When you are training for a race or just looking for some extra inspiration on your running journey, watching a running movie can be just the motivational ticket you need to find a newfound commitment and pep in your step to tackle your training program.
While everyone’s preferences in movies about running will vary somewhat, we have put together a list of some of the best running movies of all time to inspire and ignite your passion for running.
Of course, over the decades, there have been so many great running movies created, so we had to pick and choose among the best of the best to come up with the top running movies.
So, although there are plenty of other awesome running movies to check out, if you are looking for some guaranteed running inspiration, start with one of our picks for the best running movies of all time.
#1: Spirit Of The Marathon (2007)
Spirit Of The Marathon is one of the best running documentaries. It follows the personal journeys of six runners of varying abilities who are training for the 2005 Chicago Marathon.
The documentary reportedly took director Jon Dunham four years to make, and the stories that he reads into this riveting film make the investment of time and effort quite apparent.
The film pulls from hours of footage that was filmed on four different continents following amateur and elite runners, including the indomitable Paula Radcliffe, Daniel Njenga, and Dick Beardsley, along with a first-time marathon runner, a young married couple, and an experienced recreational marathoner.
As can be expected with the marathon journey of a handful of runners, there is passion, drama, emotion, triumphs, tribulations, growth, and pain that almost every runner can resonate with at one point or another in their own running journey.
It’s really something to be able to watch the story unfold for each of these six unique runners and see how their training cycle plays out as they try to make their way to the finish line, each with a different goal.
The title is so apropos because this running film truly does capture the spirit of the marathon.
#2: Forrest Gump (1994)
This is certainly a classic running film.
It stars Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, and Gary Sinise. Not only is the movie very well made and has a powerful story, but it can help inspire any runner to get out and enjoy running no matter what setbacks they may be facing in life.
#3: Tracktown (2016)
Tracktown is a cute running movie that captures the loneliness of the long distance runner, by focusing on the sacrifices that you need to make as a competitive distance runner when training to be your best.
One thing that is really cool about this running movie is that although it is fictional, it was written, directed, and starred by Alexi Pappa, an elite Greek-American runner who set the 10k national record at the 2016 Summer Olympics while representing Greece.
Superstar runner Pappas plays the fictional character Plum Marigold, who is extremely dedicated to the sport but also trying to navigate social relationships, fitting in, and growing up.
It is a coming of age story, and a running movie that will resonate with any distance runner who has ever felt like a bit of an outsider even though people on the outside think you have everything going for you.
#4: Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019)
The 2019 Amazon Prime film, Brittany Runs a Marathon, is one of the best running movies when you are looking for something relatable about an everyday person taking up running to improve their health.
The movie follows Brittany (played by Jillian Bell), who is an overweight woman who decides she wants to train for the New York City Marathon. One thing we love about this running movie is that it strikes the perfect balance of being comedic yet poignant.
It deals with the struggles so many runners face while trying to lose weight in a lighthearted, humorous, yet honest way. At the same time, it’s one of the best movies about running and what it can mean in terms of changing your life, changing your body, and changing your mindset.
It speaks to the power of goal setting, the transformative nature of the sport of running as a whole, and the value of believing in yourself no matter what.
There are super relatable moments, even if you have never struggled with your weight. For example, the film touches upon the sacrifices that runners may need to make when chasing a big goal. The main character Brittany ends up taking on a second job just so that she can afford a membership to an expensive gym that she wants to train at.
Overall, it’s a feel good, fun, down-to-earth movie about running that will have you cheering for yourself as much as you are for Brittany.
#5: McFarland, USA (2015)
If you have young runners at home and want a family friendly running movie, McFarland, USA is a great option. It tells the true story of a 1987 cross country team at a primarily Latino high school located in McFarland, California under the coaching guidance of Jim White.
It is the classic underdog story, following the team as they set their sights on winning the state championships while learning lessons about running, life, and growing into respectable young men.
The movie brings light to the importance of a great coach and mentor and the power of having a shared goal for making positive changes and accomplishing the unthinkable together.
#6: Chariots of Fire (1981)
You probably won’t find a single list of the best running movies of all time that doesn’t include this 1981 classic. Even runners who have never seen the film before can recognize the inspiring song that is part of the famous soundtrack that will make you want to be the best runner you can be.
#7: Race (2016)
Many of the top running movies are based on the true stories of famous runners, and Race follows this trend. This 2016 movie tells the story of Jesse Owens, an African-American runner who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic games held in Berlin.
The character of Owens is played by Stephan James, who delivers an emotionally-evocative performance. Familiar actors such as Jason Sudeikis and Jeremy Irons also play roles in the film.
It’s not only interesting to watch a biopic of such an incredible runner, but this running movie also manages to be surprisingly relatable. Owens has to work a full-time job while also training at the elite level.
Although most viewers are likely not training to compete in the Olympics, almost all runners, save for the very small sub group of professional runners, have to juggle work, family life, and running while trying to chase their running goals.
#8: Patriot’s Day (2017)
Although this is certainly a heavy film, Patriot’s Day is also an incredibly important movie about running and the power of the running community to heal.
It is an action thriller film that tells the story of the tragic 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, including the impact on the runners that were injured, the families of those that lost loved ones, and the emergency personnel.
This running movie is based on the book Boston Strong. It was directed and written by Peter Berg and stars Mark Wahlberg and Kevin Bacon.
It is a very heavy movie, and has a lot of sadness, suspense, and pain, so it is not necessarily the best option for young runners. However, it tells the story of an important event in marathoning history.
#9: The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats its Young (2014)
This documentary became popular when it first appeared on Netflix several years ago. It explains the easy antics and bazaar nature of the Barkley Marathons, which is said to be one of the most grueling and impossible races in the world.
#10: Without Limits (1998)
This running movie focuses on the life of Steve Prefontaine, the young phenom runner who lost his life far too early in a tragic accident. It focuses on the relationship with his coach, Bill Bowerman, his explosive personality, and his relentlessness to push the pace every single race.
#11: Prefontaine (1997)
This can be thought of as the sister film to Without Limits, telling the story of Steve Prefontaine (played by Jared Leto) told through the point of view of his assistant coach Bill Dellinger, as well as his girlfriend at the time, Nancy Alleman.
#12: Breaking2 Nike Documentary (2017)
If you are keen to learn more about the quest to break the two-hour marathon barrier and test the limits of human performance, you will love the running documentary Breaking2.
It’s an inspiring story that covers Nike’s Breaking2 project, following Eliud Kipchoge, along with two other chosen runners, and their attempt breaking the two-hour time barrier for the marathon.
It is cool to see some of the behind the scenes training, technology, and logistics that were considered and what was learned by the athletes, coaches, and exercise physiologist working towards the same common goal.
Grab a bowl of popcorn, pick the running flick that looks most appealing to you, and have a great night!