• 02:00 PM ET  06.19

As commemorates the 20th anniversary of Bull Durham, we've spent the week tossing around our favorite sports movies. Coming up with a list of your top five is harder than it seems: I still can't believe classics like The Hustler, The Bad News Bears, Caddyshack and The Karate Kid didn't make mine. (Not to mention Point Break.) As a rule, we opted to leave out documentaries, which precludes masterclass works like the heart-rending Hoop Dreams, the soul-stirring When We Were Kings, and the experimentally poetic Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait.

After much deliberation, here's my short list:

* Breaking Away: This criminally underappreciated coming-of-age flick tracks four friends from a state college town searching for a sense of purpose at the tail-end of adolescence. An opportunity for validation comes with the Indiana University Little 500 bike race, when the townies decide to take on the frat boys at their own game. Dennis Quaid and Daniel Stern turn in strong performances. But veteran actor Paul Dooley -- Cheryl's dad from Curb Your Enthusiasm -- steals the movie as the earthy, old-school father befuddled by his son's whimsical obsession with Italian culture.

* Hoosiers: Thoroughly human performances from Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper elevate this no-frills genre film to all-time classic. But I've always thought Hoosiers didn't get enough credit for its meticulous production design, as a beautifully executed period piece recreating Midwest America circa 1951. Hackman's hardscrabble Norman Dale imparts lessons on teamwork which transcend the hardwood: Five players on the floor functioning as one single unit. Team, team, team: no one more important that the other.

* Raging Bull: Martin Scorsese's character study tracking the rise and decline of former middleweight champion Jake LaMotta remains a savagely beautiful work. Robert DeNiro, who famously gained 60 pounds mid-shoot to portray the bloated LaMotta later in life, has never turned in a better performance. Raging Bull was edged by Ordinary People for the Best Picture Oscar in 1980 but is frequently listed as the best American film of the eighties.

* Chariots of Fire: No film has captured the complex and multi-faceted nature of the Olympic spirit more effectively. This true story tracks two British athletes with vastly different backgrounds and motivations as they train for the 1924 Summer Olympics: Harold Abrahams, who is Jewish, is driven by anti-Semitism and class prejudice; Eric Liddell, the son of Scottish missionaries, uses his talent to showcase God's glory. Reckoning comes at the Paris Games, where the teammates and rivals achieve success on their own terms.

* Rocky: Frequently dismissed as sentimental and kitschy, Rocky works simultaneously as undemanding popcorn movie and Whitmanian ode to the individual. It's a genre movie, but its expressions are rendered with arthouse complexity. First-time screenwriter Sylvester Stallone wisely played aging palooka Rocky Balboa with a sensitivity missing from other gritty '70s antiheros like Popeye Doyle and Travis Bickle, and the choice paid off in one of the cinema's most memorable characters. But it's the little brushstrokes of brilliance which make Rocky one of the all-time great movies: from the emotional honesty of Rocky practicing jokes in the mirror to the way the snap of Creed's ribs in the climactic 14th round which takes us back to the cold meat locker -- where Rocky honed his left-handed missiles on sides of beef.

Agree? Disagree? Chime in with your picks for the best sports movies of all-time in the comments.


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