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Your Guide to the 15 Best Inspirational Running Movies Ever Made

When you need an extra push to lace up your shoes, inspirational running movies can help give you the motivation you need. Movies about running—whether they’re long or short—don’t just entertain us; they remind us that running is about personal growth and unlocking our own potential.

These are the best running movies, from documentaries to biopics and indie films to blockbusters.

The best running movie called Brittany Runs a Marathon

The Best Running Movies Based on a True Story

McFarland, USA (2015)

McFarland, USA tells the true story of a high school cross country team in the small, predominantly Latino town of McFarland, California. Kevin Costner has been praised for his performance as Coach Jim White, who arrives in McFarland and helps a group of underprivileged students discover their potential and leads them to become a championship-winning team. Watch it for an inspiring story about the power of determination and teamwork.

Length: 2 hours, 9 minutes

Where to watch: Disney+, Prime Video

Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019)

Brittany Forgler, played by Jillian Bell, sets out on a journey of self-improvement and personal transformation by training to run the New York City Marathon. While ​​Brittany initially begins her running journey as a means to lose weight, as she pushes herself physically she starts to confront the deeper emotional hurdles in her life. The film explores her relationships with friends and family and the support she receives from unexpected sources. Its mix of humor and heartfelt moments makes it a feel-good film for beginner and experienced runners alike.

Length: 1 hour, 44 minutes

Where to watch: Prime Video

Race (2016)

This inspirational running movie covers the story of Jesse Owens and the 1936 Summer Olympics, in which Owens fought racial discrimination to compete and win four gold medals. The movie shows Owens’s journey, his remarkable athletic achievements, the racial struggles he faced in the United States, and the global significance of his victories during a period when Nazi Germany was in power. Race is an important reminder of running’s ability to break down barriers.

Length: 2 hours, 14 minutes

Where to watch: Netflix

Chariots of Fire (1981)

This classing running movie is based on the true story of two athletes, Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, who competed in the 1924 Paris Olympics. The film explores their personal struggles and dedication to their respective running events, with Liddell running for his Christian faith and Abrahams striving to overcome prejudice and prove his worth. With its powerful storytelling and iconic musical score, the movie will inspire as it captures the triumph of the human spirit.

Length: 2 hours, 4 minutes

Where to watch: Disney+

Patriot’s Day (2017)

Gripping and emotional, Patriot’s Day is a dramatized account of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The film follows the experiences of various individuals, including law enforcement officers, survivors, and first responders, as they cope with the tragedy and work together to track down the terrorists responsible for the attack. This retelling highlights the strength of the running community and runners’ ability to persevere in the face of adversity.

Length: 2 hours, 13 minutes

Where to watch: Hulu

Without Limits (1998)

This biographical sports drama tells the story of legendary American long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine and his journey to become a dominant figure in distance running. Featuring Donald Sutherland as iconic coach Bill Bowerman, the film chronicles Prefontaine’s fearless racing style, his impact on the running world, and his tragic death. It offers an intimate look into the life of a dedicated and passionate athlete, making it a great watch for anyone looking for motivation in their own running.

Length: 1 hour, 57 minutes

Where to watch: Prime Video

Prefontaine (1997)

For another take on Prefontaine’s life, see Jared Leto as Prefontaine in a more straightforward, chronological biopic than Without Limits. The movie follows Prefontaine's journey from his early days as a talented young athlete to his emergence as an American record-setter. Pre’s story is compelling and inspiring enough that both movies are worth a watch for any runner seeking inspiration.

Length: 1 hour, 46 minutes

Where to watch: Prime Video

The Best Running Documentaries

Spirit of the Marathon (2007)

This running documentary follows the journeys of six different runners as they prepare for the Chicago Marathon. It provides an in-depth look into their training, motivations, and challenges while aiming to complete the marathon. It seamlessly weaves together the personal stories of amateur runners with interviews of elite marathoners, including marathon legend Haile Gebrselassie. It also covers the history of the marathon and the impact it’s had on our culture. Watch this movie if you want a hyper-realistic look at what it takes to run 26.2 miles.

Length: 1 hour, 44 minutes

Where to watch: Prime Video

The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats its Young (2014)

The Barkley Marathons is an extremely unconventional ultramarathon race held in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee, and this documentary gives you a close-up look at just how challenging it is. The film delves into the history and mystique surrounding the Barkley Marathons, which is known for its grueling terrain, unpredictable weather, and the limited number of runners who have ever completed it. It follows the experiences of several participants as they attempt to conquer a race that, more often than not, has no winners.

Length: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Where to watch: Prime Video

Breaking2 (2017)

Produced by National Geographic, this documentary covers Nike’s Breaking2 project, where three elite marathon runners—Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa, and Zersenay Tadese—try to break the two-hour barrier in the marathon, a feat that has never been achieved in an official race. The film provides an in-depth look at the science, technology, and meticulous planning behind the attempt. The project and the film showcase the determination and innovation of these athletes and their support teams in pursuit of an extraordinary and historic athletic achievement.

Length: 55 minutes

Where to watch: Disney+

Run for Your Life (2008)

This documentary covers the life of Fred Lebow, the founder of the New York City Marathon. The film spans Lebow's journey from a modest background in Belgium to becoming a central figure in the world of long-distance running. It explores his determination to build and expand the New York City Marathon, transforming it into one of the world's most iconic and prestigious races, and highlights his enduring legacy in the running community.

Length: 1 hour, 47 minutes

Where to watch: Prime Video

Finding Traction (2012)

This documentary chronicles the journey of ultrarunner Nikki Kimball as she attempts to break the Long Trail women's speed record in Vermont. It explores Nikki's physical and mental preparation, the challenges she faces on the trail, and the personal demons she confronts during the grueling run. For an intimate and inspirational look into the world of ultrarunning, give this one a watch.

Length: 56 minutes

Where to watch: Prime Video

Skid Row Marathon (2019)

To see the impact running can have on a person’s life, watch this inspiring running documentary. It tells the story of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell as he uses it to rehabilitate and transform the lives of homeless and formerly incarcerated residents of LA's Skid Row. The film highlights the profound impact of the running club he starts and shows how the participants overcome their troubled pasts with distance running.

Length: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Where to watch: Peacock

The Best Running Movies For Fun

Tracktown (2016)

Co-directed by Olympic runner Alexi Pappas, Tracktown is a coming-of-age story for the fictional Plumb Marigold (played by Pappas), a young long-distance runner and Olympic hopeful. The film explores her personal journey, her connection to the running community, and her struggles with identity and purpose as she balances her passion for running with everyday life. The film’s themes of self-discovery and the pursuit of dreams make it one of the best running movies for anyone looking for pure inspiration.

Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Where to watch: Prime Video

Forrest Gump (1994)

This famous film revolves around the life of Forrest Gump, played by Tom Hanks, a man who unwittingly finds himself at the center of significant historical events, spanning from the 1950s through the 1980s. Despite his limitations, Forrest leads an extraordinary life, becoming a college football star, serving in the Vietnam War, starting a successful shrimp business, and, of course, running coast-to-coast over several years in one of the most iconic movie scenes of all time. “Run, Forrest, run!”

Length: 2 hours, 22 minutes

Where to watch: Prime Video, Paramount+

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