Cautions: some language, mild ethical confusion, some immodesty and brief nudity, and brief mild sensuality
Chariots of Fire is the true story of Eric Liddell, a Scottish missionary, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew, each demonstrating their determination to honor something beyond themselves, as runners in the 1924 Olympic games (albeit to theme music from the 1980s). Chariots of Fire shows what it is to run for the sake of defeating ethnic prejudice and still not find satisfaction, and what it is to run for Christ’s glory, and gain personal glory through obedience.
1981 | Hugh Hudson | 124 min Watch Trailer
Side characters refer to the French by the derogatory term “frogs”.
Language references for Chariots of Fire will be made available soon.
Mild Ethical Confusion
Chariots of Fire has two main characters, one of whom is a uniformly positively-portrayed Christian, while the other is a Jew, both ethnic and religious, who has a more mixed portrayal. Abrahams, the Jew, is “arrogant, defensive to the point of pertinacity.” He expresses frustration at the challenges which arise from England being “Christian and Anglo-Saxon.” He is also portrayed as a man with only one thing to live for: winning races. He is completely devastated, to other people’s embarrassment and disappointment, when he loses a race. Abrahams says that he has never experienced contentment, and that he doesn’t really know what he’s pursuing. He describes the upcoming Olympic race as “ten lonely seconds to justify my whole existence.” Abrahams is given a “charm” by his personal trainer, which he wears in a race.
In a note at the ending, Abrahams and a non-Jewish woman are said to have married.
Side characters, none of whom are portrayed as Christians, compare individuals to “gods” a couple of times. Someone states that a reputation as the best runner is “immortality”.
Some Immodesty and Brief Nudity
A shower-room scene includes a brief shot of rear male nudity. A man is seen getting a massage, his lower back to his thighs covered with a towel. Men are shown shirtless a few times in non-sensual ways.
A woman wears a dress with a low- and wide-cut neckline, and leans forward occasionally.
Immodesty references for Chariots of Fire will be made available soon.
Brief Mild Sensuality
An unmarried couple kisses three times, but twice their faces are hidden by her hat. A negatively-portrayed athlete is publicly approached and kissed by a woman he’d never seen before. A man and a woman who are friends briefly kiss goodbye.
A side character mentions that an acquaintance of hers “got herself preggers.”
While Chariots of Fire is accurate in the essentials, there are a few points of departure from the historical facts.
A side character says that he “worshipped” a woman. It is said that Abrahams’ father “worships this country.”
Characters frequently wish each other “good luck”. One side character is seen crossing his fingers.
Stray comments from side characters include on one hand a wonder if the Jews are God’s chosen people after all, and on the other hand a recognition that Abrahams has “a different God, and a different mountaintop” than Christianity.
Liddell tells a group of people that the power to see “the race” (which he is using as a metaphor for life) to the end, comes “from within”, and quotes a scripture passage which in the KJV says, “the kingdom of God is within you” (though most translations render the phrase “in the midst of you”). Liddell, however, makes it clear that “you run a straight race” by “commit[ting] yourself to the love of Christ.”
The film is based on the true stories of athletes, and the Olympic races are the culmination of their efforts. Abrahams views running as a life’s pursuit, while Liddell views it as a comparatively short-term opportunity to glorify God, with missionary work to China being his life’s pursuit. Liddell does confess that during his three years of training, his work has suffered and he has hurt his sister with his different priorities. A somewhat negatively-portrayed man says that sports “create character.”
Liddell’s views of the Sabbath forbid his running on Sunday (as well as prohibit sports on a more recreational level).
A negatively-portrayed man says that the French are “unprincipled.”
Abrahams takes a woman out to dinner, and there are romantic overtones despite this being their first meeting.
Most of the characters, Eric Liddell notably excepted, drink alcohol in various forms.
Several side characters smoke cigars or cigarettes.