Top 5 Baseball Movies for Opening Day
I'm a longtime baseball fanatic (go Dodgers!) and generally make a point to watch opening day, with ball games filling the hours when I'm at home, not wanting to explore the full extent of my Netflix queue. It's perfect for sitting and engrossing yourself in, or just having on in the background What's even better is that a lot of great movies have been made about the sport. I'll usually pop one or all of these into the DVD player when gearing up for opening day.
When putting together the list, I noticed a running theme in my choices: they weren't ultimately about the game of baseball, but about the love of the game. Though, unfortunately, the 1999 Kevin Costner flick For The Love of the Game didn't make the cut.
FIELD OF DREAMS
While For the Love of the Game didn't cross into the top echelon of baseball films, of course a Kevin Costner flick was going to make the list. About 50% of his filmography are baseball movies. And while Bull Durham was great, it has to be Field of Dreams. It's a beautiful examination of the bond between people over baseball. The power of the game, and that wonderful father/son moment at the end. It just can't be beat.
The Sandlot came out when I was a kid playing little league. So maybe it's just the nostalgia button being pressed that keeps me fascinated by this film, but I love the pure joy these kids have for the sport. For getting together, hanging out, and playing some ball. No rules. No regulations. No score. Just playing it to play. Having fun. That's what I loved, and still love, about the movie, and baseball. It just feels pure.
Where The Sandlot explored the love of the game for kids, Major League explored it for the pros. Major League II got the inspirational speech about why they all love baseball, but it's an inferior retread of the original. They were all individually playing for a reason. Ricky to prove he's more than just an ex-con, Jake to prove that he's a good man to ex-wife, Willy to prove that he's the best. But they, as a team, were playing to give the middle finger to their owner who wanted to move the team out of Cleveland. More than just the feel-good underdog story, there's something satisfying about proving you're good out of spite. I dug that about the flick. Bob Ueker as announcer Harry Doyle was just icing on the cake.
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
Strong performances from everyone involved, particularly Lori Petty, Geena Davis and Tom Hanks, highlight the underdog tale of a women's baseball league during WW2. They were just so perfectly execute the camaraderie of the game and team sports, while layering on the sibling angle between Petty and Davis, and the sexism of the era. It's such a well done movie. Smartly funny and totally on point.
THE BAD NEWS BEARS (1976)
Ignoring the mostly ignorable 2005 remake with Billy Bob Thornton, the 1976 Walter Mathau original with Tatum O'Neal and Jackie Earl Haley is sort of an anti-Sandlot. Where the Sandlot was peppered with optimism and joy, The Bad News Bears was rough and gritty. Not just around the edges, but all the way through. But that made it feel real. Like you're watching a tape of you and your buddies as kids play ball. It really nailed the dysfunction.