Of all sports, baseball seems to have the smoothest transition to the big screen. Perhaps it’s the slower pace of the game, which makes it easier for Hollywood to work its magic on a scene. Maybe it’s because baseball already has a romanticized feel to it, more so than other sports. Whatever the reason, many great baseball movies have been churned out, spread across the dramatic and comedic genres. Here are the best baseball movies of all time.
10) The Sandlot (1993)
Oh, why do the insults thrown by children in 90s movies seem so lame today? Ah well, it was good at the time.
The Sandlot may be viewed as a kids movie at first glance, but it’s actually easy for baseball fans of every generation to enjoy.
The movie is pretty touching in some ways. The main character, Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) is the new kid in the neighbourhood and attempts to fit in through baseball. He is without a true male role model in his life, as his stepfather makes little time for him.
No baseball movie involving kids was able to top Bad News Bears, but the Sandlot is about as close as a film has ever gotten.
James Earl Jones delivers a phenomenal performance as Mr. Mertle.
The movie makes you wish you had spent more of your childhood playing ball with other kids around the block.
9) 42 (2013)
Baseball movies hit a bit of a slump in the 21st century before 42 came around, chronicling the story of Jackie Robinson, Major League Baseball’s first black player.
The film goes through Robinson’s time with the Montreal Royals in 1946, but mostly focuses on his 1947 rookie season with the big club, the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Harrison Ford gives a spectacular performance as Branch Rickey, the Dodgers’ team executive.
The film takes us through Robinson’s struggles as a rookie, including the team starting a petition to have him off the team. While dealing with a situation no person should have to endure, Rickey stands behind him the whole way and keeps him on the right path.
A very touching story for all viewers, not just baseball fans.
8) A League of Their Own (1992)
This film brings us back to a time in baseball that’s rarely talked about. A League of their Own is a fictionalized story, but it’s based on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The league was comprised by women who looked to fill the void in baseball when the men were called overseas to fight in World War II.
Tom Hanks stars as Jimmy Dugan, an obnoxious, possibly alcoholic manager who manages the Rockford Peaches.
The Peaches roster consists of an All-Star cast including Geena Davis (Dottie Hinson), Lori Petty (Kit Keller), Rosie O’Donnell (Doris Murphy) and even Madonna (Mae Mordabito)
Just as the motto of America in World War II was ‘We Can Do It!’ women stepped up and played America’s game.
The Film mixes comedy and drama well, as it has its funny moments, but at the same time deals with the heartbreak of the war, as these women’s husbands are overseas.
7) Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)
Robert De Niro in a baseball movie? Why wouldn’t you give it a chance?
This movie started the trend for a string of many classic baseball movies. Michael Moriarty plays the star pitcher (Henry Wiggen) and Robert De Niro’s career really got rolling soon after this, as he plays a dying catcher (Bruce Pearson). Henry and Bruce are close friends as well as teammates. They travel to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where Bruce discovers he is dying of Hodgkin’s disease.
Henry is holding out from the New York Mammaths for a better contract, but when he finds out the team is planning to release Bruce, he ends his holdout. The only condition is the team must keep Bruce as well. The team has a terrible start in their record and as a group. Bruce wants his secret kept private, but Henry mistakingly blurts it out and the team treats Bruce better; morale improves and so does the team’s performance.
While the baseball itself in the movie isn’t the most authentic of the bunch, the story is too touching for it to matter.
6) Major League (1989)
The bottom line is, this is a really fun movie. It’s full of cliches; a struggling team pulling together midway through the year, all to spite an owner looking to move the Cleveland Indians to Miami.
Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton) becomes the Indians’ owner when her husband dies, and her plan is to field the worst ball club possible to drive down attendance and use it as an excuse to move the team.
However, manager Lou Brown (James Gammon) does a phenomenal job with the misfits and makes them competitive, despite the owner’s attempts to sabotage the team.
The cast is impressive, including Charlie Sheen as Rick Vaughn, Tom Berenger as Jake Taylor, Corbin Bernsen as Roger Dorn, Wesley Snipes as Willie Mays Hayes and Dennis Haysbert (you know him as the Allstate guy) playing Pedro Cerrano, a voodoo expert and power hitter.
Bob Uecker gives the funniest performance as Harry Doyle, the Indians’ play-by-play man.
5) Eight Men Out (1988)
This film recounts the story of perhaps the most controversial time in baseball history, the story of the 1919 Chicago White Sox (Black Sox scandal).
The movie doesn’t glorify this scandal and in fact covers it in quite an accurate way. The players have formed a great team, but owner Charles Comiskey does not reward his players for their excellent run.
Gamblers learn of the players’ resentment and offer several players, including star pitcher Eddie Cicotte (David Strathairn) a sum of money to throw the World Series, more than they would make by winning.
Some players begin playing poorly, while others who are not in on the fix, make the effort to win. Others who were in on the fix are not being paid up front like they were promised and start looking to win. Ultimately the scandal goes through and the Sox lose the series.
Suspicion arises, players are eventually indicted and eight are banned from professional baseball, including Shoeless Joe Jackson, despite his impressive .375 batting average in the World Series and the fact that many maintain his innocence to this day. Overall a travesty for baseball.
4) Bad News Bears (1976)
Bad News Bears showed people that baseball can be a great avenue for comedies. Many still say it’s the best baseball movie ever. It sure is the best comedy of the bunch.
Walter Matthau stars as Morris Buttermaker, a former minor leaguer now coaching little league (you guessed it, misfits) who have no talent and don’t know any fundamentals of baseball.
There’s no way this movie would be as successful were it released today. If you’re easily offended and everything must be PC for you to enjoy something, this movie’s not for you.
This was the rebel of baseball movies. While many have tried to duplicate its success, many have failed.
3) The Natural (1984)
If you want to watch a baseball movie to really get you pumped, this is the one.
Based on the 1952 novel, Robert Redford gives an unforgettable performance as Roy Hobbs, an aging slugger.
The movie receives many mixed opinions, with baseball purists calling it over-simplistic, but many baseball romantics love it.
Opinions also divide due to the fact the movie changes the original outcome of the book, providing a much more uplifting ending for the silver screen.
Fans of the Simpsons will also recognize many scenes, as the Simpsons’ iconic softball episode borrowed many visuals from this movie.
2) Field of Dreams (1989)
This is the best movie on the list, but when you crave the element of baseball, there’s one movie that ranks above it. Not taking baseball into account, it’s the very best on this list. The only thing holding it back is that too little actual baseball is seen, because it’s much more than a baseball movie.
Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), a farmer in Iowa is told by a strange voice “If you build it, they will come.” He builds a baseball diamond and the 1919 Chicago White Sox take the field, a chance to finally play the game they love. Kinsella’s late father’s hero was Shoeless Joe Jackson and his spirit is the first to appear on the field.
However, the true meaning of the words first spoken to him is something better, and culminates in one of the most heartwarming scenes in movie history. If you don’t enjoy this, you probably are a very cynical person.
James Earl Jones, Amy Madigan and Burt Lancaster also provide great performances.
1) Bull Durham (1988)
Due to its accurate portrayal of baseball, thanks to director Ron Shelton’s five years in the minors, details are where this movie shines. Romantics and purists both love it.
Kevin Costner plays Crash Davis, an aging minor-league catcher assigned to help hotshot rookie pitcher Nuke Laloosh improve his game. With many unorthodox lessons about baseball and life, Crash gets through to Nuke.
An added dimension is the romance between Crash and Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon). Annie is a baseball worshipper and groupie of sorts, as she’s known for taking a new player ‘under her wing’ every season and helping him reach success. She’s initially involved with Nuke, but soon falls for Crash.
The film, against all odds, avoids sports movie cliches and gives the perfect balance of entertainment and baseball authenticity. Some won’t enjoy it as much as others, but when you put the words baseball and movie together, this is the perfect marriage.
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