Being one of the best movies of 1994, Forrest Gump is one of the very few successful commercial movies about running, as it isn’t exactly the hottest concept to base a movie around. But why they might not be so successful could be because many movies about running follow a similar format, as most of them are biopics about real-life athletes who achieved something great, and the movies a generally uplifting and full of whimsy.
However, the running movies that are rated highest on IMDb are ones that escape the cliché and tropes of sports movies. Whether it’s about a man who unknowingly influences historic events or a German thriller that sees a woman having to keep running in order to save her boyfriend’s life, the very best running movies are ones that defy the sports genre.
Run Fatboy Run (2007) – 6.6
Run Fatboy Run is possibly the most accessible movie about running for general audiences, as all the others tend to be fairly serious biopics with little in the way of humor, and the movie stars Simon Pegg and even Stephen Merchant in one of his best roles.
Run Fatboy Run is unique in the genre, as it doesn’t follow any athlete or professional runner, but instead sees an overweight security guard attempt to better himself. And what’s even more interesting is that, as the character runs the London Marathon, it isn’t actually that much of a success, as he suffers a ton of injuries and is the very last person to cross the line.
Race (2016) – 7.1
Race is the newest running movie to be released, and it follows real-life athlete Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals during the 1936 Olympics.
The movie had a minuscule budget and is largely unknown to general audiences, but it nevertheless features an incredible cast, including Jason Sudeikis and Jeremy Irons. Though it didn’t receive the best reviews from critics, audiences enjoyed it much more, as all the sports movie tropes are hit hard, despite it taking some extreme liberties with the real-life events.
Without Limits (1998) – 7.2
Being more of a biopic than any of the other running movies, this follows runner Steve Prefontaine from the very beginning of his career in his youth all the way to his death in a car crash, making Without Limits is a touching drama.
The movie focuses more on his relationship with his mentor and coach, Bill Bowerman. But what the film does better than anybody else is that it brilliantly represents the building pressure young people have to live up to and what is expected of them.
Chariots Of Fire (1981) – 7.2
Chariots of Fire is rated unexpectedly low on IMDb, as it’s generally considered one of the greatest British movies of all time. It isn’t just about running, but it’s also about people of different religions putting aside their differences, as a Jewish man and a devout Christian are the two biggest competitors during the 1924 Olympics.
Just like many running movies, it’s somewhat unfairly overlooked, and it’s one of the forgotten Oscar winners over the past few decades.
Saint Ralph (2004) – 7.4
Though it isn’t one of the most popular movies in the world, Saint Ralph is a sleeper flick even in the extremely niche and minimal amount of running movies that exist. It has a bizarre plot, as it follows the titular character who believes that by winning the 1954 Boston Marathon his mother will wake up from her coma.
The movie might come off a little too melodramatic for some viewers, but it is hilarious from the very beginning.
McFarland, USA (2015) – 7.4
Kevin Costner is at the heart of plenty of sports movies, and this one has an unsurprisingly inspiring ending too. Whether it’s the actor, the inspirational message, or the fact that it’s based on a true story, which is about the 1987 cross country team from McFarland, the movie has all the hallmarks that audiences have learned to expect from Disney.
But regardless of how predictable it is, it’s one of the best sports movies that the studio has made.
On The Edge (1986) – 7.4
On The Edge is one of the most uplifting movies of the 1970s, as it follows Wes Holman, a 44-year-old man whose been off the grid for decades, return home adamant to run the oldest race in America. In a similar fashion to Forrest Gump, the odds are against him after he called people out who initiated illegal payments to athletes to take part in the race, and it’s an uphill battle in more ways than one.
The race organizers try to stop him at every chance they get, even during the race, but 7.5 miles later, Holman comes out victorious.
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) – 7.6
Being the oldest movie of the lot, the film is not just about running, but it’s also a political tale that shines a light on the division of classes in Britain at the time. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is about a delinquent who is sent to a youth detention center after robbing a bakery but is given special privileges being a runner.
With him being allowed to run outside while the other prisoners have to stay in, it depicts the way the upper-class are given more privileges in society while the lower class has to watch from the sidelines.
Run Lola Run (1998) – 7.6
Run Lola Run doesn’t get the credit it deserves, as it’s one of the indie masterpieces cinephiles probably haven’t seen due to being so overlooked. The movie is obviously about running, but not in a traditional sense, as it’s a thriller that sees the titular character having to make 100,000 Deutschmarks within 20 minutes.
The movie sees Lola in three different timelines, as the tiniest difference in each timeline dramatically changes the end result.
Forrest Gump (1994) – 8.8
If there’s anything fans learned from Forrest Gump, it’s that people should do what they love, and Forrest did exactly that. The Oscar-winning movie is about a lot of things that it’s hard to exactly pin down what it is about, but the first thing that springs to fans’ minds is running.
Forrest runs so fast that he breaks out of his leg braces, and then goes on to run across the country with everyone following in his footsteps, quite literally. Due to spanning decades, the character being superimposed into historic events, and the feel good nature, it’s not just the best running movie, but one of the greatest films of all time.