Movie Screen: Chariots Of Fire turns forty

“Chariots Of Fire” was released on March 30, 1981.  It is a period piece, based on the 1924 UK olympic team.  It is not historically accurate, many details changed both for plot and other reasons (e.g. two 1924 athletes still alive in 1980 did not want their names mentioned in the movie) so the film makers chose to make it a film about overcoming adversity, rather than a historical piece.  And while it contains too much religious mumbo jumbo, the characters remain likable and relatable.

The film was nominated for seven oscars, winning four including best picture.  The filmmakers intentionally sought out unknowns for the four key roles.  They wanted to find actors in their early 20s who could look the part of olympic athletes, and trained them for months in preparation for the movie.  It certainly shows, as it is (arguably) one of the best sports movies ever made.

“Chariots” is well remembered for its soundtrack.  Normally, period pieces are scored by orchestras playing classical-styled music.  But the producers selected electronic musician Vangelis (real name: Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou) to score the film.  Produced mostly with synthesizers, it is highly anachronistic, but the stirring melodies of the theme song (named “Titles”) among many other parts of the film are memorable to this day.  Even people who don’t know the film know the song.  And who isn’t moved by the opening scene of the sprinters running across the sand?

It’s definitely one of my favourite films.

One interesting side note for “Chariots” was one of its producers: Dodi Fayed, the boyfriend of Diana Spencer the night her car crashed in a Paris tunnel, pursued by paparazzi.  Fayed produced several successful films including “Hook”, “F/X” and “The Scarlet Letter”, but “Chariots” was his pet project above all others.  Fayed was also first cousin to Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist murdered by assassins working for the Saudi regime.

Addendum on Vangelis: His other major release of 1981 was the second Jon And Vangelis album, “The Friends Of Mr. Cairo”.  The title track is one of the few twelve minute songs that was played regularly on the radio.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    As a huge fan of Yes from The Yes Album to Relayer, I know Jon Anderson. The Friends of Mr Cairo is the best work he did after that, IMO. And Vangelis did the music for Blade Runner a bit later. Brilliant, beautiful music.