In the early 1980s, there were virtually no films featuring America’s pastime. The previous most successful baseball themed movie had been “the Bad News Bears”, a comedy about Little League baseball and a drunken coach played by Walter Matthau. That film came out in 1976. In 1984, Barry Levinson delivered “the Natural” and in the next ten years, there were more than eighteen films featuring the game of baseball. Do you suppose that is a coincidence? I’ve read a few criticisms of “The Natural” as a movie in the last couple of months. With no disrespect to those who have a different opinion, I’d have to say that “The Natural” is one of the most influential baseball films of all time, and that it may be one of the most beautiful movies ever made.
Many defenders of “the Natural” have gone as far as to say that the movie is not really about baseball. There are scholarly attempts to explain it through the prism of “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”. There are allegories and direct references to mythology and the gods. I can’t say that any of those thoughts are wrong, I can say however, that the movie is about baseball more than anything else and regardless of the inspirations or literary roots, baseball is the source of it’s strengths.