For folks who loves both baseball and movies, it’s incredibly sad that Hollywood’s takes on our national pastime continually whiff with a frequency that makes Adam Dunn look like Joe DiMaggio. But 40 years ago today, a film was released that got everything beautifully, hilariously and even painfully right: The Bad News Bears. A tartly-scripted comic saga about a no-hope Little League team from L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, the film — directed by Michael Ritchie from an original screenplay written by Bill Lancaster — shocked and amused audiences with its unbridled vulgarity and unvarnished portrayal of youth sports.
A surprise hit, it became the eleventh highest-grossing American film of 1976, outpacing the likes of Taxi Driver, Logan’s Run and The Man Who Fell to Earth at the box office. It blew the minds of countless kids who recognized themselves up there on the silver screen, but it also resonated deeply with adult viewers and critics, as well; Jay Cocks of Time described the film as “a fracturing comedy of honor, victory and defeat,” while Roger Ebert called it “an unblinking, scathing look at competition in American society
Yes, the two subsequent sequels — The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training (1977) and The Bad News Bears Go to Japan (1978) — completely sucked, drawing upon only the foul-mouthed obnoxiousness of the original and forgetting its heart or its humor; and the 2005 remake with Billy Bob Thornton is a perfect object lesson in why great films shouldn’t be subjected to remakes. But let not the failings of those movies dissuade you from enjoying what is truly the greatest baseball movie ever made. Need further convincing? Then check out these nine things that The Bad News Bears gets right,