January 24th, 1997



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Still of Peter Gilbert and Steve James in PrefontaineStill of Jared Leto, Peter Gilbert and Steve James in PrefontaineStill of Lindsay Crouse, Jared Leto and Peter Anthony Jacobs in PrefontaineStill of Jared Leto in PrefontaineStill of R. Lee Ermey, Jared Leto and Ed O'Neill in PrefontaineStill of Amy Locane and Jared Leto in Prefontaine

Based on the life of Olympic hopeful Steve Prefontaine, a long distance runner who lived in Oregon and died young

Release Year: 1997

Rating: 6.4/10 (3,042 voted)

Critic's Score: 56/100

Director: Steve James

Stars: Jared Leto, R. Lee Ermey, Ed O'Neill

Life and times of Steve Prefontaine, a young long-distance runner from Oregon who pursued the dream of Olympic gold in Munich and became one of the biggest, yet most tragic sport stars in America.

Writers: Steve James, Eugene Corr

Jared Leto - Steve Prefontaine
R. Lee Ermey - Bill Bowerman
Ed O'Neill - Bill Dellinger
Breckin Meyer - Pat Tyson
Lindsay Crouse - Elfriede Prefontaine
Amy Locane - Nancy Alleman
Laurel Holloman - Elaine Finley
Brian McGovern - Mac Wilkins
Kurtwood Smith - Curtis Cunningham
Adrian Amadeus - Finnish Teammate
Laurence Ballard - O'Hara
Ryan Brewer - 12 year old kid
Robert Burke - Young Pre
Kevin Calabro - 3rd Airport Reporter
George Catalano - Patron #1

Taglines: He beat the odds... And became a legend!

Release Date: 24 January 1997

Filming Locations: Buckaroo Tavern - 4021 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, Washington, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $8,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $311,253 (USA) (26 January 1997) (201 Screens)

Gross: $532,190 (USA) (2 February 1997)

Technical Specs


Continuity: During the football scene at the start of the movie, when Steve first puts his helmet on it has no side ear pads. When he's hit a moment later and is on the ground the pads are there.

[first lines]
Bill Bowerman: Pre turned distance running into a blood sport. You wanna know what he meant to folks around here? What was it
Bill Bowerman: kids said back then? "You just had to be there."

User Review

Inspiring And Haunting

Rating: 9/10

This is the real-life story of Oregon runner Steve Prefontaine who, despite physical imperfections, draws on inner strength of character, to set American track records, and race in the 1972 Munich Olympics. As a runner myself, I found this 1997 docudrama inspiring.

But "Prefontaine" is far more than a cinematic pep talk for runners. It's a character study of an extraordinary young man from an ordinary background, his personal relationships, and his date with destiny. It is a story that has lasting value.

The film's visuals and music effectively convey the look and sound of the early 70's. The acting is above average. Jared Leto is superb as Steve. Just as good is R. Lee Ermey as Steve's coach, the legendary Bill Bowerman, a man who found a way to make running shoes with the help of a waffle iron. Ed O'Neill, Breckin Meyer, and the lovely Amy Locane are good, in supporting roles.

Leto's acting, combined with a clever script, portrays Pre as gutsy, determined, intense, charismatic, vulnerable, at times reckless, self-absorbed, brash, and arrogant. One of my favorite segments of dialogue has Steve and his teammate Pat Tyson jogging along, and talking about the great runner Jim Ryun. Steve comments: "Forget Jim Ryun; he's done; I'm gonna be the first Steve Prefontaine", to which Pat responds: "It must be nice to want to be yourself".

Later, Pre frustratingly says to his girlfriend Nancy: "All of my life people have said to me: you're too small Pre; you're not fast enough Pre; give up your foolish dreams Steve."

Pre's story is told in another film: "Without Limits"; both now available on DVD, and both good, though I prefer this Steve James directed movie.

Often and rightly compared to other sports films, "Prefontaine" reminds me of a film one might not think of. Pre's life was similar in some ways to another notable person from an ordinary background, one who set out bravely on a personal quest, of sorts, and who, in the process, like Pre, made a powerful and lasting impression: Karen Silkwood.

Coincidentally, Pre's fate and Karen's fate were tragically similar, and only six months apart. In both "Prefontaine" and "Silkwood", the message to the rest of us ordinary mortals is: don't underestimate your life; do your best; and make each day count. You never know when "fate" may intervene.


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