I'll preface this with saying that I'm a bit of a movie buff. I'm very into cinema and how its made and into things like cinematic structure, writing, and execution. Because of this, my list will probably be different than yours. With that said, I invite you to read it and comment on it. I think its a fun break from our usual frantic Buccos talk. On a side note, there are some movies I haven't seen that might be on your list (i.e. Pride of the Yankees, Bang the Drum Slowly or Fear Strikes out.)
Note: This does not include documentaries. I did this for a bevy a reasons, but this list is limited to feature length films.
10. The Bad News Bears—Man, this movies fun. It’s really fun. We always enjoy a good movie with kids running around, swearing and drinking, and a coach who enables it all. With that said, at this movies core, it still maintains a strong theme about having pride for yourself and having fun in that process. It certainly was a movie that set the tone for the underdog movies of modern day sports cinema.
9. Eight Men Out—Baseball, more than any other sport, has a really sugar coated past. We talk about the legends of old with such reverence and pride, we make it seem like it was a golden age of the sport. For the most part, it was a great period of time for the sport, but it did have its blemishes. We sometimes forget things like how african-americans were not allowed to play or that Ty Cobb was a blatant racist. This movie reminds us that baseball, like it has in any other time period, had its moments of disgrace. Yeah, there are some issues I have with it as a film, but I think it serves as a great historical reference for an event that baseball fans don't really know a ton about. Its certainly top ten worthy.
8. Moneyball—This isn’t about an argument of how it failed the book, which is a different conversation for another day. If anything, it shows us how difficult of a movie this must of been to create from a book. The book has so many running threads that you just can't capture them all with a feature length film, so you need to pick your battles. I think the movie picked its battles pretty well. You need to be objective about this movie as a movie and try to review it like a casual movie goer who has no familiarity with the book. As a movie, it has its flaws, and I think the biggest one being that it remains unclear if whether this is a movie about the 2002 Oakland Athletics or Billy Beane. Beane is really the only fully developed character in the story, with all the players really having no back stories or guiding motivators an audience can connect with. The other major narrative issues is that there is very little stakes to the movie. I know the brass behind the movie had to work with the confines of reality, and they did a good job in working with what was handed to them, but at the end of the day, the climax of the movie was a walk-off homerun not to give the A's the World Series or ALCS or a divisional series, but simply win number 88. I think even someone with little baseball knowledge could of told you that whether or not they won that game, Billy Beane wasn't losing his job.
7. The Sandlot—Love this movie. The Sandlot, at its center, is about being a kid and the love many of us had with baseball as a kid. The way we put the game on a pedestal and how social value was determined by your skill in the backyard. This movie captures that and captures a spirit of the game that everyone seems to lose once they hit a certain age. It has an innocence to the movie that I think anyone who loves baseball can connect with, and is probably the most kid friendly movie on this list. Layered on top of the narrative is great themes of friendship and acceptance.
6. Major League—This wins the award for funniest sports movie. I think the cast really drives this movie, which is something that can’t be said about a lot of the films on this list. Wesley Snipes and Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger and the whole crew are perfect for their roles and you just couldn’t imagine anyone else playing them. Thematically, hidden beneath the humor, is a great story about how a town learned to fall in love with its team again and the way baseball, greater than any other sport, can connect with a city and almost mystifying ways.
5. The Natural—Roy Hobbs certainly wins the fictional movie MVP. I mean, the guy was an absolute beast. Hobbs is an archetype mythological hero who is the center of the stories central theme of never quitting. His character and the story is actually one directly drawn from classical literature about Knights, which is the name of the team that Hobbs played for. The movie also gains extra points because it’s just beautifully shot with stunning direction and cinematography. Oh, and that soundtrack. That awesome, awesome, awesome soundtrack definitely helps it break into the top ten.
4. A League of Their Own—I used to love this film when I was little, to the point where it was one of my favorite baseball movies, but its fallen on my list. That’s not to say it isn’t top five worthy. The big issue for me is, as I got older, I realized how corny the movie is and saw how it started to stray into the territory of a Lifetime movie. With that said, much like Eight Men Out, its cool transcript of a facet of baseball history that is somewhat forgotten. Within that facet, it’s very detailed and informative, up to the point where it’s a great education piece. If you were a college professor teaching about baseball history, and you wanted to discuss the women’s league of WWII, this movie would do the curriculum justice. While its got a great cast of names like Gina Davis, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnel, Tom Hanks really steals the show and might deserve best performance from any movie on the list.
3. Bull Durham—Minor league baseball would not be looked at the same if it wasn’t for Bull Durham. I don’t know if the movie just made minor league ball or if it just added a dimension of intrigue to it, but the movie is about as important to minor league baseball as Fight Club was to the psychology of the modern male. This movie is minor league baseball. It’s quotable, funny and keeps itself at a pace that makes it downright delightful. The chemistry between the stars is also perfect. Love triangles generally are played out, and have been played out for decades, but the Robbins-Sarandon-Costner triangle is really what drives this movie, which make no mistake, is a love story. Seriously, its hard to think about minor league ball without thinking of this movie--long bus rides, crappy ballparks, no fans, grinding your career for that one shot at the big time, its all very well captured in this movie.
2. Field of Dreams--Baseball has always been the most mystical of sports. Its always been one that has connected with the past when looking towards the future. It has a magic to it, a draw that is virtually unexplainable. This movie puts to life those concepts in the most beautiful of ways. Its about baseball, but its also about family, friends, and dreams. But most of all, its about baseball, and how baseball connects all of those things in unexplainable ways. I would be remiss if I didn't say certain parts of it were corny and farfetched, but its a movie that never tries to be grounded in its realism. The movie seems almost Capra-esque with its magical elements and hard to explain twists of plot, but nobody seems to mind. Nobody seems to care that a mystical scoreboard at Fenway park spoke about Archibald Graham, the doctor from Minnesota who went from being old to being young and back to being old again. It is the one movie that I think encapsulates everything that is special about baseball, and it does such a noble job in 90 minutes of doing so. Its almost shocking that it isn't my #1 movie on this list.
1. Sugar-What? What the hell is Sugar? Yeah, I'm going to bet not many of you have seen this movie. It played in 51 total theaters during its period of release and grossed barely over one million at the box office. So why is it my #1 after I waxed so poetic about movies like Field of Dreams and Bull Durham? There is not another baseball movie, or another sports movie, that I have seen that is as grounded in realism and is probably the most raw cinematic look at baseball you will ever see. Baseball, especially when put in the form of a feature length cinema presentation, often comes across as romantic, charming, and sentimental, and that is great. It certainly is all of those things, but more often than not, the game of baseball is not a fairy tale. The movie follows a young pitcher from a Dominican Republic baseball academy who gets signed by a big league club. While its always been his dream, he is up rooted from him home and thrown into the states where his assignment places him on the teams Single-A affiliate in bumblefuck, Iowa. To our protagonist, its almost like being on another planet. The language barriers, the cultural adjustment, feeling homesick, all of it factors into what becomes the specter of his baseball career. The film, as much as it is a baseball movie, is also about individualism and self-discovery. On top of that, the film is also a reminder that for every Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz (or Starling Marte) we see on ESPN, there are thousands of other young men who come from the DR we don't ever hear about. I implore all of you to see this movie. Rent it, get on netflix, download it off a site, however you want to do it, I greatly advocate for you to check this film out. Its a beautiful movie, that is as poignant and heartbreaking as it is a very accurate baseball film.
Other baseball movies I have seen that didn't make the list: 61*, Fever Pitch, Summer Catch, Rookie of the Year, The Rookie, The Perfect Game, Mr. Baseball, Angels in the Outfield, Brewsters Millions, Major League II and III, and some others.
So yep, there you have it, Zach Buccos and his top ten baseball films. I now open the floor for you to create your own lists and inject your comments and thoughts.