Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Top 10 Baseball Movies

With the World Series coming to an end either today or tomorrow, I thought it’d be fun to draft a list of my favorite baseball films. Baseball as a sport isn’t really my thing (although my Red Sox-obsessed girlfriend is doing her best to change that), but that’s what makes these films so great. Whether or not you like the sport, these movies prove to be entertaining tales of America’s favorite pastime.

Honorable Mention
The Fan (1996)

I love the hell out of The Fan. De Niro trying to tap into whatever Travis Bickle he has left in him, a barely articulate Benicio Del Toro, a wiseass Ellen Barkin, bitchin’ Nine Inch Nails tracks – pure action trash bliss. It’ll never be one of Tony Scott’s most revered films, but it’ll always be one of my favorites. “Atta way BOBBYYYYY!”

10. 61* (2001)

Billy Crystal’s HBO film about Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle’s battle to break Babe Ruth’s single season home run record is, simply put, an eloquent love letter to baseball. You can tell everyone involved in this film really loves the game.

9. Field of Dreams (1989)

Here’s the tricky part about lists: you have to separate the better films from the films that aptly fit the criterion of the list. For example, one could make a strong argument that Field of Dreams is the best film on this list. But is it the best baseball movie? Nah. But no matter, it’s still a great film any way you look at it.

8. The Natural (1984)

Although stuck between two better-known Barry Levinson classics (‘82s Diner and ‘87s Good Morning, Vietnam), The Natural remains one of baseball’s finest cinematic stories. Watching the film now, it’s so amusing to see Robert Redford embracing his old age, when, all things considered, he really wasn’t that old at all. Just proves that real, authentic talent knows no age.

7. A League of Their Own (1992)

I hadn’t see A League of Their Own since I was a kid, but rewatching it for this list further confirmed what I’ve always known: this is one goddamn delightful little baseball movie.

6. Sugar (2008)

It’s such a shame that Sugar never received the attention it deserved. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck made the film two years after their breakout hit, Half Nelson, but it was released to little fanfare. The film tells the story of a young pro baseball player in the Dominican Republic whose life is flipped after he’s chosen to play in the U.S. Minor League. Miguel “Sugar” Santos’ new deal in the States sounds like a dream come true, but it doesn’t take long for him to realize that the American Dream isn’t always what it seems. An honest and moving film of lifted spirits and shattered expectations.

5. The Sandlot (1993)

I don’t really need to justify this one, right?

4. Pride of the Yankees (1942)

Thirteen short months after the untimely passing of Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig, Sam Wood released Pride of the Yankees, which remains as fine a biopic tribute as has ever been captured on film. The fact that Gary Cooper was able to make Gehrig’s heartbreaking field speech as memorable on film as it was in real life is a grand achievement.

3. Moneyball (2011)

The amazing thing about Moneyball is that it manages to make something so incredibly dull, so wildly compelling. I have no interest in studying absurdly in-depth baseball statistics, but I’ll listen to Brad Pitt and Johan Hill talk about them time and time again.

2. Bull Durham (1988)

Ron Shelton’s first (and still best) film is an appropriately hilarious, and surprisingly moving, love letter to baseball. I know I used that exact term to describe 61*, but it’s really the best way I can describe both films. They’re so appreciative that the game itself even exists.

1. Major League (1989)

I will always welcome an entertaining and/or heartwarming new baseball film. But I can all but guarantee that I’ll never have more fun with a baseball flick than Major League. I’ve adored this romp since long before I probably should’ve been allowed to (I might have been six the first time I saw it). It’s goofy but never ventures into parody, endearing but never too serious. In short, Major League is exactly the kind of movie it wants to be, and I absolutely love it.

40 comments:

  1. Love this list! Major League is the best, good call. Go soxxx!

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  2. I was wondering if it was going to make the cut... and there it is... right at #1.

    Excellent, as always, AW.

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    1. Thanks man! I love the hell out of that movie.

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  3. My order would be a little bit different. I've seen all of these but Sugar, so I can't comment on that one. And the only reason The Natural would make my list is if I couldn't think of an 11th baseball film.

    I love that 61* made the cut, though.

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    1. 61* is one of my favorite made-for-HBO flicks ever. Crystal did great work there. Sugar is a really solid indie film. Highly recommended.

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  4. Awesome list. My favorite is The Natural but you have to love Major League.

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    1. Thanks man. The Natural is a fine film. Damn fine.

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  5. What kind of person would I be to argue w/ such a list like this?

    Your top 2 films are exactly my favorite baseball films ever. Major League has some of the best one-liners ever. Bull Durham is a close second.

    I have mixed feelings on The Fan as it's kind of a mess where I got tired of seeing de Niro talk about the Stones and all that as it got old quick.

    Sugar is the only film in that list that I haven't seen but it's one that I want to see.

    Here's some other films I want to mention as I feel that 1993-1994 was a golden age for baseball movies that involved kids as The Sandlot is the Citizen Kane of these films that would include Angels in the Outfield (that features a young JGL, Adrien Brody, and Matthew McConaughey), Little Big League, and Rookie of the Year. For someone who was only 12-13 years old at that time, those were some damn good movies that still manages to hold up.

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    1. I think you'd really like Sugar.

      That really was the heyday for films of that kind. The Mighty Ducks kicked it off in '92, then we had those fine films you mentioned, Little Giants in '94. This really is a business of trends.

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    2. It certainly was. Little Giants was also great as I think it was the peak of that period though I think it all ended w/ the third Mighty Ducks film and everything then went to shit.

      Since you gf is happy that the Red Sox won, did you get any... wink, wink, nudge, nudge? :)

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  6. Very nice! I would have to bump up "A League of Their Own" and "Pride of the Yankees" a little higher, but it would be more based on the movies and less on the baseball.....I also would have to include "Little Big League" but mostly for sentimental reasons.

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    1. Thanks! Yeah, it can be difficult to separate the movie from how well it fits the criterion of the list, you know? Pride of the Yankees is probably the finest film on the list, but not the best baseball film. Little Big League is so cute!

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  7. Great call on Major League. The Fan is awesome as well, would have a hard time leaving that on the outside looking in...

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    1. Thanks man! I really do love The Fan. So damn entertaining.

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  8. Great list! I love baseball, and what I love most about Moneyball is that it's a film that you can enjoy even if you don't like the sport. I actually can't stand Field of Dreams, but I have no idea what I'd replace it with. BASEketball? Does that count? lol

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    1. BASEketball!! Yes!! Christ, I used to love that film. I caught that on TV a few months ago and was in heaven. Such a romp.

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  9. glad someone else mentioned baseketball if that counts.

    nice to see major league and sugar on here. sugar was devastating.

    go cubs.

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    1. Speaking of The Cubs, watch the 30 for 30: Catching Hell. A great doc.

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    2. devastating. i've seen it before.

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    3. Poor fuckin' kid. I mean, yeah, I know he messed up the out, but still.

      You know me, and you know I'm not one for religious justification, but that female preacher explaining what a scapegoat was, and how it applied to that situation, was actually quite fascinating.

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  10. I'm huge, huge baseball fan, so I was very interested in seeing your list!

    While it might be overly sappy, The Rookie is one that I would have to add to the list, along with Eight Men Out and Angels in the Outfield. I haven't seen Sugar, so I will have to check that out. I agree that Moneyball is great, and I actually love the statistics talk too ha. Also, Field of Dreams should be near the top of the list. It is the greatest of all time!

    Hated to see my Cards lose yesterday, but congrats to your girlfriend ha.

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    1. The Rookie is definitely a sentimental favorite. I quite enjoy it. Quaid delivers fine work in that. Also a big fan of Eight Men Out. All solid films.

      Sorry about your team!

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  11. Oh "Sugar", I do love it so. That's just the most wonderful movie, isn't it? I desperately wish more people would see it. My favorite baseball movie, far and away, is "Field of Dreams." But then I'm an Iowan. And that is the Iowa-est of Iowa movies. That's my people, man, through and through. Practical dreamers.

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    1. Yes! A Sugar fan. I really wish more people would see it to. So very good.

      I had no idea you were from Iowa, so I love to hear that Field of Dreams is so... Iowan. Great stuff.

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  12. A League of Their Own is one of those movies that made me want to BE a baseball player...immediately after I saw it. Love Moneyball and The Natural too. Really cool list!

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    1. Thanks! I'm curious, did you become a ball player eventually? That would be so cool :)

      Glad you like the list!

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  13. Man, it's the perfect time to become a Red Sox fan. The past few years have been rough. It was awesome seeing them win it again.

    Love these picks! Bull Durham, Moneyball and The Sandlot in the top 5? Yes!

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    1. This may seem absurd, but I honestly had never watched an entire baseball game before this World Series. My GF is a HUGE Sox fan, so she got me into it. I was happy they won too!

      Glad you dig the list!

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  14. Alex, I've seen all 10 of your picks and can't argue too strongly. You did miss my #1 baseball movie Eight Men Out, but I know there are a lot of good choices. It's cool to see 61* on here, which would be even higher in my rankings. I also like the attention for Moneyball, which I really enjoyed for the exact reasons you mentioned. Nice work.

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    1. Ahh I really wanted to include Eight Men Out, because it's a fantastic film, but I just couldn't manage to fit it in. Glad you liked the list though!

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  15. Glad to see Sugar on this list. It is a phenomenal film.

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    1. Love finding other admirers of that film. Phenomenal indeed. Deserves a wider audience.

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  16. Great listing for a great pastime, I always felt Baseball was the best team sport to commit to film. Film and baseball did sort of grow up together in the 20th century. I understand people nowadays gravitating towards the faster oriented pro-sports, but my palms will always be sweating when a power pitcher is throwing gas at the major league's best hitters. It is your best versus my best, go ahead hit it if you can. The most accurate depictions of the sport in my opinion are in Bull Durham and Sugar. But Field of Dreams is one of my favorite movies of all-time, and you're right it's not really about the game of baseball it's about what it means for others. Really the movie is about anything that is past down from generation to the next. The Father/Son relationship really gets me on a personal level, and that's all I really want to say about that... Glad the Sox won, more so that they beat the Cards than anything else, I'm so sick of them beating my Cubs time and time again. Since you brought up "Catching Hell" how many other of the 30 for 30's have you seen? I think that they're mostly all very well done.

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    1. I completely understand your personal connection to Field of Dreams. I have plenty of movies where "that's all I really want to say about that," is enough said.

      So glad to hear some praise for Sugar. Any fan of that movie is a friend of mine, for sure.

      I've actually seen every 30 for 30, but I don't remember them all clearly. For a while there, they were all available on Netflix, and I crushed a lot of them out. Now, a lot have been brought back to Netflix, so I finally caught up on all of them. When they're good, they're great. But quite a few are rather unmemorable. On a filmic level, June 17, 1994 is easily my favorite. You?

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    2. Let's see, Once Brothers, The Two Escobars and your pick June 17, 1994 are the highlights for me. The newest crop of 30 for 30's just aren't nearly at the same level as the previous ones, in my opinion, with the exception of 'Ghosts of Ole Miss'. Now that is as eye-opening a race-relation piece as I've seen in a long while. Really great at documenting a lesser know battle of civil rights.

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    3. Yeah, I'm not a big fan of the new ones either. I love the ones you mentioned, as well as No Crossover, Winning Time, Unguarded, and other, non basketball ones.

      I just realized that I've seen every 30 for 30, but not every ESPN Film short. I didn't know those were two separate things until right now.

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  17. There I was making my way down this list thinking - Bull Durham must be number one, Bull Durham must be number one... and then you surprise me with Major League. Can't argue with it - really fun film. I wasn't a fan of Moneyball but I did quite enjoy one that rarely gets a mention - The Benchwarmers! Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, The Sandlot, League of Their Own, and Major League would probably be my top 5 with The Natural at 6.

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    1. Bull Durham rocks. I love that damn movie. I haven't seen The Benchwarmers! So that's clearly one I need to scope out.

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