It’s probably a bit easier for Hollywood to turn baseball into a quality movie than some other sports. While we aren’t exactly Oscar-winning filmmakers, it seems like recreating baseball action in an exciting, believable way is easier than, say, football or basketball.
Baseball is America’s pastime, which makes it no surprise that there have been dozens of baseball movies over the years. They run the gamut from Little League to Major League Baseball, from biopics of baseball players to underdog stories to raunchy sports comedies.
Many fine actors have spent time on a baseball field making a film. These are the fruits of those labors, the 10 best baseball movies of all-time. Before we get to the list, we want to just break it to you ’90s kids out there that some of your childhood faves did not make the cut. You won’t find “The Sandlot” or “Rookie of the Year” on here. “Little Big League” and “Angels in the Outfield” weren’t worthy either. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that those movies aren’t good.
10. Field of Dreams
Some of you will be annoyed to see “Field of Dreams” this low on the list. The fact of the matter is that the film is quite cheesy. Kevin Costner plays Ray Kinsella, an Iowa farmer who carves a baseball diamond into his cornfield because a voice tells him to. He hangs out with James Earl Jones and a bunch of old-timey baseball player ghosts show up. Some find it sweet, some find it saccharine, but it still makes this list.
Jackie Robinson is one of the most important players in baseball history. MLB celebrates him every year, and rightfully so, as the Brooklyn Dodgers star broke the color barrier. He got the biopic treatment, with the beloved late actor Chadwick Boseman portrayed Robinson. Boseman did a fine job acting alongside the likes of Harrison Ford and John C. McGinley.
8. The Rookie
Underdog stories are All-American, and “The Rookie” appeals to baseball fans who like to see a player beat the odds. “The Rookie” is a feel-good Disney film based on the true story of Jim Morris, a pitcher who made his MLB debut at the age of 35. Dennis Quaid, who is no stranger to sports movies, plays Morris.
7. The Pride of the Yankees
Lou Gehrig is a Hall of Fame player, but he also had a tragic life cut short due to complications from ALS, often colloquially called Lou Gehrig’s disease. Just one year after his death, Gary Cooper starred as the New York Yankees legend, and Babe Ruth even appeared as himself. “The Pride of the Yankees” received 11 Oscar nominations, which warrants this placement.
6. Eight Men Out
This is the second appearance from “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, who Ray Liotta played in “Field of Dreams.” “Eight Men Out” lacks magical realism, though, and is instead a more to-the-point telling of the story of Jackson’s 1919 Chicago White Sox team. John Cusack, who played Buck Weaver, is the biggest star in the movie, but it’s an ensemble piece. You likely know the story of the Black Sox scandal, and this is a strong dramatic retelling of that.
5. Major League
Finally, some laughs! In terms of baseball films that would primarily be classified as comedies, “Major League” tops the list for most. The Cleveland Indians get a new owner who wants to ensure the club remains a losing baseball team so that she can move them to another city. Instead, the collection of oddballs and underdogs that make up the roster come together to start winning. Tom Berenger plays veteran catcher Jake Taylor, but even though he’s the ostensible lead he’s overshadowed by Wesley Snipes as Willie Mays Hayes and Charlie Sheen as Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn. Sorry that song is now stuck in your head.
4. Bull Durham
Ron Shelton was a minor league baseball player who became a filmmaker, and he made his directorial debut with “Bull Durham.” Not a bad place to start. Of course, it probably helped that he had Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon in his cast. Costner plays Crash Davis, a veteran catcher hoping for one last crack at the majors. Robbins plays Nuke Laloosh, a promising young pitcher with some emotional issues. Costner excels at playing a baseball player, Robbins not so much. However, it doesn’t stop the movie from being terrific.
3. The Natural
Perhaps the quintessential baseball movie moment occurs in “The Natural” when Robert Redford’s Roy Hobbs hits a particularly memorable home run. That may be sort of a spoiler, but the moment is so iconic, and so parodied, that it’s basically impossible to spoil at this point. Hobbs earns a tryout with the Chicago Cubs as a teenager but then a tragic event changes the course of his life and he has to wait many years for another shot at glory. Then, the home run.
It’s impressive (and kind of baffling) how successful “Moneyball” is as a movie. It’s a sports film that focuses on a general manager using analytics behind the scenes to build a successful baseball team on a low budget. Well, people do love underdog stories. They also love Brad Pitt, who plays real-life Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane. If you’re a baseball fan, you know the story of the moneyball A’s. The movie was actually nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor for Pitt and Best Supporting Actor for Jonah Hill.
“How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
1. A League of Their Own
In the World Series of baseball movies, “A League of Their Own” strikes every other movie out. Based on the true story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that played during World War II, the film is maybe best remembered for Tom Hanks’ performance, specifically the iconic line, “There’s no crying in baseball!”
However, the movie has a truly impressive cast, including what is Madonna’s best acting role. Hanks is great, but the heart of the movie is the rivalry between two star players who are sisters played by Geena Davis and Lori Petty. “A League of Their Own” is in a class of its own as a baseball movie.