The Best 8 Running Movies & Documentaries

Looking for some of the best movies to inspire your running?

Then I got you covered.

I’m a big fan of the big screen. I love movies, and I love them a lotttt!

So, since my blog is mainly focused on running, I’ve decided to share a list of my favorite running-themed movies and documentaries.

These films will get you motivated to lace up your running and log in the miles. Some are running-centric, while others involve running—or competition—as part of the plot.

Keep in mind that these movies aren’t just about running. They’re stories of perseverance and hard work, the human spirit prevailing in the face of adversity, as well as a great chance to witness, first hand, what it takes to accomplish amazing things in life.

Forrest Gump

No doubt, This is one of my favorite movies of all time.

Forrest Gump is about lots of things, but running is, hands down, of the most important themes. The movie follows the story of Forrest Gump, a guy with a low IQ but a heart of gold from Alabama who, by happenstance, finds himself in the center of some of the 20th century’s most important moments.

During his childhood, and due to his crooked spine, Forrest was forced to use leg braces. Then when he later realized that he no longer needed his braces, he started to run, and that can actually run—and run really fast.

Then, throughout adulthood, coupled with his childlike innocence, Forrest stumbles through some of the most epic moments in recent American history and yet emerges unscathed.

I won’t spoil more of the plot. Just watch it.

Spirit of The Marathon

If you’re thinking about signing up for a marathon, this is a great documentary to watch as it showcases the highs and lows of serious marathon training.

The documentary follows the journey of six marathon runners, including elites such as the Kenyan Daniel Njenga and American Deena Kastor, through their lead-up and competing at the 2005 Chicago Marathon.

Spirit of The Marathon delves into some of the obstacles they’re overcoming, the secret behind their motivation, and what keeps them going.

The personal stories are quite touching, and any runner who trained for a serious race would definitely relate.

A sequel, Spirit of the Marathon 2, was released sometimes after and followed runners as they train for the Rome Marathon.

The Barkley Marathons – The Race That Eats Its Young

The Race that Eats Its Young is an inspiring, award-winning, and entertaining documentary that delves into one of the sports’ most guarded secrets.

The Barkley Marathon is held each spring in Frozen Head State Park and has runners vying for entry to test the limits of their physical and mental endurance.

Created by Lazarus Lake, the race consists of a 100 mile run on an unmarked course initially designed around the historic prison break in Tennessee. The race traverses technical and treacherous terrains and changes year to year.

For the first 25 years of the race, only ten runners crossed the finish line.

The documentary follows the runners as they push themselves to the breaking points as they attempt to complete the course in 60 hours or less.

This documentary is about guts, survival, the human spirit, and pure perseverance.

  • Drama
  • Directed by Robert Zemeckis
  • Starring: Tom Hanks, Robert Wright, Gary Sinise.

Icarus

A still fromICARUS by Bryan Fogel, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Although not a running-themed documentary, Icarus is a must-watch for both runners and non-runners.

At first, Bryan Fogel, an avid amateur cyclist, wanted to make a documentary about how easy (or difficult) it is to get away with cheating in endurance sports.

But he meets Grigory Rodchenkov, the former president of a Russian Anti-doping laboratory.

Soon thereafter, the documentary turns into a story about doping in Russia, leading to the downfall of a long-established program that involved a number of Russian athletes and sports officials.

  • Documentary
  • Directed by Bryan Fogel
  • Starring: Thomas Bach, Scott Brandt, Don Catlin

Unbroken (2014)

The movie chronicles the story of Louis “Louie” Zamperini as he qualifies for the 1936 Olympics in the 5,000 meters, but things don’t go as planned when he enlists in the Army during  World War II.

During the second world war, the army officer Louis survived in a raft for 47 days after his military plane crash-landed in the ocean. Next, he got captured by the Japanese Navy, then sent to a series of prisoner warm camps.

Despite all, Louis’s resolve was never broken—emerging as a winner in the end. Enough spoilers. Just go watch it.

I Am Bolt (2016)

Usain Bolt needs no introduction. He’s, after all, the fastest man in recorded human story.

But would you like an in-depth look into the life of this legend? That’s where this documentary comes in handy.

I Am Bolt was released following the Jamaican sprinter’s retirement after snatching a lot of gold and gaining the undisputed title of the Fastest Man Alive.

The film depicts the legendary sprinter’s rise into fame, which includes world records in the 100 and 200-meter, nine gold medals, and numerous world championship golds.

The movie also provides an inside peek into the bolt’s training, challenges, trials, and tribulations as the fastest man in the world.

  • Documentary
  • Directed by Benjamin Turner & Gabe Turner
  • Starring: Usain Bolt, Serena Williams, Pelé

Chariots of Fire (1981)

This one might be one of the greatest British movies of all time.

Chariots of Fire depicts the story of two British athletes at the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddle and Harold Abrahams.

The movie isn’t just about running, but also about people from different cultures and religions putting aside their differences.

Harold Abrahams uses his running to face the antisemitism he suffered at Cambridge University while Eric Liddle is on a mission to prove that running was a divine plan and serves to please God.

Awards – four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Score.

  • Drama/Biography
  • Directed by: Hugh Hudson
  • Starring: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nicholas Farrell

Run Fatboy Run

Let’s end the list with a fun and light movie.

If you want a fun movie about running for general audiences, then this is exactly what you need.

Simon Pegg’s character (Dennis) sets out to win back his ex (whom he left on the altar five years ago) and jumps into something without realizing the magnitude of it.

Run Fatboy run is likely the funniest take on trials and tribulations of long-distance running.

Dennis makes every marathon rookie mistake possible—he doesn’t train properly, signs up for the wrong reason, registers late, uses the wrong gear, has no pacing strategy—I can go on and on.

And, of course, he didn’t take the gold.

In the end, Dennis runs the London Marathon, suffers from the familiar pitfalls of the amateur marathoner, blisters, chafing, and hitting the wall, and is the very last runner to cross the finish line.

But cross the finish, he did.

The plot is predictable (and quite cringy at times), but it’s a great movie to watch if you want to laugh off at the seriousness of marathon training.

Conclusion

Any other recommendations? Feel free to add them in the comments’ section. I’d love to hear from you!