Page 2's Top 20 Sports Movies of All-Time
No. 6: The Natural (150 points)
Year released: 1984.
Stars: Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Robert Duvall, Barbara Hershey, Wilford Brimley, Robert Prosky, Darren McGavin. Directed by Barry Levinson.
What we like: The cast is made up of brilliantly interlocking parts: Redford is the ideal golden-boy hero who gets a second chance to overcome his flawed past; Brimley is the perfect crotchety, old skipper -- whether he's griping about the Knights' awful play or intoning about how much he wants "to win that pennant;" Basinger is a textbook fem-fatale, Close is the lilly-white girl from back home and Hershey remains mysterious as the woman in black. The villains work best, however: Prosky is outstanding as the light-hating Judge, McGavin is deplorable as his sidekick, and Duvall is clearly conflicted as sportswriter Max Mercy; the film is also breathtaking to look at, especially Levinson's use of light.
What we're willing to overlook: We still cringe when he see Bump Bailey die after crashing through the outfield wall; the ending doesn't exactly match the Bernard Malamud's novel -- which is why some critics don't like the Hollywood version -- but c'mon, it's one of the best endings in sports movie history.
"The best there ever was, best there ever will be" in the sports movie genre. I've seen it a hundred times, yet I still marvel at how Levinson turned the game into an art form. Check out the scenes with "the woman in white" at Wrigley, Roy Hobbs' strikeout of "The Whammer" at the state fair or the climactic home run into the lights -- all are perfectly framed and composed. Plus, the bad guys are actually deep characters, and the hero is as flawed as he is gifted. Simply wonderful. -- Page 2 editor Kevin Jackson
From beginning to end, the best-done, best-acted sports movie of all time. -- Page 2 columnist Bill Simmons
Authentic in the nostalgia that's in every adult heart -- the career, game, love, girl that got away ... then turns up again, backlit. Who wouldn't hit a 600-foot bomb after that? -- Page 2 columnist Ralph Wiley
The three-pitches, three-strikes showdown with The Whammer makes it. Another highlight: Pop Fisher's "I got that in my contract as long as I live" rant in the dugout. -- Page 2 columnist Eric Neel