The men's 200 metre freestyle event at the 2008 Olympic Games took place on 10–12 August at the Beijing National Aquatics Center in Beijing, China.
After winning a bronze in Athens four years earlier, Michael Phelps blasted a new world record of 1:42.96 to claim his third straight gold, ninth career, and eleventh overall medal at the Olympics. South Korea's Park Tae-Hwan added a silver to his collection, following an unprecedented triumph in the 400 m freestyle two days earlier. He established a new Asian record of 1:44.85 to clear a 1:45 barrier, and used a final-lap split of 26.17 to edge out Phelps' teammate Peter Vanderkaay, who took home a bronze medal in a personal best of 1:45.14.
South Africa's Jean Basson finished fourth with a time of 1:45.97, and was followed in the fifth spot by Germany's Paul Biedermann in 1:46.00. Switzerland's Dominik Meichtry, who raced to a top seed in the prelims, earned a sixth spot in 1:46.95, while Japan's Yoshihiro Okumura (1:47.14) and Great Britain's Robbie Renwick (1:47.47) rounded out the finale. Renwick missed out the semifinals by 0.01 of a second from the prelims, but was offered a second shot, following a sudden withdrawal of two swimmers. Canada's Brent Hayden and France's Amaury Leveaux later scratched the event to focus on their duty in the 4 × 100 m freestyle relay.
Prior to this competition, the existing world and Olympic records were as follows.
The following new world and Olympic records were set during this competition.