Kevin Costner has endeared himself to all kinds of sports fans over the years. The 59-year-old star hasn’t shied away from starring in sports movies, even though it was unlikely any of his projects would ever live up to Field of Dreams. His baseball movies alone consist of five films; Chasing Dreams, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, For Love of the Game and The Upside of Anger. It’s no secret he has a passion for baseball and sports in general, as he tried out for his alma mater’s Cal State Fullerton Titans. Being 59 years old, he transitioned to a different role in a sports movie in his most recent endeavour, playing Sonny Weaver, General Manager of the Cleveland Browns. Does it live up to his previous work? Let’s rank his top five films.
Warning: Contains (some) spoilers!
5. For Love of the Game (1999)
This movie is the perfect compromise for a evening at home with your significant other. Sports and romance; now that’s a beautiful mix. In this feel-good story, Costner plays Detroit Tigers pitcher Billy Chapel, an aging star at the tail end of his career. His career is winding down and he’s estranged from his longtime love and on-again, off-again girlfriend Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston).
This is with many detriments to his life. Jane is accepting a job offer in London and the Tigers’ owner Gary Wheeler has informed Chapel he will be traded if he doesn’t retire.
With all this weighing on his mind, Chapel dominates the Yankees batters, while reflecting on his baseball career and the ups and downs with the love of his life, Jane. Batter after batter goes down, but Chapel is barely focused on what’s going on.
Finally, in the eighth inning, Chapel looks at the scoreboard, realizing what he’s doing. His teammates rally behind him and Chapel makes it through 27 batters, pitching a perfect game in what ends up being his career swan song.
After the game though, he realizes his 19-year career is over, with no one by his side. He’s now lost the two loves of his life; baseball and Jane. Chapel goes to the airport the next morning, intending to follow Jane to London. He finds her there, as she reveals to him she stayed behind to watch the end of his perfect game. They reunite as the film ends.
The film fared poorly at the box office and received mixed reviews from critics. Costner actually was nominated in the Razzie awards for the worst actor. Overall, the film has its nice moments, as the setting is the old Yankee Stadium, and Vin Scully is calling the action, giving sports fans a real treat. The love story is predictable and sappy, but it’s a nice parallel with his perfect game.
4. Draft Day (2014)
Draft Day is a nice treat for football fans and NFL draft nuts in particular, but it doesn’t quite have the broad appeal for a hit.
Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr, GM of the Cleveland Browns and the entire movie takes place in the 12 hours leading up to a draft. Weaver starts his day off by making a blockbuster trade with the Seattle Seahawks, who own the no.1 pick. Pressured by his owner to make a splash, Weaver trades his no.7 overall pick and his first-round picks in the following two years. His owner is urging him to take quarterback sensation Bo Callahan or else, while Weaver is smitten with linebacking prospect Vontae Mack.
The day features his ups and downs, with Weaver and his assistants trying to find any red flag on Callahan, as Weaver wants to ensure that he can feel comfortable with passing on Mack. Weaver is under a lot of pressure, as his father, Sonny Weaver Sr., was the longtime beloved Browns head coach who passed away a week before the story takes place.
The story also has a romantic theme, as Weaver is involved with his salary cap manager Ali (Jennifer Garner), who is pregnant with his child.
In the interest of not spoiling the movie, as many of you will likely go see it, let’s just say Weaver is wheeling and dealing all day.
The film does a good job of playing up the notion that NFL general managers are paranoid when studying a prospect, picking apart his game and social life. The movie is good for what it is.
Bonus: There are some great cameos in the movie, including NFL personalities, Roger Goodell, Mel Kiper, Chris Berman, Jon Gruden and others. All the NFL licenses are used which gives you an authentic feeling.
3. Tin Cup (1996)
Costner hits the golf course here, playing Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy, a former golfer whose life serves little purpose. He owns a driving range in West Texas, his glory years seemingly behind him.
McAvoy meets Dr. Molly Griswold, girlfriend of David Simms, a top pro golfer. Simms shows up at the driving range and offers Roy a job as his caddy. Roy takes the job but soon butts heads with his boss and gets himself fired, after showing Simms up on the course.
Roy then qualifies for the U.S. Open as a way of getting back at Simms. He qualifies while vying for attention from Molly. She helps him rebuild his image in exchange for golf lessons. Roy qualifies and goes head to head with Simms throughout the tournament.
On the final day of the Open, Roy goes for the green through a pond rather than playing it safe. He makes an incredible shot after 12 tries, but loses, going out in a blaze of glory. The good news is he qualifies for the following year. Oh, and he gets the girl, Molly.
Costner plays the defiant hero really well and it is an enjoyable golf comedy. The movie did well the box office, grossing over $75 million on a $45 million budget. It received mixed to positive reviews and it’s quite remarkable it came out in the same year as Happy Gilmore yet still stood out on its own.
2. Bill Durham (1988)
We go back to the film that really got the ball rolling for Costner’s sports movie career.
Bull Durham is a romantic comedy sports film, with Costner playing Crash Davis, a veteran catcher trying to prepare rookie Ebby LaLoosh for the big leagues. Annie Savoy, a baseball groupie, links herself romantically to LaLoosh, but soon finds herself falling for Crash.
Crash and Annie wind up working together to get the best out of Ebby, with Annie using very unorthodox methods to improve his game.
Crash also reflects on the 21 days he spent in the majors, only getting a taste of the show.
While Annie and Ebby are the official couple, the dynamic between Annie and Crash seems like a better match. Ebby eventually becomes a dominant pitcher and is called up to the majors. Crash is then released from the team. Ebby also ends his relationship with Annie.
Crash eventually retires and expresses a desire to manage, while Annie decides to settle down with Crash.
The film was a great success, grossing over $50 million, well above its modest budget of $9 million. The film was positively received, as it meshed comedy, sports and romance in a very original way,
1. Field of Dreams (1989)
When you list the movies where grown men are allowed to cry, this is near the top of the list. Field of Dreams remains a masterpiece even 25 years after its release. It’s timeless. Anybody who loves baseball and shares a special bond with their fathers will love this movie.
Farmer Ray Kinsella hears a voice while walking through his cornfield “If you build it, he will come.” He sees a baseball field and his wife Annie reluctantly allows him to build the field.
The field eats away at the couple’s savings, but his daughter spots Shoeless Joe Jackson, the idol of Ray’s deceased father. Jackson greets the family and later returns with his teammates from the 1919 Black Sox scandal.
Ray soon hears another clue, “ease his pain.” Ray reads an interview with author Terence Mann, who once expressed a desire to play baseball. Ray dreams of taking Mann to a baseball game and tracks him down. After a heated confrontation, Ray takes Mann to Fenway Park for a game. They both hear a voice to “go the distance.” They then see the scoreboard display the stats of Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, who played just one major league game, never getting a turn at bat.
They travel to Minnesota to track down Graham, but learn he has been dead for 16 years. Ray is set back in time to 1972 where he meets Graham, who ended up becoming a doctor after his short career.
Ray gets Graham to visit his field, where he finally gets a turn at bat. Everyone soon sees what only Ray and his family had seen.
The film climaxes when going back to the original calling, “if you build it, he will come.” That he, is Ray’s father, in the body of his young self. After Ray introduces his father to his wife and daughter, he asks his Dad to have a catch. They play catch in a tear-dropping scene.
The film is as sentimental as baseball movies come, and possibly the best one ever made. It displays the innocence of baseball so well, and culminates in the bonding of a father and son. Anyone who has shared a special moment with their parent will get emotional over the game of catch, particularly those who’ve ever played ball with their father as a kid. Kevin Costner is at his absolute best here and he made it damn near impossible to follow it up with any other cracks at a sports movie.
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