These Stars Deserve a Gold Medal for Their Onscreen Portrayals of Athletes

Can't wait for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing? Celebrate the games by looking back at stars' winning portrayals of athletes.

By Elyse Dupre Jan 30, 2022 3:00 PMTags
Watch: What Margot Robbie Learned From "I, Tonya"

Being an Olympian requires training, talent, focus and determination—and those same skills are required of the actors looking to portray their stories onscreen.

Countless films have told sports stars' stories over the years—some coming out victorious and some not getting the glory. 

With the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics just days away, many movie buffs are getting in the spirit by re-watching a few of their favorites. Want to get in on the action? The games begin with the opening ceremony on Friday, Feb. 4 and end with the closing ceremony on Sunday, Feb 20. So, there's still plenty of time to binge-watch the classics—just make sure to pace yourself. 

Luckily, E! News is here to help and coach you through the movie-selection process. Scroll on to see a list of celebrities who totally deserve a gold medal for their portrayals of Olympic greats. Then, pop some popcorn, grab your teammates and settle in.

The Best Movies & TV Shows To Get You In the Spirit For the Olympics

And remember, it's a movie marathon, not a sprint.

Emma Stone as Billie Jean King in The Battle of the Sexes

Emma Stone aced her portrayal of Billie Jean King in the 2013 movie The Battle of the Sexes. While the film didn't center on the Olympics—but rather the tennis champion's winning match against Bobby Riggs in 1973—King did coach the gold medal-winning 1996 and 2000 women's tennis teams and received the International Olympic Committee Women & Sport World Trophy in 2002. Stone also went for the gold and was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in 2018.

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I, Tonya

In 1991, Tonya Harding made history as the first American woman to land a triple axel. She went on to place fourth at the 1992 Olympic Games. But two years later, everything changed and her name became associated with one of the biggest scandals—and questions—in sports history: Why?!?

Just ahead of the Winter Games in 1994, fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed in the knee by Shane Stant. Harding's bodyguard Shawn Eckardt, her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and Stant's uncle Derrick Smith were co-conspirators in the attack. Both Kerrigan and Harding went on to compete in the 1994 Olympics, with Kerrigan winning the silver medal and Harding coming in eighth place. And though Harding denied any involvement in the attack, she pleaded guilty to hindering the prosecution and was banned from the sport. 

Margot Robbie captured the entire wild stretch in the 2017 film I, Tonya and was rewarded with Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations for her efforts.

Will Smith as Muhammad Ali in Ali

Will Smith's performance in the 2001 movie Ali was a total knockout, with the actor getting nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award and winning a BET and MTV Movie & TV Award for his portrayal of three-time world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Among the icon's many victories in and outside the ring: Winning the gold medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome when he was just 18.

Taron Egerton as Michael Edwards in Eddie the Eagle

In the 2015 film Eddie the Eagle, Taron Egerton played Michael "Eddie the Eagle" Edwards, who competed at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary and became the first British ski jumper since 1928 to participate in the Games. While Edwards finished last in both of his events, he quickly became a fan favorite. And even though the movie didn't get the most raving reviews, Egerton still gave a winning performance in Edwards' eyes.

"Taron has done a very, very good job," he told the BBC in 2015. "I sat down and chatted to him for an afternoon at Pinewood Studios back in March and it's amazing—he's got my mannerisms and everything else just right. It's uncanny how much he looks like me—he's wearing the glasses and got the hair style and mustache."

Stephan James as Jesse Owens in Race

The 2016 movie Race tells the story of Jesse Owens and his journey to and at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where the legendary track and field star won four gold medals. To prepare for the role, Stephan James spoke with Owens' daughters and spent two months training at Georgia Tech with the school's coaches. According to Time, he worked on general conditioning, improvement of speed and the emulation of Owens' motions. As the actor told the magazine, "I knew I had my work cut out for me when I was told I was going to be playing the fastest man on the planet."

The Stars of Chariots of Fire

Alexa, play "Chariots of Fire." While it's almost impossible to think of the 1981 movie without humming the main song, the film was so much more than its soundtrack. The picture is about the lives of two British track stars—Jewish Englishman Harold Abrahams and Christian Scotsman Eric Liddell—who both won gold medals at the 1924 Olympics. Ian Charleson and Ben Cross played Abrahams and Liddell, respectively leading the movie to four Oscar wins, including Best Picture.

Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz in Foxcatcher

This movie really was a team effort with Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell all bringing their A-game. In the 2014 movie, the wealthy John du Pont (Carell) invites Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Tatum) to move to his estate, form a team and train for the 1988 Olympics. Mark is later joined by his brother and fellow gold medal winner Dave Schultz (Ruffalo) and let's just say there's a twist, with much of the focus on the events that led to John killing Dave. 

The picture racked up the nominations, securing multiple Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG Award nods.

Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks in Miracle

In the 2004 movie Miracle, Kurt Russell played Herb Brooks, the hockey-player-turned-coach who led the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to their monumental victory against the Soviet Union. And the athletes weren't the only ones to walk away with the glory. The film won Best Sports Movie at the 2004 ESPY Awards.

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family).

(This story was originally published July 4, 2021 at 5:00 p.m.)

Check out E! News' 2022 Beijing Olympics homepage for news, photos and more.