Top 10 Baseball Films That Will Make You Get Emotional
April 4th, 2012 12:00pm EDT
It’s Opening Week in Major League Baseball, Hollywood’s favorite go-to for emotional films. Baseball fans are a unique group. They look to the past to determine how their team will fare. Baseball isn’t “just a game” to diehard baseball fans; it’s their lives. Most Americans can relate to the individuals playing the game. Whether you hope for the rookie to make his mark or for the veteran to have one last shot at immortality, baseball affects people on a stronger emotional level than just about any other sport. Because of that emotional connection, once every few years (since 1898 when Thomas Edison created the first movie about baseball called “The Ball Game”), Hollywood gives us a baseball movie in the hopes of capitalizing off of America’s love of the game. With Opening Night set for Thursday, April 5th, we give you 10 (we had to include the Designated Hitter!) baseball movies guaranteed to make baseball fans get emotional.
SP (1) For Love of the Game (1999)
Movie critics who don’t like Kevin Costner and who find the film itself a bit drawn out and boring have panned this film but most baseball fans will tell you it speaks directly to them. Roger Ebert called it a “soppy love story”. It bombed at the box office and a nomination for a Razzie Award for his portrayal of the ageing pitcher who spends what will probably be the last game of his career reflecting on his lost love while unknowingly pitching a perfect game. For baseball fans the love story is completely secondary to the perfect game because director Sam Raimi, Kevin Costner and John C. Reilly as Costner’s catcher, make you get why the perfect game is important. Throughout the film we see his relationship with Kelly Preston and realize that as much as he loves her, baseball is the most important relationship he has. Poor Kelly Preston can’t even get more love than a game. The sentimental might cry over the failed and then renewed relationship between Costner and Preston but the baseball fans will sob when Costner’s pitcher fights through pain and heartache and pitches his perfect game. (It doesn't hurt that he does this to the dulcit tones of legendary baseball announcer Vin Scully.)
C (2) Field of Dreams (1989)
Another in Costner’s baseball trilogy (the third being “Bull Durham” which is a fantastic baseball movie but didn’t make the cut on this list) this is the diamond in his World Series ring. The entire film is a giant love story to baseball and our relationship with it. Costner is married to the most understanding woman in the history of Hollywood and she lets him plow under their corn crop so he can build a baseball field. The payoff of Shoeless Joe Jackson, Costner’s dad’s hero, showing up to play should be enough but there is so much more. Burt Lancaster steals the film as the ghost of a small town doctor who gets a second chance at baseball only to lose it again and if the scene with Costner and the ghost of his dad ‘having a catch’ doesn’t make you cry, either there is ice water in your veins or you’re a Yankees fan. (Relax Yankees fans; Costner’s dad wears a Yankees uniform in the film!) Most notable is James Earl Jones’ “People will come, Ray” monologue. Repeated yearly by baseball bloggers at the beginning of each season, it’s become a love poem for all baseball fans.
1B (3) The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
There are only two things to say about this movie: Lou Gehrig’s Disease and “People will say that I’ve had a bad break but today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” I’d write more but I’m too busy sobbing.
2B (4) Fever Pitch (2005)
Granted, the only people who get emotional over this movie are Red Sox fans, which I am (so the ending of this film gets me every time – spoiler alert: the Red Sox win the World series for the first time in 86 years!). Here’s a tip, though, if cutesy Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore romcoms aren't your thing, just skip to the ending.
3B (5) A League of their Own (1992)
The emotion here is supposed to be due to the relationship between sisters played by Geena Davis and Lori Petty but the gut punch for baseball fans comes when Davis purposely drops the ball, allowing her sister to score and causing her team to lose the World Series. Sure she did the right thing for her sister and their relationship but it was THE WORLD SERIES! I went to see this on a date when it first came out and argued with my date all the way home because he thought her dropping the ball was beautiful and I was so angry about it that it almost ruined the end of the movie for me. But the end of the movie, like so many before it, packs the strongest emotional punch. Watching the women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League enter the Baseball Hall of Fame and relive their baseball days is a wonderful homage to women everywhere. There were women baseball fans long before this movie was made but they were just a little bit more accepted after people saw that women can love his game as much as men.
SS (6) Major League (1989)
One of the funniest baseball movies ever made, no question, but it’s the underlying story of Tom Berenger’s character just trying to make it one more time in the bigs before he goes out (see “For Love of the Game”…how is it Costner missed this one? I guess he was baseballed out that year after making "Field of Dreams") that gets you at the end. The Indians win the pennant and Berenger gets his girl and everyone is so happy at the end that you don’t even care that we never find out if the team wins the World Series. (“Major League II” tells us that they didn’t even make it to the World Series, losing in the ALCS but that I pretend that film doesn't exist.)
LF (7) Angels in the Outfield (1994)
Christopher Lloyd redeems himself to children everywhere who were terrified of him because he framed Roger Rabbit by playing a baseball-loving angel who decides to help a foster child convinced that his family will reunite if the California Angels win the pennant. This film has magic angels, a grouchy bachelor (played by the king of grouchy characters, Danny Glover), a dying player, a foster mom with a heart of gold and the cutest little orphan since Annie (Milton Davis, Jr. in the only real role of his career…there is no way someone wouldn’t have adopted this kid before Danny Glover came around). A little sappy at times, it captures the mindset of baseball fans perfectly. The fans don’t mock Danny Glover when the story about the angels comes out; they start wearing halos and wings to the park to support him. The angles help the Angels play well enough to get the championship game and then they leave it to the team’s skills. So the good news is the Angels, even without the help of the angels, still win the pennant. The better news is everything gets wrapped up nice and easy when Danny Glover decides to adopt both foster boys. Woo-hoo! Happy endings for everyone!
CF (8) 61* (2001)
If you aren’t a New York Yankees fan, chances are you hate them. There really isn’t much middle ground when it comes to baseball fans and the Yankees. Every so often, though, there is a player who transcends the team he played for, even if it was the Yankees. Lou Gehrig is certainly one of those players. So is Roger Maris. When Mark McGwire broke Maris’ home run record in 1998, all over again fans learned the story of Roger Maris and what he suffered through in 1961 when he was in a race for the home run record against his teammate, the incomparable Mickey Mantle. Going into 61*, you know that Maris will beat Mantle and get 61 homeruns that season but it’s his story, how some of his teammates, most of the media and almost all of the fans tortured him for doing nothing more than what they paid him for. The relationship between Mantle and Maris is entertaining and, really, fascinating. While everyone else is vilifying Maris, Mantle is encouraging him. As horrible as most were to Maris, this film gives great insight into how terribly important records and the men who hold them are to the game of baseball and especially its fans. It’s embarrassing to watch how Maris was treated (especially contrasted with how McGwire was treated when he broke the record) but the emotional impact will stick with you after seeing it play out.
RF (9) The Natural (1984)
Possibly the most debated movie among baseball fans. There are two camps: Those who love this movie and those who really hate it. Robert Redford plays a 35 year-old rookie (shot by a serial killer when he was 19, it took him 16 years to get back to baseball) with “natural” baseball abilities. Most of t his film is soap opera-type dreck (I mean, another player on the team DIES and the general consensus is “Hooray, now Roy can play full-time!”) that leads us to yet another film where the climax again is the team playing to win the pennant. But forget the plot, there is beauty in this film for baseball fans. Redford’s Roy Hobbs literally hits the cover off the ball in one scene but the penultimate scene is the one that stays with you. Weak and bleeding, with the stereotypical two outs in the bottom of the ninth and lightning literally in the sky, Hobbs breaks the bat that he made himself (complete with a lightning bolt carved on it) and uses the batboy’s homemade bat to hit a homerun into the right field bank of lights. Hobbs runs the bases while sparks from the broken lights rain down on him and his team wins the pennant. This is exactly how baseball fans envision every game-winning homerun, pennant-winning or not.
DH (10) The Bad News Bears (1976)
“The Bad News Bears” is funny and predictable…until it isn’t. While the ending of the film is well-known now, back when it was made it was pretty much unheard of to have the protagonists lose at the end of the film. Movies are made about winners, not losers, and in watching the winners you either feel good about yourself or terrible that you’ll never be that winner. “The Bad News Bears” reminds us that there are more losers than winners in the world and that it’s all right. Walter Matthau makes you believe that it doesn’t matter if the kids win as long as they’re having fun and what’s more fun than getting to tell the winning team (fittingly in this case, the Yankees) to take their trophy and shove it?
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