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5 Plot Point Breakdown: Field of Dreams (1989)

By Anthony Faust · January 12, 2017

Screenplay Genre: Fantasy/Sport

Movie Time: 107 Minutes 


Ray Kinsella, a University of California at Berkeley graduate transplanted in Iowa, with a wife Annie (Amy Madigan) and a daughter Karin (Gaby Hoffmann), hears a voice in his cornfield. The Voice tells him plainly, “If you build it, he will come”. A few days later, he hears The Voice again, and two pictures flash before his eyes.

In the first is Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta), a member of the infamous 1919 Chicago White Sox team, who was accused of throwing the World Series in exchange for money from gamblers. In the second is the image of a baseball field in Ray’s cornfield. (00:05:51)

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

Ray wakes his wife Annie in the middle of the night. Ray is puzzled by The Voice. He mentions his father, remarking that he lacked spontaneity. Ray does not want to follow in his father’s footsteps. He feels strongly that he must follow the vision he experienced in his cornfield.

Annie is nervous, but sets aside her apprehension and gives in to Ray’s wishes. The subsequent destruction of acres of valuable farm land into a pristine baseball field attracts a throng of head-scratching locals who stare in bewilderment. (00:13:49) 


Shoeless Joe Jackson, along with other members of his White Sox team, has returned to Iowa to play baseball in Ray’s field. But The Voice is still speaking to Ray, imploring him to “ease his pain”. Inspired by an article in which Terence Mann (James Earl Jones), a writer Ray admires, spoke of his dream of playing in Ebbets Field, Ray travels to Boston. He meets Terence and then kidnaps him to a baseball game. At the game, Ray sees a message on the scoreboard and hears The Voice again, telling him to “go the distance”.

This time, he’s not alone. Terence confesses that he heard The Voice too. Ray has gained an ally. Terence and Ray travel to Chisholm, Minnesota to find the subject of the message on the scoreboard, a doctor named Archibald “Moonlight” Graham (Burt Lancaster), whose statistics revealed he played only one inning in the majors.  (00:57:57)

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

Mark (Timothy Busfeld), Annie’s brother, is part of a group that is threatening to buy Ray’s farmland. Since Ray has spent all his savings on the baseball field and has no crop to sell, he is facing bankruptcy. Mark comes to Ray’s baseball field to offer him a way out, but Ray refuses. He’s keeping the baseball field. In an ensuing argument with Ray, Mark grabs Karin and causes her to fall off the bleachers, knocking her unconscious.

Doc Graham, now a young ball player that Ray and Terence picked up on their way back to Iowa from Minnesota, becomes a doctor again and saves Karin. (01:29:40)


Shoeless Joe Jackson invites Terence Mann to come into the cornfield. Ray complains, but Joe does not budge. Terence explains the reason to Ray. Terence lied and confesses, after telling Ray otherwise, he really did give the interview about wanting to play in Ebbets Field. Ray begrudgingly accepts this stunning turn of events. As he is ready to depart, Joe explains the meaning of the first message The Voice gave him. 

If you build it (a baseball field), he (Ray’s father) will come. Ray looks over at home plate and sees his father, John Kinsella, taking off his catcher’s mask. John introduces himself to Ray and the two share a game of catch. (01:35:08)

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