Film / The Bad News Bears

The Bad News Bears is a 1976 film directed by Michael Ritchie. It stars Walter Matthau as Morris Buttermaker, an alcoholic former minor-league baseball player who becomes the coach of the Bears, a cellar-dwelling Little League baseball team with poor playing skills and little hope of ever winning.

To bolster the team's abilities, he recruits Amanda Whurlitzer, a skilled pitcher who happens to be the eleven-year-old daughter of one of Buttermaker's ex-girlfriends, and Kelly Leak, the local cigarette-smoking troublemaker. And, miraculously, the notoriously chronic underdogs start winning under Buttermaker's careful coaching. Now all that lies between them and victory is the championship game...

The film was followed by two sequels, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training in 1977 and The Bad News Bears Go to Japan in 1978, and a short-lived 1979-80 CBS television series, none of which were able to duplicate the success of the original. A remake was made in 2005, starring Billy Bob Thornton as Buttermaker.

Not to be confused with Bears are Bad News.

This movie, and its two sequels, contain examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Buttermaker is variously referred to as "Boilermaker", "Butterworth", "Buttercrud", etc.
  • Animated Credits Opening: The Bad News Bears Go to Japan has one. Fittingly, it was animated in Japan at Group TAC.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Tanner drops this gem when Amanda joins the team:
    "Jews, spics, niggers, and now a girl?"
  • The Bet: Amanda tries to get Kelly to join the team by playing air hockey against him at an arcade. But she loses, so instead she has to go out on a date with him.
  • Champions on the Inside
  • Covers Always Lie: The DVD cover shows Amanda standing on a box while talking to Buttermaker. Take a wild guess as to whether a scene like that appears in the actual movie.
  • Down to the Last Play: This was perhaps the first underdog movie to have the protagonist team NOT win.
  • Downer Ending: Subverted, big time and beautifully so, despite the Bears losing.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Buttermaker the little-league coach.
  • Fat Comic Relief: Engelberg.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In the first film, Amanda tries to invoke this on Kelly. But it backfires.
    Amanda: Whatcha got against baseball anyway?
    Kelly: The baseball you guys play is for faggots and old farts who don't have anything better to do with themselves.
    Amanda: Well, you must like those kind of guys. You sure do hang around the field often enough.
    Kelly: There's a nice ass on the field. That's why I hang around.
    Amanda: *Death Glare*
  • Jerk Ass Has A Point: Roy Turner might have gone too far by hitting his son however he was right to be mad at his son for intentionally trying to hit Engelberg in the head with a baseball which could have seriously hurt him had the ball actually struck him in the head.
  • Mouthy Kid: Many of the kids have their moments, but Tanner loves throwing around racial epithets.
  • The Napoleon: Tanner.
  • Opposing Sports Team: The Yankees.
  • Ordered to Cheat: Buttermaker orders his batter to lean into the pitch so he'd get hit, to get a walk. The player is against the idea, but does it anyway. Twice.
  • Pet the Dog: Quinn Smith, who played Timmy Lupus in the first film, couldn't take part in the second. They were able to get him for a brief scene at the beginning where they show him getting visited by some of his teammates while recovering from a broken leg, with the insinuation that he was a huge part of their second season.
  • Positive Discrimination: The whole reason the Bears exist is because one of the players' parents is an attorney, and decided to sue the league. He also paid Buttermaker to coach the team.
    Cleveland: Goddamn class action suits are gonna be the ruin of this country.
  • Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits
  • Save Our Team
  • Sequel Goes Foreign: The Bad News Bears Go to Japan.
  • The '70s: And boy does it showcase that decade.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Subverted, and it was the first film to subvert the trope
  • What Could Have Been: The studio originally wanted Burt Lancaster to play Buttermaker. The screenwriter (Lancaster's son) vetoed that idea as he didn't want people to think he was playing off his father's fame.
  • Win One for the Gipper: In Breaking Training. They even show the famous clip from Knute Rockne, All American on a hotel television set.
  • You Go, Girl!: Amanda.

The 2005 remake contains examples of:

  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Inverted. Buttermaker, when meeting with the rival coach in an attempt to shake hands after their disasterous first game, mentions that the rival coach "has grapes" in what is an unsubtle reference to the rival coach's balls.
  • Bowdlerisation: In the remake, Billy Bob Thornton wasn't allowed to drink beer on the dugout, though he was allowed to spike it with some hard liquor as a compromise.
  • Curse Cut Short: Not in the film itself, but the promotional spots for the remake had the scene where Buttermaker mentions his previously being sent to jail (as well as implying his status as a Prison Rape victim), but the scene conveniently cuts to the "Coming Soon" final seconds just as Buttermaker is about to say the word "ass."
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Despite being a "politically correct" remake, there were a lot more dirty stuff that the creators got away with. For one thing, they had Buttermaker alluding to prison sexuality in the beginning of the film.
  • Prison Rape: Buttermaker implies in the beginning of the film when talking with a woman and her kid that he was a victim of this. It's a surprise that this got past the censors.