Spring Training is getting old, is it not? With Opening Day (yes, it gets capitals, thank you) a mere — *drum roll, please* — ten days away, I thought I’d get the ball rolling with my favorite baseball movies of all time. Feel free to weigh in, as always.
10. Angels in the Outfield
I know, I know. It’s cheesy, cornball, sappy — all of those things. I get it, trust me. But, well, ya know how it’s so deliberately sentimental (and formulaic) that it is going out of its way to make you get all choked up? Yeah, that works on me every time.
This doesn’t often make it onto Top Ten lists of baseball movies, but I really liked this movie a lot. It chronicles the home run record race between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. Interesting story, good acting, lots of old school baseball that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.
8. The Natural
This is a fine baseball film, full of all the “baseball as American as apple pie” elements you can find. Robert Redford turns in a strong (and natural, sorry) performance as Roy Hobbs, the baseball player with “natural” ability…throw in some illegal activity and the whole father-son relationship (that seems to be an essential part of baseball movies) and you’ve got The Natural. The ending is as cheeseball as it gets (well, a lot of it is…the bat, the hitting the guts out of the ball, and so on), but it works…every time.
7. Rookie of the Year
This movie is so darn cute. The premise is pretty silly (a Little Leaguer who suffers a broken arm that heals itself into major leaguer quality, leading to being signed by the Chicago Cubs) and it plays out in a pretty formulaic fashion, but it’s likable and fun.
6. Major League
This movie is not great, per se, but it is fun. It has oddball (but very watchable) characters and a storyline that hangs on through the end of the movie. Its popularity has probably risen of late because Charlie Sheen portrays “Wild Thing” Rick Vaughn (a slightly out-of-control pitcher); interestingly enough, his fastball was clocked at 85 mph during filming. However, there’s more to the movie than just a Sheen fascination.
5. A League of Their Own
You can’t go wrong with this film…you’ve got great acting, a fascinating story (that is historically based), and baseball. Geena Davis is great in this, as is Tom Hanks, but they’re just among the gems in this movie.
4. Fever Pitch
I love — seriously, love — this movie. It is incredibly funny and feels very realistic (although if you were dating a guy like this, it probably wouldn’t be so amusing). The premise is great, it’s executed extremely well, and doesn’t lose steam at the end. Plus, what baseball fan can’t relate to Jimmy Fallon’s character? The hopes, the heartbreak, the “smack” talk…the Curse of the Bambino? If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor. It’s a romantic comedy with a baseball focus…win-win.
3. Bull Durham
Baseball fanatic Kevin Costner is really the rock in this baseball classic (although huge props go to Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins as well), a smart, sexy, and sound contribution to the library of baseball movies.
This is one of those baseball movies I always, always watch when it’s on. You have kids…baseball…a dog…and a 1950s Anytown, USA setting that combine for a classic baseball movie. The kids all add something special to this film and it’s hard to imagine not getting all emotional at the end when James Earl Jones makes an appearance. Plus, it’s the movie we credit with “You’re killing me, Smalls.” Come on!
1. Field of Dreams
The greatest baseball movie, hands down, ever made (believe it or not, it was adapted from the novel Shoeless Joe, written by W.P. Kinsella). I don’t know how you can beat this flick. Kevin Costner, once again, delivers an inspired performance that makes a movie — one that is clever and so true to the raw emotion of baseball, it’s hard to articulate. Watching the baseball heroes of the past play pick-up games on a converted cornfield? (Which, by the way, has been preserved…check it out!) Doesn’t get much better than that…until, of course, Costner’s character gets another chance to play catch with his dad. “Is this heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa.”
What do you think? What baseball movies would be on your list?