Is The Hill Movie on Netflix a True Story? What's Real vs. Fake

By David Thompson Posted:
Colin Ford as Rickey Hill in The Hill movie

The inspirational film The Hill follows the true story of Rickey Hill, a baseball player with an unlikely story due to physical handicap, but how real or fake is the film?

Currently streaming on Netflix and drawing a massive audience, The Hill was released in theaters back in August 2023.

While it was a theatrical hit, more people are discovering the uplifting story of Rickey Hill while the film is marketed as "based on the incredible true story," but there's some speculation about how real the events of the film truly are.

Did Rickey Hill Have Degenerative Spinal Disease?

Rickey Hill played by Lucas Till in The Hill movie
The Hill

In the movie, Rickey Hill (played by Colin Ford) faces a grim prognosis from a doctor who reveals that his bones are rapidly depleting, and walking again would be a miraculous feat. 

This mirrors the true story, as Hill was born with a degenerative spinal disease and doctors expressed doubts about his ability to walk normally. 

The athlete's childhood involved wearing leg braces crafted by his father to address the complications arising from the disease - a situation depicted similarly in the film. 

The braces, which aimed to prevent his legs from touching, made him a target for bullies, reflecting the challenges he endured. 

Was Rickey Hill's Father Unsupportive?

Yes, Rickey Hill's father, Pastor James Hill (played by Dennis Quaid), didn't want his son to play baseball in real life.

In The Hill, Pastor Hill initially fears for his son's safety and worries about potential mockery due to his disability if Rickey pursues baseball. 

Despite hoping that Rickey would follow in his footsteps and become a Baptist preacher, Rickey expresses his desire to make his own life choices. 

Eventually, they come to terms with Rickey's decision to pursue baseball. However, one aspect that was fabricated (or fake) in The Hill was Pastor Hill watching his son hit a home run during the final scene

The special, possibly tear-jerking moment between father and son to end the film never happened because Rickey's dad never watched him play.

During an interview with ChurchPOP's Jacqueline Burkepile, Rickey Hill revealed that his father James Hill never saw him play baseball:

Hill: "He never saw me play."

Burkepile: "Not even once?"

Hill: "Not even once."

Was Rickey Hill's Wife Gracie a Real Person?

The film also delves into Rickey's personal life, particularly his relationship with a character named Gracie Shanz. However, Gracie didn't exist in real life. 

In the film, she is loosely based on his real-life girlfriend, Sherran. Rickey and Sherran got married shortly after the events in The Hill, with a wedding ceremony taking place at home plate on a baseball field in 1975.

Despite initial optimism, Rickey and Sherran's marriage ended in divorce 11 years later, in 1986. The couple had two children between 1975 and 1986, but the reasons for their separation remain unclear. 

Did Rickey Hill Play in the MLB?

Yes, he did. Rickey Hill earned a tryout with the Montreal Expos in 1975 and was signed but eventually released after playing four seasons in the minors due to the strain on his body caused by his degenerative spinal disease. 

Despite keeping his disability a secret, Hill had a notable season in 1978 with the minor league Grays Harbor Loggers, showcasing his hitting prowess with 15 home runs.

Despite the challenges, Hill played baseball year-round, participating in winter ball leagues in Mexico, Venezuela, and Italy.

In 1979, during spring training with the San Diego Padres, Hill's back gave out, leading to a collapse while diving into second base. He spent three months in traction in the hospital and his professional career was over.

Why The Hill is Remakarbly Accurate

Rickey Hill's journey gained attention when his brother wrote a 56-page story about him, which attracted interest from Hollywood in 1978. 

However, personal challenges, including his parents' illnesses, led him to decline the offer at the time.

As The Athletic reported, Hill interviewed over 40 directors in his quest to find someone he trusted for the project. 

Eventually, director Jeff Celentano, convinced by his brother who overheard Hill's frustrated phone conversation, took on the task. It took 17 years from their initial meeting for Hill and Celentano to bring Rickey's story to the big screen.

This was also 45 years after initially being approached about making a movie about his story. Hill's close involvement with the filmmaking process kept the movie more accurate than most "based on a true story" adaptations in Hollywood.

The Hill is now streaming on Netflix.

- About The Author: David Thompson
As an editor, writer, and podcast host, David is a key member of The Direct. He is an expert at covering topics like Marvel, DC, Star Wars, and business-related news following the box office and streaming.