platforms. In 2011 work began on a second platform which will be connected to the original platform by a pedestrian bridge. 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 Paris or the Bush: The Story of the Cods (2016) See more »

Soundtracks

The Soldiers of Our Queen
(1881) (uncredited)
from "Patience"
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Lyrics by W.S. Gilbert
See more »

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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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

9 April 1982 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Chariots of Fire See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$5,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$68,907, 27 September 1981

Gross USA:

$58,972,904

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$59,303,359
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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