Best and Worst Baseball Movies: Field of Dreams—or Nightmares?
With two new baseball movies hitting theaters this weekend—Clint Eastwood’s Trouble With the Curve and the terrific documentary Knuckleball!—and the pennant races heating up, now’s as good a time as any to round up the best and worst diamond-themed movies of all time. Feel free to argue with this list. Just don’t pull any Earl Weaver sand-kicking moves, or I’ll throw you out of the game!
1. Bull Durham (1988). Obviously. If Ron Shelton’s minor-league comedy were only one minute long, and that minute were the conference on the mound about what to get for a wedding present (“Candlesticks always make a nice gift”), it would still lead this list.
2. The Bad News Bears (1976) Note: I’m talking about the original version, not the needless Billy Bob Thornton remake from 2005. Nobody will ever make a better Morris Buttermaker than Walter Matthau. And Jackie Earle Haley rules as Kelly Leak.
3. The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings (1976) Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones and Richard Pryor (as a Negro Leagues player Charlie Snow, who tries to pass himself off as a Latino named “Carlos Nevada” and Native American called “Chief Takahoma”)? That’s a murderer’s row.
4. Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) We’ve gotta have at least one weeper on this list, and I prefer this underrated bromance between a star pitcher (Michael Moriarty) and his terminally ill catcher (Robert De Niro) to Pride of the Yankees. It’s the Brian’s Song of baseball.
5. Field of Dreams (1989) Sure, it’s cornier than an Iowa farm, but show me a man who doesn’t get choked up when Kevin Costner and his dead dad “have a catch,” and I’ll show you a dead man.
5. The Scout (1994) Much as I love Albert Brooks, his comedy costarring Brendan Fraser as a talented but mentally unstable pitcher, is a swing and a miss. Sorry, but Steve Nebraska is no Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh.
4. Fear Strikes Out (1957) And so does Anthony Perkins as another Great American headcase, real-life Boston Red Sox outfielder Jimmy Piersall. As psychos go, he was more convincing as Norman Bates.
3. Summer Catch (2001) It’s Romeo & Juliet on the baseball field as a minor leaguer (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) romances a rich girl (Jessica Biel) on Cape Cod. Prinze Jr. and teammate Matthew Lillard would later chase ghosts in Scooby-Doo, but Summer Catch is much, much scarier.
2. The Babe (1992) No question George Herman “Babe” Ruth was a Big Bambino, but if he’d have been in as bad shape as John Goodman, he would’ve keeled over from a coronary rounding second base. Director Arthur Hiller’s limp biopic runs out of gas long before that.
1. Ed (1996) Matt LeBlanc got out-acted by a chimp in this deeply un-ape-pealing comedy about a simian third baseman. Whatever studio exec greenlit this wet sack of monkey crap was truly bananas.
All right, let me have it! Who can’t believe I left Eight Men Out, Major League, The Natural, The Sandlot and A League of Their Own off this list?