Principal photography began on July 24, 2014, in Montreal, Canada. Forecast Pictures, Solofilms, and Trinity Race produced the film, supported by the Owens family, the Jesse Owens Foundation, the Jesse Owens Trust and the Luminary Group. It won four Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Actor for James.
Jesse Owens, a promising black American runner, attends Ohio State University, despite facing racial discrimination and slurs from the white athletes. He attracts the attention of coach Larry Snyder, who believes Owens has enormous potential but needs work on his form and technique. When Snyder suggests he is good enough to compete at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, Owens is interested, but hesitant because of racial propaganda in Nazi Germany. The U.S. Olympic Committee is already considering boycotting the Olympics over Germany's discriminatory policies, only agreeing to participate when Nazi official Joseph Goebbels gives personal assurances they will allow foreign athletes of any race to compete, as well as promising to rein in their propaganda.
As Owens struggles to support his girlfriend Ruth and young daughter, he takes a job at a service station, upsetting Snyder when his job conflicts with his commitment to train. When Snyder learns Owens has a family to support, he gets him a no-show job, allowing him to focus on running. Owens goes on to break several records, including some of Snyder's, and begins a relationship with a woman whose attentions he attracts with his newfound fame. When Ruth threatens him with a lawsuit, Owens becomes distracted and loses a race to runner Eulace Peacock. Owens decides to return to Ruth to reconcile, convincing her to marry him. As the Olympics draw closer, the NAACP asks him not to go to Berlin for political reasons. Owens is conflicted, but Peacock urges him to compete to defy Nazi racial ideology.
In Berlin, Owens wins his first gold medal in the 100 m dash, but when he is brought by International Olympic Committee member Avery Brundage to receive congratulations from Adolf Hitler, he is told the Chancellor has left the stadium early to avoid traffic. Brundage warns Goebbels that Hitler must congratulate all winners or no winners, with Goebbels replying Hitler will not appear with "that". Owens next qualifies for the broad jump after German rival Luz Long unexpectedly gives him tips on his technique. Owens wins another medal, and Luz publicly shakes his hand, privately expressing concern about national politics. Owens wins his fourth and final medal in the 4 x 100 m relay, filling in for two Jewish American athletes cut by Brundage, who is convinced by Goebbels to do so to avoid a scandal over a business arrangement Brundage entered with the Nazis before the games. Director Leni Riefenstahl films the event against Goebbels' orders, then asks Owens to repeat his medal-winning broad jump to get a few more shots for her next film, Olympia.
John Boyega was initially set to star as Owens, however he eventually dropped out to star in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. and was subsequently replaced by Stephan James. German and Canadian distribution was handled by Squareone Entertainment and Entertainment One with Focus Features handling the distribution in the United States.
Principal photography started on July 24, 2014, in Montreal, and on location at Olympic Stadium in Berlin.
On October 1, 2014, Focus Features originally set a release date for April 8, 2016. However in August 2015, the release date was pushed up to February 19, 2016.
On February 15, an advanced screening was shown at Mershon Auditorium at Ohio State University, Owens' alma mater. James and Owens' two daughters were in attendance and addressed the crowd. The President of Ohio State, Michael V. Drake, also addressed the crowd and spoke briefly about Owens' global impact and life at Ohio State. It was released by Entertainment One in Canada, Focus Features in the United States on February 19, 2016, Eagle Pictures in Italy on March 31, 2016, and SquareOne Entertainment in Germany on May 5, 2016.
Race grossed $19.2 million in North America and $5.9 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $25.1 million.
In the United States and Canada, pre-release tracking suggested the film would gross $4–7 million from 2,369 theaters in its opening weekend, trailing fellow newcomer Risen ($7–12 million projection) but similar to The Witch ($5–7 million projection). It ended up grossing $7.4 million in its opening weekend, finishing in sixth at the box office.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 61% based on 138 reviews and an average rating of 6.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Race is nowhere near as thrillingly fleet or agile as its subject, but the story – and a winning central performance from Stephan James – are enough to carry it over the finish line". Metacritic reports a score of 56 out of 100 based on 35 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews". On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
Race received eight nominations, including Best Motion Picture, for the 5th Canadian Screen Awards.