The Movies’ Guide to Understanding Cleveland

(Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)
(Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)
Jason Dick
Posted July 11, 2014 at 5:53pm

It’s been quite a week for Cleveland, starting out by scoring the 2016 Republican National Convention and ending it with LeBron James spurning NBA mistress Miami to return to the Cavaliers.  

But what if you’re not one of the fortunate travelers out there who have experienced all that Ohio’s North Coast has to offer? Well, there’s always the movies. Here are five to get you started on your journey to understand Cleveland.

  • “American Splendor.” Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s 2003 brings the real crown prince of Cleveland, the late graphic novelist/file clerk Harvey Pekar to the screen with Paul Giamatti and Harvey Pekar playing Pekar, whose vision of life in Cleveland matches the city’s gritty ethos.
  • “Major League.” David Ward’s 1989 film about a Cleveland Indians team that the owner tries to sabotage, but, of course wins instead, is a classic against-the-odds sports flick. It does capture the particular craziness of Cleveland sports fandom and their resignation to falling short, particularly with its ending. The team wins, yes, but it’s just a win for the division title. Usually these movies end with a World Series win! Not in Cleveland.
  • “Stranger Than Paradise.” Jim Jarmusch’s 1984 black and white story of a road trip that takes in a nice, middle-of-winter visit to Cleveland and the shores of Lake Erie captures just a little bit of what the reasoning might have been for some of the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled Cleveland in the last few decades.
  • “Draft Day.” Want to see the more optimistic view of Cleveland sports? Ivan Reitman’s film this year stars Kevin Costner as a hometown general manager for the Browns whose ass is on the line to deliver big on the NFL’s draft day for the team and its fans. Wouldn’t you know it, he did. Wouldn’t you know it, within weeks of this film being released, the Browns drafted Texas A&M Quarterback Johnny Manziel. You be the judge if art imitates life.
  • “Howard The Duck.” Willard Huyck’s 1986 flick is perhaps one of the worst studio movies ever made, a colossal flop with George Lucas’ imprimatur and a Marvel Comics pedigree. A talking duck from a parallel universe gets beamed to Cleveland. Has to be seen to be believed.