- President Biden publicly stated that his favorite film of all time was the inspirational sports drama “Chariots of Fire,” which depicts the rivalry between two British track and field athletes at the 1924 Paris Olympics.
- “Chariots of Fire” was well received by American audiences and left a lasting impression. Former President Reagan and others praised the depiction of heroes who embody honor and integrity.
Even US presidents take time out of their busy schedules to watch films. In the case of the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden, he has publicly stated that his all-time favorite film is the inspirational 1981 sports drama Chariot of fire. The true story is about the rivalry between two British track and field athletes competing in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Eric Liddell is a devout Christian from Scotland who fights for the glory of God, while Harold Abrahams is a Jewish Englishman who struggles to escape prejudice. Despite their different religious views, the spirit of competition leads the two Olympic athletes on a parallel path to redemption.
Director: Hugh Hudson, Chariot of fire won four Oscars, including Best Picture. Now that the 2024 Paris Olympics are just around the corner, it only seems fitting to break down the benefits of these games Chariot of fire from President Biden’s perspective. Finally, Biden continues to publicly quote the film in stirring motivational speeches to encourage Americans across the country. As a former athlete, it makes sense that Biden would prefer such a triumphant story of perseverance.
Chariot of fire
- Release date
- May 15, 1981
- Hugh Hudson
- Nicholas Farrell, Nigel Havers, Ian Charleson, Ben Cross, Daniel Gerroll, Ian Holm
- Main genre
Why Joe Biden loves Chariots of Fire
During his vice presidential campaign in 2008, then-Senator Joe Biden endorsed Katie Couric in a CBS interview The Chariot of fire is his favorite film. When Couric asked what his favorite movie was and why, Biden replied: “Chariot of fire is, I think, probably my favorite film. But the truth is that there is a place where someone will put personal glory and honor behind principles. To me that’s a sign of real heroism if someone would do something like that.”
When pressed to elaborate on a meaningful scene from the film, Biden explained: “I think the favorite scene is when he [Eric] makes the decision and talks to him…about whether I do it? What am I doing? He really wanted to run away but decided he couldn’t.” He added: “It was, you know, that moment of decision, I think that was my favorite scene.” I also like the scene on the beach “Where he, you know, just runs.” Biden went on to quote what would become a common refrain for the presidential candidate Chariot of fire in public and used inspirational quotes from the sports film to uplift the nation.
Joe Biden’s Chariots of Fire reference.
After winning the US presidency in 2020, Biden missed no opportunity to paraphrase quotes from Chariot of fire in his rousing victory speech. In his speech, Biden declared: “Now, together on the wings of the eagle, we begin the work to which God and history have called us.” The quote is not literal, but is strongly reminiscent of the sermon by Eric Liddell (played by Ian Charleston) in the film, in which he quotes biblical texts from Isaiah 40.
Similar to Biden’s own victory speech, Liddell delivers a heartfelt public address to his fellow Americans that is full of humility, honor, integrity and hope for a better future. It’s easy to understand why Biden chose to cite the film, especially given his own athletic background as a baseball and football player in college, as well as his religious Catholic upbringing. The great thing about the inspirational quote is that it has such a universally positive message that even secular citizens can relate to it.
How Chariots of Fire relates to Joe Biden
David Puttnam was one of the producers behind it Chariot of fire. When interviewed by The Guardian During Biden’s bid for the White House, Puttnam noted striking parallels between Biden’s political marathon and Liddell’s long and winding road to success. According to Puttnam, it contradicts the “Trumpian view that the good guys come last. You can actually do the right thing and win.”
Puttnam wasn’t the only member of the crew to comment on the film’s invaluable themes. In the same interview, Stephen Fry, who plays a supporting role in the film, shares: “Beating the odds is always a great story…whether you’re running for office or achieving the goal.” This was in keeping with Biden’s values is, according to the film’s director, Hugh Hudson, “a deeply religious man.” The director added, “The film is about selflessness and self-sacrifice. These are things that he (Biden) values.”
The impact of Chariot’s of Fire goes beyond Joe Biden
Despite being a sports drama about two British track and field stars, the film was well received by American audiences. Puttnam recalls that former US President Ronald Reagan “went crazy” at the opportunity to introduce his wife Nancy and director Hugh Hudson (via The Guardian). As for American audiences, British actor Nicholas Farrell, who played Aubrey Montague in the film, commented on why the film was so well received.
Farrell says: “It’s a race where the heroes who embody these qualities actually come first. And most of all, Americans love a winner.” While Biden certainly won his presidential race in 2020, his re-election in 2024 will present the incumbent with another test that will require the same perseverance that Liddell and Abrahams demonstrated in the 2020 has shown Chariot of fire.
The importance of Chariots of Fire’s central themes
At the core, Chariot of fire covers themes of honor, integrity, moral courage, and self-sacrificing heroism by putting country first and personal success second. These themes were not lost on President Biden, whose inaugural address reflected the spirit of the film. According to Farrell, the film’s “fresh, wide-eyed lack of spin” was evident at Biden’s inauguration ceremony (via The Guardian).
Farrell addressed the central themes of the Oscar-winning film, adding how they are channeled through Biden’s address: “There’s something charming and warm and positive about people behaving with dignity and having an understanding of history and awareness “The rest of the world wants America to return to some sense of moral rectitude.”
Havers supported the outlook, noting that the abundance of U.S. flags is a powerful message. Havers was particularly impressed by Biden’s statement that America would lead “by the power of our example,” calling the quote “the best part of the whole thing.” It’s one thing to hear Biden champion the film’s themes, but it’s quite another to hear Biden’s stance echoed by key cast members who worked on the greatest sports film of all time.
Rent Chariots of Fire on Apple TV+ or Prime Video