Chariots of Fire is a 1981 British movie, directed by Hugh Hudson and starring Ben Cross as Harold Abrahams and Ian Charleson as Eric Liddell. The movie is based on the true story of two British athletes who won gold medals at the 1924 Olympic Games. Harold Abrahams is a Jewish athlete who is inspired to sporting greatness partly in an attempt to overcome prejudice against his people. The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, including Best Picture.
The phrase "chariot of fire' originates in the Biblical Second Book of Kings, in the which the prophet Elijah is carried up to Heaven in a fiery chariot. It was later used in the poem "Jerusalem" by William Blake, adapted into a Christian hymn which plays at the end of the movie.
Chariots of Fire tells the fact-based story of two athletes who competed for Great Britain in the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris; an English Jew named Harold Abrahams and a devout Scottish Christian named Eric Liddell.
Harold Abrahams begins his studies at the University of Cambridge in 1919. Some of the university's staff have antisemitic attitudes but Abrahams enjoys taking part in the musical events of the Gilbert and Sullivan, where he meets his girlfriend Sybil, as well as in sporting activities. Abrahams becomes the first person in the history of the university to complete the Trinity Great Court Run, running the 341 meters around the Great Courtyard of Trinity College in the forty-three seconds that it takes the clock to strike twelve. He goes on to win various national running competitions.
When Abrahams first races against Eric Liddell, Liddell defeats him. Against the wishes of university staff, who consider it to be ungentlemanly conduct which is unbecoming of an amateur sportsman, Abrahams accepts the offer of help from professional coach Sam Mussabini.
After years of training, both Abrahams and Liddell qualify for the 1924 Olympic Games. In the 200 meters race, Abrahams is badly defeated by an American competitor. His only chance of receiving a medal is by competing in the 100 meters race. Abrahams takes the gold medal in that event, to the delight of his coach Sam Mussabini. Abrahams is happy that after his olympic success he can now get on with his life and spend more time with his girlfriend Sybil, whom he had neglected in order to pursue his dreams of athletic achievement.
Liddell, who had refused to run his first race because it was on a Sunday, takes gold in the 400 meters race and the British team return home triumphant.
- ↑ The clock at Trinity College chimes twenty-four times at twelve o'clock.