There's something about baseball that begs to be translated onto the big screen. Tales of competition, vices, money, romance and sheer sport have all been inspired by this one simple game. Why does it make for such great storytelling? Maybe James Earl Jones said it best in "Field of Dreams" when he said, "The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and could be good again." So for a game measured by nine innings and played with nine position players, here are nine movies to watch throughout the season:
Everyone loves a good comeback story. "The Natural" is exactly that, with an almost melodramatic story line that plays on everything romantic about baseball. Some argue it's the greatest baseball movie ever made.
It stars Robert Redford as the fictional "Roy Hobbs" who embodies the fabled images of every hero the diamond has seen.
The finale of "The Natural" is exactly why people love this movie, and baseball in general. With two outs at the bottom of the ninth, Hobbs is up to plate with blood seeping through his jersey. He has two strikes before he sends the ball flying in slow motion. Lightning flashes, the camera pans to young fans in the stands holding their breath, and it's a home run! The small-town boy becomes "the best there is." "The Natural" is rated PG.
"A League of Their Own" celebrates the women who have played and loved our national pastime as much as the next guy.
Director Penny Marshall brought attention to the All American Girls Professional Baseball League — a league that filled the void in baseball during the 1940s when most Major League Baseball players were sent to fight in World War II.
Tom Hanks plays "Jimmy Dugan," a washed-up player who coaches the Rockford Peaches, a team of women groomed to be eye candy as well as ballplayers.
Rated PG, this film gets its charm from an ensemble of talented actors who put an important piece of baseball's history, as well as America's history, into the spotlight.
This is a fantastic baseball movie that's not really about baseball at all.
It's actually hard to believe that "Field of Dreams" ever made it to the big screen. Someone must have pitched the idea to movie producers saying, "We've got this script where a farmer hears voices and builds a baseball field in a cornfield where the ghosts of the Chicago Black Sox and his father come to play." Maybe they sweetened the pot by having Kevin Costner star and not attempt an accent.
But "Field of Dreams" is revered as a great baseball movie for outstanding performances from a cast that made a seemingly ridiculous idea come across as poignant and sentimental. It's not about the game itself but about everything good that the game represents. It's a story of nostalgia and faith that tugs at your heart strings every time you hear the line, "If you build it, he will come." "Field of Dreams" has a PG rating.
"The Sandlot" is one of those films that you watch in your youth and can still stomach, and enjoy, years later. As far as sports movies for kids go, "The Sandlot" is far better and more memorable than other films like the "Air Bud" series that can feel like 90 minutes of torture.
"The Sandlot" is set in a suburban neighborhood during the 1960s where a group of boys play baseball religiously in an old, dirty lot. The new kid on the block, "Smalls," borrows his step-father's baseball signed by some woman — Babe Ruth. When the ball is hit over the fence into territory guarded by the dreaded dog "The Beast," the group of friends set out to retrieve it.
Like many other great baseball films, "The Sandlot" is all about nostalgia. It's rated PG.
A Disney film based on a true story, "The Rookie" once again has baseball fans cheering on the average Joe who gets a second chance at his dreams.
Dennis Quaid plays a 39-year-old high school baseball coach and teacher who winds up at a try-out for the minor leagues. Eventually, he ends up pitching for the Rangers, despite a shoulder injury.
It's easy to see why so many people like this movie. Disney knows how to spin a Cinderella story, and anyone who ever played ball will project themselves onto Quaid's character. It gives the middle-aged man in the audience a glimmer of hope, albeit slim, that he, too, may have a chance to come out of obscurity and live his dream.
This family-friendly film has a PG rating.
Putting this movie on the list is a gamble. You either loved it or you hated it. Either way, it qualifies as a successful film in this genre because it's intelligent and original.
"Moneyball," a true story based on the book by the same name, is the story of Oakland A's manager Billy Beane. Beane hires an analyst to help him hire players based solely on their on-base percentage, creating a formula for winning that actually works.
Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill breathe life into the story, steering it away from being merely a film about statistics. It's rated PG-13 with a few strong profanities and geared toward an older audience.
"Eight Men Out" is the story of one of the most scandalous sports stories in the history of the game.
"Eight Men Out" was made in 1988 and stars a young John Cusack as the infielder, Buck Weaver, and D.B. Sweeney as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. As the story goes, eight of the star players on the Chicago White Sox took bribes to throw the 1919 World Series, tarnishing their reputations and leaving a permanent blemish on the game.
Right before the White Sox became known as the Black Sox, President William Howard Taft had said, "Baseball is a clean, straight game." "Eight Men Out" shows an ugly but fascinating side of baseball. It's rated PG.
Not to be taken too seriously, “Rookie of the Year” is a wholesome and fun film that kids will love.
“Henry” is an untalented Little League player until he breaks his arm and miraculously begins throwing 100 mph fast balls. He’s eventually discovered by the long-suffering Chicago Cubs, and goes on to win the big game.
It’s obviously silly and ridiculous; everything kids love about a movie. “Rookie of the Year” is rated PG.
Another one for the kiddos! “Angels in the Outfield” is a ridiculous concept but will entertain the little ones who have big dreams of the major leagues.
When “Roger” prays for a familiy and for the Los Angeles-based baseball team to win the championship, angels come to the rescue and lend a hand or a wing. In true Disney fashion, everything works out in the end.
This film is made tolerable for adults by decent performances from Danny Glover and Christopher Lloyd and is rated PG.