Ted Kramer's wife leaves her husband, allowing for a lost bond to be rediscovered between Ted and his son, Billy. But a heated custody battle ensues over the divorced couple's son, deepening the wounds left by the separation.
It's the post-WWI era. Britons Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell are both naturally gifted fast sprinters, but approach running and how it fits into their respective lives differently. The son of a Lithuanian-Jew, Harold, who lives a somewhat privileged life as a student at Cambridge, uses being the fastest to overcome what he sees as the obstacles he faces in life as a Jew despite that privilege. In his words to paraphrase an old adage, he is often invited to the trough, but isn't allowed to drink. His running prowess does earn him the respect of his classmates, especially his running teammates, and to some extent the school administration, if only he maintains what they consider proper gentlemanly decorum, which isn't always the case in their minds. Born in China the son of Christian missionaries, Eric, a Scot, is a devout member of the Church of Scotland who eventually wants to return to that missionary work. He sees running as a win-win in that the notoriety of being fast gives him... Written by
" Chariots of Fire" was the seventh most popular 1981 movie at the U.S.A and Canada box office. See more »
Some historical details (some minor, some not) have been altered for the sake of the narrative. We're inclined towards leniency. See more »
Lord Andrew Lindsay:
Let us praise famous men and our fathers that begat us. All these men were honoured in their generations and were a glory in their days. We are here today to give thanks for the life of Harold Abrahams. To honour the legend. Now there are just two of us - young Aubrey Montague and myself - who can close our eyes and remember those few young men with hope in our hearts and wings on our heels.
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I was a student at Edinburgh University in 1981 and was actually lodging with one branch of Eric Liddell's family.
My friends and I all went to see this movie repeatedly -- and I mean five, six, or seven paid entrances. Why?
Personally, I don't think it had anything to do with the plot, character development, the music, or moral virtue. It was simply that the film was so utterly beautiful.
The men were beautiful in a clean, non-glamorous way that we had never seen before. Not in British films, and certainly not in Hollywood movies.
The social and educational expectations shared by all were beautiful. I know it is fashionable to decry the British class system, and in principle I agree with all the criticisms. But it also seems that erasing class-by-birth leaves little else but crass meritocracy and the sheer vulgarity of the uneducated masses. Abraham's fellow students at Cambridge and Liddell's at Edinburgh participated in a social and educational system not driven by concerns about jobs, and not pathetically challenged by students who saw themselves as consumers and professors as entertainers.
Britain was beautiful. Of course some parts still are, but Nazi bombs, post-war architecture, and modern cars have destroyed much. This was a Britain where people at the time might have decried "Victorian" architecture, but we in 1981 were just coming to realize how great it was. And this was a Britain where, for good or ill, middle class people kept their houses tasteful, and working-class door-steps were white-stoned each week.
In all this movie was a connection to the beautiful aspects of the British past. That past might never have existed in reality, but in 1981 we could just about touch it, above all in Edinburgh, spared by German bombs and still one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
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