The Olympics are the world’s most important sporting event because they are also a performing-arts event. Beyond the opening and closing ceremonies, the Olympics give you rhythmic gymnastics in summer and its hornier cousin, figure skating, in winter. These are modes of dance as much as sport; they’re emotive and expressive and have choreography set to music. One skating competition, ice dancing, has it right there in the name in case there was any confusion. (The Summer Olympics should take a cue from this and rename dressage “horse dancing”). But you don’t have to watch every national qualifier to be an armchair figure-skating expert; that’s what movies are for. To prep yourself for Beijing 2022’s skating events and pass the time once they’re over, here are 11 shows and films about (to varying degrees) figure skating.
Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978)
In the opening sequence of this PBS special, horrifically giant versions of the Sesame Street characters go ice-skating to some extremely groovy music. This charming scene ends with Oscar the Grouch getting sent flying through multiple walls, down a flight of stairs, and out the arena doors. 10/10 slapstick.
This wasn’t the first time Sesame Street sent its characters ice-skating. Bert did a very cute solo number in 1976.
Christmas Eve on Sesame Street is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.
Ice Castles (1978)
1978 was a big year for skating media! This schmaltz looks absolutely ridiculous.
Ice Castles is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.
The Cutting Edge (1992)
It’s Step Up on ice, only it’s nothing at all like Step Up on ice. It’s a corny, sporty early-’90s rom-com about a hockey bruiser and a prissy figure skater who team up against the odds to compete in Olympic pairs skating. They take on the ultimate nemeses of that era — dastardly Soviets — which is funny because this was definitely released after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It also spawned a sequel starring Christy Carlson Romano that so barely exists she hasn’t even made a rant video about it.
The Cutting Edge is streaming on Showtime.
To Die For (1995)
Nicole Kidman’s first lead role in an American movie is like I, Tonya’s smarter, cooler sister film. Kidman plays a fame-hungry small-town weatherwoman who orchestrates a hit on her husband with the help of a couple of dumb, hot teens played by Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix. Illeana Douglas plays the suspicious sister-in-law, an amateur figure skater who ends the film with an entrancing ice routine that makes this whole entry relevant.
To Die For is streaming on Starz.
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
The best song about figure skating isn’t Elliott Smith’s cover of the Schoolhouse Rock! song “Figure 8.” It isn’t Sufjan Stevens’s “Tonya Harding,” in major or minor. It isn’t even the Charlie Brown Christmas jazz track called, simply, “Skating.” It’s “What Would Brian Boitano Do?” from the South Park movie. That little cartoon cutout of Olympic gold medalist Boitano skating in impossible circumstances — on a mountain, on sand, through the air — is just the dumbest, funniest visual gag. Stephen Sondheim loved this movie for its merits as an original musical, and he’s Stephen Sondheim, the Brian Boitano of musicals! When Boitano had a short-lived cooking show on Food Network in 2009, he called it — what else? — What Would Brian Boitano Make?
South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut is streaming on Paramount+.
Ice Princess (2005)
This movie has everything: Michelle Trachtenberg and Hayden Panetierre as skating rivals. Kim Cattrall as Coach and Joan Cusack as Mom. A ridiculous premise about a math-and-physics nerd who becomes a champion skater through the power of trigonometry. Songs by Natasha Bedingfield, Raven-Symoné, Jesse McCartney, Aly & AJ, Michelle Branch, and Emma Roberts. The Princess Diaries author Meg Cabot wrote the script for this, and that’s all you need to know.
Ice Princess is streaming on Disney+.
Go Figure (2005)
This slice of mid-aughts tween ephemera ticks off a lot of Disney Channel Original Movie boxes: sports, boarding schools, and secret double lives. It follows a teen figure skater who’s given the opportunity to train with a top coach at an elite boarding school on one condition: She also has to play on the hockey team.
The Brie Larson single “She Said” is on the soundtrack, and watching the music video, you’ll see this is what she should have won an acting Oscar for.
Go Figure is streaming on Disney+.
Blades of Glory (2007)
Will Ferrell simply owned this stretch of the aughts. Back when the extinct species known as studio comedies still roamed the earth, Ferrell’s goofy-ass bombast was all over movies like Zoolander, Old School, Elf, Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers, one after another, year after year. Blades of Glory gets lost in that shuffle, but it’s a fun watch full of skating cameos and fun villain performances from Will Arnett and Amy Poehler. The premise is that Ferrell and Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder become the first male same-sex pairs skating team, and the result is physical comedy and hot Lycra-on-Lycra action.
Blades of Glory is streaming on HBO Max.
Yuri on Ice (2016)
This anime series about the relationship between a young figure skater and his coach was kind of a huge deal even outside the usual Crunchyroll circles when it debuted in 2016. Watch a few minutes and you’ll see why fans became obsessive about this breakout show. There’s a lot to get into, from the same-sex ship between Yuri and Victor to the choreography and animation of the skating routines, overseen by figure skater Kenji Miyamoto.
I, Tonya (2017)
The movie where Allison Janney has a cockatoo on her shoulder and robbed Laurie Metcalf of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar is also, allegedly, about figure skating: namely, the infamous attack on Nancy Kerrigan by rival Tonya Harding’s husband. This was a breakout movie for Paul Walter Hauser, who plays one of Kerrigan’s attackers and — rather fittingly — recently threatened to break haters’ arms on Twitter.
I, Tonya is streaming on Hulu.
Spinning Out (2020)
This one-and-done Netflix drama is the skating world’s very own Black Swan, following an elite skater as she deals with perfectionism, pressure, and mental health. If you want a gripping binge, it’s only ten episodes. And Johnny Weir acts!
Spinning Out is streaming on Netflix.