Guide to the BEST Sports Movies: Baseball

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Welcome to our quick guide to what we feel are the most important and best sports movies out there.  After panelling our writers, we came up with the Good, the Great and the Epic.  We begin with a look at what we feel are the 10 best baseball movies.  Of course the list is subjective, and there are bound to be disagreements.  We’ll follow this up in the coming weeks with our guides other professional sports.  Anyway, let’s get on with it…

The Good:

10. Eight Men Out

The details: (1988, John Cusack, Clifton James, Michael Lerner, Christopher Lloyd)

Why you should watch: Eight Men Out is based on baseball’s dirty past; when the Chicago White Sox were bribed throw the 1919 World Series.  Even though Major League Baseball was professional, it was not nearly as lucrative as it was even 20-30 years later.  So the poorly paid White Sox players were faced with the options of getting paid more money to lose the game, or less money and winning.  We love period pieces, and we felt the film made the era come alive.  The film had excellent actors involved, most notably John Cusack who played Buck Weaver, but they all worked so well together in this ensemble piece.  We loved the movie, but unlike some of the more higher ranked movies, it might be limited to baseball fans in particular.

 

9. The Natural

The details: (1984, Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, William Brimley)

Why you should watch:  The cast alone should be enough to warrant a rental or download for this one for those who haven’t seen it already.  Robert Redford is one of the greatest actors of our time, and he was at his best in this one.  Most people love the story of an average Joe, well average in Major League Baseball’s sense, come out of nowhere to take the game by storm.  Essentially this is what makes the movie plot so appealing.  The characters are well acted by the aforementioned Redford, along with strong performances from Glenn Close and Kim Basinger.  William Brimley is always a great addition to a film.

 

8. 42

The details: (2013, Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, T.R. Knight)

Why you should watch: The only biography to make our list, 42 is the story of one of the most inspirational players in sports history – Jackie Robinson, who was the first black player in Major League Baseball.  In fact, in a poll conducted by LastWordOnSports, over 1000 readers voted overwhelmingly in favour of Jackie Robinson in 1942 as the single most important event in baseball history.  So, with that history as a backbone for the movie, there was certainly a lot to live up to.  Thankfully, Chadwick Boseman portrayed Jackie very well, and Harrison Ford added some star power and professionalism to the film.  While many cite that the movie was “sensational” and was very textbook-like in its plot, we actually didn’t mind that much as we were expecting a true bio-pic, and that’s what we got.

 

7. Sandlot

The details: (1993, Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Patrick Renna, Chauncey Leopardi, James Earl Jones)

Why you should watch: What we loved about Sandlot is the nostalgia it brought us.  We went back and forth about the characters, sizing each other as to who would be which character.  It brought us back to a time when we were those kids, fighting for control of our baseball diamond.  We all had that neighbourhood “grump”, played expertly by James Earl Jones.  The movie is about that new kid, slightly undersized and under-appreciated, who has to do what he can to fit in.  This movie is about his relationships with his new friends and step-father, and the obstacles, the same that we very well could have run into as kids, that present themselves.  While it’s not the same exactly, I remember as a kid my brother wearing my father’s prized autographed baseball cap by one of his childhood idols, only to return home with it in tatters.  That’s what this movie brings – memories.

 

The Great:

6. Major League

The details: ( 1989, Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Wesley Snipes)

Why you should watch:  Who has not seen this movie more than a hundred times?  No one?  Thought not.  Major League is one of those movies that you want to think is stupid, but is just so entertaining because of what the characters bring to the plate.  Tell me you still don’t get psyched watching Rick Vaughn come out of the bull pen to “Wild Thing”!  “Let’s get tough, Ricky!”  Everyone loves the underdog story, and this is as good as it gets – a team of rag-tag washed up old players thrown together with a few young kids no one ever heard of (outside of the Cal penal league) and you get the Cleveland Indians.  The team battles its way against their ruthless cutthroat owner who intends to sell them, and their futures, for warmer climes.  But just as in most magical movies, something happens and the weak rally to overcome adversity, and that is what makes this movie so charming and endearing.  Tom Berringer, Wesley Snipes and Charlie Sheen were all great.

 

5. A League of Their Own

The details: (1992, Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Lori Petty)

Why you should watch:  Quick, quote one line from A League of Their Own….. did you say, “There’s no crying in baseball?”  Anyway, this fantastic period piece from Penny Marshall captures the audience from start to finish.  Two sisters join the first female professional baseball league and the movie portrays their struggle to help the team and league succeed as their sisterly rivalry grows.  The movie was very well casted, each bringing their own je ne sais quoi – Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell were great in their supporting roles, while Geena Davis shone as the larger than life bigger sister and Tom Hanks was Tom Hanks-like.

 

4. Bad News Bears

The details: (1976, Walter Matthau, Tatum O’Neal, Vic Morrow, Joyce Van Patten)

Why you should watch:  Would Bad News Bears be made today as it was almost 40 years ago?  Perhaps, but it would most likely be toned down.  But part of the charm of this movie is in its realistic portrayal of the dark side of sports without being so openly “dark”.  On the back of a remarkable performance by Walter Matthau as an alcoholic father turned coach, the mostly juvenille actors and actresses brought a very real feel to this flick.  What we liked about BNB are the very memorable moments; when the team learned of a “girl pitcher”, or when Lupus (interesting choice of names in and of itself) made the dramatic once-in-a-lifetime (for him) catch.  And when the cool kid was finally goaded into joining the Bears in turning around their fortunes.  The movie is fantastic, and will be always.

 

The Epic:

3. Moneyball

The details: (2011, Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright)

Why you should watch:  We were all very high on Moneyball, hence the #3 ranking, despite it being only 2 years removed from theatre.  We dug deep as to what makes this movie so appealing, and we all took away something different.  For some it’s the fact that for the most part it’s based on a true story – the rise of Oakland Athletics thanks to its phenomenally appealing General Manager Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt.  For others it’s the characters, including the relationship between the aforementioned Billy Beane and his assistant and statistician Peter Brand, played by Jonah Hill.  Consider also having Robin Wright (always good) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (always brilliant), and you see a fantastic cast making this movie what it is.  For me personally, what makes this movie so appealing is that we all like to root for the underdog in the face of adversity.  As the Oakland A’s had a puny warchest for which to sign players in comparison to richer teams, I found myself rooting for them to put their money to good use.

 

2. Bull Durham

The details: (1988, Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins)

Why you should watch: Many critics (for which we are not in the technical sense) have Bull Durham as their #1 baseball movie of all time, and for good reason.  In Kevin Costner’s first baseball role (see: Field of Dreams, For the Love of the Game), he delivered a remarkable performance, as did his co-stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon.  Essentially the movie is about a fan who has an affair with one minor-league baseball player each season.  She meets a young upstart pitching prospect and an experienced catcher (hmmm.. young pitcher, old catcher – Major League-esque?).  Aside from a few quirks that only add to the movie, such as Costner’s character named Crash Davis, the movie really does have elements of everyday life – from sex to romance, from success to failure, and everything in between.  The one constant though, is that in a way baseball (all sports) balances them all.  It’s the therapy we all need, and that is what we take away from this phenomenal movie.

 

1.  Field of Dreams

The details: (1989, Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, Burt Lancaster)

Why you should watch:  The movie as as good today as it was 24 years ago.  What we liked about this one is two-fold: the perfect blend of nostalgia mixed with everything that makes baseball America’s past time.  As most will know, the story revolves around on Ray (Kevin Costner), a farmer from Iowa who chooses to clear some of his fields to build a baseball stadium.  The sub-plots are what drives this one, including story-lines that culminate in one fantastic final scene when all of Ray’s hard work and willingness to believe finally pays off.  With the perfect blend of supernatural-meets-childhood-magic and baseball history (see: “Shoeless” Joe Jackson) the movie draws in its characters remarkably well.  Led by strong performances by Costner, as well as James Earl Jones, this movie is the pinnacle of sports movies.

Honourable Mentions:

The Pride of the Yankees, Fever Pitch, For the Love of the Game, The Rookie, The Babe, 61, Rookie of the Year,

 

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