Baseball is America’s Pastime, but it has also been the feature of some incredible stories on the silver screen as well. From “Rookie of the Year” to “Moneyball” baseball movies have had an incredible impact on the baseball community and Hollywood. Here is a list of the best of the best baseball films in the history of Hollywood covering the sport, its storylines, the drama of being a big leaguer, and the amazing history of the greatest game on earth. Check it out below to see where your favorites come in!
10. Moneyball (2011)
7.8 IMDB, 94 Rotten Tomatoes, NA Baseball America
Brad Pitt stars as infamous baseball guru and proponent of Sabermetrics, Billy Beane, in a tale about doing everything wrong and succeeding. Beane is the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics in 2002 and after losing 3 incredible stars because they cost too much to retain after a loss in the ALCS to the Yankees, Beane must revamp the system to compete with much richer teams on a budget. Despite many minor inaccuracies and the plot being dumbed down for the average movie goer, the movie has everything a classic baseball film needs. Pitt is excellent, and it represents a large, many times unnoticed, part of baseball in its current state. MoneyballMoneyball is a great way to start off our list, and as time passes, it might be said that this film is higher on this list because of the impact the film and the novel have had on the dynamic of Major League Baseball.
9. Major League (1989)
6.9 IMDB, 85% Rotten Tomatoes, #10 Baseball America
This one has something for every baseball fan, and probably more for those that aren’t. Hilarious diva superstars, crazy superstitions, and of course, Willie “Mays” Hayes pinning his gloves to the wall. Major League is an awesome storyline that encompasses the fun nature of baseball while poking fun at many aspects of how the game has evolved over time with the superstitions, and ownership. It is a satirical genius from start to finish and has some unbelievable funny moments. Major League is a must-see for movie lovers, baseball fans, and really everybody!
8. 61* (2001)
7.8 IMDB, 80% Rotten Tomatoes, NA Baseball America
61* tells one of the most intriguing stories in baseball history, and interesting enough was aired as an HBO special, directed by Billy Crystal. Watching the movie is a lot like watching impactful speeches live. You don’t realize how great the story truly is until the film is over and everything is put in retrospect. It examines the silent side of baseball, highlighting Mickey Mantle’s drinking problem and how negatively it ultimately ended up effecting the stars career. Roger Maris was truly a great individual on and off the field and those characteristics are displayed with incredible filmography and writing, but the fans in New York were ruthless to him because he challenged their hero, Mantle. 61* is one of the most underrated sports films in the history of the genre, and displays an entire new side of sports, that is unexplored by most.
7. The Natural (1984)
7.4 IMDB, 82% Rotten Tomatoes, #7 Baseball America
Robert Redford does a great job of playing Roy Hobbs, a super bat wielding, ball player who runs out of luck early in his career, but gets a second chance in his late 30’s. When Hobbs is a boy his father dies under a tree by his house, which is struck by lightning later on. Roy carves the split tree into a bat called, “Wonderboy” and it proves to be a super bat. The film is an incredible story that mixes fable with baseball in a wonderful tale about a man who faces every kind of adversity and his attempt to overcome it.
6. The Sandlot (1993)
7.5 IMDB, 61% Rotten Tomatoes, #9 Baseball America
If you are a baseball fan, and even if you aren’t, you have probably seen The Sandlot or least heard quotes from the film. The movie is based on the summer of 1962 for a group of young kids, using baseball as their outlet for fun, and they end up learning life lessons, while embarking on an incredible journey into baseball tradition and hilarious antics. The baseball has some of the funniest, and most memorable quotes of any movie, period, and that alone, makes it one of the all-time great baseball flicks.
5. Bang The Drum Slowly (1973)
6.9 IMDB, 88% Rotten Tomatoes, #3 Baseball America
Bang The Drum Slowly was Robert De Niro’s first big role in a great film, 2 months later “Mean Streets” was released, and he became an instant star. De Niro plays a not so talented catcher named Bruce Pearson, for a Major League Baseball Team (fictitious, New York Mammoths). Pearson is diagnosed with fatal Hodgins Disease in the opening scene of the film. He is very best friends with pitcher, Henry Wiggen, who is fighting with the organization for a new contract. Wiggen, despite the team struggling demands that Pearson catch for him the entire season long, without the others on the team knowing about the disease. The film is a heart-warming, sad tale about friendship in baseball and how important the game can be for the players.
4. Eight Men Out (1988)
7.2 IMDB, 86% Rotten Tomatoes, #4 Baseball America
Eight Men Out is a powerful story about the darker side of baseball and one of the most prominent sports scandals in the history of organized sports. The story examines the infamous 1919 Black Sox Scandal. The Chicago Black Sox are the best team in baseball, but because of politics in the game of baseball many players decide to throw the 9 game World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. They lose the series and the 8 accused players are indicted in court and banned from the game forever. The real power in this story is around “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, played by D.B. Sweeney. Jackson is depicted as not wanting to be a part of the scandal, and getting sucked into it all. Despite his best efforts provide a complete confession, which is mysteriously stolen. Eight Men Out is a look inside one of the biggest travesties in sports and the film does a tremendous job of depicting those involved.
3. The Bad News Bears (1976)
7.1 IMDB, 96% Rotten Tomatoes, #6 Baseball America
No not the wonderfully quirky remake in 2005 starring Billy Bob Thornton. The original The Bad News Bears starred Walter Matthau as Walter Buttermaker, and was an incredible story about an alcoholic, former minor league baseball player who becomes the head coach of an expansion team in an incredibly competitive little league in California. The team is made up of a bunch of rag-tag misfits that don’t have a place on any other team in the ultra-league, but Buttermaker turns them into a competitive team with some interesting tactics. This film is the Little Giants, before the Little Giants and with baseball. This movie was the first of its kind and really paved the way for so many movies like it, with a team overcoming adversity and not necessarily being the best, to compete, and although (spoiler alert) they lose the championship game, it is truly a heart-felt ending and a great flick.
2. Bull Durham
7.0 IMDB, 98% Rotten Tomatoes, #1 Baseball America
It was extremely close between this one and our #1, but Bull Durham is our #2. It does a perfect job of explaining how baseball really is, and it is about as simple as that. Kevin Costner plays Crash Davis, an established minor league veteran catcher is brought into a minor league organization to help evolve a young pitcher named Nuke Laloosh (Tim Robbins). The movie elaborates on how baseball players lives are on the field and off the field. Although it had a star-studded cast, in Costner, Robbins, and Susan Surandon, the film started with only a $9 Million budget, but grossed over $50 Million and was rated as the #1 sports movie of all time by Sports Illustrated at the time. Bull Durham is a film for the ages and clearly deserves to be on this list as one of the top 2 baseball films ever.
1. Field of Dreams (1989)
7.6 IMDB, 88% Rotten Tomatoes, #2 Baseball America
It is extremely close, but “Field of Dreams” is the greatest baseball film of all time (I will admit that I am biased because I happen to live in Iowa, but hey, isn’t that what these lists are for?). It has everything a baseball film needs. It uses the tradition of the game, mixed with the old baseball quip that the game is a game of fathers and sons. It is based on a farmer from Iowa, named Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) who plows his entire cornfield to build a baseball stadium because of supernatural experiences with “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, and other members of the infamous 1919 Black Sox Scandal when players purposely lost games, ultimately getting each player involved banned from the game of baseball forever. The movie is a heart-warming story about the tradition-laden game of baseball and how preserving it should be a priority because of the familial ties that the game has entwined in its fabric. The film concludes with one of the most powerful scenes as Costner’s character and his dad finally have a catch, while hundreds of cars can be seen coming to watch baseball, keeping the tradition alive. The movie is truly an instant classic, and is not only a great baseball film, but one of the best films of all-time, and it really asks the tough questions, “Is this Heaven?” The answer is of course… (If you’ve never seen the movie, don’t watch this clip and go out and get it right now, watch it. That is the best advice I can give you)
Honorable Mention: Rookie of the Year (1993), Angels in the Outfield (1994), A League of Their Own (1992), For Love of the Game (1999), “Baseball” Documentary by Ken Burns(1994), The Rookie (2002)
Other Perspective Picks:
KRUI Sports Staffer/Producer of Tuesday Tirades/ Host “You Can Put It On The Board” Jordan Kabialis:
3. Eight Men Out
2. The Sandlot
1. Field of Dreams
Baseball Enthusiast Andrew Kemper:
3. Field of Dreams
2. Rookie of the Year
1. Angels in the Outfield
Former KRUI Sports Staff & my Co-host on “Inside the Park”:
5. Field of Dreams
4.Angels in the Outfield
2. Rookie of the Year
1. The Sandlot
KRUI Sports Director Madeleine Stroth:
2. Field of Dreams
1. The Sandlot
Kurt Tjelmeland (aka, My Dad, baseball is a game of fathers and sons right?):
7. The Rookie
5. Eight Men Out
4. Major League
3. Field of Dreams
2. The Sandlot
1. Bull Durham