Baseball movie reviews
Movie Reviews presents reviews of some of the best baseball movies around.
There are a heap of great baseball movies to see and the game itself is perfect to be captured on film. Rustlers Reviews will look at many baseball movies and give you considered opinions on them.
The reviews below reflect the views of the author and in no way represent the views of the Cheltenham Baseball Club.
In no particular order, 20 baseball movies worth watching at least once:
Simply one of the best movies ever, let alone one of the very best baseball movies. If this list was a Top 10, then The Natural is no.1 by the length of a Roy Hobbs home run. This movie has everything: brilliant plot line, attempted murder, a pro comeback at 35, heaps of baseball action and a wickedly good last 15 minutes. Based on the 1952 Bernard Malamud novel, The Natural is a rare example of movie outdoing the book (though many may disagree).
Briefly, the lead character Roy Hobbs (played magnificently by Robert Redford, about the only guy who could convincingly play a teenager and a 35 year old with minimal makeup adjustment) witnesses his father die under a tree; carves a bat from the tree after it is hit by lightning and calls the bat ‘Wonderboy’; goes to the big smoke to play pro-ball leaving his childhood sweetheart behind; gets shot by a woman in black before playing a game; disappears for 16 years; then shows up to play with the New York Knights as a 35 year old rookie who can literally hit the cover off the ball. It is a brilliant movie, expertly handled in all respects and the playing sequences are excellent – very authentic and lots of them.
Appropriate for all ages (minor content alert for parents, but overall OK), this is a cracking film; if you don’t like The Natural, you don’t like baseball, or movies.
Follows the 1961 season home run record chase of fellow New York Yankees; superstar Mickey Mantle and the not-so-appreciated Roger Maris, as they go after baseball legend Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record of 60.
Directed by baseball nut Billy Crystal, the movie contrasts the wildly different characters: Mantle, the star, womaniser, drinker, easy-going mate to everyone and fan favourite; and Maris, almost the polar opposite – quiet, aloof, disliked the media, and alienated by and from the fans. As the season wears on it takes its toll on both men: Maris gets so stressed by the New York media attention and fan pressure (they openly wanted Mantle, a ‘true’ Yankee in their eyes, to win the title) his hair starts falling out in clumps, while Mantle’s body eventually gave up on him during the chase. It’s history that Maris went on to break the record.
A very good movie, it’s a naturally compelling story, with the very different Mantle/Maris characters making for good contrast (though they did get on well with each other). Lots of game scenes and realistically portrayed playing sequences always make for a good baseball movie and this is quite good in that respect.
Language alert for parents; it gets quite ‘blue’ in parts, not quite appropriate for littlies.
The first of the Major League movies is an absolute belter; just a hilarious movie (there are also MLs II & III: the former is OK, the latter eminently forgettable).
The film looks at a fictional season with the Cleveland Indians as they are absolutely gutted by new owner Rachel Phelps who wants to move the team to warmer Miami. In order to do so, attendance needs to drop below a point where she can exercise an escape clause in the stadium contract – to get this done, she has the team staffed with nobodies led by ageing catcher Tom Berenger, pitcher ‘Wild Thing’ Charlie Sheen (wow – what a predictor of the future this movie turned out to be!) and Wesley Snipes as Willie “Mays” Hayes.
The team goes on a tear in a wild ride through the season the progress of which is marked by the removal of pieces of paper clothing from a life-size cardboard mannequin of Phelps as motivation after each win.
This is just one of the funniest baseball movies around (Cerrano’s “*&^% you Jabu!” line to his under performing voodoo doll is just classic), and has heaps of very realistic baseball action. As a comedy, the temptation might have been to not be overly concerned with the realism of the baseball, but it is excellently handled. Sheen was actually a more than decent pitcher on his high school team with an 86mph fast ball: the scene with Wild Thing pitching to his Yankees nemesis Clu Haywood (played by real life ex-major leaguer Pete Vuckovich) is one of those great scenes that American sports movies just do perfectly. Real life MLB game caller Bob Uecker adds to the realism playing Harry Doyle; Indians sportscaster. Get beyond the completely unnecessary romantic sub-plot between Berenger and Rene Russo, and it’s a great, great movie.
Major language and content alert for parents; not appropriate for littlies.
A real winner – absolute classic stuff-of-dreams movie that will bring a tear to a glass eye. Based on the true story of Jim Morris, a 35 year old high school teacher who lives the dream and pitches in the Majors.
The movie is based on the autobiographical book of the same name and essentially stays true to a story which really needs minimal Hollywood ‘treatment’. Morris, played superbly by Dennis Quaid, a high school science teacher and baseball coach, makes a bet with his talented but under-performing high school team that if they won the district championship, he would try out for a Major league team. It probably needs mentioning here that he’s really not just any old science teacher, he’s actually a guy who can play the game having twice been drafted by MLB teams and released in his early 20s.
The team goes all the way, so he keeps his promise and tries out with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays; with his kids along for the ride. At the tryout he throws consistently at 98 mph and gets signed. In a classic Disney ending, three months later he makes his big league debut and strikes out the first batter he faces on 4 pitches.
This is a fantastic movie; they get this one right on just about every level. The baseball is realistic, the plot line is faithful to reality, Quaid is believable in the title role and his son, played by the guy out of Two and Half Men (not Charlie Sheen!) is excellent.
Inspirational movie; great for kids.
Again, if this list were a top 10, this would be in the top 3. Ya gotta give the guy his due; Kevin Costner makes great baseball movies (see Field of Dreams & For love of the game). Costner plays ‘Crash’ Davis, a 12-year veteran catcher who is sent to the Durham Bulls, a Single A minor league team, in order to speed up the progress of wild thing fireball pitcher Eddy ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh (Tim Robbins).
It’s a romantic-comedy and for those of us who prefer the comedy and baseball to the romance, it still works. Susan Sarandon plays this somewhat odd role of older woman who ‘takes a player under her wing’ each season – this season it’s LaLoosh, but as becomes increasingly apparent through the movie, it’s really Davis she’s interested in.
If you subtract the blah blah romantic parts with Sarandon, the movie is a cracker with plenty of excellent and funny baseball scenes where Crash tries to stop Nuke from thinking (pitchers don’t think), accept his signs (to teach him a lesson, he twice tells batters what pitches are coming) and mature as a player.
Very much worth a watch, but is mostly an adult-themed movie; content alert for kids.
Field of Dreams
Here he is again, that man Costner who plays Ray Kinsella, an Iowa corn farmer who, after hearing a voice telling him “If you build, it he will come”, plows over a section of his corn to build a baseball field. On the verge of bankruptcy, Ray has to fight off the bank to keep the field there which by now is playing host to ghost ballplayers from the early 20thcentury, including baseball legend Shoeless Joe Jackson, who emerge daily from the corn (a metaphor for heaven) to relive their playing days. What makes it harder to sustain is that only Ray and his family can see them.
This is a pretty involved plot line; suffice to say it has Ray kidnapping a recluse author, a time-travelling doctor-baseballer who gets to have his one major league at bat then save Ray’s daughter from choking, and an emotional re-connection for Ray with a younger version of his estranged father who turns out to be the ‘he’ in the classic movie line. If you don’t cry on at least two separate occasions in the last 25 minutes of this movie, you are heartless or blind.
This is a great film on countless levels; it just works. It’s probably not a classic ‘baseball’ movie as such, there isn’t enough baseball in it to classify it as one and the plot is probably a bit too in-depth to keep Little Leaguers amused, but if you haven’t yet seen Field of Dreams, see it.
A very good movie without being great, Moneyball doesn’t quite get into 4th gear and suffers a bit in comparison to the brilliant book of the same name by Michael Lewis. That said, Pitt is excellent as Billy Beane, the young General Manager of the cash strapped Oakland A’s who has to turn to other less-traditional scouting means by which to acquire players that he can afford.
The movie revolves around the questioning of how baseball evaluates talent and, as is excellently detailed in the book (the movie just doesn’t do this justice), Beane with the aid of a young assistant GM (played brilliantly by Jonah Hill) turns his scouts’ opinions on their ears by basing all A’s recruiting on statistical analysis alone, focusing on OBP (on base percentage). Assembling a team of guys that most other teams had never heard of let alone wanted, the A’s put together a 20-game win streak.
The movie is very good, though there’s probably not enough baseball action to keep under 14s into it and the plot line might be a bit complicated for littlies, but it’s very much worth a watch. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, if the subject matter interests you at all, read the book.
Great coming-of-age movie, a real cracker the kids will love. There are 2 other Sandlot movies, but the first one is the best by a mile.
A classic slice of Americana, the film is set in 1962 and follows a group of kids playing in a sandlot – a vacant lot. The story is told from the perspective of one of the kids and is just a good fun movie. Kids will enjoy the Sandlot as much for the story as for the baseball.
8 men out
If you can get your hands on this (though not many video stores carry it) watch it as it is a great movie. It tells the story of the most infamous team in baseball history; the 1919 Chicago White Sox, who have become known to history as the ‘Black Sox’ after eight of them agreed to ‘throw’ the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.
The movie recreates the period excellently and the baseball action is authentic; a great story and an excellent film. Appropriate for kids but perhaps a bit challenging story-wise for under 14s.
Bad News Bears
There are two versions of this – the 1976 one with Walther Matthau in the lead role as Morris Buttermaker, the crotchety ex-alcoholic head coach of a bunch of misfits, and a 2005 version with Billy Bob Thornton in the role. They’re both very watchable, with the edge to the 05 version.
The movies are almost carbon copies of each other in terms of basic story-line – Buttermaker is handed a team of hopeless players; he adds a girl pitcher and local tough who are both stars, and the team starts winning.
In the end, with the championship game on the line, Buttermaker puts the bench-warmers in as he realises that it’s not all about winning. Both good movies with a good amount of baseball action and fun story-line.
Language alert on the 05 version as Billy Bob’s language gets a bit ripe at times, but not too over the top.
Not to be confused with the Australian movie about a talking pig, this is a movie about the player most consider to be the game’s best ever; George ‘Babe’ Ruth. While lead John Goodman bears only a passing resemblance to Ruth in that he’s robust (read ‘fat’), he certainly gets the character of Babe right.
A good depiction of Ruth, it starts with his youth in an orphanage where a priest ‘discovers’ his hitting talent, through to his early years with the Red Sox and on to his glory ‘hot dogs, broads and beers’ years with the Yankees in the 20s and 30s.
Though the film stays largely accurate to his life story, it does exercise some ‘creative licence’ with the truth a bit in one or two cases (namely his still-debated “called shot” in the 1932 World Series, and his final game with the Boston Braves where he didn’t actually hit 4 home runs and didn’t use a pinch runner), though as they say, never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
A very watchable film without being a great one, it’s well worth a look if you can get your hands on a copy. Content and language fine for kids.
An excellent movie where egocentric, unpopular Brewers ex-star Stan Ross (played by comedian Bernie Mac) makes a comeback at the ripe old age of 47 in order to gather the 3 more hits he needs to make 3000 and a guaranteed place in the Hall of Fame.
Having selfishly retired mid-season on what he thought was 3000 hits, the discovery of an error in the count 9 years later means he actually has 2,997. The now-aged Ross rejoins the Brewers amidst a huge fanfare, designed to kick-start a losing season. However, he doesn’t join the team as the star he once was, the marquee Brewers player is now Rex “T-Rex” Pennebaker, who lets Ross know in no uncertain terms. Ross soon finds himself as much on a journey to learning humility as gaining the 3 hits he needs to reach 3000.
A good watch, the film has enough baseball scenes to keep viewers of most ages interested and goes light on in the almost-compulsory love interest, so it works. It also manages to avoid the trap that 99% of US movies fall into of the typical expected formulaic finish, and has a good twist that leaves everybody satisfied. Worth a watch; minor content alert for Little Leaguers, but generally OK.
Check it out – available in Australia.
The movie centres around scout Al Percolo who, having found a gun prospect for the Yankees, gets banished to scouting in Mexico when the prospect vomits on the mound at Yankee Stadium.
When in Mexico, he comes across his ‘find’, Steve Nebraska (played by Brendan Fraser), who throws the ball like Nolan Ryan and hits like Babe Ruth. Percolo brings Nebraska back to the States as a huge pro prospect and organises an open tryout inviting all the MLB clubs.
Despite a shaky start, Nebraska doesn’t disappoint and is signed by the Yankees for a ridiculous sum. The film then goes on to explore his journey to The Show during which we find that things aren’t what they seem with the likeable Nebraska.
The Scout is an OK movie that sort of feels like 3 different directors made it. On the one hand it’s a look at the world of scouting and finding that diamond in the rough they’re all looking for; on another level, it looks at the psychology of the baseball ‘Phenom’, the guy that can throw 100mph and hit 500 foot bombs; and then on another level it’s about the psychology of sport against that of an abused childhood (!).
In fact, the movie itself could have done with a bit of counselling, it’s a bit bi-polar; at times the movie is a straight up comedy, other times it’s quite dark as it explores serious themes of childhood abuse of Nebraska.
There are some baseball scenes in it, though probably not enough for the kids, it’s more of a story about Nebraska and Percolo, and the kids may get a bit befuddled (as I was) about the whole abused-childhood angle (which is left frustratingly unexplained). The end is just too incredible, even for a Hollywood movie, but have a look, it’s worth at least one watch.
Talent for the Game
This is a better, more straightforward and psychologically more adjusted version of ‘The Scout’ (see above).
Angels scout Virgil Sweet’s job is on the line (how come baseball scouts’ jobs always seem to be on the line?) as he hasn’t discovered a great prospect in a while and the Angels owner is threatening to dismantle the scouting program. Driving through rural Idaho he comes across Sammy Bodeen, a corn-fed country boy with a cannon arm. Sweet takes Bodeen back to the Angels and after a few hiccups, where a nervous Sweet’s choice is seriously being questioned, Bodeen comes good and is contracted by the Angels. Things get a bit hairy for him when the Angels’ management, needing something to fire up a losing season, way over-hype Bodeen’s arrival as a marquee player before he has even pitched an MLB strike. It ends well, but with a nice twist.
The film works well, and is notable for two scenes taken directly from real life. The movie starts with Sweet going down a mine-shaft to scout a pitcher who is working down there – the only way they can organise to see him is to have him pitch literally down a lantern-lit mine tunnel. The second is where he scouts another prospect, a farm boy. It is teeming with rain, so he has him pitch from the inside of one barn, through the open doors over to the next barn where the catcher is. He tells the boy, if the ball’s dry when he catches it, you’re a Major League prospect. The ball is wet; he doesn’t get signed. Both of these scenes actually happened and are a tribute to scouting legend Tony Luccadello; the real life scout in both cases.
A movie well worth a watch; it has a decent plot, it sticks to one understandable story-line type, unlike ‘The Scout, and has enough baseball in it to be interesting for the kids. Well worth hunting down in the DVD store.
For Love of the Game
There he is again, that man Kev Costner in a very decent baseball movie.
This time he plays 40-year old veteran Detroit Tigers pitcher Billy Chapel coming to the end of the road with one more shot to fire. The Tigers, with no chance of making the playoffs, go to New York to play the Yankees who are in a position to clinch the division pennant. Chapel is due to pitch and has a lot on his mind: his long time girlfriend Jane Aubrey (played by John Travolta’s wife Kelly Preston), has accepted a job in London; the approaching end of his career; the fact that the team has just been sold and he is due to be traded to the Giants; and, of course, the game against the Yankees.
The movie spans the game, interspersing it with flashbacks around his life with Aubrey. It’s not until the 8th inning, pitching under increasing pain, that he realises he is pitching a perfect game – a no hit, no walk gem against the Yankees. Does he get it? Get the DVD and see.
An excellent film which really gets inside the mindset of a pitcher and his perspective through Chapel’s flashbacks, and how he comments on the batters he faces. Costner pulls off the pitching technically well; really looks the part, and the story-line works.
Well worth a look. Generally appropriate for older kids, though the love interest in the story-line will lose some of them.
Rookie of the Year
Henry Rowengartner is a typical 12-year-old with dreams of playing in the major leagues for the Chicago Cubs; unfortunately for Henry, he has little to no talent. He breaks his arm playing baseball, and when it is healed and the cast is taken off, it seems that, due to a too-tight cast, Henry magically now has the arm of Nolan Ryan multiplied by Randy Johnson. He is discovered at a Cubs game after throwing the ball back on to the field which he does from Centrefield all the way to home plate.
He subsequently signs with the Cubs and is taken under the wing of his idol, the ageing pitcher Chet Steadman. The rest of the movie has this twin-plotline following Henry’s relationship with his mother and her boyfriend, Steadman and the effects of the absent dad; and that of his progress through the season as a 12 year old playing MLB, which predictably ends pretty well all round, but in a kind of naff-but-nice way.
A perfect baseball movie for under 14s, it has a lot of decent game action, a fairly simple plot line that the kids can follow and that will engage the adults, and some decently funny bits, particularly with the character of Brickma played by Daniel Stern.
You’ll have to suspend a bit of disbelief on this one, but worth a watch, and OK for kids.
Little Big League
Even for long shot Hollywood ideas (see Rookie of the Year) this is a bit of a stretch; 12 year old (they always seem to be 12) Billy Heywood inherits the ownership of the Minnesota Twins and, after firing the manager, also takes on managing the team himself.
After a rocky start, the team actually starts winning; however, things get complicated when Billy starts to experience some of the drags of life in the adult world: the 1st baseman takes a liking to his mother; Billy has to release his under-performing idol; his friends start giving it to him because he’s not around anymore, etc.
The film is helped along somewhat, authenticity-wise, by the fact that a lot of real MLB stars are in it playing themselves; e.g. Ken Griffey Jnr, Randy Johnson and Lou Piniella.
A decent movie for the kids with enough baseball action to keep them interested, and if you can disregard plot holes big enough to drive a semi-trailer through (i.e. a 12 year old actually owning and managing a multi-million dollar business) then it’s OK.
Fine for kids.
Angels in the Outfield
A remake of a 1951 movie of the same name, this is a straight up kid’s fantasy that will appeal to Little Leaguers.
It centres on the prayers of a boy, Roger, asking god to help the California Angels win. Pretty soon, angels (the kind with wings) start appearing to help the Angels (the kind with baseball gloves) win games – but only Roger can see them.
As you might imagine, with the heavenly help, the Angels start winning and make it through to the championships, which they must win without the help of angels, apparently. Have a look and see if they do.
Good movie for kids.
Surprisingly good movie that, at first glance, looks and sounds like a shocker.
An animated movie set in the late 1920s, it follows the adventures of a young boy Yankee Irving (who is most likely 12), a loves-the-game-but-is-hopeless-at-it kid who comes into possession of a talking baseball he names Screwie (uh-huh, OK, need a bit of convincing from here).
After Babe Ruth’s favourite bat Darlin’ is stolen, Yankee manages to get it back; and the rest of the movie focuses on his efforts to return the bat (which, by the way, also talks, with Whoopi Goldberg’s voice, no less) to Ruth. The film actually then becomes a classic road-movie where we follow Yankee, Screwie (that name is stupid, unfortunately) and Darlin’ as they meet up with hobos, fight bullies, jump trains, and hook up with a Negro League team, all the while managing to stay ahead of bat thief Lefty Maginnis, in order to find their way to get Darlin’ back in the hands of a slumping Ruth.
The movie climaxes at the World Series; it is a predictably happy ending, though in baseball terms, ridiculously stupid, to be frank, but it all seems to work better than it should.
A winner for kids of any age.
This is juvenile, puerile high school boys’ toilet humour at its best (or worst, depending on your view), and for this reviewer, it works.
The Benchwarmers revolves around a paper thin plotline of 3 older nerdy guys (2 of them anyway) Gus, Clark and Richie competing in a competition against Little League teams, for the prize of a free stadium – itself an amalgam of every classic MLB stadium – courtesy of billionaire nerd Mel Smegma.
The central theme of the movie is a comic statement against bullying and it works in the most inane ways. Adam Sandler had a hand in this somewhere and it has his stamp all over it, with tittie-twisters (lots) and fart jokes all over the place, “Mmmm, beef stew. I LOVE beef stew!”
Note; you’re not watching this one for the baseball action, though there’s a bit in it, it’s a comedy movie with some questionable baseball action thrown in. Good fun watch, OK for kids; minor content alert for Little Leaguers, though the sexual references are kept pretty obscure.
Good fun, get it.
Websites with baseball movie lists:
Boston Amateur Baseball Network – a huge 200+ movie list: http://www.bostonbaseball.com/baseball_movies/
Top 10 Baseball Movies by Baseball America: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/moviebat.shtml
Sports In Movies.com – good list: http://www.sportsinmovies.com/baseball-movies.asp