10 gold medal movies to watch instead of the Olympics

Take a breather from the Games and watch these must-see films

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What a splendid summer of sport we’re enjoying. So many wonderful memories such as… No, hang on. If you’re not interested in Rio 2016 you’ll be tempted to give up reading this right now.

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I’m told there are such people and, frankly, I feel sorry for them because I think they are missing something that is somehow both trivial and important.

But, never mind. I have words of cheer for the non-sporty. I know it’s been tough for you – everywhere you look sweaty athletes dominating the TV screen, as for instance at Euro 2016 when plucky little England (population 53 million) came very close to achieving a draw against the footballing might of Iceland (population 323,000).

What a thrill that was.

And then we had loads of tennis – the French Open and, gloriously, Wimbledon with Andy Murray winning again! – England beating Australia at rugby and playing Sri Lanka and Pakistan at cricket…

At which point non-sports lovers will be crying, “Enough already!”

But no, for now we come to the mother lode — the Olympic Games (I had hoped without the Russians) in Rio. And that goes on for two weeks.

So what to watch while Usain Bolt and company are doing their stuff?

I know there will be films you’ve always meant to see, films you don’t even dare admit you haven’t… Well, here follows a list of just such movies. And if you dislike movies as well as sport then, in the words of Butch Cassidy, “I can’t help you, Sundance.”


 1. Die Hard

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Saturday 10:45pm Film4


In the Reaganite 80s, you had the militaristic Rambo, and John McClane, Bruce Willis’s boozy, sarky New York cop, who flies to LA to meet his estranged wife at work and has to outwit Alan Rickman’s goons. Without shoes or a shirt. Witty, thrilling, inventive, and still a high-water mark of its decade.

Must see: Bruce, in a vest, unarmed, about to die… then the jingle bells


 2. The Third Man

Sunday 1.00pm BBC2


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The yardstick by which all other British thrillers should be measured. Graham Greene’s story about Joseph Cotten’s search for his missing friend (Orson Welles’s Harry Lime) in a vivid, late 1940s war-torn Vienna is packed with unforgettable moments. Anton Karas’s zither music is up there with the best of musical scores. Everything blends to near perfection.

Must see: Orson Welles, Switzerland and a cuckoo clock – what a combination!


 3. Ghost

Sunday 11.20pm C4


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Everybody has seen the iconic Unchained Melody potter’s wheel scene with shirtless Patrick Swayze assisting Demi Moore in sensual clay manipulation – and its incessant parodies – but who’s seen the whole 1990 film? A psychic romance, it depicts an enviably handsome New York couple torn apart by death, and their attempts to communicate through the ether.

Must see: Yes, yes, the potter’s wheel scene… but watch it in context


 4. The Shawshank Redemption

ITV Player

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Some say this is the finest film ever – always a wild claim, though it is very good. Tim Robbins, a banker, is sentenced to life at the Shawshank State penitentiary for murdering his wife, although he pleads innocence. How he copes with conditions there, and especially his relationship with fellow lifer Morgan Freeman, make for gripping viewing.

Must see: The best use of Rita Hayworth in a film not starring Rita Hayworth


 5. The Wizard of Oz

Monday 6.55pm TCM

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Still perhaps the best of family films, a glorious fantasy set in the Land of Oz where young Judy Garland is magically transported. There she finds the cowardly lion, the tin man, the scarecrow, munchkins, witches, adventure and peril. All this and Over the Rainbow. Sheer bliss for everyone.

Must see: Young Dorothy emerging from her black and white house into a Technicolor Munchkinland


 6. The Jungle Book

Monday 8.00pm Sky Disney


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Anyone raised on laser-etched Pixar computer animation should see how it was done half a century ago, with Disney’s artists at a zenith 
of funky, feathery draftsmanship. With unforgettable show tunes by the Sherman brothers and Terry Gilkyson, and a voice cast to swoon over, this animal cracker never ages.

Must see: The Bare Necessities, as jazzily performed by the incomparable Phil Harris


 7. Four Weddings and a Funeral

Wednesday 5.55pm Sky Comedy

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Whenever a British comedy strains for international box office by parodying what the Americans think of us, they do so in the matrimonial shadow of the effortlessly droll Four Weddings. Writer Richard Curtis’s evergreen portmanteau of happy (and
unhappy) events minted
Hugh Grant’s stuttering
charm and made a US
actress contractual for
all future attempts.

Must see: Hugh Grant’s
opening symphony of f-words


 8. Casablanca

iTunes


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A timeless Second World War classic with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as star-crossed lovers reunited in North Africa and more quotable lines than any other movie. 
This is romantic adventure at its very best. Crackling sexual electricity between the two stars and great support from the likes of
 Claude Rains.

Must see: Ingrid Bergman’s entrance to
 Rick’s Café and that song request to pianist Sam


 9. Rear Window

Netflix


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Whip-smart dialogue, the biggest set ever built at Paramount at that time, and Alfred Hitchcock having the voyeuristic time of his life. This superannuated chamber piece is a Technicolor jewel in Hitch’s canon. The immobilised James Stewart spies on his neighbours and ignores Grace Kelly’s overtures in favour of solving a murder he thinks he’s seen. Pure class.

Must see: You actually get to stare through other people’s windows…


 10. Schindler’s List

Amazon Prime

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Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece about theHolocaust, based on the life of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a Germanwho saved the lives of more than a thousand Jews by employing them in his factories.It’s gruelling and deeply moving with a standout performance by
Ralph Fiennes as aNazi SS officer.

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Must see: The little girlin the red coat in a colourless world