As we head into the shorter, darker days of fall and winter, films can do more than entertain. We’ve chosen some of our favorite new inspirational running movies as well as ones that highlight the outdoors to help bring some brightness to the months ahead. From creative storytelling (with animation!) to beautiful footage of amazing athletic endeavors (Nolan’s 14!), to the story of a rebound like no other (Dave Mackey!), to educational presentations about important issues (public lands! and climate change!), these artistically created films will leave you inspired in running and in life.
ON Production, 2020
This 4-ish minute, mixed-media film made by ON Running combines beautiful animation with stunning video footage to creatively tell the story of runners Katie Schide and Germain Grangier running across the Alps. The two set out to from Cervinia, Italy to run and mountaineer across the Haute Route and up the 13,661-foot Breithorn on the border of Italy and Switzerland, and France’s 15,774-foot Mont Blanc. Sure, there’s product placement — “for they had on their feet magic shoes…” says the narrator of the duo’s footwear — but the effect of this short piece is a great inspirational running movie on many levels.
Says the pair about their endeavor, which took place in July of 2020 over 43 hours:
“The highlight was definitely sunrise on Mont Blanc. It was one of those moments that’s hard to describe. Suddenly the clouds cleared and the light was just incredible.”
For the full interview, click here.
Nine-Mind Asylum, 2019
In just under six minutes, this beautiful short about Joe Grant running Nolan’s 14 transcends running. Grant may have tackled this feat in the summer of 2018, and the film was released by sponsor Black Diamond in 2019, but Grant’s existential self-reflection as the narrator over the stunning footage of his extreme endeavor keeps this one prescient.
Grant set out to tackle Nolan’s 14 — 14 summits over 14,000 feet in Colorado’s Sawatch Range — in one shot, unsupported.
“There’s this interaction that happens when I’m in a completely focused state, pushing on that edge, and I’m in this place that I find immensely compelling,” says Grant in the film.
He asks himself existential questions: “Am I here for just the time? Or do I really have pure intent?”
We follow him en route to his Fastest Known Time of 49 hours and 38 minutes. For an interview with Grant following the effort, click here.
Leadman: The Dave Mackey Story
Nine-Mind Asylum and Billy Yang Films, 2019
This 20-some-minute film tells the incredibly moving story of ultrarunner Dave Mackey, who suffered a severe leg injury during a horrific trail running accident in May of 2015. As we reported here, Mackey suffered multiple surgeries over the year-and-a-half that followed, but made the decision to have his leg amputated in November of 2016. Heroically and somewhat miraculously, Mackey rebounded by taking on the 2018 Leadman Series: the Leadville Trail Marathon, Silver Rush 50-mile Mountain Bike Race, Leadville 10K, Leadville 100-Mile Mountain Bike Race, and Leadville 100-Mile Run.
The film captures incredible moments with Mackey, including footage from the morning of his surgery. “What’s going through my head is the loss of something. Something pretty important,” says Mackey.
But as runner Bob Africa says on camera following the surgery of his friend, “He’s more whole, for sure, and he’s gonna do a lot of good for a lot of people.”
Says Mackey’s mom: “What I would hope is that he continues to show people that they can do things. To do the best with what they have.”
Through this film, and through all the incredible feats Mackey has accomplished after losing his leg, the runner has done just that.
For more about Dave Mackey’s incredible story, click here.
Patagonia Films, 2020
In this feature-length film (98 minutes) produced by Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard and Robert Redford, beautiful scenics join poignant interviews on this deep dive on the political issue of public lands. It’s an interesting, thought-provoking, educational piece, and a timely wilderness movie that demands to be watched.
“The vast majority of public lands aren’t in national parks. They’re national forests, grasslands, wildlife refugees…There are 640 million acres owned by the American people,” explains Hal Herring, public lands issues journalist who’s a major player in the film.
“It’s as if there were oil and gas under on Notre Dame, and somebody chose to make money off that oil and gas rather than preserve that cathedral,” Herring continues. “There are battles raging all over the country wherever there is public land.”
Public Trust is enlightening, no matter a person’s views on the subject.
As Angelo Baca, Navajo/Hopi filmmaker reminds us in the film, “This is really a story about coming together and reconciling differences for the sake of the landscape and the people.”
Protect Our Winters, 2020
This film is the manifesto of Protect Our Winters founder and professional backcountry snowboarder, Jeremy Jones. (Several top trail runners are POW ambassadors.)
“It became clear to me that I live in a bubble, with like-minded people, and that there is a large population of this country that have different views when it comes to climate,” says Jones in the film. He points out “purple states” that are equally divided between red and blue votes, like Nevada, where he travels to in the film to speak with fellow outdoorspeople who have different views on climate.
“The environment wasn’t always a divisive issue,” says Jones. “At the end of the day, what we’re fighting for is clean air, and clean water and a sustainable future for our kids. So why is that so polarizing? How did we get there?”
Jones implores people to vote, and reminds us: “Patriotism is about coming together as a nation and working hard to solve these key issues.”