Chariots of Fire (instrumental)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Chariots of Fire"
One of side-A labels of US single
Single by Vangelis
from the album Chariots of Fire
B-side"Eric's Theme"
ReleasedApril 1981 (UK)
December 1981 (US)[1]
GenreElectronic, film score, symphonic
Vangelis singles chronology
"My Love"
"Chariots of Fire"
"Cosmos Theme"
Alternative release
Side A of New Zealand single
Side A of New Zealand single

"Chariots of Fire" is an instrumental theme written and recorded by Vangelis for the soundtrack of the 1981 film of the same name. It has been covered by numerous performers and used for various television programs and sporting events.


On the film's soundtrack album, the piece is called "Titles" because of its use in the movie's opening titles sequence, but it widely became known as "Chariots of Fire".

When the single debuted at #94 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the week ending 12 December 1981, it was known as "Titles". Seven weeks later, when it moved to #68 on the Hot 100 chart dated 30 January 1982, the single was listed as "Chariots of Fire"; it stayed with that name for the remainder of its chart run. The new name made it easier for both listeners and radio DJs to identify the piece.

According to AllMusic, the track was listed as "Chariots of Fire - Titles" on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and simply as "Chariots of Fire" on the Adult Contemporary chart.[2] A 1989 CD single release also gave the name of the piece as "Chariots of Fire".[3]

Allegations of plagiarism[edit]

Vangelis was accused of plagiarising "Chariots of Fire" from a piece by fellow Greek composer Stavros Logaridis called "City of Violets". Vangelis won in court by persuading the judge that he had had no opportunity to hear Logaridis' piece before he composed "Chariots of Fire" and by demonstrating to the judge's satisfaction that the key musical sequence described as "the turn" (which consisted of the four notes F-G-A-G) – the only sequence where the judge noted a clear similarity between the two compositions – was already common in music, and had previously been used by Vangelis in the piece "Wake Up" by Aphrodite's Child that predated "City of Violets".[4]

Chart history[edit]

"Chariots of Fire" stayed for one week at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1982, after climbing steadily for five months (it made #1 in its 22nd[5] week on the chart), and to date remains the only piece by a Greek artist to top the U.S. charts.[6]

The single spent 64 weeks on the Australian charts, although it peaked at only #21. In Japan, "Chariots of Fire" was the best-selling single of 1981.[7] The track proved moderately successful in the UK, where it reached #12, but its parent album peaked at #5 and spent 107 weeks on the album chart.

The single reached #3 (2012), #18 (2014), and #16 (2015) on the Billboard Classical Digital Songs chart.[8]

Music video[edit]

The music video for "Chariots of Fire" shows Vangelis playing a piano and percussion instruments in a concert hall, Vangelis playing a synthesizer in a recording studio, and scenes from the film.[24]

Cover versions[edit]

Many cover versions of "Chariots of Fire" have been recorded in all styles by all manner of artists, including the orchestral sounds of John Williams and the Boston Pops, the electric guitars of The Shadows, the soft piano of Richard Clayderman, the pan flute of Zamfir, and the jazz of The Bad Plus.

Vocal recordings of "Chariots of Fire" have been made by Melissa Manchester, Jane Olivor, Mireille Mathieu, Demis Roussos, and others, all with the lyrics from "Race to the End" provided by Jon Anderson.[25][26][27]

Appearances in other media[edit]

In light of its original use, the piece is often used for comedic effect in numerous slow-motion sequences and/or parodies of the sports genre in various films, television episodes, and commercials.

It was played when Apple Inc.'s co-founder and chairman Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh computer on 24 January 1984 at a technology demonstration event, and at another press conference celebrating the 100-day anniversary of the release of the first Macintosh.[28]


Owing both to its sweeping tune and the content of the movie in which it first appeared, "Chariots of Fire" has become widely associated with the Olympic Games. The BBC used the piece as the theme music for its coverage of the 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles and also the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. It was also used as a theme for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo,[29] and it was played prior to the start of the men's 100m race final at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

It became prominent leading up to and during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Runners in a test event at Olympic Park, whose route ended at the grand opening of London's Olympic Stadium, were greeted by the piece as they finished their route into the new stadium.[30] The piece was also used to fanfare the carriers of the Olympic flame on parts of its route through the UK. The piece, and remixes of it, was also used during each medal ceremony of the games.[31][32]

The piece was also performed by the London Symphony Orchestra during the opening ceremony of the games, as part of a skit starring comedian Rowan Atkinson reprising his role as Mr. Bean, seen playing a repeated note on a synthesizer whilst using a cellphone, and later an umbrella to play the note while trying to grab a tissue to blow his nose, and then falling into a daydream parodying the opening "beach run" scene from the Chariots of Fire film itself.[33]


Jack Black references the song while in a record shop in the movie The Holiday (2006).

It was played in the 1983 films National Lampoon's Vacation and Mr. Mom, the 2003 films Bruce Almighty and Old School, the 2002 film The Master of Disguise, the 2000 film The Grinch, the 2007 film Are We Done Yet?, the 2009 film Old Dogs, the 2015 film Vacation, the 2020 film We Can Be Heroes, the 2014 film Mrs. Brown's Boys D'Movie, the 2006 film The Holiday, the 1993 film My Life, the 1997 film Good Burger, the 1999 TV special Robbie the Reindeer, and the 2005 films Madagascar and Kicking & Screaming.

The song plays over the opening credits of the hit 1982 debut episode of the ABC crime drama Matt Houston.

In the 2012 documentary The Falklands' Most Daring Raid, Aircraft Electronics Officer Hugh Prior stated that upon the successful completion of Operation Black Buck 1, he "played it at full blast" in the cockpit of his Avro Vulcan.

The song appears in the soundtrack of Gran Turismo 7, playing just before the entrance to the World GT Series championship races, also song appears in the soundtrack of Other Games from Kinect Sports and Hyper Olympic,.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Strong, Martin Charles (1995). The Great Rock Discography. Canongate Press. p. 865. ISBN 9780862415419.
  2. ^ "Chariots of Fire > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". allmusic. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  3. ^ "Chariots of Fire [Single] > Overview". allmusic. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  4. ^ "EMI Music v. Papathanasiou [1993] E.M.L.R. 306" (PDF). High Court, Chancery Division. 18 February 1987. Retrieved 27 November 2012.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "'Chariots Of Fire': Vangelis' Chart-Topping Film Score". 17 April 2021.
  6. ^ "Vangelis interview to Keyboard magazine, December 1992". 17 November 2000. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  7. ^ "BBC Top of the Pops 2, January 1982". Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  8. ^ "Vangelis chart results". Billboard Biz. Billboard. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  9. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). Sydney: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  10. ^ "Vangelis – Titles From Chariots Of Fire" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  11. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 36, No. 16, May 29, 1982". CollectionsCanada. Archived from the original on 19 October 2012. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
  12. ^ Irish Charts Archives Archived 2 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine (Retrieved 4 August 2010)
  13. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Vangelis" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  14. ^ "Vangelis – Titles From Chariots Of Fire". Top 40 Singles.
  15. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  16. ^ UK Singles Chart Official Charts Company (Retrieved 4 August 2010)
  17. ^ a b "Vangelis > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". AllMusicGuide. Retrieved 4 August 2010. [dead link]
  18. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles, May 8, 1982". Archived from the original on 3 June 2015. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  19. ^ "National Top 100 Singles for 1982". Kent Music Report. 3 January 1983. Retrieved 22 January 2023 – via Imgur.
  20. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 37, No. 19, December 25 1982". Library and Archives Canada. Government of Canada. Archived from the original on 11 August 2016. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  21. ^ Top Selling Singles of 1982 | The Official New Zealand Music Chart, accessed 2 September 2020
  22. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 chart for 1982, accessed 2 September 2020
  23. ^ "Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 25, 1982". Archived from the original on 11 July 2018. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  24. ^ "Vangelis - Chariots of Fire". YouTube. Vevo. 3 June 2017. Retrieved 11 December 2022.
  25. ^ "Lyrics of Music by Vangelis". Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  26. ^ "Dennis Lodewijks' Elsewhere". 12 April 2007. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  27. ^ "Dennis Lodewijks' Elsewhere". 2 April 2005. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  28. ^ The Lost 1984 Video: young Steve Jobs introduces the Macintosh on YouTube
  29. ^ "Dennis Lodewijks' Elsewhere". Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  30. ^ "London 2012: Olympic Park Runners Finish Race". BBC News. 31 March 2012.
  31. ^ "Musicians Set to Fanfare the Flame" Archived 28 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph. 3 April 2012.
  32. ^ Bucholtz, Andrew (2 August 2012). "Greece is struggling, but Vangelis is having a good Olympics thanks to "Chariots of Fire"". Yahoo! Sports Canada. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  33. ^ "Mr. Bean's 'Chariots Of Fire' Skit At 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony". International Business Times. 27 July 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2012.

External links[edit]