Baseball is the sport of the summer, and all that comes with it. Nights at the ballpark, whether minor league, major league or otherwise, are a signature of good weather and the desire to relish the opportunity to be outside with family and friends.
But not every summer day is a picturesque chance to play ball or watch a ballgame. So when the rainouts come, it’s a perfect chance to catch up on the best baseball movies of all-time. Because not everyone fell for America’s pastime by playing the game itself. For some, the sport came into focus on the silver screen, and there’s perhaps no sport that gets more screen time than baseball.
With that in mind, here’s a completely impartial look at the 10 best baseball movies of all-time.
10) The Bad News Bears
This movie is fun because, apparently, everyone in the past yelled in a completely different way. But once you get past the lesson in diction, it’s pretty funny and a movie that subverts many of the classic sports movie tropes you’ve grown used to over the years. The team really is bad news, that’s not false advertising. And Walter Matthau defines the role of the disgruntled adult dealing with slightly deranged children. It’s a classic and a good place to start when it comes to baseball movies.
Good luck getting through this movie without crying. Keanu Reeves as a baseball coach is maybe one of the most unlikely things you can imagine as a casting director. Then again, he was also quarterback Shane Falco in The Replacements, which is the best bad sports movie of all-time. Keanu contains multitudes, is what I’m saying here. Anyway, Hardball is a fun Bad News Bears-type movie about a ragtag baseball team until it completely rips your heart out. You’ll love it and then hate it and wish things were different. But you’ll be better off for watching it.
8) The Sandlot
The Sandlot, like many baseball movies, doesn’t have the most progressive message. After all, the movie’s signature scene explains that the ultimate insult to a young boy is that they play baseball “like a girl.” And there’s actually very little real baseball in the movie, which is mostly about an awkward kid in a new neighborhood making new friends. But the 1993 comedy came at the perfect time for a generation of kids who grew up watching retro baseball movies. There’s a better one on this list, but anyone who has been afraid of the noises coming from the other side of the fence will appreciate this one, too.
7) Eight Men Out
It’s always interesting to talk to people about infamous moments in sports history and see where they first learned about them. For younger people, the Black Sox scandal might have actually first appeared on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire , as Arnold Rothstein’s involvement in the scandal plays out in the papers during the show’s run. But Eight Men Out is a much more direct take on the scandal, exploring why the White Sox deliberately threw the 1919 World Series. The answer, of course, is money. But the court case and the emotions behind it are fascinating, and an important part of baseball history.
6) Field of Dreams
If you build it, they overrate it for the rest of time. Field of Dreams is a bit too self-serious to be the best movie on this list. But it does make the list. This is the only movie on this list to make a cornfield in Iowa world famous, so that has to count for something. Kevin Costner is the king of baseball movies: it’s actually pretty remarkable to see how many he’s been in at this point.
When you really boil it down this is a movie about land ownership and the struggles of the American middle class. But at the very least it’s interesting to see Fenway Park at its worst, just before new owners took over and brought new life into the park. It looks magical and slightly cramped and in need of some work. Just like all of us, really.
This isn’t the Michael Lewis’ sports book adaptation that won an Oscar, but what the Moneyball movie has that The Blind Side doesn’t is that it actually adheres to what the book itself was about in the first place. Billy Beane’s take on running a baseball team really did change the sport and the Majors, and its repercussions are still being felt in front offices today. You might not care about the rise of new analytics in baseball and how it’s changed the way people evaluate talent in the game, but the movie itself is actually presented in an interesting way. It’s also just kind of funny to see Brad Pitt play Billy Beane on film.
4) The Natural
This is a movie that was nominated for four Oscars and is considered a classic among old-school baseball fans. The Robert Redford vehicle is about magic by way of a hand-made bat called Wonderboy making an over-the-hill rookie into a mythic home run hitter. It’s another movie made in the 80s that was about baseball from another time, but this one captures baseball’s roots better than any other. It’s wonderfully scored, and Redford and Robert Duval are both great in it. A must-see baseball classic.
3) Major League
Major League is the best comedy on this list and there’s really no comparison. It’s also one of the first movies that really got to the core of what professional sports owners often are: ugly, bumbling fools that only want to make more money or live in a more vacationable destination. The ragtag group built to lose that somehow comes together to win is a classic movie trope, but few movies are this fun in the process. And it’s important that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, because that’s part of the charm.
So much of the film, really, is a clear look at just how goofy baseball can be. From the announcing work of Bob Uecker to Wesley Snipes’ steal-happy Willy Mayes Hayes. His character name alone is a perfect joke, really. The casting of Tom Berenger as a grizzled catcher and Charlie Sheen as a rebellious pitcher was particularly noteworthy, but even the veteran pitchers look the part, too. It’s goofy, it’s extremely unlikely and it’s a really good time.
2) A League of Their Own
There is no baseball movie more quotable than A League of Their Own. In fact, most people who have never seen a baseball game would assume the sport’s first rule was made to outlaw crying. Tom Hanks’ famous scene admonishing a player for crying after a mistake is a classic movie moment appreciated outside of the film itself, but it’s also a turning point in the film, which is a good one.
A League of Their Own is more than just a movie about a unique moment in baseball history. It’s just a really good film in the classic sense. It’s got a good montage, some hijinks, and a bit of uncertainty in the ending. It’s extremely rewatchable, highly memorable and, yes, a fun bit of history about women in baseball. It’s a bit sprawling, but the payoff of the film’s finish at the Baseball Hall of Fame proves just how fun the entire ride is.
1) Bull Durham
Bull Durham wins the title of best baseball movie because it is the most baseball movie on the list. Hang around a baseball press box or a diamond long enough and you’ll hear a reference from the movie. It’s that ubiquitous, and absolutely one of those movies you watch when you stumble upon it after a game on MLB Network. Few films capture the odd mixture of emotions and personalities that make up minor league baseball. The potential of youth and the acceptance of failure and dying dreams is a fascinating dynamic, and no movie has quite captured it like Bull Durham.
It’s also just really funny. Kevin Costner’s Crash Davis showing Tim Robbins’ hotshot pitcher’Nuke’ LaLoosh how to be a real baseball player includes some killer one-liners and a bit of self-sabotage. Robert Wuhl steals a few scenes as a coach. And Susan Sarandon is great in a role you tend to appreciate the more you watch the movie. Which will be a lot.