Miracle (2004 film)

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Miracle film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGavin O'Connor
Written by
Produced by
CinematographyDan Stoloff
Edited by
Music byMark Isham
Walt Disney Pictures
Mayhem Pictures
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date
  • February 20, 2004 (2004-02-20)
Running time
136 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$28 million[1]
Box office$64.5 million[1]

Miracle is a 2004 American sports film about the United States men's ice hockey team, led by head coach Herb Brooks, portrayed by Kurt Russell, who won the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics. The American team's victory over the heavily favored Soviet professionals in the medal round was dubbed the "Miracle on Ice". Miracle was directed by Gavin O'Connor and written by Eric Guggenheim and Mike Rich.[2][3] It was released on February 20, 2004, where it grossed $64.5 million on a $28 million budget and received positive reviews, with Russell's performance garnering the most praise from critics.


Herb Brooks, head ice hockey coach at the University of Minnesota, interviews with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) for the national team coach's job, discussing his philosophy on how to beat the dominant Soviet team who have won the gold medal in the previous four Olympics, calling for changes to the practice schedule and strategy. The USOC is skeptical, but gives Brooks the job.

Brooks meets assistant coach Craig Patrick at the tryouts in Colorado Springs. Brooks selects a preliminary roster of 26, indifferent to the preferences of senior USOC hockey officials. USOC executive director Walter Bush believes Brooks has their best interests at heart, and reluctantly agrees to take the heat from the committee.

During the initial practice, tempers flare as forward Rob McClanahan and defenseman Jack O'Callahan get into a fight based on college rivalry. After the fight, Brooks tells all the players that they are to let go of old rivalries and start becoming a team. He has each player tell their name, hometown and which team they play for. As practices continue, Brooks uses unorthodox methods to reduce the roster to 20 players. The players themselves worry about being cut at any time, knowing that Brooks himself was the last player cut from the US squad that won the 1960 Olympic gold medal, so he will do anything to win.

During an exhibition game against Norway in Oslo that ends in a 3–3 tie, Brooks notices the players are not playing up to their potential. After the game, he orders them back on the ice for a bag skate – a relentless double-skate from one end of the ice to the other, continuing the drill even after the rink manager cuts the power. Exhausted, forward and team captain Mike Eruzione re-introduces himself, but this time says that he plays for the United States. Pleased, Brooks finally allows the team to go home.

With their roster finalized, the Americans play the Soviets in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden. The Soviets manhandle the young Americans, winning by a score of 10–3. During the game, O'Callahan suffers a knee injury that could keep him out of the entire Olympics and starting goaltender Jim Craig is told he may be benched in favor of backup Steve Janaszak. Brooks tells him that he hasn't been giving his very best, but decides to keep Craig as the starter for the Olympics.

As the 1980 Winter Olympics begin, the Americans trail Sweden 2–1 in the first game. Brooks fires up the team during intermission by throwing a table and accuses McClanahan, who suffered a relatively minor leg injury, of quitting. McClanahan plays injured, which inspires the team. Bill Baker scores a goal with only 27 seconds remaining in the third period for a dramatic 2–2 tie. They next earn a 7–3 win over heavily favored Czechoslovakia. As the Olympics continue, the team defeats minor opponents Norway, Romania, and West Germany to earn a spot in the medal round.

In the medal round, the Americans were overwhelming underdogs to the Soviets, who lost only a single Olympic game since 1964 and whose players were professionals, whereas the American players were amateurs. The Soviets had scored the first goal before O'Callahan, having healed enough from his injury, enters the game for the first time. He heavily checks Vladimir Krutov on a play that leads to a goal by Buzz Schneider. The Soviets score again to retake the lead. Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak stops a long shot by Dave Christian, but Mark Johnson gets the rebound and ties the game to end the period.

During the first intermission, Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov replaces Tretiak with backup Vladimir Myshkin. In the second period, the Soviets score a goal to go up 3–2. Early in the third period, the Soviet team is penalized for slashing, and Johnson scores a power play goal just as the penalty is about to expire. With 10 minutes left, Eruzione puts them ahead 4–3. The Americans hold off the Soviets to win the game, completing one of the biggest upsets in sports history. Two days later, the team would go on to defeat Finland 4–2 to win the gold medal.

A closing narration from Brooks states that his proudest moment was watching the team being presented with their gold medals. Admiring the sacrifices all of them were willing to make, and the inspiration they provided to the people of the United States.


Actor Role Notes
Kurt Russell Herb Brooks U.S. Olympic hockey coach who leads the team to an Olympic gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Patricia Clarkson Patti Brooks Wife of Brooks.
Noah Emmerich Craig Patrick Assistant general manager and Assistant Coach under Brooks.
Sean McCann Walter Bush General manager of the U.S. Olympic hockey team.
Kenneth Welsh Doc Nagobads U.S Olympic team physician and long-time friend of Brooks.
Eddie Cahill Jim Craig U.S. Olympic team's starting goaltender. Plays in every minute of every game.
Patrick O'Brien Demsey Mike Eruzione Forward and captain of the U.S. Olympic team. Scores the game-winning goal against the Soviets.
Michael Mantenuto Jack O'Callahan Defenseman on the U.S. Olympic team. Injures his knee in an exhibition game but returns against the Soviets and makes a key shot that leads to a U.S. goal.
Nathan West Rob McClanahan Forward on the U.S. Olympic team. Gets into a fight with O'Callahan in the first practice.
Kenneth Mitchell Ralph Cox Last player cut from the team during tryouts because Brooks can only take twenty players.
Eric Peter-Kaiser Mark Johnson Forward on the U.S. Olympic team. Scores two out of the four goals in the victory over the Soviets. Known as the most skilled player on the team. MVP of the team.
Bobby Hanson Dave Silk Forward on the U.S. Olympic team who receives a pair of silky underwear from the guys at Christmas.
Joseph Cure Mike Ramsey Defenseman and youngest player on the U.S. Olympic team.
Billy Schneider Buzz Schneider Forward on the U.S. Olympic team and part of the Conehead line. In real life, Billy is Buzz's son.
Nate Miller John Harrington Forward on the U.S. Olympic team and part of the Conehead line.
Chris Koch Mark Pavelich Forward on the U.S. Olympic team and part of the Conehead line. Assists Baker on the tying goal against Sweden and Eruzione on the game-winning goal against the Soviets.
Kris Wilson Phil Verchota Forward on the U.S. Olympic team.
Stephen Kovalcik Dave Christian Forward and defenseman on the U.S. Olympic team. Shoots the puck at Tretiak with very little time left during the first period against the Soviets. Johnson scores on the rebound.
Sam Skoryna Steve Janaszak Expected to be the top goaltender of the U.S. Olympic team after winning a national championship in 1979 and taking home the tournament MVP, but is placed behind goaltender Craig and never plays during the Olympics.
Pete Duffy Bob Suter Defenseman on the U.S. Olympic team.
Nick Postle Bill Baker Defenseman on the U.S. Olympic team who scores the game-tying goal against Sweden in the opening game of the Olympics.
Casey Burnette Ken Morrow Defenseman on the U.S. Olympic team.
Scott Johnson Steve Christoff Forward on the U.S. Olympic team.
Trevor Alto Neal Broten Forward on the U.S. Olympic team.
Robbie MacGregor Eric Strobel Forward on the U.S. Olympic team.
Joe Hemsworth Mark Wells Forward on the U.S. Olympic team.
Zinaid Memišević Viktor Tikhonov Hockey coach for the Soviet team.
Adam Knight Tim Harrer Forward brought in late to try out for the U.S. Olympic team, eventually cut.
Al Michaels Himself Sportscaster who provided play–by–play for the Olympic hockey tournament (voice over and archive footage only)
Ken Dryden Himself Former NHL goaltender who provided color commentary for the Olympic hockey tournament (voice over and archive footage only)


Gavin O'Connor directed, and Mark Ciardi produced the movie. Both are drawn to inspirational stories, and they decided to take on the "Greatest Sports Moment of the 20th Century".[4] They chose to focus on the determination and focus of coach Herb Brooks. O'Connor knew from the beginning that he wanted to cast Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks because he needed someone with an athletic background and a fiery passion for sports. The casting of the team consisted of real hockey players to give the film a raw and accurate feel. O'Connor figured it would be easier to teach hockey players to act than to teach actors to play hockey. On-ice tryouts were held in New York, Boston, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Vancouver. Another tryout was held in Vancouver for the Soviet and European teams.

There are a total of 133 different hockey plays in the film. To accomplish this, the directors turned to ReelSports Solutions, who had helped with the producers on a previous movie, The Rookie. The ReelSports team referred to coach Herb Brooks for information on practices, plays, equipment, and uniform styles. Each fight and stunt scene was choreographed to ensure the actors' safety. Players went through a six-week training camp to relearn the game in older equipment.[5]

All the locations of the real life hockey games are replicated by hockey arenas in British Columbia. The team tryouts, set in Colorado Springs, were filmed at the Queen's Park Arena in New Westminster. The team practices were filmed at the M.S.A. Arena in Abbotsford. The exhibition game in which the USA team lost to the USSR team at Madison Square Garden was filmed at the Pacific Coliseum, former home of the Vancouver Canucks. The Exhibition against Norway, the subsequent bag skate, and all Olympic game scenes were filmed at the PNE Agrodome.[6][7]

Al Michaels re-recorded most of his television commentary for the film. However, the last 30 seconds of the USA-Soviet game, including "Do you believe in miracles?" used the original audio, as Michaels didn't feel he could re-create the call effectively.[8]

Coach Brooks died in a car accident half a year before the movie was released. At the end, before the credits, it states, "This film is dedicated to the memory of Herb Brooks, who died shortly following principal photography. He never saw it. He lived it."



Miracle was released with a rating of PG, meaning that Parental Guidance is suggested.[10]


Box office[edit]

Miracle grossed $19,377,577 on its opening weekend, February 8, on 2,605 screens. It closed with a worldwide gross of $64,445,708.[11]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, Miracle has an approval rating of 81% based on 165 reviews, with an average rating of 7.01/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Kurt Russell's performance guides this cliche-ridden tale into the realm of inspirational, nostalgic goodness."[12] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 68 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[13] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[14]

Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times stated that the movie "does a yeoman's job of recycling the day-old dough that passes for its story."[15] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times referred to the movie as "a classically well-made studio entertainment that, like The Rookie of a few years back, has the knack of being moving without shamelessly overdoing a sure thing."[2] O'Callahan said in an interview that while the fight between him and McClanahan was fictional, the film accurately portrayed the "pretty intense" rivalry between Boston Terriers and Minnesota Gophers players, and was overall "pretty darn close" to actual events.[16]

As of January 2017 Miracle was rated the number two sports movie of all time with a rating of 8.85 out of 10 in the ongoing poll at Sports In Movies, after maintaining the number one spot for several years.[17]


Miracle won the Best Sports Movie ESPY Award for 2004.[18]

Year-end lists[edit]

In 2006, the American Film Institute nominated this film for AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers.[19] And In 2008, AFI nominated this film for its Top 10 Sports Films list.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Miracle – Box Office Data, Movie News, Cast Information". The Numbers. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Turan, Kenneth (February 6, 2004). "Do you believe?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  3. ^ Vattiat, Drew (February 21, 2015). "Miracle on Ice 35 years later". The Oregonian. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  4. ^ Fitzgerald, Brian (January 7, 2000). "1980 Miracle on Ice named Greatest Sports Moment of the Century". B.U. Bridge, vol. 3 no. 18. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
  5. ^ "Miracle (2004) – About the Production". (January 30, 2004). HollywoodJesus.com. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
  6. ^ "Miracle Filming Locations. MovieMaps.org. Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  7. ^ "Miracle (2004) Filming & Production". IMDb. Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  8. ^ Michaels, Al; Eruzione, Mike (February 13, 2020). "Transcript – Al Michaels & Mike Eruzione 40th anniversary of 'Miracle on Ice' media conference call". NBC Sports Group. Retrieved July 27, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ "Soundtracks for Miracle". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
  10. ^ "Parents Guide for Miracle". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  11. ^ "Box office / business for Miracle". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 6, 2011.
  12. ^ "Miracle". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 8, 2020.
  13. ^ "Miracle". Metacritic. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  14. ^ "Miracle". CinemaScore. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  15. ^ Mitchell, Elvis (February 6, 2004). "Miracle: A Hollywood Ending From Real Life". The New York Times. Retrieved April 3, 2011.
  16. ^ "Jack O'Callahan interview". USA Hockey. Archived from the original on January 16, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2013.
  17. ^ "Guide to Sports Movies". SportsInMovies.com. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  18. ^ "The 2004 ESPY Awards winners". ESPN. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  19. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  20. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved August 19, 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

External links[edit]