Baseball: it’s America’s pastime. It’s also frequently intersected with the movies more than any other sport, giving us such cinematic classics as Pride of the Yankees, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams and Everybody Wants Some!!
But just because a movie has baseball bats in it, doesn’t mean it’s about baseball. Baseball bats have often been used as weapons and other implements of destruction, in everything from gangster movies to zombie movies to high school principal biopics.
In Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) walks around with a baseball bat, one she often carries behind her head; when I saw the film, the Harley cosplayers sitting behind me were carrying bats themselves. And while the film itself has received a rather lackluster early reception, Harley Quinn has clearly emerged as iconic, certain to inspire a whole lot of crushes and Halloween costumes.
So in honor of Harley Quinn’s cinematic debut, I give you the 15 Most Creative Uses Of A Baseball Bat In Non-Baseball TV And Movies:
15. Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad (2016)
Robbie’s movie version of Harley Quinn may be ruling the cultural roost this particular month, but the character dates back to Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. She went on to appear in comic books and cartoons throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Harley Quinn was rumored as a villain in various unrealized Batman adaptations, and appeared as a live action character in the 2002 WB series Birds of Prey – played by Mia Sara, best known as Sloan from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The bat wasn’t part of the character until Suicide Squad; she was more often associated with a mallet in previous incarnations. The bat will make an appearance, however, in the upcoming mobile game Batman: Arkham Underworld.
As for the bat in the Suicide Squad movie, it’s inscribed with “GOOD NIGHT” in huge letters and various other, smaller inscriptions. YouTube is filled with instructional videos on how to make your own Harley Quinn cosplay bat.
Director Kevin Smith named his child Harley Quinn Smith, after the character. Smith got his hands on the actual bat prop from the movie and was able to gift it to his daughter, now 22.
14. Negan in The Walking Dead (2016)
The season finale of The Walking Dead this spring featured the show’s newest villain, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) delivering a long monologue while brandishing a bat, one covered in barbed wire. Then, he swings at one of the main cast members, the identity of which won’t be revealed until the new season in October. The bat, like B.B. King’s guitars, is referred to by its owner by the name “Lucille.”
Unlike Harley Quinn, Negan’s bat was part of the character in the source material as well, as the villain has frequently brandished it in various Walking Dead comic book installments.
In The Walking Dead’s various confrontations between human survivors and “walkers,” various weapons have made an appearance, from guns to knives to spears to bows and arrows to the katana favored by Michonne. But Negan is the first character on the TV series to primarily favor a baseball bat as his weapon of choice.
13. Office Space: Destroying the copier (1999)
One of the most iconic moments in Mike Judge’s workplace classic Office Space is when rebelling office workers Pete, Samir and Michael Bolton (Ron Livingston, Ajay Naidu and David Herman) decide to take their office’s printer out to the side of the road and destroy it, both with a wooden bat and their fists.
The scene includes a whole lot of tropes of ‘90s cinema, including slow motion and dorky white characters performing with hard core rap music on the soundtrack. Cliches aside, though, it’s a satisfying moment for the frustrated programmers striking back at “the man,” in the person of their employer, Initech. In a later scene, the characters launch an embezzlement scheme that they admit was inspired by Richard Pryor’s plan from Superman III.
The film was a flop upon release, with not much support from its studio, but was ultimately discovered by a much larger audience years later – a pattern that would be repeated years later with another Judge-directed film, 2006’s Idiocracy.
12. Seinfeld’s Death Blow (1996)
The Little Kicks, the fourth episode of the eighth season of Seinfeld, is best known for introducing Elaine Benes’ comically bad style of dancing. But it also includes an even funnier subplot, involving one of the best of Seinfeld’s fake movies: Death Blow.
The plot, in case you don’t remember it: Jerry and Kramer go to see a sneak preview of Death Blow, a Bruckheimer-style action blowout. A friend of Kramer’s named Brody (Neil Giuntoli) comes along too and is seen videotaping the screen with a camcorder, indicating an underworld career as a movie bootlegger. When Brody gets sick, it falls to Jerry to take his spot as the movie pirate – a skill he surprisingly turns out to excel at.
Later in the episode, a baseball bat, belonging to Jerry appears, leading to this exchange:
Brody: (To Jerry) I’ll expect that tape by three o’clock tomorrow. (To Kramer) May I borrow this? (Holding baseball bat)
Kramer: Sure, do you need a glove?
11. Joe Clark in Lean on Me (1989)
Lean on Me, directed by Rocky’s John G. Avildsen, is a biopic of Joe Clark, the real-life principal at a high school in Paterson, N.J., who made headlines with tough-love policies, which included carrying a bullhorn and a baseball bat around the school’s halls.
Morgan Freeman played Clark, the no-nonsense principal, in the film, and while he does not actually hit anyone with the bat – the threat was more implicit – carrying the bat is a key part of the legend of Clark himself, and he was even nicknamed, yes, “Batman.” The film co-starred Robert Guillaume, Beverley Todd, and Lynne Thigpen.
The events of the film only took place about two years before it was released, and it has been accused of taking a wide variety of liberties with the facts – the plot about the school needing to reach a certain test store benchmark in order to avoid closing, for instance, was invented.
10. Ice Cube Destroys an Office in Straight Outta Compton (2015)
Straight Outta Compton, released last fall, told the story of the rise of N.W.A., one of the most important hip-hop groups of all time, and the group that launched the careers of major entertainers Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Easy-E.
The film, while it was accused of taking some liberties with the facts and especially sanctifying the two subjects who had a hand in producing it (Dre and Cube), was crowd-pleasing hit, which wasn’t the slightest bit shy about showing its protagonists as tough guys. For instance, in one scene Ice Cube (played by the real-life Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson, Jr.), in a dispute over payments, destroys the office of Priority Records executive Bryan Turner (Tate Ellington) with a baseball bat.
The confrontation really did happen, including the part about the bat, although in reality Cube showed up to the confrontation with backup, rather than alone. The two later made up, however.
9. Nicolas Cage Attacks a Tree in Knowing (2009)
Knowing, the sci-fi thriller from 2009, is one of the more curious titles in the very curious catalog of Nicolas Cage’s starring movie roles. Directed by Alex Proyas and also starring Rose Byrne and Ben Mendelsohn, it’s an odd little movie with slight Christian overtones that concludes with the literal end of the world. Even though it deals with numerology, it’s a rare movie that does so without being absolutely terrible.
Also, in a scene unaccountably left out of the famous “Nicolas Cage Losing His Shit” supercut, Nicolas Cage attacks a tree with a bat.
The film got a mixed-to-negative critical response, but Roger Ebert loved it, naming it to his Top Ten list in 2009. Others remember it as coming from a long-ago time when Nicolas Cage’s starring vehicles were actually screened for critics. It also arrived the same year as Cage’s star turn in Warner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.
8. Halt and Catch Fire: Welcome to Mutiny (2015)
Halt and Catch Fire, the AMC series set at the dawn of the PC era in the early 1980s, got a mixed reception in its first season, as the series focused on the original company, Cardiff, attempting to clone an IBM PC, while basing its plots around a Don Draper knockoff character (Lee Pace.)
The series got a lot better in Season 2, shifting its focus to Mutiny, a nascent modem-based gaming startup that also hosts an early version of message boards. And the poster for the season features the cast posing in the Mutiny office – with punkish programmer Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis) even holding a baseball bat behind her head, Harley Quinn-style.
A baseball bat had actually made multiple appearances the previous season when Joe, the Pace character, was seen brandishing the bat before meetings, smashing his apartment with it and, in one fit of pique, breaking it over his knee.
7. The Raid 2: Baseball Bat Man (2014)
The Raid 2 was the 2014 sequel to The Raid: Redemption, the hyper-stylized, hyper-violent crime saga directed by Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans and set in Indonesia.
The film features a character referred to in the credits as “Baseball Bat Man” who, as you may have guessed, is not called that because he’s a ballplayer. Played by Very Tri Yulisman, Baseball Bat Man – the brother of Hammer Girl – is a hooded figure who goes after his opponents, very mercilessly, with an aluminum bat. He appears in just one scene of the film and at one point, when a ball appears, he even “calls his shot”- in the tradition of Babe Ruth, and hits a couple of adversaries with batted balls, before wailing on them with the bat itself.
Baseball is popular in Indonesia, although the only major leaguer born in that country is Tom Mastny, who grew up in Indiana.
6. The Baseball Furies in The Warriors (1979)
The Warriors, directed by Walter Hill, was a 1979 thriller very much of its time: it documented a journey through the night in a lawless, dirty, and very dangerous New York City.
The film featured the titular gang attempting to make it home at the end of the night, while battling a variety of colorful rival gangs. One of them is the Baseball Furies, a group of face-painted ruffians who carry bats and wear New York Yankees-style pinstriped uniforms. Their base is Riverside Park on the Upper West Side- certainly not a hotbed of gang activity these days – and they’re ultimately easily defeated by the Warriors.
The Russo Brothers are said to be making a TV remake of The Warriors, though its unknown if the Baseball Furies will be making a return appearance. When Tony Scott was planning a Warriors remake a decade ago, he said in interviews that he was planning to omit them.
5. The Shining: Shelley Duvall vs. Jack Nicholson (1980)
The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick from Stephen King’s novel, is one of the great psychological thrillers of all time. A novelist (Jack Nicholson) is holed up in a remote hotel with his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd.) Jack slowly loses his mind as the film goes on, while supernatural elements gradually rise to the forefront.
In one scene, Jack menaces his wife, while she clutches a Louisville Slugger bat in defense. Meanwhile, Nicholson’s scary monologue repeatedly cuts to other scary things happening in the Overlook Hotel. Then she swings the bat wildly as Jack approaches her. It’s an unsettling, horrifying scene, the sort of thing that would be accurately described, if the movie were made today, as domestic abuse.
Room 237, a documentary from 2012, examines several different wild fan theories about The Shining. Most of it is total bunk, but I’d like to see a version of the doc for a number of different movies.
4. Joaquin Phoenix vs. aliens in Signs (2002)
Signs, released in the fall of 2002, was M. Night Shyamalan’s follow-up to the one-two punch of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, released well before the huge backlash against the horror auteur began, even though quite a few filmgoers questioned that whole aliens-allergic-to-water-invading-a-planet-covered-in-water part.
Mel Gibson starred as an ex-priest who has lost his faith following the death of his wife, who discovers strange crop circles on his farm, indicating that an alien invasion is imminent. Joaquin Phoenix played his brother, a failed former baseball player who uses his old bat and swinging skills to subdue the extraterrestrial invaders. “Swing away, Merrill,” his brother says:
When it comes to putting down the aliens who have invaded your home, swinging a baseball bat, it turns out, is an effective measure. Not as effective as throwing water at them, perhaps, but just as well. Phoenix never pursued a baseball career, nor did he play a baseball player in any other movie, but perhaps he should have- the man’s got quite a strong right-handed swing.
3. Bats vs. zombies in Zombieland (2009)
The 2009 comedy Zombieland covers the subject of zombie apocalypse with much less of a somber tone than, say, The Walking Dead. In fact, it’s a rather cheeky affair all around. For instance, I have no memory of Rick, Shane or Carl going on a risky mission just to snag a rare Twinkie.
Rather than the cricket bats from Shawn of the Dead, the characters in Zombieland, led by Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson, use a wide variety of weapons and nontraditional tools in their war against the undead, from guns to gardening shears. Among those is a baseball bat, which Harrelson uses to take a couple of swings at a portly zombie in a grocery store.
Zombieland for a time was the highest-grossing zombie movie of all time, until it was overtaken by World War Z in 2013.
2. “Batter Up” in The Untouchables (1987)
Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables was one of the best gangster movies of the 1980s, telling the story of how FBI agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and Irish cop John Malone (Sean Connery) took down Chicago gangster boss Al Capone (Robert De Niro) in the 1930s.
One of the film’s more famous scenes a tuxedo-clad Capone addressed a dinner of his colleagues, brandishes a bat, and delivers a long monologue about how standing alone in the batter’s box is a matter of individual achievement, while those in the field are “part of a team.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the monologue ends with a rival getting whacked in the head repeatedly with said bat.
A lot of De Palma’s best films have long been under-appreciated, but The Untouchables was actually a huge hit. You can hear the director himself talk about it in De Palma, the documentary released earlier this year.
1. The Bear Jew, in Inglorious Basterds (2009)
Inglorious Basterds is Quentin Tarantino’s World War II fantasia about a group of Jewish soldiers rampaging through Nazi-occupied France and gloriously – and ahistorically – assassinating Adolf Hitler and most of his top lieutenants in a burning movie theater.
Perhaps the most notorious member of the Basterds is Donny Donowitz, better known as “The Bear Jew.” Played by horror director Eli Roth and discussed in foreboding tones before he’s actually introduced, The Bear Jew is a muscular Hebrew known for executing Nazi prisoners with a swing of the bat, often while narrating the action as if it were a Boston Red Sox radio broadcast and he were Ted Williams.
Inglorious Basterds, like most of Tarantino’s latter-period work, is wildly uneven, but The Bear Jew is undoubtedly its best creation.