Goes to the Movies

By Dan George,

If there's anything sports fans love more than a good game, it's a good sports movie. OK, OK, it doesn't even have to be that good. Heck, we admit it -- we kinda liked The Replacements.

Still, with the Academy Awards fresh in our minds, this is a perfect time to reflect on good movies. And not just good ones -- great ones. The best sports movies of all time.

So here they are, our picks for the top movie in each sport. That's right, 20 sports, 20 No. 1 movies. From auto racing to wrestling. Some are obvious, some debatable and some may just make you say, "What -- no Over the Top?"

(One note: For simplicity's sake, we've considered movie movies only. No documentaries, no TV flicks. That's why, as wonderful as they may be, there's no Hoop Dreams, no The Endless Summer, no Brian's Song.)

So roll 'em! Check out our picks, hear what we have to say, then let us know what you think.

Bull Durham (1988)
Stars: Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins    Director: Ron Shelton
Why Itís No. 1: Nothing says baseball like minor league baseball, and this is the minor league baseball movie. From the breaking ball-sharp dialogue to the wacky sex scenes, this tale of a well-traveled bush league catcher, a flaky pitching phenom and a baseball groupie who reads Walt Whitman touches all the bases.

Memorable Moment: Costner's "long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days" speech is legendary, and rightly so. But we like a cocky Nuke LaLoosh (Robbins) learning a lesson when he serves up a mammoth home run ball that drills the billboard bull. "God," moans LaLoosh, "that sucker teed off on that like he knew I was gonna throw a fastball!" "He did," says Crash Davis (Costner). " Ö I told him."

They Said It: "I've tried 'em all -- I really have -- and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in and day out, is the church of baseball." -- Annie Savoy (Sarandon).

Look For: Loose-boned comic Max Patkin, the late Clown Prince of Baseball, doing a terrific job of playing himself.

Runner-Up: Field of Dreams (1989). Costner again, this time in a stirring fantasy about sons and fathers and a very special baseball field in an Iowa cornfield. We're not ashamed to say we get choked up.

Contenders: Pride of the Yankees (1939), Bang the Drum Slowly (1974), The Natural (1984), Eight Men Out (1988), The Rookie (2002)

Dissenting Opinion: Every baseball fan can appreciate what Roy Hobbs, who could've been "the best there ever was," pulls off in The Natural. With all due respect to Costner, Sarandon and Robbins, they just don't compare to Redford, Hershey, Basinger, Close, Duvall and Brimley. I'll take great acting, a story that dreams are made of and music that stirs the soul over a few yuks and a halfhearted look at minor league stereotypes. -- Dave Clark,
Hoosiers (1986)
Stars: Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey, Dennis Hopper    Director: David Anspaugh
Why Itís No. 1: Formula? Yes, but take the heart-tugging story of a tiny Indiana high school basketball team that overcomes the longest of odds and combine it with outstanding turns by Hackman and Hopper, and it's a formula as perfect as the "picket fence."

Memorable Moment: When new coach Norman Dale (Hackman) rubs people the wrong way, the town votes to fire him. In the middle of things, star Jimmy Chitwood, who has so far refused to play, says he's changed his mind. "One other thing," Jimmy says. "I play, coach stays. He goes, I go." The gathering hastily votes again -- this time to keep the coach.

They Said It: "We trust that you're a fine, upstanding, God-fearing man with Christian morals and principals, who will set an example and a standard of leadership for our boys Ö tell me, do you believe in zone defense or man to man?" -- Town member to coach Norman Dale.

Look For: Hopper as the town drunk-turned-assistant coach, then compare his performance to that in his other amazing movie of 1986, David Lynch's over-the-top Blue Velvet.

Runner-Up: White Men Can't Jump (1992). Ron Shelton's trash-talking look at basketball hustlers isn't Bull Durham, but Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes have plenty of hops. And Rosie Perez as a woman whose big dream is to be on Jeopardy is fun, in an annoying sort of way.

Contenders: Fast Break (1979), Blue Chips (1994), Forget Paris (1995), He Got Game (1998), Love and Basketball (2000)

North Dallas Forty (1979)
Stars: Nick Nolte, Mac Davis, Charles Durning    Director: Ted Kotcheff
Why Itís No. 1: For better or worse, without this version of ex-Cowboys receiver Peter Gent's novel, there wouldn't be Any Given Sunday. Nolte and especially Davis are terrific in a gritty serio-comedy that nails pro football's cynical brutality -- both on and off the field -- and the drug use that often accompanies it. And this was before steroids and ephedra.

Memorable Moment: Physically beat-up and constantly butting heads with management, wide receiver Phillip Elliott (Nolte) hates pro football. Yet, he loves it, too. Ultimately he wants to play so badly that he gives into his coach's demand to "take the needle" in his injured knee. You know then that he is doomed.

They Said It: "You had better learn how to play the game, and I don't mean just the game of football." -- Quarterback Seth Maxwell (Davis) to Elliott.

Look For: Late Oakland Raiders lineman John Matuszak, more or less playing himself as rowdy O.W. Shaddock.

Runner-Up: The Longest Yard (1974). A former pro QB (Burt Reynolds) leads prison inmates in a game against the guards. Cool Hand Luke meets Semi-Tough.

Contenders: Knute Rockne, All-American (1940), Rudy (1993), Jerry Maguire (1997), Remember the Titans (2000)

Dissenting Opinion: Where's the love for the Mean Machine? Before Burt Reynolds was the Bandit, he starred in the best football movie ever. The Longest Yard is simply a classic. The hard-hitting, cheap shot-filled football game between the prisoners and guards was done so well that folks are still trying to rip it off today. -- Adam Levine,
Slap Shot (1977)
Stars: Paul Newman, Strother Martin, Michael Ontkean    Director: George Roy Hill
Why Itís No. 1: When you talk about hilariously foul-mouthed movies, this comedy about a hapless minor league hockey team is the gold standard. There's cursing, skating, cursing, fighting, cursing, womanizing and Ö well, don't even think about watching it on network TV.

Memorable Moment: It's the championship game. To the disgust of team pacifist Ned Braden (Ontkean), the Charlestown Chiefs, the league's toughest team, are duking it out on the ice with their arch rivals. Then, to the blaring strains of David Rose's The Stripper, Ontkean brings things to a jaw-dropping halt with the unlikeliest of protests.

They Said It: "You cheap sonofabitch! Those guys are retards!" -- Coach Reggie Dunlop (Newman) to the Chiefs' owner (Martin) upon meeting his new players, the geeky Hansons.

Look For: Real-life brothers -- and hockey players -- Jeff and Steve Carlson, who play two of the three Hanson brothers. A third brother, Jack Carlson, was replaced in the movie after being called up to the World Hockey Association.

Runner-Up: Mystery, Alaska (1999). A stolid Russell Crowe leads a small-town amateur team against the New York Rangers in this underrated comedy.

Contenders: Youngblood (1986), The Mighty Ducks (1992)

Rocky (1976)
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith    Director: John G. Avildsen
Why Itís No. 1: No question about it. In a genre rife with films about boxing's seamy underside, this tale of a club fighter who gets a shot at the title is the feel-good sports movie of all time. If you don't get a lump in your throat at the end, you're as cold as the sides of beef Rocky sparred against.

Memorable Moment: In a rousing montage of sparring, weight-lifting and running scenes -- perhaps you've heard the Rocky theme -- Rocky (Stallone) trains for the fight of his life. The shot on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is positively spine-tingling. We'll pass on the raw eggs, though.

They Said It: "It really don't matter if I lose this fight. It really don't matter if this guy opens my head, either. 'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood." -- Rocky explaining to his girlfriend (Shire) why he wants to fight.

Look For: Rocky's dog, Butkus. A bull mastiff, Butkus was actually Stallone's real-life dog.

Runner-Up: Raging Bull (1980). Robert De Niro's amazing performance carries this unblinking biography of Jake LaMotta. Many still it consider director Martin Scorsese's best work, but frankly it's a film more to be respected than enjoyed.

Contenders: Body and Soul (1947), The Set-Up (1949), Champion (1949), The Harder They Fall (1956), Fat City (1974)

Dissenting Opinion: Sure, Rocky is a classic. For my money, though, Rock's avenging battle with Drago in Rocky IV is way better than anything in the first movie. But that entire franchise pales in comparison to Raging Bull. Yes, Martin Scorsese's masterpiece is gritty, ugly and difficult to watch, but De Niro's tour de force performance captures boxing better than any Hollywood happy pill. -- Adam Levine,
Tin Cup (1996)
Stars: Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Don Johnson    Director: Ron Shelton
Why Itís No. 1: It may not be the yuk-fest that Caddyshack or Happy Gilmore is, but this likeable romantic comedy about a washed-up golf pro who overcomes both personal and professional demons to compete in the U.S. Open has plenty of laughs in its own right. And a whole lot of soul.

Memorable Moment: When golfer Roy McAvoy (Costner) complains that his swing "feels like an unfolded lawn chair," his caddy suggests he 1) move his change into his left-hand pocket, 2) tie his left shoe in a double-knot, 3) turn his hat around backwards and 4) stick a tee ... behind his ear. McAvoy feels stupid -- but his next shot flies straight down the fairway. "Your brain was getting in the way," says the caddy.

They Said It: "Oh, he was the catcher on the high school baseball team. The star pitcher had a big-league curve ... not all of his pitches hit Roy in the mitt, ouch. The team thought Tin Cup was a whole lot better than Clank." -- Doreen, Roy McAvoy's stripper ex-wife, explaining how he got his nickname.

Look For: Cheech Marin, a long, long way from Up in Smoke, playing the voice of reason as Romeo Posar, McAvoy's caddy.

Runner-Up: Caddyshack (1980). Yep, it's laugh-out-loud funny in places and extremely quotable. But Harold Ramis' uneven caddies vs. country club farce should have been better, considering the cast (Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Ted Knight).

Contenders: Happy Gilmore (1996), The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)

Dissenting Opinion: Tin Cup over Caddyshack? Did you get whacked on the head with a 1-iron? Don't get me wrong, I liked Tin Cup. It had some funny scenes and lines -- not to mention Rene Russo. But any true golfer who would pick Kevin Costner over Bill Murray needs to have his clubs confiscated. -- John Byrwa,
Pat and Mike (1952)
Stars: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Aldo Ray    Director: George Cukor
Why Itís No. 1: Obviously inspired by multi-sport legend Babe Didrickson Zaharias (who makes an appearance), this comedy about a sports manager and his female multi-sport star falls short of such Tracy-Hepburn classics as Adam's Rib and Woman of the Year, but the two stars are always fun to watch together.

Memorable Moment: Manager Mike Conovan's (Tracy) "silent partners" want him to fix a golf match involving his star, Pat Pemberton (Hepburn), but he suggests they take a hike. Instead, the hoods take him outside for a "talk" -- but Pat comes to the rescue and knocks the bad guys silly.

They Said It: "Not much meat on her, but what's there is cherce." -- Mike Conovan, describing Pat Pemberton.

Look For: Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Charles Bronson (billed as Charles Buchinski) and Chuck Connors (TV's The Rifleman) in small roles.

Runner-Up: Nobody's Perfect (1989). OK, it's weak field. The primary virtue of this aimless Chad Lowe comedy is that it's not Players.

Contenders: Players (1979)

Dissenting Opinion: Hey, where's Strangers on a Train? It's Hitchcock and it's a tennis movie and, thus, the best tennis movie of all time. Robert Walker plays a deranged trust fund kid with too much time on his hands and an unambiguously gay obsession with tennis star Farley Granger. And this was the '40s! -- Steve Robinson,
Victory (1981)
Stars: Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Max von Sydow    Director: John Huston
Why Itís No. 1: It's a soccer movie! It's a war movie! It's two movies in one! Improbable as it may be -- and it's supposedly based on a true incident -- Huston's tale of Allied POWs agreeing to play the Nazis in a big soccer game only so they can escape is immensely satisfying.

Memorable Moment: Trailing the Nazis 4-1 at halftime, the Allied team is in the locker room, about to escape through a tunnel. "Hold on," says one player. "We can beat them. Ö We can win this." American goalie Robert Hatch (Stallone) argues that he doesn't want to go back to prison. "Hatch, if you leave now, we lose more than a game," pleads another player. Moments later, the team emerges from the stadium tunnel and runs back onto the field.

They Said It: "No, I don't want to get shot as anything." -- Robert Hatch, when another prisoner asks if he wants to be shot as a spy.

Look For: Pelé, Bobby Moore, John Wark, Osvaldo Ardiles and other real-life soccer stars as players on the Allied team. Pelé was 41 when Victory came out, but oh that bicycle kick.

Runner-Up: Bend It Like Beckham (2002). This coming-of-age sleeper from Europe about a girl who wants to be a pro soccer player like her hero, David Beckam, also offers an interesting look at Indian culture.

Contenders: Fever Pitch (1997), The Match (1999), Mean Machine (2001)

Chariots of Fire (1981)
Stars: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nigel Havers    Director: Hugh Hudson
Why Itís No. 1: It's not for all tastes, but this true story about two runners -- one Christian, one Jewish -- who go for the gold in the 1924 Olympics is thoughtful and sincere without being sentimental. A surprise Oscar winner for Best Picture in 1981 (over favorites Reds and Raiders of the Lost Ark).

Memorable Moment: Is there anything quite like that opening shot? To the strains of Vangelis' haunting theme, white-clad runners lope through the surf on a peaceful Scottish beach, then jog across the 18th fairway of the pastoral Old Course at St. Andrews Golf Club. That's all -- but it's the movie's signature scene.

They Said It: "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." -- Eric Lidell (Charleson).

Look For: Ian Holm as trainer Sam Mussabini, barely recognizable as the same guy who plays Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Runner-Up: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962). After 40 years, Tony Richardson's gritty black-and-white portrait of a British reform school kid whose only refuge is cross-country running is still strong stuff.

Contenders: Personal Best (1982), Prefontaine (1997), Without Limits (1998)

Cool Runnings (1993)
Stars: Leon, Doug E. Doug, John Candy    Director: Jon Turteltaub
Why Itís No. 1: Inspired by the strange-but-true story of Jamaica's first Olympic bobsled team, this Disney comedy -- arguably Candy's best movie -- manages to tell its mostly fictional fish-out-of-water story with both humor and warmth. You'll be smiling when the end credits roll.

Memorable Moment: As Jamaican "push-cart" champion Sanka Coffie (Doug) reads up on bobsledding, his friend Derice Bannock (Leon) explains that it's a winter sport. "You mean winter, as in ice?" Sanka asks. "You mean as in penguins and Eskimos and igloos and ICE?" "Maybe," concedes Derice. "See you, mon," says Sanka.

They Said It: "Oh, yeah, just one little drawback to this delightful winter sport. The high-speed crash. Ooh! That hurt. Always remember, your bones will not break in a bobsled. No, no, no. They shatter." -- Bobsled coach Irving "Irv" Blitzer (Candy).

Look For: Well, listen for plenty of nice reggae cuts, including The Jamaican Boblsedding Chant. Malik Yoba, who plays bobsledder Yul Brenner (yes, really), helped write it.

Runner-Up: Downhill Racer (1969). Robert Redford is solid in this character study about an immature American skier (based loosely on Spider Sabich, the skier who was shot to death by singer Claudine Longet in 1975), and Gene Hackman as his coach is even better.

Contenders: Ice Castles (1978), The Cutting Edge (1992)

Grand Prix (1966)
Stars: James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand    Director: John Frankenheimer
Why Itís No. 1: Granted, the story about four Formula 1 drivers and their various problems is strictly by the numbers. But even nearly 40 years later, the wide-screen race photography -- Frankenheimer used footage from the actual 1965 Grand Prix season -- remains eye-popping. You'll need a big TV to really appreciate the split-screen shots, though.

Memorable Moment: The movie opens on a riveting F1 race through the scenic, narrow and twisting streets of Monte Carlo. The noise is deafening, the overhead camera shots breathtaking. Suddenly, two cars collide and one catapults off the road -- and plunges into the city's yacht-filled harbor. Happily, the driver, Pete Aron (Garner), emerges unhurt.

They Said It: "I used to go to pieces. I'd see an accident like that and be so weak inside that I wanted to quit -- stop the car and walk away. I could hardly make myself go past it. But I'm older now. When I see something really horrible, I put my foot down. Hard! Because I know that everyone else is lifting his." -- Jean-Pierre Sarti (Montand).

Look For: James Garner doing all of his own driving. Like Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, he caught the racing bug and later competed in several U.S. events.

Runner-Up: The Last American Hero (1973). Jeff Bridges is his usual affable self as a moonshiner-turned-stockcar racer loosely based on Tom Wolfe's story of real-life moonshiner-turned-stockcar racer Junior Johnson

Contenders: Winning (1969), Le Mans (1971), Heart Like a Wheel (1983)

National Velvet (1944)
Stars: Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, Donald Crisp     Director: Clarence Brown
Why Itís No. 1: OK, it's a little creaky, but movies just don't come any more heartwarming than this tale of a 12-year-old girl who dreams of entering her horse in Britain's famed Grand National. Taylor is winning, Rooney is typically feisty and the English countryside is gorgeous. Fun, as they say, for the whole family.

Memorable Moment: Velvet Brown's (Taylor) dream comes true when her mother gives her 100 gold pieces so she can enter the race. Mrs. Brown had won the money as a girl when, fulfilling her own dream, she swam the English Channel. As she tells Velvet, "I too believe that everyone should have a chance at a breathtaking piece of folly once in his life."

They Said It: "Some day you'll learn that greatness is only the seizing of opportunity -- clutching with your bare hands till the knuckles show white." -- Trainer Mi Taylor (Rooney) to Velvet Brown.

Look For: Anne Revere, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Velvet Brown's wise and caring mother. She played similar roles in such 1940s classics as Gentlemen's Agreement and Body and Soul.

Runner-Up: Bite the Bullet (1975). An assortment of cowboys and other Old West types take part in a rugged 700-mile horse race. More character-driven than action-packed, and the be-nice-to-animals message is a little heavy-handed. Very scenic, though.

Contenders: The Lemon Drop Kid (1951), The Black Stallion (1979), Phar Lap (1983)

Breaking Away (1979)
Stars: Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern    Director: Peter Yates
Why Itís No. 1: Don't care for cycling? No matter. You'll still love this charmer about four small-town kids trying to figure out what to do with their lives, including a cyclist who pretends to be Italian because Ö well, the best cyclists are Italian. Lots of laughs, and the characters ring true.

Memorable Moment: The climactic race, of course, is thrilling. Just as effective in its own way, though, is a scene when Dave Stoller (Christopher) is cycling along a highway and ends up racing a semi-trailer. The driver's reaction -- he flashes his fingers to show how fast Dave is going -- is priceless.

They Said It: "I know I-tey food when I hear it! It's all them 'eenie' foods ... zucchini ... and linguini ... and fettuccine. I want some American food, dammit! I want French fries!" -- Dave's put-upon dad (Paul Dooley) complaining about, among other things, the diet implemented by his wife (Barbara Barrie).

Look For: Terrific shots of the IU campus, Bloomington and the central Indiana countryside, an integral part of the movie's appeal.

Runner-Up: American Flyers (1985). This story by Steve Tesich (who also wrote Breaking Away) about two brothers who enter a grueling mountain race is more than satisfying. And check out Kevin Costner in that mustache.

Contenders: This was a two-movie race.

Dissenting Opinion: American Flyers has never gotten the same props as Breaking Away, but it should. Combine realistic cycling, beautiful scenes of the Rocky Mountains and a moving family drama, and what's not to like? Look for a pre-Dirty Dancing Jennifer Grey. -- B. Duane Cross,
The Hustler (1961)
Stars: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, George C. Scott    Director: Robert Rossen
Why Itís No. 1: The seedy world of professional pool comes to life, thanks to Paul Newman's classic anti-hero performance as a cocky but self-destructive pool player. Gleason (as Minnesota Fats) and Scott are equally memorable, and the black-and-white photography perfectly captures the bleak mood.

Memorable Moment: Who knew pool was a contact sport? When Fast Eddie Felson (Newman) picks up his winnings in a waterfront dive after obviously hustling another would-be hustler, he's confronted by four thugs. "Why you're a pool-shark, boy, a real pool-shark!" one of them says -- and they drag him into the men's room, where they brutally break both his thumbs.

They Said It: "You know, I got a hunch, fat man. I got a hunch that it's me from here on in. One ball, corner pocket. I mean, that ever happen to you? You know, all of a sudden you feel like you just can't miss? 'Cause I dreamed about this game, fat man. I dreamed about it every night on the road. Five ball. You know, this is my table, man. I own it." -- Fast Eddie Felson to Minnesota Fats.

Look For: A cameo by 14-time world billiards champion Willie Mosconi, playing a guy who holds the bet money in the first match between Fast Eddie and Fats. Newman and Gleason did all their own playing in the film -- except for a masse shot, which was performed by Mosconi.

Runner-Up: The Color of Money (1986). Paul Newman won a long overdue Oscar for Best Actor in Martin Scorsese's sequel to The Hustler. Co-starring Tom Cruise, it's only a notch below the original.

Contenders: The Baltimore Bullet (1980)

Kingpin (1996)
Stars: Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Bill Murray    Director: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Why Itís No. 1: Hey, it's the classic tale of an alcoholic, one-handed bowler who tries reclaim his life with the help of an Amish bowling prodigy. Crude, yes. Vulgar, yes. Incredibly so. But where else are you gonna find riffs on The Natural, The Hustler, The Color of Money -- not to mention Witness?

Memorable Moment: This may be the ultimate bad-hair movie, but in his championship showdown with Roy Munson (Harrelson), Ernie McCracken's (Murray) gravity-defying comb-over takes on a life of its own. And when was the last time you saw a color-coordinated back support?

They Said It: "It all comes down to this roll. Roy Munson, a man-child, with a dream to topple bowling giant Ernie McCracken. If he strikes, he's the 1979 Odor-Eaters Champion. He's got one foot in the frying pan and one in the pressure cooker. Believe me, as a bowler, I know that right about now, your bladder feels like an overstuffed vacuum cleaner bag and your butt is kinda like an about-to-explode bratwurst." -- Ernie McCracken, trying to psych out Roy Munson.

Look For: Chris Elliot as a high roller in a slightly disturbing homage to Indecent Proposal.

Runner-Up: The Big Lebowski (1998). This goofy Coen brothers offering about a slacker who's mistaken for a gangster could have used a little more John Turturro, outstanding as sinister bowler Jesus Quintana.

Contenders: Dreamer (1979)

Dissenting Opinion: The Big Lebowski is a Coen Brothers movie. That alone puts it ahead of Kingpin. But just for good measure: The lead character is known as "Dude" (Jeff Bridges), and John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Sam Elliott, Julianne Moore and even Flea (!) create a wonderfully wacky supporting cast. -- Jennifer Cooper,
Vision Quest (1985)
Stars: Matthew Modine, Linda Fiorentino, Michael Schoeffling    Director: Harold Becker
Why Itís No. 1: If you were a teenager in the '80s, you know why. This story of a high school wrestler who drops weight to challenge the champ in a lower weight class hits all the right notes. And Fiorentino, as the girl who gives him something else to think about, has never been hotter.

Memorable Moment: Louden Swaim (Modine) and his friend Kuch (Michael Schoeffling) are in the kitchen talking when Carla (Fiorentino) saunters in briefly to grab a cup of yogurt. When she returns a moment later to get a spoon she's forgotten, both boys are wearing happy expressions on their faces -- largely because she's wearing no pants.

They Said It: "She's got all the best things I like in girls and all the best things I like in guys." -- Louden Swain, who up to now has been interested only in wrestling, explaining his feelings for Carla.

Look For: Madonna, in her first film appearance, singing Gambler and Crazy for You in the club scene.

Runner-Up: The One and Only (1978). Carl Reiner's fictional take on the birth of pro wrestling has some funny moments, but not enough to make a movie star out of Henry Winkler.

Contenders: Take Down (1978), ÖAll the Marbles (1981), No Holds Barred (1989), Over the Top (1987 -- the best arm wrestling movie ever).

Enter the Dragon (1973)
Stars: Bruce Lee, John Saxon    Director: Robert Clouse
Why Itís No. 1: Before Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Jet Li, the real king of kick-ass was Bruce Lee. In his best film, Lee (playing a character named, incredibly enough, Lee) proves to the world (and to Hollywood) why you don't need wires and special effects to make a great martial arts action film.

Memorable Moment: This film is loaded with Kung-Fu goodness, but Lee's final battle in the hall of mirrors with the slightly mad, but very capable Han (Shih Kien) is unforgettable. The look on Lee's face when he vanquishes Han is money.

They Said It: "Never take your eyes off your opponent ... even when you bow." -- Lee.

Look For: Bolo Yeung as Han's heavy-hitter, Bolo. Fans of the genre will recognize Bolo as Jean Claude Van Damme's final opponent, Chong Li, in Bloodsport.

Runner-Up: The Karate Kid (1984). It's the Rocky of martial arts movies, with good guys and bad guys and Arnold (Pat Morita) from Happy Days. Remember: Wax on, wax off.

Contenders: Fists of Fury (1971), Bloodsport (1988)

Dissenting Opinion: The Karate Kid's status as a cult classic only grows by the day. How many times have you done the Mr. Miyagi handclasp magic-healing rub? How many movies has lines like "Mercy is for the weak," "Put him in a body bag, Johnny!" and "Sweep the leg!" It's easily the best American martial arts movie ever made. -- Jacob Luft,
Stay Hungry (1976)
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Sally Field, Arnold Schwarzenegger    Director: Bob Rafelson
Why Itís No. 1: When we say it's one of a kind, we aren't kidding. A pre-Conan Schwarzenegger is amazingly life-like as a fiddle-playing bodybuilder whose gym has been targeted for demolition.

Memorable Moment: About 100 bodybuilders run through the streets of downtown Birmingham, Ala. -- naked. 'Nuff said.

They Said It: "I don't believe in getting too comfortable. Stay hungry." -- Joe Santo (Schwarzenegger).

Look For: A pre-Freddy Krueger Robert Englund.

Runner-Up: Did we say it's one of a kind?

Contenders: Uh-uh.

Big Wednesday (1978)
Stars: Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt, Gary Busey    Director: John Milius
Why Itís No. 1: All right, we'll watch Gary Busey in just about anything. But this cult fave about three 1960s surfing buddies eventually forced to deal with growing up and getting old -- not necessarily in that order -- is a very solid comedy/drama. The surfing scenes ain't bad, either.

Memorable Moment: It's 1965. Wanting no part of Vietnam, Matt Johnson (Vincent) and Leroy "Masochist" Smith (Busey) fake their way out of the draft, Johnson by wearing a leg brace, Smith by pretending to be a schizoid wino. It's hilarious Ö and a little sad.

They Said It: "It'll come again. It'll be a swell so big and strong it'll wipe clean everything that went before it. That's the day this board will be ridden." -- Bear (Sam Melville) to a youngster as he's making his "Big Wave" board.

Look For: Hey, there's Robert Englund again!

Runner-Up: Point Break (1991). But it is the No. 1 surfing-skydiving-bank robbery movie ever made.

Contenders: Gidget (1959), North Shore (1987), Blue Crush (2002)

Teenage Dream (1986)
Stars: Olivia d'Abo, Rita Tushingham, Keanu Reeves    Director: Paul Lynch
Why Itís No. 1: Never heard of this story of a teenage girl who overcomes a leg injury to become a champion gymnast? How about under its two other titles, Flying and Dream to Believe? That's OK, not many people have. Yes, there's not much to choose from here.

Memorable Moment: Robin (Olivia d'Abo ) and her rival, Leah, square off in an impromptu gymnastics competition in, of all places, the parking lot of a hamburger joint. Robin "wins" with a running-roundoff-backhandspring-backflip -- over a red sports car. Whoa!

They Said It: "Try for a '10' this time." -- Coach Jean Stoller (Tushingham), offering some helpful advice to one of her athletes.

Look For: Keanu Reeves on the video box cover, even though he's a supporting character (the boyfriend) and this movie came out a full three years before Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure made him a, uh, star.

Runner-Up: Breaking Free (1995). A cynical teen helps a blind gymnast rediscover herself through equestrian show jumping. Incredibly, it's still better than Ö

Contenders: Gymkata (1985), American Anthem (1986) goes to the movies