Hugh Hudson directs this nostalgic tribute to Cambridge University athletes Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, recounting the events of the 1924 Olympics. Abrahams (Ben Cross) is a Jew who experiences racial prejudice at Cambridge, while Liddell (Ian Charleson) is a Scot who runs for the glory of God. The two become rivals on the track, and both are chosen to represent Britain at the Paris Olympics. However, a problem arises when Lidell learns that he is expected to compete on the Sabbath; something that goes directly against his religious beliefs. The film won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score and Best Costume Design, and received a further three nominations.
The come-from-behind winner of the 1981 Oscar for best picture, Chariots of Fire
either strikes you as either a cold exercise in mechanical manipulation or as a tale of true determination and inspiration. The heroes are an unlikely pair of young athletes who ran for Great Britain in the 1924 Paris Olympics: devout Protestant Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a divinity student whose running makes him feel closer to God, and Jewish Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), a highly competitive Cambridge student who has to surmount the institutional hurdles of class prejudice and anti-Semitism. There's delicious support from Ian Holm (as Abrahams's coach) and John Gielgud and Lindsay Anderson as a couple of Cambridge fogies. Vangelis's soaring synthesized score, which seemed to be everywhere in the early 1980s, also won an Oscar. Chariots of Fire
was the debut film of British television commercial director Hugh Hudson (Greystoke
) and was produced by David Puttnam. --Jim Emerson