Running Movies

Running Movies

from News-Gazette, April 20, 2017

“You can go the distance, we’ll find out in the long run …” — The Eagles


“Chariots of Fire” (1981). This British fact-based drama about two athletes competing in the 1924 Olympics won four Academy Awards, including best picture and best original screenplay, but is arguably best-remembered for its electronic theme tune by Vangelis, who also took home an Oscar for best original score. More importantly, the film’s lead characters present several lofty motivations for running — Ben Cross as an English Jew runs to overcome prejudice; Ian Charleson as a devout Scottish Christian runs for the glory of God (he delivers one of the movie’s best lines when he explains to his disapproving sister that he feels divinely inspired when running: “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”) Yet both men are also driven by their competitive spirit, each pushing the other to train harder — first as rivals, and eventually as friends.

“Forrest Gump” (1994). “Run, Forrest, run!” became one of several iconic lines to emerge from this Oscar-winning comedy-drama, and boy, does he ever. After the love of his life walks out on him, Tom Hanks in the title role goes for a cathartic run that lasts nearly 31/2 years and zig-zags across the country three or four times. Now that’s endurance!

“Marathon Man” (1976). Dustin Hoffman stars as a grad student and avid runner who runs afoul of a sinister Laurence Olivier as an exiled Nazi dentist (modeled after real-life Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele), a role for which Olivier won the best supporting actor Oscar. Although this suspense-thriller is best-remembered for its excruciating torture scene in which Olivier drills into Hoffman’s teeth in an attempt to elicit an answer to his question, “Is it safe?”— then continues drilling regardless of his answers — it does have a critical connection to running as well, since it’s the Hoffman character’s skills as a marathon runner which enable him to escape his tormentors — but not before scarring my view of dentistry forever.

“The Running Man” (1987). Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in this sci-fi actioner loosely based on a Stephen King novel. Coincidentally, the film begins in 2017 when, after a global economic collapse, the United States has become a police state, censoring all cultural activity but pacifying the populace by broadcasting a game show, hosted by Richard Dawson, in which convicted criminal “runners” attempt to escape death at the hands of mercenary killers, or “stalkers.” Hey, every runner needs motivation, right?

“Meatballs” (1979). Bill Murray’s first starring film role is the main reason to watch this summer camp flick, but there’s also a fun running-related subplot involving Chris Makepeace as a lonely teen named Rudy whom Murray befriends and takes jogging with him every morning. Before you can say, “It just doesn’t matter!”, the irreverent head counselor has volunteered his shy young charge for the pivotal 4-mile cross-country event in the annual intercamp Olympiad and is motivating him to victory with the mantra: “I’m Wudy the Wabbit, Wudy the Wabbit.”