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Movie Review

Chariots of Fire

Reviewed by: Cheryl Sneeringer

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
10 to Adult
Drama (Docudrama)
Year of Release:

This is one of the outstanding movies of all time. It is suitable for children aged ten and up, and provides an excellent springboard for family discussion of life priorities and the source of true joy.

The film is the true account of two Olympic runners, Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, who train to run the 100-meter sprint in the 1924 Olympic games. Abrahams is a British nonreligious Jew who is driven to prove himself by personal success and individual performance. He gains admission to Cambridge and distinguishes himself as an outstancing sprinter. His primary competition for Olympic gold in the 100 meters is Eric Liddell, a former rugby star whose life goal is to serve God as a missionary to China, but who is slated first to represent Scotland in the Olympic games.

Both runners seem unbeatable, but Abrahams' fragile self-esteem depends absolutely upon his winning, whereas Eric Liddell runs because “God made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

As they travel to Paris for the Olympic games, Eric Liddell learns that his race will be run on Sunday, and it is his conviction that he cannot run on the Sabbath. The Prince of Wales himself pressures Eric Liddell to honor king and country above God, and Eric Liddell’s response to this pressure is a beautiful example of a respectful but firm resolve to do what is right. Eric refuses to run in the race he was scheduled for, and instead chooses to compete in a race for which he has not trained.

The movie presents an insightful contrast between the two runners. Abrahams finds that even victory provides no lasting fulfillment because, ultimately, there is nothing beyond himself that he feels he can depend upon. Eric Liddell, however, has a God-given purpose and a relationship with His Lord that supplies an unshakable confidence. Liddell lives a life of godly joy—joy that does not depend upon winning or losing—a joy that is the fruit of a Godly life.

Don’t miss the spot in the movie when a fellow athlete hands Liddell a scrap of paper upon which is written 1 Sam. 2:30, “…he who honors Me, I will honor…” Eric is holding that paper clutched tightly in his fist during the entire race.

This is an inspiring and uplifting film, worth renting and viewing again and again. It is so beautifully made and so well-written that it was awarded an Oscar for Best Picture of 1981. If you have not yet seen it, you have a treat in store!

Editor’s note: Some may wonder why such a wonderful film as this would be rated PG. It includes four profanities, which would automatically have pushed this British-made movie from a “G” to “PG” rating.

For more information about Eric Liddell,
please see

Viewer Comments
We have had excellent success in using Chariots of Fire for small group Bible Study, or for youth Lock-Ins. The story is a stark contrast of law vs. grace in human achievement, and there is a posted a Bible Study outline that goes with the movie at: “” This movie can be a good “ice breaker” to get the focus onto the things of God.
—Dean and Laura Van Druff, ages 37 and 27
Overall, I enjoyed the movie, especially Liddall’s determination not to compromise his beliefs. This makes me feel a little hypocritical given that there were several profanities and one instance of blasphemy. I didn’t notice the nude scene, so it was either brief or deleted from the version I saw. However, in an age of hell-inspired movies this one stands out like a beacon of light. Very suitable for children provided you are prepared for the few bad bits.
—Bill Morris, age 42
Regarding the PG rating, it has brief, rear, male nudity in a locker room scene.
—Doug Mattox
“Chariots of Fire” is one of the movies that really makes you appreciate the value of standing for what you believe in. Imagine dedicating a good portion of your life to do the one thing you love to do-run and compete in the Olympics—to find out the “race of your life” is to be run on a Sunday. Eric’s stand for his Christian faith, plus his love for other’s competing against him is rarely seen today, even by athletes who claim to be Christian. This movie is one of the best family movies out there. The discussions this movie will raise about values in life will help your kids see that winning isn’t everything.
—Dee Donohue