Top 5: Baseball Movies

With the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 out this weekend and currently dominating the charts – it’s expected to top the charts with $27 million and receive a rare “A+” CinemaScore, indiciating universal public acclaim – we’ve compiled a short list of some of our most beloved baseball movies.. Along with apple pie, baseball is something that is inherently American. It’s a sport that was invented on our soil and is loved solely and unconditionally by our people. Although I’m not a huge sports fan, baseball is an easy sport to get behind. Its basic rules are simple, the structure of the game is constantly generating moments of anticipation, and players are easy to connect to as individuals. These three qualities create a sport that seamlessly translates into film. Hollywood has recognized this and created some great, inspirational baseball movies within the last twenty years. Here are 5 favorites:

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Field of Dreams poster.jpgField of Dreams – An exceptionally creative concept (that I now realize could have been equally creepy if not executed this well), Field of Dreams is the iconic baseball film. When I think of inspirational baseball movies, a film that captures the essence and value of the game, I think of Field of Dreams. It stars Kevin Costner as Ray, a farmer who begins hearing voices and interprets their whisperings as a plea to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfields. Wouldn’t you? The field draws the ghosts of past players along with the curious living, including Ray Liotta as disgraced Shoeless Joe Jackson and the wonderful James Earl Jones. A sort of magical realism fairytale, Field of Dreams is a celebration of baseball and those who love it.
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Fever Pitch US.jpgFever Pitch – I’d be remiss not to include this Boston-based romantic comedy about one man’s unwavering devotion to the mighty Red Sox. Based on a 1997 British film starring Colin Firth as an obsessed football fan, this version aimed at U.S. audiences has Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon playing Bostonians Lindsey and Ben. Lindsey is a workaholic and Ben is a teacher who has an unhealthy passion for the Sox. And of course, only in Boston would someone’s love for the Red Sox cause serious problems in their romantic relationship. The story is sweet and Barrymore and Fallon are two charming actors audiences can’t help but like. An added bonus: this movie is super fun to watch with friends and yell, “I’ve been there!” whenever you see a Boston landmark. It truly never gets old.
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Angels in the outfield.jpgAngels in the Outfield – The nineties were a great decade for uplifting movies with dramatic scores and plenty of sentimental moments, during which you inevitably cry despite your best intentions. Angels in the Outfield is a perfect example of this phenomenon. A loose remake of the 1951 film of the same name, Angels stars a baby-faced Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a foster child, Roger, who prays for the California Angels to win the pennant. Roger’s wish comes true and a group of invisible angels, led by Christopher Lloyd but seen only by Roger, help the team onto a winning streak. Lloyd’s earnest, child-like enthusiasm is one of a kind and gives the film a sense of wonder. And of course, no one can forget the signal that Roger gives the Angels’ manager (Danny Glover) whenever he spots the angels on the field – a graceful flapping of his arms to imitate their large, bird-like wings. That recognizable symbol alone helps to propel Angels in the Outfield into the hall of fame of baseball movies.
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League of their own ver2.jpgA League of Their Own – In the same vein as fellow nineties film Angels in the Outfield, A League of Their Own is about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which had women playing ball in the forties and fifties. It focuses on women as athletes, a rarity among sports movies which is a shame because often their stories are the most unique. Geena Davis and Lori Petty star as two sisters who join the league as the catcher and pitcher for the Rockford Peaches. Tom Hanks plays their manager, a former baseball great who copes with his lost career by guzzling alcohol. Hanks initially plays against type as an ass who chews tobacco, stumbles around drunk, and mocks the girl ballplayers. But despite his crusty exterior, Hank slowly slips into the position of tough but loving coach. Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell round out the supporting cast and provide welcome attitude and comic relief. A fascinating period of history, the women’s league was formed to fill the void of male baseball players who were fighting in the war. These female baseball players had the potential to sweep the country, until the men returned from overseas. It’s interesting to think about the possible landscape of professional sports today if the league hadn’t lost its momentum and been disbanded in the fifties.
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Moneyball Poster.jpgMoneyball – Based on a true story about the Oakland Athletics baseball team’s general manager, Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt with a quiet but demanding charisma), who used an unconventional statistical data strategy to recruit bargain players and eventually proved his critics wrong with his team’s numerous victories. Most baseball dramas are deeply steeped in tradition and are constantly emphasizing the dream-like majesty and romance of the game and its players. But Moneyball doesn’t go this route. Instead, it focuses on the players as statistics; as numbers to be put into an algorithm and then have their worth determined. This is a novel and seemingly cruel concept, but in reality, it gives the underdog players a chance. Beane picks the players who have been overlooked for specific reasons (their looks, builds, personalities, etc.) and solely judges them on their ability to score runs. Moneyball‘s ability to focus on this controversial approach to baseball and still create an inspiring story sets this film apart.
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Those are our picks for top baseball films. Have anything to add or think we’ve mentioned an undeserving film? Let us know in the comments below!

Article by Liz Isenberg

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