Let me start off by saying that I don't like ranking films. First of all, it’s an open invitation for people to tell you what an idiot you are: How could you possibly think Animal House is funnier than Young Frankenstein, you moron? Secondly, my list is constantly in flux. Depending on the day, the weather or the couch, I may decide Forrest Gump is a better film than Silence of the Lambs. OK, that’s a lie, I would never decide that, but you see my point.
Which leads us to today’s assignment: the five best baseball movies of all time. Now, if I were tasked with choosing 10--and in no particular order--I think I could rally a consensus. Moreover, to be considered a baseball movie, it has to be about baseball. I mean, was Field of Dreams really about baseball? Plus, I can’t stomach the thought of Kevin Costner being on the list twice. So without further ado, here's my top five baseball movies (and the five runners-up):
1) Bull Durham
Susan Sarandon’s monologue about worshiping at the church of baseball would alone shoot this movie to the top of the list. Add in some brilliant acting by rookie Tim Robbins and one of the smartest scripts ever, and it’s an easy pick.
2) Eight Men Out
If you’ve never seen this stirring John Sales film about the fix of the 1919 World Series and the disgraced Chicago Black Sox, do so post haste. D.B. Sweeney is Oscar-worthy in his touching performance as backwoods phenom Shoeless Joe Jackson.
3) The Natural
There’s always lots of analysis that accompanies this movie: the religious overtones, the existential aspects. It may be a hot topic at film school, but it also is a flat-out great baseball movie.
4) Bang the Drum Slowly
I’m not much for tear-jerkers, but this stirring film about the bond between a high-powered pitcher and his best friend, a slow-witted catcher (newcomer Robert DeNiro) who is dying of Hodgkin’s Disease, is inspiring.
5) The Rookie
This selection may be met with raised eyebrows; if so, then you haven’t seen it. Dennis Quaid stars as a high-school science teacher and coach who loses a bet with his team and tries out to play in the majors--as a 35-year-old rookie.
Rounding out the top 10:
Lots of Oscar nods for this charming movie about the mathematics of the game.
7) Major League
For hockey, it’s Slapshot; for football, it’s The Replacements; for baseball, it’s Major League.
8) The Pride of the Yankees
Tear-jerker No. 2. This is the incredible, moving story of Yankees legendary first baseman Lou Gehrig, who died of ALS at age 37.
Rounding out the inspirational selections in this category is 42, last year’s release about Jackie Robinson’s controversial and heroic breakthrough into major league baseball.
10) The Bad News Bears
The original, with Walter Matthau and Tatum O’Neal.