I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Chariots of Fire, 1981

Rated PG

I’ll admit that the first time my husband made me see this movie, I was quite bored. It just goes to show, that perceptions can change. Perhaps I’ve just done some “growing up”, but I was much more intrigued by this movie this time around. And as a Christian, I am very proud that this movie was chosen as the Best Picture of the year; I feel like movies about religion and devotion to God often get ignored by Hollywood.

This inspirational movie that came out in the year of my birth, is the true story of two of Great Britain’s athletes in the 8th Olympiad in 1924: one is Harold Abrahams, a Jewish Cambridge student who feels he needs to win to prove his worth, and the other is Eric Liddell, a missionary from Scotland who “feels God’s pleasure” when he runs.

The movie opens (practically) with the iconic scene of the athletes in white running through the water. I bet you almost anyone could hum that infamous music (and I’ll further bet that there are some who don’t even know what movie it’s from).

The juxtaposition of the two male leads’ drives is evident in the way the film crosscuts between each man’s life as he trains for the competition. Abrahams admits, “I’m forever in pursuit, and I don’t even know what I’m chasing.” He is obsessed with winning. Liddell on the other hand, runs for God. He explains to his sister, “God made me for a purpose… But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” You can literally see that Liddell physically feels pleasure at the end of a race. He also believes the Sabbath is the Lord’s day. It pains him to opt out of a qualifying race on a Sunday, but he won’t compromise his beliefs. Thankfully, someone steps up for him… watch the movie to see the moving scene I’m referring to.

One obvious and appropriate Biblical quote that I found missing in this movie is from 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” This would have been a poignant line for Liddell near the end.

“Chariots of Fire” is a sports film that showcases good sportsmanship and the support of fellow team members which I think is less common now in our society with its “win at all costs” mentality. This film was the second sports film to win this award in Oscar history; the first was “Rocky” in 1976. However, one does not have to be a sports fan to enjoy this movie, (Lord knows I’m not), one just needs to appreciate the human spirit. “Chariots of Fire” was up against “Atlantic City”, “On Golden Pond”, “Reds”, and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. This win was a major surprise and upset and I’m sure you can figure out which other nominated film people had their money on. In fact, “Chariots” only made a quarter of what “Raiders” did that year.

The actor who played Abrahams’ friend, Aubrey Montague, reminded me a little of John Krasinski from “The Office”, or at least his facial features did. Also recognizable in one scene was Richard Griffiths who plays Uncle Vernon on the “Harry Potter” films, and plays the head porter of Caius College in this film.


* Liddell encourages a gathering to “take part in [the race]” (not literally a running race, but the race of life). He compares faith to running a race and explains that “the Kingdom of God is within you” (from Luke 17:21). Your power comes from within. And guess what?... The Kingdom of God is within you… Therefore, the power comes from God.

* Abrahams is so discouraged after coming in second in a race and his girlfriend tries to console him knowing he can try again. He explains to her, “If I can’t win, I won’t run.” She fires back eloquently, “If you don’t run, you can’t win.” You’ve got to try in order to succeed. Accept failure as a learning experience and grow from it, don’t give up because of it.

 * Abrahams’ coach tells him, “You can’t put in what God’s left out,” implying you’re either born with a natural gift or you’re not. While this doesn’t sound like very motivating advice for anyone, keep in mind he’s talking to an Olympic medal hopeful, not the everyday mere mortal. He was assuring Abraham that he does have the talent necessary to compliment his hard work and dedication. We should try to “put in” everything we can to compliment our God-given gifts.

* And lastly, follow Liddell’s example and don’t let anyone make you compromise your beliefs.


The movie starts and ends with the same memorable scene. I love how the camera pans across the main characters. You can get a glimpse of their personalities just in their expressions when they run. This scene also makes me smile because twelve years ago, my boyfriend (now husband) carved our initials in a mossy rock on the West Sands Beach of St. Andrews.



  1. Yes I have to see this. Good for you that you brought out that scripture verse. The verse sounds completely fitting.

    I also dislike sports movies, as well as movies about animals (I don't think any won an Oscar anyway), but I think this one is very appealing.

    Regarding the lesson to put in our own efforts to compliment God's given talents, it is essentially cooperating with God's grace. He can give us the talents and gifts, but we have to move in order to use them and bring good to the world.