Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Chariots of Fire (1981)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Chariots of Fire (1981, UK)

In Hugh Hudson's Best Picture-winning British drama:

  • the opening sequence -- the eulogizing words of elderly Lord Andrew Lindsay (Nigel Havers), a former Cambridge student runner from many decades earlier who ran with his Jewish classmate Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), and was now speaking in London in 1978: ("Let us praise famous men and our fathers that begat us. All these men were honoured in their generations and were a glory in their days. We are here today to give thanks for the life of Harold Abrahams. To honour the legend. Now there are just two of us - young Aubrey Montague and myself - who can close our eyes and remember those few young men with hope in our hearts and wings on our heels")
  • the credits sequence followed - a cross-fading shot into a lyrical, often-imitated tracking shot of Olympic runners in slow-motion (first viewing their legs) in the surf on the edge of a beach preparing for the 1924 Summer Olympics competition in Paris - underscored by Vangelis' score, to introduce the unidentified main characters
  • the scene of Gilbert and Sullivan soprano singer Sybil Gordon (Alice Krige) speaking with Harold Abrahams about the absurdity of how upset he was for losing in a race, and was even considering quitting running altogether: (Sybil: "You were marvelous. He was more marvelous, that's all....Well, if you can't take a beating, perhaps it's for the best." Harold: "I don't run to take beatings, I run to win. If I can't win, I won't run"); she concluded: "If you don't run, you can't win"
  • devout, Scottish evangelical Christian Eric Liddell's (Ian Charleson) pre-race sermon at the Church of Scotland in Paris, as a divinity student quoting from Isaiah 40 - delivered on what would have been race day for him, although his religious convictions prohibited him from participating: ("Behold, the nations are as a drop in the bucket and are counted as the small dust in the balance. All nations before him are as nothing. They are counted to him less than nothing - and vanity. He bringeth the princes to nothing. He maketh the judges of the Earth as a vanity. Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard that the everlasting God, the Lord, the creator of the ends of the Earth fainteth not, neither is weary?...He giveth power to the faint. And to them that have no strength, he increaseth might. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint")
Eric Liddell's Finale Race
  • the finale race with the crowds cheering and wildly applauding Eric Liddell who was running in the lengthy 400 metre finals held on a Thursday, after his teammate Lord Andrew Lindsay yielded his place to Liddell; the ultimate outcome was that Liddell came in first when he broke through the race tape and won the gold medal, defeating his favored American competitors; he was heard in ecstatic voice-over during the race speaking to Jenny (Cheryl Campbell), his devout sister: ("I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure")

Eulogy By Lord Lindsay in 1978

Iconic Credits Sequence

Sybil With Harold

Eric's Pre-Race Sermon


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z