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Personal Best is a 1982 film centered on a group of women trying to qualify for the American track-and-field team bound for the 1980 Olympic Games. Despite their commitment to their training regimen, their dreams are thwarted when the United States announces its boycott of the Games for political reasons, leaving them with only the informal "personal best" marks they achieved during training to connote their achievements.

Personal Best
Directed byRobert Towne
Produced byRobert Towne
Written byRobert Towne
Music by
CinematographyMichael Chapman
Edited by
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
February 5, 1982
Running time
124 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$5,672,311[1]

The movie starred Mariel Hemingway and real-life track star Patrice Donnelly, along with Scott Glenn as the coach of the track team. It was written, produced and directed by Robert Towne.

The film was praised by critics for providing a realistic look at the world of women's athletics, for exploring the complex relationships that can exist among teammates and their coach, and for its sensitive portrayal of the relationship between an older lesbian (Donnelly) and a younger bisexual woman (Hemingway). Despite good reviews, it flopped at the box-office.

Many of the scenes were filmed in San Luis Obispo County. While the sign on the track said "Cal Poly", which is a university in San Luis Obispo, it was filmed at the track at Morro Bay High School. There are also two scenes filmed at restaurants in downtown San Luis Obispo; the Cigar Factory and 1865. Filming locations in Eugene, Oregon, included Hayward Field and the nearby Track Town Pizza restaurant.


Plot summaryEdit

Chris Cahill is a young athlete who competes unsuccessfully in the 1976 U.S. Olympic trials. She meets a more experienced lesbian track and field competitor, Tory Skinner, and their friendship evolves into a romantic relationship.


Many elite track and field athletes of the day played in the film, including:


Filming took place in Eugene, Oregon.[3]

References in popular cultureEdit

An SCTV sketch entitled Chariots of Eggs featured a film within a film parodying both this film and Chariots of Fire.

The lesbian relationship in the movie is referenced by Ross Geller in an episode of the fourth season of Friends. The lesbian relationship is also referenced in episode 10 of the first season of American Dad!, in the 1997 Ellen episode "The Puppy Episode", and in the 2012 novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

The 1995 Team Dresch queercore album Personal Best took its name and cover imagery from the film.


Critical responseEdit

Personal Best garnered a 72% approval rating at review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 29 reviews.[4] It was noted for its physicality and forthright treatment of sensitive emotional issues. Roger Ebert gave the film four of a possible four stars and wrote, "This is a very physical movie, one of the healthiest and sweatiest celebrations of physical exertion I can remember...It is filled with the uncertainties, risks, cares, and rewards of real life, and it considers its characters' hearts and minds, and sees their sexuality as an expression of their true feelings for each other."[5]


The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. ^ Personal Best at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Filmed in Oregon 1908–2015" (PDF). Oregon Film Council. Oregon State Library. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  4. ^ Personal Best. Rotten Tomatoes.
  5. ^; Personal Best; at p. 245
  6. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-19.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

External linksEdit