3 Movies All Swimmers Should Watch After a Meet

Photo Courtesy: Picryl

By Xonzy Gaddis, Swimming World College Intern.

After a long meet weekend, the only thing on a swimmer’s mind is rest. The next time you find yourself lounging on the couch for recovery, take the opportunity to jump into a new movie. Aquaman recently came out and opens viewers’ eyes to the wondrous magic of the seas, making swimmers wish they could torpedo as quickly as the aquahero does. Everyone can dream a little!

Along the lines of dreaming, several water-related movies recount how various swimmers have overcome obstacles to pursue their goals and dreams. If you find yourself in need of some down time, motivation or entertainment, be sure to add these three films to your movie list. You just might learn something along the way!

1. Unfiltered (2005)

How much do people actually know about the life of a professional swimmer outside of the pool? Probably not a lot outside of newspaper headlines. Unfiltered follows the lives of two elite, rival athletes – Michael Phelps and Ian Crocker. Phelps is known to be the greatest swimmer of all time, dominating every single race. However, he has not always won every single major race. Along this path of domination, Phelps encounters a loss in the 100 butterfly to Crocker at the 2003 World Championships, taking his record and title from him. To fight back, Phelps ends up taking gold at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, battling for his top spot all the way through.

While their swimming careers shined in the spotlight, these men had to deal with their own demons outside of the pool. After each race and practice, both swimmers must go home to live a “normal” lives outside of the comfort of the water. Unfiltered shows how both swimmers live similar lives to everyone else: Phelps attending school at the University of Michigan and Crocker playing guitar back in Austin, Texas. The movie also opens a door to the darker issues which these big-time celebrities can face. Shortly after the races in Athens, Phelps is charged with DUI, and viewers see how Crocker faces clinical depression. Both swimmers continue their learning process about the world of fame and success as they prepare for the 2005 World Championships.

2. Pride (2007)

Photo Courtesy: USA Swimming

Starring Terrence Howard as Coach Jim Ellis, the feature film Pride vividly showcases the struggles of the first African-American swim team. Beginning in Philadelphia during the early 1970s, Ellis is fresh out of college searching for a job and lands one at a recreation center. Ellis was once a great swimmer in college but faced the harsh troubles of discrimination when he was part of the team. Later at the recreation center, Ellis encounters a group of young boys and a girl interested in the sport of swimming. Positioning himself to build champions, Ellis decides to coach the group and create a team strong enough to compete in the state championship meet while trying to save the recreation center from destruction.

Along the way, the team finds themselves in conflict with racism both on deck and in the pool, as well as personal struggles outside of swimming life. This emotional flick reveals the story of the well-known team PDR (Pride, Determination and Resilience – or Philadelphia Department of Recreation) in ways that teach swimmers all around that the sport of swimming is not fair to everyone unless they work twice as hard for it. To learn more about Jim Ellis, read about him in the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

3. Swimming Upstream (2003)

Harold Fingleton, played by Geoffrey Rush, needs to see his sons dominate in any sport. Fingleton does not greatness in his son, Tony Fingleton, until he races his brother, John Fingleton, across the pool – both exhibiting true talent. Seeing the gift that both Tony and John have, Harold begins to put both to work, giving Tony more attention than he ever had. Facing issues of alcoholism and abusing the family, Harold stays strong in training the boys to become great instead of just average. Tony holds onto the determination to make his father proud, even when good is not good enough. This edge-of-your-seat feature film emotionally depicts the straining relationship between father and son on the bumpy road towards making it to the Olympics for Australian swimmer Tony Fingleton. To find out more about Fingleton’s story, read about it here: Tony Fingleton’s Victory Lap.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.


  1. Monica Anderson

    Flipper, Finding Nemo and Cast Away, hehe

    • Tammi Karn Morris

      Missy DeConti Turner I called him once after the movie, like cold called him. At the time I was very active in Ohio outreach and wanted to know how he was doing this. He was wonderful. Great conversation, great advice! I was just some young coach looking for guidance and he cane through. Thank you! This was like 10 years ago but I still use the advice!

  2. Jenny Lagers

    The Last Gold is a remarkable story. I recommend to all swimmers!

    • April Linette Howe

      Oh thanks for this suggestion!!! Will definitely get this for my daughter’s HS team to watch.

    • Jenny Lagers

      April Linette Howe, I hope they find it as inspiring as we did!

    • April Linette Howe

      Oh & I just found Touch the Wall another female swimmer centers movie!

    • Jenny Lagers

      April Linette Howe, yes, that is a good one too. I encourage all young swimmers, especially girls to watch the last Gold. That is a story that needed to be told and it is truly inspiring.

  3. April Linette Howe

    All 3 look like great flicks however they all focus on male athletes/coaches. Would be nice to have suggestions for movies featuring female athletes.