Chariots of Flail: Tracking the Goofiest Runs in Cinema History

Whether it’s a high-speed foot chase in an action movie, a contemplative character-building jog, or triumphant track-and-field accomplishments in films like Chariots of Fire and Prefontaine, running has long been a part of films. There’s something inherently cinematic to the act of running – it lends a sense of kinetic urgency to action sequences, or reveals something about the character’s personality in a visually interesting way.

That being said, running hasn’t always looked its best on screen. Just like in real life, even the most athletic of us look kinda … goofy when we break into a sprint. To that end, we’ve tracked down our candidates for some of the strangest (and strongest) runs in the wide world of cinema.

Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump (1994)

The natural home of goofy running is the action film, but when it comes to the dramatic marathon, no one can outpace the poignant everyman drama of Forrest Gump. Whether he’s outrunning his leg braces as a child or growing a beard and jogging across the country in the ‘70s, Hanks’ Gump is decidedly unselfconscious about his run. Sure, his goofy running form is part of the joke (after all, if you’re going to make 60-yard runs that fast in high school football, you won’t exactly look graceful), but there’s something charming about Hanks’ high-kneed, straight-backed jog that makes it so delightful to watch.

Robert Patrick, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

While we’re in the ‘90s, we should make a pit stop over at one of the action genre’s most iconic sprints: the T-1000’s knife-palmed hyper-jog in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Patrick’s steely gaze and thin frame gave us a spooky, serial-killer alternative to Arnold’s lumbering bulk, and his murderous, apocalyptic 5K chasing John Connor is a fantastic example of that change of pace. Patrick had it all figured out before the rest of us – just flatten your hands while you run, and you can karate chop through the air, thus reducing drag!

Franka Potente, Run Lola Run (1999)

Potente’s urgent, intense sprint through the streets of Paris in the cult-fave thriller Run Lola Run is one of the film’s most interesting elements. Sure, Lola doesn’t have the form of Usain Bolt, but her shock of dyed-red hair, ratty tank top and Eurotrash boots make for a hell of a workout ensemble. This, combined with the sheer amount of time she has to spent running in this movie (three times over, in fact!), makes Run Lola Run worth mentioning on sheer duration alone.

See Lola running there? That’s not even a GIF – it’s just the entire film on a loop. That’s how much she runs.

Steven Seagal, any Steven Seagal movie

Now for a decidedly less glamorous ‘90s example – the wiggly, limp-wristed shuffle of The Goateed One himself, Mr. Steven Seagal. Whether he’s chasing a goon down a darkened alleyway, or jogging up a mountain to kill some bad guys, Seagal’s arms seem incapable of moving above the elbow, the man flipping his arms around like a penguin with tranq darts in his forearms. On top of that, he lets his hands relax below the wrist, making for an even floppier running arm that you’d expect. I get that great action stars should make the fights and chases seem effortless, but Seagal evidently took the wrong lesson from that phrase. (Sidenote: he’s no good behind the wheel either.)

Liam Hemsworth, Paranoia (2013)

Silly running isn’t limited to ‘90s movies, either; modern cinema has its own fair share of examples. A lesser-known one, and the inspiration for this list, is Liam Hemsworth’s fascinatingly doofy flight from a murderous Julian McMahon in the mediocre corporate thriller Paranoia. Running away from Victor Von Doom in his crisp black suit, Hemsworth flails his way through fancy restaurants and alleyways, at all times windmilling his arms like a Newsie who’s forgotten his choreography.

Daniel Craig, Skyfall (2012)

Don’t get me wrong, Craig is a fantastic James Bond — in no small part because of the imposing, aggressive physicality he brings to the role. However, by the time of his third outing, age and years of bone-crushing stuntwork must have worn down his knees to the point where he can only run like a jug-eared robot. Whether he’s sprinting across a frozen lake or making his way through London traffic to stop a terrorist attack on foot, Craig’s wide-legged gallop is one skip away from getting him reassigned to the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Tom Cruise, any Tom Cruise movie

You didn’t think we’d talk about running in movies and mention Tom Cruise, did you? The man is the master of cinematic scampering, having run for over 18 minutes of screen time across dozens of movies. There’s nothing wrong with Cruise’s form, per se; we just have to give it up for the man who loves running on screen so much, he practically requires at least one big run for every movie he does. He’s a shorter guy, but manages to work so much power into those little legs that he can outrun everything from sandstorms (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) to alien death rays (War of the Worlds). It’s for good reason that “Tom Cruise running” is a meme – nobody does it better.

Or more. Nobody does it more than Tom Cruise.

Clint Worthington lives and runs in Chicago.

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