Watching other runners overcome challenges to become better versions of themselves can make you a better runner. The best running movies can help you build your running motivation.

Are you training for a major running event? Or do you just want to lose weight and improve your fitness through running? Either way, we have you covered. 

Our list of movies about running includes a mix of marathon movies, biopics, dramas, comedies, running documentaries, and more. 

Some have won numerous awards and have stood the test of time to become classics. Others are fresh titles that are steeped in contemporary issues such as unhealthy eating and weight loss challenges. 

So before you break out the air-popped popcorn, here are the best running movies to watch.

In This Article

1. Chariots of Fire (1981)

Runners in white, training on an empty beach, their bare feet splashing in the surf. The opening scene of Chariots of Fire is just one of the many inspiring scenes in this classic movie. 

A celebration of self-sacrifice and moral courage, it’s based on the true story of two British athletes. Eric Liddell is a devout Christian. Harold Abrahams is an English Jew. The men run for different reasons, but their paths lead to the Olympic Games.

With many iconic running scenes, Chariots of Fire is one of the most motivational movies about running ever made. It won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original Score. 

While its message may seem a bit sentimental today, this running movie still feels like a celebration of the sport. Few other running movies have captured this with the elegance and flair of Chariots of Fire.

IMDB Rating: 7.1

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83% fresh

2. Rocky (1976)

Rocky is not a running movie, per se. Rather, it’s the underdog story of Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer who becomes the heavyweight challenger of the world. Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone, Rocky features one of the most uplifting scenes filmed since the invention of running.

As part of his training, Rocky jogs through the poorer parts of the city and is given an apple. The people in this scene are real people who are genuinely surprised to see a runner among them. 

When the going gets tough, he pushes through, sprinting up the steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. On top of the world, facing the sun, he breaks into a dance of victory, the world conquered below. 

This scene alone makes Rocky worthy of inclusion on this list of great running movies.

IMDB Rating: 8.1

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92% fresh

3. Forrest Gump (1994)

From running to escape his bullies (“Run, Forrest, run!”) to running across America just because he felt like it, Forrest Gump delivers some of the most powerful running scenes in movie history.

Whether you run to cope with grief or just for the joy of it, Forrest Gump can get you moving. He may not be a champion athlete, but that doesn’t make him any less inspiring. Running is Forrest’s way of triumphing.

Winner of 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Tom Hanks.

IMDB Rating: 8.8

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 71% fresh

4. Prefontaine (1997)

This running movie is based on the true story of legendary runner Steve Prefontaine. As a distance runner, Steve Prefontaine set American records in the 2,000-meter, 5,000-meter, and 10,000-meter events. 

Played by Jared Leto, the movie tells the story of the charismatic runner through his assistant coach, Bill Dellinger. The biopic focuses on Prefontaine’s formative beginnings. As such, it can serve as an inspiration for any aspiring runner. 

IMDB Rating: 6.8

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 56% fresh

5. Without Limits (1998)

Next on our list is another running movie based on legendary runner Steve Prefontaine, this time played by Billy Crudup. Released a year later, it shows Steve Prefontaine’s friction with his coach. In this movie, Dellinger is played by Donald Sutherland, who delivers a stellar performance. 

Relentless self-improvement and pacing are two of the key aspects of this movie that resonate with many runners. Without Limits was produced by Tom Cruise.

IMDB Rating: 7.2

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 79% fresh

6. Spirit of the Marathon (2007)

This documentary tells the stories of 6 marathon runners as they train for the Chicago Marathon. Following amateur and elite runners, it’s a treat for any first-time marathoner. 

4 years in the making, Spirit of the Marathon captures the exhilaration of the 6 runners. But more than that, it shows the trials and tribulations that are part of the experience. 

Even if running a marathon isn’t on your radar, this is a movie you won’t want to miss.

IMDB Rating: 7.4

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88% fresh

7. McFarland, USA (2015)

Next up, a cross-country movie that may inspire you to take up running if you haven’t already. Set in the San Joaquin Valley, it evokes the challenges of running in the heat on rugged terrain.

It’s based on the story of Jim White, a high school sports coach. Despite the naysayers, he turns a group of struggling students at a predominantly Latino high school into a winning cross-country team. Along the way, the students discover the benefits of running – for body, mind, and soul. 

If you have ever thought of cross-country running as a privileged sport, watching this cross-country movie can feel empowering.

IMDB Rating: 7.4

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 80% fresh

8. Saint Ralph (2004)

Saint Ralph tells the story of a mischievous 9th grader who becomes a competitor in the Boston Marathon. By winning, he tries to accomplish what his comatose mother needs to wake up – a miracle. 

The Boston Marathon is one of the most prestigious running events in the world, with elite runners competing each year. Although a suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy this movie, it can be an exhilarating experience for a first-time marathon runner.

IMDB Rating: 7.3

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 64% fresh

9. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)

Here is one of the earliest movies ever made about running, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Shot in black and white, this British movie focuses on the travails of a young thief who becomes a runner in a borstal (reform school).

An intense psychological drama, it’s as much about class, poverty, and alienation as it is about running. As its protagonist says, “Running has always been important in the family, especially running away from the police.”

IMDB Rating: 7.5

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 71% fresh

10. The Jericho Mile (1979)

Here’s another movie about a prisoner who finds emotional release in running. Folsom State Prison inmate Larry “Rain” Murphy keeps running around the prison yard until he can run a mile in under 4 minutes. 

Murphy’s gift for running gets him into the Olympic trials. The plot may seem a little too good to be true. But the movie beautifully captures the power of running as an individual sport. 

Both inspiring and heartbreaking, The Jericho Mile won 3 Emmy Awards, including one for Peter Strauss’ role as Murphy.

IMDB Rating: 7.1

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Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 78% audience score (No Tomatometer since this was a TV movie)

11. Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019)

If you want to run to lose weight and get in shape, this movie about running is for you. Out-of-shape Brittany, played by Jillian Bell, decides to run the New York City Marathon while getting in shape and losing weight. 

Her fitness journey is paved with challenges, and she must learn to forgive herself along the way. This Amazon Original is well worth a watch, not least because it highlights the key benefits of running.

As Brittany discovers, getting started running can be more than a challenge, even if you’re not planning on running the New York City Marathon. But Joggo can help. 

Joggo is a running companion for any beginner starting their running journey. Joggo provides a personalized running plan, a customized meal plan with over 10 popular diets, educational articles, and smart tips and tricks. Start running with Joggo.

IMDB Rating: 6.8

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88% fresh

12. Personal Best (1982)

Personal Best is a compelling drama about two female athletes and lovers. Together, they train to become the best versions of themselves before the Moscow Olympics. 

Despite production problems, the movie became a milestone in the canon of LGBTQ movies. One of the protagonists is none other than Patrice Donnelly, one of the most famous American track and field athletes of the 20th century.

IMDB Rating: 6.3

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 78% fresh

13. Race (2016)

Race tells the story of Jesse Owens, a record-breaking African-American athlete who triumphed over the Nazi elite at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. 

The movie focuses on Owens’ challenges of training for the Olympics while holding down a full-time job and facing discrimination. Based on a true story, this movie can be a balm for runners struggling with busy schedules.

IMDB Rating: 7.1

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 63% fresh

14. Runners High (2006)

This character-driven documentary focuses on the journey of 4 teenage amateur runners from one of America’s toughest neighborhoods. As you might have guessed, they all take up long-distance running.

Runners High shows the transformative power of running. It’s deeply intimate, unafraid to show the raw emotions and hardships the runners experience. It also draws attention to the psychological benefits of running

IMDB Rating: 9.3

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 67% audience score

15. The Long Run (2001)

The Long Run follows the challenges faced by African runner Christine Moyo and her European coach as they prepare for the Comrades Marathon, a 90km race in South Africa. 

Christine is running to forget her troubles, but Barry wants to train a winning runner. Can their relationship survive after Barry is replaced by another coach? And how good can Christine get before the race? Watch this drama movie to find out.

IMDB Rating: 5.7

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 54% audience score

The Wrap Up

Going for a run is fun, but when you have a bad day or suffer an injury, motivation can wane. Watching marathon movies and documentaries about running can help recharge your batteries. 

Blending fact with fiction, the best running movies are a pleasure to watch. They transport you into the lives of other runners like you. They may have different goals than you, but how they got there will feel deeply intimate and familiar.

In the end, running movies can be a treat, so go ahead, pick a running movie, and hit play. 

Finally, remember that you don’t have to be alone on your running journey. With the right running companion, following a personalized running and eating plan can be so much easier – try it with Joggo today.


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Written by

Chris Zibutis

Chris Zibutis is the Head Running Coach and founder of Joggo – that one person on earth who loves interval runs.  He holds a degree from Copenhagen Business School and is an avid runner – having participated in numerous marathons and triathlons, Chris brings substantial fitness and running experience to the Joggo team.