6 movies set around gyms and swimming pools to inspire your new fitness regime

After months of stagnating lockdown routine, gyms and indoor swimming pools in England are re-opening this week. This is your chance to throw off the flab (not that we're judging) and get back into shape. And if you need inspiration to get off the sofa, scroll down to check out our blog list of gym/pool-based movies.



1. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)

This is hardly a serious fitness movie, but the sheer gung-ho spirit of Dodgeball shows that exercise can pay off. One may just have to take a wrench to the head every once in a while. 

Ben Stiller is on fiendish, cartoon baddie form as White Goodman, the entrepreneurial owner of Globo Gym. He's determined to snap up the struggling Average Joe's Gymnasium, managed by the likeable Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn). There's only one thing for it: enter a dodgeball competition with the aim of winning, and use the funds to save Average Joe's.

With its ribald mixture of knockabout slapstick and wry verbal gags, largely from an on-point Vaughn, Dodgeball is, as its title suggests, an irresistibly funny celebration of underdog spirit.

2. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Clint Eastwood manages a gym and boxing arena in one in this hard-hitting drama. The movie icon directs and stars in a story of a grizzled trainer, and the talented young female boxer (Hilary Swank) he reluctantly takes on. Eastwood's drama plods along stolidly until the third act, where it lands an almighty right hook that leaves viewers stunned and teary-eyed.

Shot with atmospheric attention to detail in the physical sequences, Million Dollar Baby rises on the strength of its performances. Swank and Eastwood favourite Morgan Freeman walked away with Oscars, and the film also triumphed in the Best Picture and Best Director categories.


3. Burn After Reading (2008)

Again, like Dodgeball, this Coen brothers offering doesn't dwell in the area of seriousness. However, the gym environment does play a key role in its farcical, darkly comic story of deception and betrayal. Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand are on sublime form as employees of Hard Bodies, a breeding ground for dunderheaded wannabe blackmailers.

When they apparently stumble across the memoirs of recently fired CIA analyst Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich), they set out to take him for all he's worth. Of course, everything descends into violent chaos with the Coens repeatedly crossing the line between horror and humour. By design, the movie ends up chasing its own tail: everything is arbitrary, no particular character or scenario is of consequence, and, for hapless Hard Bodies manager Ted (Richard Jenkins), his professionalism comes at a cost.



1. The Swimmer (1968)

Burt Lancaster got himself in impressive shape for this existential drama. The epitome of 1960s soul-searching cinema, The Swimmer is the story of one man re-evaluating his life and relationships. And he does so by (you guessed it) making his way across Los Angeles via means of people's private swimming pools.

While the costume budget for Lancaster was presumably low, the angst and testosterone are high. The veteran actor delivers one of his best performances as a haunted man working out his demons via the means of exercise.

2. Sexy Beast (2001)

Who hasn't dreamed of retiring to sunny Spain and owning a private pool? It's this seductive lifestyle that's ensnared ex-con Gal Dove (Ray Winstone) in Jonathan Glazer's blisteringly good British crime thriller. Unlike the motor-mouth films of Guy Ritchie, Sexy Beast is a far more grounded, emotionally gripping affair about escaping one's demons, although it's flecked with a fair number of surreal moments.

The first of these comes during the sun-scorched opening scene, where Gal narrowly avoids being squashed by a boulder that crashes into his pool. Gal's attempt to restore balance to his paradise is a recurring theme throughout the movie, as hideously frightening old colleague Don Logan (an astonishing Ben Kingsley) turns up to pressure him into a job. If ever a movie showed the redemptive, escapist power of swimming, this is it.

3. Swimming Pool (2003)

Director Francois Ozon turns the alluring villa-with-a-pool into an arena of menace in this arresting drama. Charlotte Rampling is the writers-blocked author who takes a holiday at her publisher's retreat in the south of France. But things don't go according to plan when the latter's promiscuous daughter (Ludivine Sagnier) turns up to create trouble.

The film's cool, level-headed observation of jealousy and obsession lies in direct opposition to the steamy, sultry French environment. The arresting aquamarine hues of the titular swimming pool contrast so well with the sun-drenched surroundings, one can practically feel the draw of the water.


What are the movies that inspire you to get in shape? Let us know @Cineworld.