Cool Runnings

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Cool Runnings
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJon Turteltaub
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byLynn Siefert
Michael Ritchie
Music byHans Zimmer
CinematographyPhedon Papamichael
Edited byBruce Green
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • October 1, 1993 (1993-10-01)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$17 million
Box office$154.9 million

Cool Runnings is a 1993 American comedy sports film directed by Jon Turteltaub and starring Leon Robinson, Doug E. Doug, Rawle D. Lewis, Malik Yoba, and John Candy. The film was released in the United States on October 1, 1993. It was Candy's last film to be released during his lifetime. It is loosely based on the true story of the Jamaica national bobsleigh team's debut in competition during the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.[1][2] The film received generally positive reviews. The film's soundtrack also became popular with Jimmy Cliff's cover of "I Can See Clearly Now" reaching the top 40 as a single in nations such as the United States, Canada, France, and the UK.


In November 1987, Jamaican sprinter Derice Bannock, a top 100m runner and popular town figure, trains one morning with locals for the upcoming Olympic Trial for the 1988 Summer Olympics, which has been a long-time dream of his. He later meets his best friend, Sanka Coffie, a six-time pushcart champion, at the Annual Pushcart Derby, where Sanka hopes to win his record seventh race. During the race, Sanka smart-talks past the others and wins, but is then pushed off the track by a nearby racer and crashes. Later at the Olympic Trial, Derice fails to qualify when a fellow younger runner trips and falls, taking Derice and another runner - who is bald and more muscular - down with him.

While complaining to the President of the Jamaican Olympic Committee, Mr. Barrington Coolidge, and urging him to allow a restart of the race, Derice notices a picture on the wall of Coolidge's office: it is his own father Ben Bannock, who was also a sprinter, standing next to a gold-medal-wearing Caucasian man. Asking Coolidge who the other man in the picture is, he learns that he is Irv Blitzer, an old Olympian friend of Ben who had a plan to recruit sprinters to create a Jamaican bobsled team years ago, and was a two-time American bobsled Gold Medalist at the 1968 Winter Olympics. He finished first in two events again during the 1972 Winter Olympics but was disqualified from the latter for cheating and retired in disgrace to Jamaica, where he leads an impoverished life as a bookie. Intrigued at the idea of getting to the Olympics via bobsledding for Jamaica, Derice leaves Coolidge's office to seek out Blitzer.

Before meeting with Blitzer, Derice first seeks out Sanka to get him to join his bobsled team, successfully convincing Sanka after he mentions possible fame on a Wheaties box. They both then go to seek out Blitzer at a nearby billiards club. Blitzer is initially hostile and refuses to speak to them; after repeated attempts, Derice finally manages to tell him that he's Ben Bannocks' son and reminds him of his former Olympic dreams, which eventually convinces Blitzer. Hosting a recruitment meeting shortly after, Irv, Derice, and Sanka are disappointed when all the recruits leave after a presentation; however at the end, two familiar men show up - the other runners who fell alongside Derice in the earlier Olympic qualifying race. Both men agree to join the team, although the bald and muscular one, with the unlikely name of Yul Brenner, is still upset over being tripped by the younger runner, Junior Bevil.

Over the next several weeks, the four train under Blitzer's guidance, using a wheeled bobsled that they ride down on hillsides; overtime, they improve both their speed and sled coordination. Blitzer eventually tries to talk to Mr. Coolidge to fund them the $20,000 needed to go to the Olympics, but Mr. Coolidge refuses as he thinks the team's inexperience with competing in a winter sport will bring shame to Jamaica. Undeterred, the four all try to find various ways to earn money to get in the Olympics, but no sponsor takes the idea seriously and their various fundraisers such as busking and a kissing booth all fail. Junior eventually gets the money by selling his car, and the team heads off to Canada.

In Calgary, Blitzer officially registers the team and manages to acquire a practice sled from an old bobsledding teammate Roger, as the Jamaicans have never been in an actual bobsled nor practiced on ice. In the following weeks, they observe ice skaters and hockey players as they practice walking on ice, and workout intensely to gain strength and cold endurance. Derice is particularly inspired by the Swiss team's technique and watches their practice runs. In their own practice runs, with their unadorned practice sled, the Jamaicans initially do poorly and are looked down upon by other countries; the East German team is particularly annoyed with them, and their arrogant leader, Josef Grool, tells them to go home, resulting in a bar fight. At the hotel room, Derice and Blitzer reprimand Sanka, Yul, and Junior for their behavior, and Blitzer reminds Sanka, Yul, and Junior what is at stake for the team if they do not start listening to him and Derice. The team resolves to view the contest more seriously, continuing to train and improve their technique, while Yul and Junior begin showing mutual respect for one another over their respective dreams and struggles.

The team successfully qualifies for the finals, but are subsequently disqualified due to a technicality which the Olympic committee trotted out as retribution for Blitzer's prior cheating scandal. Frustrated, Blitzer butts in on the committee meeting and confronts his former coach from the 1972 Olympic Winter Games, Kurt Hemphill, now a primary judge of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games. He takes responsibility for embarrassing his country with the scandal and implores the committee to punish him for his mistake, but not punish the Jamaican team, as they had nothing to do with his cheating scandal. Blitzer reminds them that the Jamaicans deserve to represent their country by competing in the Winter Games as contenders. That night at their hotel, the team gets a phone call informing them that the committee has reversed its decision and allows the Jamaicans to compete once again. After attending the Olympics opening ceremony, the team receives a visit from Junior's father, Mr. Bevil, who wants to bring Junior back home, but Junior stands his ground that he must forge his own path in life, earning Yul's respect.

The Jamaicans' first day on the track results in more embarrassment and a last place finish. Sanka identifies the problem as Derice trying to copy the Swiss team and convinces him that the best they can do is "bobsled Jamaican". Once the team develops their own style and tradition, the second day improves; the Jamaican team finishes with a fast time which puts them in eighth position. Derice asks Blitzer about why he decided to cheat despite his gold medals and prestige. He tells Derice he aspired to make winning his whole life, citing that "a gold medal is a wonderful thing, but if you're not enough without it, you'll never be enough with it;". Blitzer says that when the Olympics are over, Derice will know if he can think of himself as a champion, medal or no medal.

For the first half of the final day's race, it looks as though the team will push into medal contention, until, due to the sled being old, one of the sled's blades detaches from a loosening screw, causing it to flip onto its side as it comes out of a turn, leaving the team meters short of the finish line. Determined to finish the race, the team lift the sled over their shoulders and walk across the finish line to rousing applause from spectators, including Grool, Hemphill, and Junior's father. The team, at the end, feel accomplished enough to return in four years to the next Olympics. A photographer takes a photo of the team, which Mr. Coolidge is seen later adding to his wall photograph collection in his office, adding it just above the photo of Blitzer and Ben Bannock taken 20 years earlier. A brief epilogue states the team returned to Jamaica as heroes, and upon their return to the Winter Olympics four years later, they were treated as equals.



According to Leon Robinson, "there were script problems.[1][3][4] It wasn't funny enough, the key elements were lacking, and it just wasn't working. It was meant to happen when it happened."[3] Leon, Doug E. Doug and Malik Yoba have all confirmed in their interview with Empire that it was originally meant to have been a serious sports drama film.[5][6][7] The film's working title was Blue Maaga.[8] Before Jon Turteltaub was officially hired, Jeremiah S. Chechik was slated to direct until he moved on to do Benny & Joon (1993) instead. Brian Gibson was also considered to direct, but he dropped out to do What's Love Got to Do with It (1993) instead.[1] Turteltaub used actual ABC sports footage from the 1988 Olympics and incorporated it into the film.[8][9]


According to Leon, "The script has been following me around for 3​12 years." Leon signed on when Gibson was then the director at the time. Leon told The Seattle Times, "I was signed more than a year before we actually started."[3][5] Doug got involved with the film in 1990: "I found Cool Runnings three years ago, when my agent had it on his desk. I knew about the actual event it's based on, the Jamaican bobsled team that went to the '88 Olympics, and even though it's based pretty loosely I thought it made a great yarn."[10] At the time of Doug's audition, Chechik was attached as the director.[6] Doug told The Baltimore Sun: "I got the offer to play Sanka, the guy I'd wanted to play from the very beginning."[10]

Lewis had very little experience and was not even allowed to audition at first. He told The Seattle Times, "I was hired to read lines to auditioning actors for just one day. That turned into three weeks. At first they told me they were looking for names, big stars, so I wouldn't be considered, but then they asked me to do a screen test."[3] He also told The Baltimore Sun, "I came in to this film at first to coach the players in the authentic accents."[10] Lewis was officially hired in November 1992.[3] When asked by Empire how he got involved with the film, Yoba was introduced to the casting director, Jackie Brown, by "a gentleman by the name of Jamal Joseph." At the time of Yoba's official casting, Gibson was still slated to direct.[7] Yoba later told Entertainment Weekly that he wrote the Jamaican bobsled song for his audition.[8] Lewis claimed that the executives at Disney wanted Kurt Russell for the role of Coach Blitzer. However, John Candy personally insisted on portraying the coach and agreed to take a pay cut to do the movie.[9][11][12] According to Yoba, Scott Glenn was also considered for the role.[7] Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jeffrey Wright, and Eriq La Salle were each considered for a role as one of the four Jamaican bobsledders.[8][11]

Filming locations[edit]

The film was shot in Calgary and Jamaica in February and March 1993. The cast and crew filmed in Calgary first, to take advantage of the snow. Then they filmed at the Jamaican parishes of Discovery Bay and Kingston.[1] Dawn Steel was on the set every day in Calgary and Jamaica. According to Leon, "(Steel) worked on the second unit for a while, and she said 'Never again. I never want to direct.'"[3]


A soundtrack album with 11 tracks was released by Sony in 1993 on compact disc (Columbia Chaos OK 57553).

In some European countries, the soundtrack album was released by Sony with a 12th (bonus) track being "Rise Above It" performed by Lock Stock and Barrel (Columbia 474840 2). Songs from the soundtrack also featured in a little known musical "Rasta in the Snow", which was based on events of the real Jamaican sled team.

1."Wild Wild Life"Wailing Souls3:36
2."I Can See Clearly Now"Jimmy Cliff3:16
3."Stir It Up"Diana King3:49
4."Cool Me Down"Tiger3:50
5."Picky Picky Head"Wailing Souls4:10
6."Jamaican Bobsledding Chant"Worl-A-Girl4:16
7."Sweet Jamaica"Tony Rebel3:51
8."Dolly My Baby"Super Cat3:32
9."The Love You Want"Wailing Souls3:59
10."Countrylypso"Hans Zimmer2:48
11."The Walk Home"Hans Zimmer4:37
12."Rise Above It"Lock Stock and Barrel3:32


The film received positive reviews, including one from Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times which referred to the film as "a sweet-natured, high-spirited comedy, that rare movie that plays effectively to all ages. Even rarer, it celebrates genuine sportsmanship, placing the emphasis back on how the game is played in the face of the winning-is-everything philosophy that permeates every aspect of contemporary life."[13]

Richard Harrington of The Washington Post wrote "a wholesome, engaging, frequently hilarious, ultimately inspirational film."[14]

Cool Runnings has received a rating of 76% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 41 reviews, with 31 positive and 10 negative, and also received an 81% rating from users. The site's consensus states "Cool Runnings rises above its formulaic sports-movie themes with charming performances, light humor, and uplifting tone."[15]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Box office[edit]

The film debuted at No. 3.[18] The film had total domestic earnings of $68,856,263 in the United States and Canada, and $86,000,000 internationally (with $416,771 earned in Jamaica), for a total of $154,856,263 worldwide.

Differences between real life and film[edit]

Cool Runnings was loosely based on real life events surrounding the formation of the Jamaican bobsled team. The movie is mainly composed of fictional characters. Some of the incidents that occurred in the film were real, such as the favorites to win the four-man event beating the Swiss team (which they did), and the crash that eliminated the Jamaicans from further competition. However, there were several creative liberties taken by the filmmakers in order to complete the story.


The members of the team in the film are fictional characters, although the people who conceived the idea of a Jamaican bobsled team were inspired by pushcart racers and tried to recruit top track sprinters. However, they did not find any elite sprinters interested in competing and instead recruited four sprinters from the Air Force for the team.

Irving "Irv" Blitzer is a fictional character. The real team had several trainers, none of whom were connected to any cheating scandal. At the time of the movie's release, the United States had not won a gold medal in bobsleigh at the Winter Olympics in the four man event since 1948, and did not win the gold again until 2010.

In the film, the team is formed by Jamaican sprinters after failing to qualify for the 1988 Summer Olympics, where as the real team was formed by members of the Jamaican Air Force. The Jamaican Summer Olympic Trials would have occurred following the Winter Olympics in Calgary.


A fictional all-encompassing winter sports governing body, the "International Alliance of Winter Sports", appears in the film. In reality, each Winter Olympic Sport has its own governing body, and bobsledding falls under the jurisdiction of the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (or FIBT, the initials of its French name).

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) did temporarily disqualify the Jamaicans, but it was not an appeal by the coach that led the IOC to reverse this decision. Prince Albert of Monaco was among those who made the successful appeal.[19]


One of the most fictionalized parts of Cool Runnings is the competition itself. The bobsled competition in the film consists of three individual runs held on three consecutive days, whereas in reality, the Olympic bobsled competition consists of four runs - two runs a day held over two consecutive days.

In the film, the Jamaicans are regarded as unwelcome outsiders to the Games by other countries (particularly East Germany) and ridiculed. In reality, the Jamaicans were treated as equals and there was no real animosity between the team and their competitors; in fact, the Jamaicans were aided by the United States team who lent them one of their backup sleds so they could qualify, so they did not have to buy another team's spare sled.[citation needed]

While the Jamaicans did crash their bobsled on their fourth and final run, the film implied the team was a medal contender, having run a world record pace prior to the crash. In reality, they were in 24th place (out of 26) after their first run was completed in 58.04. Their second run was completed in 59.37, which was the next-to-worst time (25th). On the third run, they had the worst time (1:03.19, good for 26th place), which was almost five seconds behind the 25th fastest run. Of the 103 runs that were completed in the four-man competition, nobody else posted a time over one minute. So going into the final run, the Jamaicans were in 26th (last) place with a cumulative time of 3:00.60 after three runs. This placed them 3.23 seconds behind Portugal for 25th place, and 10.19 seconds behind the USSR team that was in third-place heading into the final run. They would have had to complete a world-record shattering time under 48.00 seconds to bring home a medal.[20]


In the film, the crash happens on the third run and is depicted to have been caused by a mechanical failure in the front left blade of the sled. As the driver steers, a nut and bolt on the control column work loose, eventually causing a loss of control as the bobsleigh comes out of a turn and subsequently crashes.

In reality, the crash happened in the fourth and final run, and it was deemed that driver inexperience, excess speed, and regressing the turn too high caused the sled to become unstable and top-heavy seconds prior to it toppling onto its left side. Real TV footage of the actual crash was used in the film but was heavily edited to fit in with the film's version of the crash. Both the run and the high speed crash were disorienting: team member Nelson Chris Stokes "felt a bump" when they tipped but did not realize they had turned over until he started to smell his helmet (which was fiberglass) friction-burning on the ice, "which is something that stays with you for many years afterward."[21]

After the crash, the film depicted the Jamaicans carrying their sled on their shoulders to the finish to a slow-building standing ovation. In reality, they did not carry the sled but walked next to it. When the sled tipped, they were doing 80 miles per hour (130 km per hour), and their helmets scraped against the wall for 600 metres (2,000 ft) until they came to a stop.[22] They also received somewhat sporadic applause, less than the crescendo response in the movie,[23] but the real bobsled driver Dudley Stokes cites the spectator applause as the reason the run turned from tragedy to triumph for him.[22]

Four-man sled vs two-man sled[edit]

The film also gives the impression that the Jamaicans were the only team from Central America and the Caribbean. This was the case in the four-man sled competition, which the movie focuses on. However, in the two-man competition there was also a bobsled team from Netherlands Antilles which finished 29th (one place ahead of Jamaica's two-man sled team) and two teams from United States Virgin Islands which finished 35th and 38th.[24]

The film focuses entirely on the four-man bobsled team, which crashed their sled and finished last out of the 26 teams, as all 25 other teams were able to complete all four runs. However, it ignores the fact that two members of the team (Dudley Stokes and Michael White) also competed in the two-man sled competition and successfully completed all four runs, finishing in 30th place out of 38 teams that finished all runs, with three other teams which did not finish. The remaining members of the four man sled team were Devon Harris and Chris Stokes (Dudley's younger brother).[25] In fact the whole formation of the bob-sleigh project as depicted in the film is incorrect. The film depicts them as forming the team as a four-man bobsleigh team right from the start. However, in reality, they started the project intending to compete in the two-man bobsleigh event only. They only decided to compete in the four-man event after having already completed the two-man event in Calgary.[19]

Other differences[edit]

In the movie, the weather is depicted as bitterly cold with a temperature of −25 °C (−13 °F). Actual temperatures in Calgary during the Games were well above normal, including some daytime highs above 16 °C (61 °F).[26]

Home media[edit]

On November 11, 1994, the film was released on VHS and laserdisc by Walt Disney Home Video in the United States. On August 24, 1999, the film was released on DVD by Walt Disney Home Video in the United States in Region 1. On September 1, 2000, the film was released on VHS by Walt Disney Studios in the United Kingdom. On January 22, 2001, the film was released on DVD by Walt Disney Studios in the United Kingdom in Region 2.[27][28] On March 28, 2017, the film was released on region free Blu-ray as a Disney Movie Club Exclusive title.

The film was made available for streaming on Disney+ on January 1, 2020.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Galbraith, Jane (September 30, 1993). "From Real Life to Screen Proved Tough Sledding : Movies: Despite being dropped by Columbia and two directors, 'Cool Runnings,' the film about Jamaican snow bobbers, makes it across the finish line". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
  2. ^ "Cool Runnings Themes - Jamaican Bobsledders: A Cool Running theme". The Los Angeles Times. February 14, 2002. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Hartl, John (October 2, 1993). "Some Rough Sledding Making 'Cool Runnings'". The Seattle Times. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  4. ^ McKnight, Franklin (October 1, 1993). "'Cool Runnings' Tells About Jamaicans' Tough Sledding". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Plumb, Ali. "Leon Robinson: Derice On The Coll Runnings Cafe and Dressing Up As A Zombie". Empire. Archived from the original on July 14, 2015. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Plumb, Ali. "Doug E. Doug: Sanka Himself Reveals Where He Keeps His Lucky Eggs". Empire. Archived from the original on February 11, 2015. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c Plumb, Ali. "Malik Yoba: Yul Brenner On Pride, Power And People Wanting To Draw Lines On His Head". Empire. Archived from the original on February 11, 2015. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d Highfill, Samantha (February 12, 2014). "'Cool Runnings': An oral history". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Interview with Actor Rawle D. Lewis, Star of Cool Runnings". February 25, 2010. Archived from the original on July 24, 2015. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  10. ^ a b c Price, Michael H. (October 6, 1993). "'Cool Runnings': Serious comedy for Doug E. Doug". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  11. ^ a b Plumb, Ali. "Rawle D. Lewis: Junior Bevil On Talking To Mirrors And Getting Recognized In Pizza Hut". Empire. Archived from the original on February 11, 2015. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  12. ^ "Interview with Cool Runnings Star Rawle D. Lewis AKA Junior Bevil". YouTube. October 7, 2010. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  13. ^ Thomas, Kevin (October 1, 1993). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Cool': Hot on Trail of Feel-Good Comedy". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 20, 2010.
  14. ^ Harrington, Richard (October 1, 1993). "Cool Runnings - review". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  15. ^ Cool Runnings at Rotten Tomatoes
  16. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 14, 2016.
  17. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved 2016-08-19.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  18. ^ Fox, David J. (October 19, 1993). "Weekend Box Office : 'Demolition Man' Fends Off 'Hillbillies'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  19. ^ a b Atkin, Nick (5 February 2014). "The real Cool Runnings". ESPN.
  20. ^ "Bobsleigh at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games: Men's Four". Archived from the original on April 17, 2020. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  21. ^ "16x9 - Cool Runnings: Truth Behind Original Jamaican Bobsled Team". YouTube. June 6, 2012. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  22. ^ a b "16x9 - Cool Runnings: Truth Behind Original Jamaican Bobsled Team". YouTube. 2012-06-06. Retrieved 2015-12-28.
  23. ^ "jamaica original bobsled". YouTube. August 16, 2008. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  24. ^ "Online Donors Send Jamaican Bobsled Team To Sochi". NPR. January 22, 2014. Retrieved February 3, 2014.
  25. ^ "Bobsleigh at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games: Jamaica". Archived from the original on April 17, 2020. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  26. ^
  27. ^ Joseph Zucker. "Jamaican Bobsled Team Qualifies for 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics". Bleacher Report. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  28. ^ "Funding woes ease, Jamaicans promise Sochi we fight". Reuters. January 23, 2014. Retrieved January 26, 2014.

External links[edit]