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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

The Natural (1984)


  • Barry Levinson, Director

  • Roger Towne and Phil Dusenberry, Screenplay

  • Randy Newman, Music

  • Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs

  • Paul Sullivan Jr. as Young Roy Hobbs

  • Robert Duvall as Max Mercy

  • Glenn Close as Iris Gaines

  • Rachel Hall as Young Iris Gaines

  • Kim Basinger as Memo Paris

  • Wilford Brimley as Populus "Pop" Fisher

  • Barbara Hershey as Harriet Bird

  • Robert Prosky as The Judge

  • Richard Farnsworth as "Red" Blow

  • Joe Don Baker as "The Whammer"

  • Darren McGavin as Gus Sands (uncredited)

  • Michael Madsen as Bartholomew "Bump" Bailey

  • John Finnegan as Sam Simpson


  • The Natural was released on May 11, 1984.

  • Many of the baseball scenes were filmed in 1983 at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo, New York, built in 1937 and demolished in 1988. All-High Stadium, also in Buffalo, stood in for Chicago's Wrigley Field in a key scene.

  • On a budget of roughly $28 million, The Natural would gross nearly $48 million finishing #15 at the box office for 1984.

  • Reviews at the time were mixed; Roger Ebert called it "idolatry on behalf of Robert Redford." Ebert's television collaborator Gene Siskel praised it, giving it four stars, also putting down other critics that he suggested might have just recently read the novel for the first time.

  • However, sports writers have been less mixed in their praise for the movie. James Berardinelli praised The Natural as "[a]rguably the best baseball movie ever made". ESPN's Page 2 selected it as the 6th best sports movie of all time. Sports writer Bill Simmons has argued, "Any 'Best Sports Movies' list that doesn't feature either Hoosiers or The Natural as the No. 1 pick shouldn't even count."

  • The Natural was nominated for four Academy Awards: Actress in a Supporting Role (Glenn Close), Cinematography (Caleb Deschanel), Art Direction (Mel Bourne, Angelo P. Graham, Bruce Weintraub), and Music (Randy Newman).

  • The Natural currently holds an 88% among critics on RT, a 61 score on Metacritic, and a 3.5/5 on Letterboxd.

What is this movie about?/Elevator Pitch: It's a legend/tall tale like John Henry or Paul Bunyan. The movie is supposed to be rather mythical in its depiction, and be a parable of sorts about the tragedy of naturally gifted athletes.

Plot Summary: "The Natural," directed by Barry Levinson and based on Bernard Malamud's novel, is a cinematic ode to the enduring spirit of baseball and the human capacity for redemption. Roy Hobbs, portrayed with a blend of innocence and determination by Robert Redford, emerges as a mythical figure in the world of baseball. After a fateful encounter derails his early dreams, Hobbs resurfaces years later wielding a bat that seems touched by fate itself. His journey with the New York Knights is a tale of triumph over adversity, and of second chances and the pursuit of greatness amidst personal demons and external pressures. Through stunning cinematography and a score that echoes the heartbeat of the game, "The Natural" transcends sports drama to become a timeless narrative of hope and the pursuit of dreams against all odds.

Did You Know:

  • The two eras of the film show Roy Hobbs at age 19 and age 35. Robert Redford was 47 at the time of filming.

  • While Darren McGavin had a major supporting role as the bookmaker Gus Sands, he received no credit. In the recent retrospective documentary on the Special Edition DVD of this movie, Robert Prosky (the Judge) claimed McGavin was cast late in the picture, and would have received a lesser billing than the other stars. Thus McGavin chose to go uncredited. Prosky noted where McGavin wound up "drawing more attention to himself" as a result.

  • Hobbs breaking the scoreboard clock with a home run was inspired by Bama Rowell of the Boston Braves doubling off the Ebbets Field scoreboard clock on May 30, 1946, showering Dixie Walker with glass. Though he'd been promised a free watch by Bulova for hitting the company's scoreboard sign, Rowell had to wait until 1987 to receive it.

  • The quote by Roy Hobbs about what it takes to be a big leaguer, "You have to have a lot of little boy in you", was actually a quote by Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella.

  • While the story is an adaptation of the book by Bernard Malamud, the plot has been changed for movie to be more "uplifting". Several characters and symbols are heavily influenced by the writings of Homer and Greek mythology: Roy Hobbs = Odysseus. He is trying to "find his way" (home). Max Mercy = Vulcan, God of Fire and Forging. He can "make or break you", and is always seen in red or brown clothing. Pop Fisher = Zeus, King of the Gods. His uniform is #1, and both the oak tree and lightning bolt à la the Wonderboy bat, are his symbols. The Judge = Hades, God of the Underworld. He is always in the dark, a.k.a. death, and the dead are "judged" in the underworld. Memo Paris = Kalypso, a sea nymph who had an affair with Odysseus and held or distracted him from returning home. Kalypso means "I will conceal" in Greek. Gus Sands = the Cyclops. Gus has the one strange eye. Iris Gaines = Penelope, wife of Odysseus. Roy's true love, from whom he was separated for sixteen years, while she raised their son. - Hubris = when Roy states his goal is for people to say, "there goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in this game", this is what the Greeks considered to be hubris (excessive pride in oneself), and for that, a person would often suffer turmoil.

Best Performance: Robert Redford (Hobbs)

Best Secondary Performance: Glenn Close (Iris)

Most Charismatic Award: Robert Redford (Hobbs)/Wilfred Brimley (Pop)

Best Scene:

  • Striking Out The Whammer

  • Losing is a Disease

  • Overnight Sensation

  • Breaking the Slump/Seeing Iris

  • Final Refusal

  • Final At Bat

Favorite Scene: Overnight Sensation/Final At Bat

Most Indelible Moment: Final At Bat

In Memorium:

  • Zack Norman, 83, American actor and stand-up comedian (Romancing the Stone, Ragtime, Cadillac Man)

  • Marla Adams, 85, American actress (The Young and the Restless, The Secret Storm, Splendor in the Grass), Emmy winner (2021)

  • Terry Carter, 95, American actor (Foxy Brown, McCloud, Battlestar Galactica, The Phil Silvers Show)

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Iris Gaines: You know, I believe we have two lives.

Roy Hobbs: How... what do you mean?

Iris Gaines: The life we learn with and the life we live with after that.

Roy Hobbs: I guess some mistakes you never stop paying for.

Roy Hobbs: Pick me out a winner Bobby.

Pop Fisher: You know, my mother told me I ought to be a farmer.

Roy Hobbs: My dad wanted me to be a baseball player.

Pop Fisher: You're better than anyone I ever had. And you're the best goddamned hitter I ever saw. Suit up.

Roy Hobbs: I coulda been better. I coulda broke every record in the book.

Iris Gaines: And then?

Roy Hobbs: And then? And then when I walked down the street people would've looked and they would've said there goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in this game.

Roy Hobbs: My life didn't turn out the way I expected.

Ed Hobbs: You've got a gift Roy... but it's not enough - you've got to develop yourself. If you rely too much on your own gift... then... you'll fail.

Max Mercy: You read my mind.

Roy Hobbs: That takes all of three seconds.

The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 6

Impact/Significance: 6.5

Novelty: 6

Classic-ness: 8.5

Rewatchability: 5.5

Audience Score: 7.35 (59% Google, 88% RT)

Total: 39.85

Remaining Questions:

  • Would the ending from the book or the original script version have been more impactful?

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