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Race Movie Review

Reviewed by on Feb 19, 2016
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Read Kidzworld’s review of Race, the movie about track and field legend Jesse Owens who won multiple gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics dashing Adolph Hitler’s plans to put down Jews and Blacks.

By: Lynn Barker

In 1936 before WWII started, ultimate, racist mega-baddie Adolph Hitler hosted the Olympics in Berlin in the hope of showing off how great German athletes were. Well, American Jesse Owens, a Black man, won Gold in every race he entered and made lifelong friends with one of the German athletes he bested. Show ‘um how it’s done, Jesse!

Eyeing the trackEyeing the track Courtesy of Focus Features

Leaving Home for School

In 1933, athlete Jesse Owens leaves home in Cleveland for Ohio State University leaving his steady girl Ruth (Shanice Banton) and baby daughter behind while vowing to return with a wedding ring. At school, track-and-field coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis) takes notice of Jesse’s great abilities despite the fact that the young athlete is taunted and called racist names by the football team and others. Could Jesse run for America in the 1936 Olympics?

Jesse first meets his coachJesse first meets his coachCourtesy of Focus Features

Should America Compete?

Meanwhile, the U.S. Olympic Committee wonders if America should not compete in the Berlin Olympics since Adolph Hitler and his Nazi party want to cleanse the world of all Jews and Blacks. They send their committee president, the rich builder Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons) to meet with Nazi officials who swear to him they will be open to Jewish and Black athletes while secretly making their lives miserable in Germany. The final close vote is for the U.S. to compete.

Jesse is greeted by U.S. Olympic chairman BrundageJesse is greeted by U.S. Olympic chairman BrundageCourtesy of Focus Features

Ready to Go

Jesse has now won almost every U.S. sports competition he has entered. He is married to Ruth and settled down but badly wants to compete in Berlin. He is pressured by various factions to decide to stay home. Even the NAACP wants him to take a stand and not compete in “Hitler’s” Olympics. Jesse decides to challenge the Nazis on their own ground. To heck with Hitler’s racial purity B.S. 

Jesse and wife at the UniversityJesse and wife at the UniversityCourtesy of Focus Features

Multiple Wins

At the games, the Nazi’s are successful at keeping two Jewish members of the U.S. team from competing but Jesse wins gold against the former German champion long-jumper Luz Long (David Kross) who thinks of him as a worthy opponent and friend. He also wins the 100 and 200 meter races. When the Jewish members of the U.S. team can’t compete in the relay race, he helps that team win another gold!  Shamed, Hitler walks away, refusing to greet the big medal winner because he’s Black.

Jesse in the long jumpJesse in the long jumpCourtesy of Focus Features


Jesse is beloved by America, gets a ticker tape parade in NYC and goes to many dinners thrown in his honor. Kids of all races want his autograph and hope to follow in his footsteps yet, at a big event honoring him, he and his wife have to enter through the back servants’ entrance! We learn that Jesse isn’t honored properly as a hero until many years later.

Coach Synder, Jesse and teammate at Ohio StateCoach Synder, Jesse and teammate at Ohio StateCourtesy of Focus Features

Race Official Trailer


Wrapping Up

Race is an inspiring sports film that also serves as an entertaining yet thoughtful lesson on a horrible time in history in which entire groups of people were rejected, tortured and killed by Hitler’s racist Nazi party. It is shameful that Jesse Owens had to suffer racism in the U.S. and abroad and wasn’t fully recognized for his accomplishments until years later and even after his death in 1980 of lung cancer.

Jesse with future wife RuthJesse with future wife Ruth Courtesy of Focus Features

You might be bored in slower scenes showing how the American Olympic Committee argued over whether to pull out of an Olympics held in Berlin and headed by racist Nazi chief Adolph Hitler. Should we go and win or show that we don’t support Nazi values by staying away?  It’s an important decision but not that exciting to watch.

What is exciting and fun to watch is Jesse Owens’ amazing natural ability at running and jumping. The Olympic champion is played very well by 22-year-old Canadian actor Stephan James who also played John Lewis is the movie Selma. You believe and enjoy him whether he is running, jumping or courting the woman he wants to marry.

Jason and Stephan with director Stephen HopkinsJason and Stephan with director Stephen HopkinsCourtesy of Focus Features

The film is similar to the movie 42 which told the story of baseball great Jackie Robinson except the bigotry the athlete faces in Race is on a larger, international scale. It might have been more entertaining for the film to focus more on Jesse and less on Hitler’s Olympics. Scenes in which Jesse is tempted to reject his childhood sweetheart for a hot fame-chaser kind of go nowhere as well.

Running at homeRunning at homeCourtesy of Focus Features

Overall, Race is a great tribute to an amazing natural athlete who triumphed in a time when men like him were held back and ridiculed. We go 4 stars. 

Race Movie Rating:4

Race Movie PosterRace Movie PosterCourtesy of Focus Features

Race is in theaters now!

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