The True Story Behind ‘The Boys in the Boat’


“The Boys in the Boat” stands as a remarkable film adaptation directed and co-produced by George Clooney, finally bringing to life the captivating story after nearly a decade since the rights to the tale were first acquired. The movie stars Callum Turner as Joe Rantz, a freshman at the University of Washington thrust into the rowing program, and Joel Edgerton portraying the team’s head coach, Al Ulbrickson.

Adapted from Daniel James Brown’s book of the same name, the film delves into the narrative of the University of Washington’s eight-man rowing crew that ascended from Depression-era struggles to clinch victory at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Guided by Coach Ulbrickson and aided by renowned boat maker George Pocock, the team, though faced with numerous obstacles, eventually finds harmony and synchronization—a crucial element for their success in competitive rowing.

The story magnifies the challenges faced by young individuals during the Depression era, depicting Joe Rantz’s hardships after being abandoned by his family and his subsequent journey to earn a place in the University of Washington’s rowing team. The narrative reflects the team’s struggle to overcome financial adversity and the prevailing stigma that rowing was a sport reserved for the elite.


“Boys in the Boat” underscores the intensity and demands of the sport itself, portraying grueling training sessions under Coach Ulbrickson, who pushes the team relentlessly to compete at the highest level. Despite the hardships, the team surpasses expectations, securing victories against formidable opponents and earning the chance to represent the United States at the Berlin Olympics.

Set against the backdrop of Germany under Nazi rule, the story highlights the significance of the 1936 Olympics, showcasing Hitler’s efforts to showcase Germany as a formidable power. Despite international calls for a boycott, athletes ultimately competed in Berlin, with the University of Washington crew in awe of the city’s presentation during the games.

The narrative culminates in the Olympic race where the odds were stacked against the U.S. team. Challenges such as an ill rower, weight gain, unfavorable lane positioning, and a delayed start threatened their chances. However, the team displayed unparalleled determination, achieving a remarkable comeback in the final stretch to secure victory over Germany and Italy.

The film captures the triumph of will and determination, showcasing the inspiring journey of Joe Rantz and the University of Washington crew. Despite their humble beginnings and overwhelming odds, their victory serves as a testament to perseverance and resilience.

After the Olympics, the crew members moved on to lead their lives. Joe Rantz’s story, largely forgotten in the mainstream until the release of “The Boys in the Boat” book, now gains broader recognition with the film adaptation. The story’s resonance lies in its portrayal of triumph amid adversity, offering an inspiring narrative of human resilience.

“The Boys in the Boat” is now showing in theaters across the United States, inviting audiences to witness this captivating tale of perseverance and victory.