39 user 26 critic

Prefontaine (1997)

Based on the life of Olympic hopeful Steve Prefontaine, a long distance runner who lived in Oregon and died young.


Steve James




Cast overview, first billed only:
Jared Leto ... Steve Prefontaine
R. Lee Ermey ... Bill Bowerman
Ed O'Neill ... Bill Dellinger
Breckin Meyer ... Pat Tyson
Lindsay Crouse ... Elfriede Prefontaine
Amy Locane ... Nancy Alleman
Laurel Holloman ... Elaine Finley
Brian McGovern ... Mac Wilkins
Kurtwood Smith ... Curtis Cunningham
Adrian Amadeus Adrian Amadeus ... Finnish Teammate
Laurence Ballard ... O'Hara
Ryan Brewer Ryan Brewer ... 12 year old kid
Robert Burke ... Young Pre
Kevin Calabro Kevin Calabro ... 3rd Airport Reporter
George Catalano ... Patron #1


Life and times of Steve Prefontaine, a young long-distance runner from Oregon who pursued the dream of Olympic gold in Munich and became one of the biggest, yet most tragic sport stars in America. Written by Dragan Antulov <dragan.antulov@altbbs.fido.hr>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He beat the odds... And became a legend!

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


At least five people who Prefontaine knew spoke about his experience of running throughout the film. See more »


After Munich when Steve was feeling sorry for himself, he said that he'd have a street named after and it would be called 4th Street. In reality, that was actually said by his Oregon teammate Arne Kvalheim and it was meant to be a joke. See more »


[first lines]
Bill Bowerman: Pre turned distance running into a blood sport. You wanna know what he meant to folks around here? What was it
Bill Bowerman: kids said back then? "You just had to be there."
See more »


Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #26.145 (2010) See more »


What You Need Tonight
Written by Mason Daring, Kenny White
Performed by Renn Woods
Courtesy of Daring Records
See more »

User Reviews

Inspiring And Haunting
3 April 2004 | by LechuguillaSee all my reviews

This is the real-life story of Oregon runner Steve Prefontaine who, despite physical imperfections, draws on inner strength of character, to set American track records, and race in the 1972 Munich Olympics. As a runner myself, I found this 1997 docudrama inspiring.

But "Prefontaine" is far more than a cinematic pep talk for runners. It's a character study of an extraordinary young man from an ordinary background, his personal relationships, and his date with destiny. It is a story that has lasting value.

The film's visuals and music effectively convey the look and sound of the early 70's. The acting is above average. Jared Leto is superb as Steve. Just as good is R. Lee Ermey as Steve's coach, the legendary Bill Bowerman, a man who found a way to make running shoes with the help of a waffle iron. Ed O'Neill, Breckin Meyer, and the lovely Amy Locane are good, in supporting roles.

Leto's acting, combined with a clever script, portrays Pre as gutsy, determined, intense, charismatic, vulnerable, at times reckless, self-absorbed, brash, and arrogant. One of my favorite segments of dialogue has Steve and his teammate Pat Tyson jogging along, and talking about the great runner Jim Ryun. Steve comments: "Forget Jim Ryun; he's done; I'm gonna be the first Steve Prefontaine", to which Pat responds: "It must be nice to want to be yourself".

Later, Pre frustratingly says to his girlfriend Nancy: "All of my life people have said to me: you're too small Pre; you're not fast enough Pre; give up your foolish dreams Steve."

Pre's story is told in another film: "Without Limits"; both now available on DVD, and both good, though I prefer this Steve James directed movie.

Often and rightly compared to other sports films, "Prefontaine" reminds me of a film one might not think of. Pre's life was similar in some ways to another notable person from an ordinary background, one who set out bravely on a personal quest, of sorts, and who, in the process, like Pre, made a powerful and lasting impression: Karen Silkwood.

Coincidentally, Pre's fate and Karen's fate were tragically similar, and only six months apart. In both "Prefontaine" and "Silkwood", the message to the rest of us ordinary mortals is: don't underestimate your life; do your best; and make each day count. You never know when "fate" may intervene.

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Release Date:

24 January 1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Prefontaine See more »


Box Office


$8,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$311,253, 26 January 1997

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

Hollywood Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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