“Race,” the story of Olympic track and field athlete Jesse Owens opens in theaters Friday, Feb. 19. While I haven’t had a chance to watch and review the film, it did get me thinking fondly about my favorite films with Olympic themes from the past. Thus, a new Fab Five list was created!
Here are my five fab Olympics films.
#5 – “Miracle”
This version of the “Miracle on Ice” from the 1980 USA Men’s Olympic hockey team might rank higher on most other’s lists, but while it’s a great underdog film, especially being based on a true story, it didn’t hit me as hard in the heart as the other films on my list did. Maybe it’s because the sport of ice hockey is just so foreign to me.
#4 – “Animalympics”
If you know about this animated gem, we can definitely be friends. Featuring the talented voice work of comedians such as Billy Crystal, Gilda Radner and Harry Shearer, I remember watching “Animalympics” on cable as a child, mesmerized with their ability to make such an accurate animal version of the Olympic games while being so entertaining at the same time. Was it a little racist in its depiction of animals from different countries (such as the Japanese penguin gymnast Bruce Kwakimoto)? Perhaps, but that doesn’t take away from the Olympics stereotypes so well lampooned in the film.
I couldn’t find a trailer for the film online so here’s a sample clip from the film.
#3 – “Cool Runnings”
Jamaicans bobsledding? The rest of the world was just as bewildered when the Jamaican bobsled team rose to prominence in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Their tale receives the full-on Disney treatment and results in an uplifting and hilarious sports underdog flick. John Candy puts on one of his best performances as the team’s coach and the story is enhanced with a cast of great and memorable characters. I was also really into reggae at the time (hey, I was in college and full of experimentation) so I even bought the catchy soundtrack on CD, which I still have.
#2 – “The Cutting Edge”
The Olympics meet romantic comedy when a rugged hockey player is forced to team up with a spoiled figure skater for both to achieve their dreams of Olympic gold. Worlds collide. Romance ensues. Do they win the gold? Does it matter if they can both find love? If you’re like me, that kind of plot sounds like a winner and “The Cutting Edge” was an instant classic when I first saw it, back in 1992. Considered a flop at the box office, I’m kind of surprised to learn of its cult following; just mention the words “toe pick” at a party and see who gives you that knowing smile. They’ll be your friend for life.
#1 – “American Anthem”
Yes. I know a lot of you won’t recognize this one. But I love a film that portrays the world of gymnastics as if it were in a music video. I mean, I was obsessed with it as a kid. I even wrote a blog about it a few years back. There’s just something about “American Anthem” that really worked for me, whether it was the gymnastics maneuvers, the awesome ’80s soundtrack, or, perhaps, it was Janet Jones in a unitard for the majority of the film. Yeah, maybe the answer is obvious now.
This film falls dangerously close to falling into that “so bad that it’s good” category and yet I honestly think it’s genuinely well done. Sure, it’s predictable, contrived and cheesy. The lighting is ridiculous, characters are extremely one dimensional and the acting is horrendous. But it’s ’80s goodness cancels all that out. Beautiful people doing beautiful things, set to an awesome soundtrack. Throw in an underdog storyline and what more can you ask for? Oh, and did I mention Janet Jones?
Other Fab Five lists: