15 Best Baseball Movies

by Brett on April 26, 2012 · 144 comments

in Movies, Travel & Leisure

While in recent years football has become the sport of choice among American spectators, we still fondly refer to baseball as “America’s Pastime.” For many men in America, baseball was a boyhood rite of passage and served as the backdrop of some their most cherished memories. Baseball was how many men bonded with their fathers as boys. Who can forget dad taking you to the sports store to buy you your first glove, showing you how to break it in, and playing catch with you in the backyard?

While baseball has shaped the lives of individual men for more than a century, its influence on American society is even more profound; it’s shaped our ideas of masculinity, buoyed our spirits during economic depressions and war, and served as a battleground for civil rights.

Woven as baseball is with personal ties, romance, and cultural weight, it’s not surprising that a lot movies have been made about the sport. Some funny, some poignant, and some utterly forgettable. Below we highlight the ones that stick with us–15 of the best baseball movies (in no particular order) to help you get into the swing of things as a new season starts.

Play ball!

The Sandlot

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that The Sandlot is the best movie about being a boy ever. My friends and I would watch this movie over and over again during the summer (in-between our games of Pickle and Pepper), and have a great time laughing at and repeating all our favorite lines (“You’re killing me, Smalls!” “You play ball like a girl!” “FOR-EV-ER!”) and drooling over Wendy Peffercorn. The Sandlot doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a simple movie about close boyhood friends and their shared love of baseball. Twenty years later I still make it a point to watch The Sandlot every summer, and every time I do, I’m taken back to my own childhood, playing baseball with the neighborhood kids in good ol’ Danforth Farms. Can’t wait to watch this one with Gus.

Pride of the Yankees

The Iron Horse’s talent and tenacity made him a legend. His courage in the face of a debilitating disease made him a hero. Lou Gehrig was one of the classiest baseball players America has ever had, and who better to play him than Gary Cooper (though, it’s kind of funny to see a 40-year-old Cooper, play a 19-year-old Gehrig). If you’re not tearing up at the famous “Luckiest Man” speech, you my friend, have no soul.

Field of Dreams

While Field of Dreams is primarily about a man’s reconciliation with his estranged dead father, it’s also about the power baseball has had in America to bind communities and connect generations. This quote from Terence Mann (played by James Earl Jones) beautifully sums up what baseball means for many Americans:

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again.”

Bull Durham

Ask any baseball player or film critic what the greatest baseball movie ever made was, and dimes to donuts they’ll say Bull Durham. Sports Illustrated ranked it as the #1 sports movie of all time. With good reason too. Bull Durham perfectly captures the ambition and gritty underdog mentality of minor league baseball. Writer/director Ron Shelton was a former minor league ballplayer himself, which probably explains why watching Bull Durham gives you the feeling of looking in on the lives of real minor league baseball players.

Kevin Costner plays veteran catcher Crash Davis who’s tasked with mentoring immature, young pitcher, Eddie Laloosh (Tim Robbins). The in-between-the-pitches banter between Laloosh and Davis constitutes some of the best dialogue in film history. The two not only battle over baseball, but also a seductive woman played by Susan Sarandon. At its core, Bull Durham is about a few guys working hard for something better in life–something that we can all relate to as men.

The Natural

When we think of mythic heroes, we often think of characters from classical history like Achilles or Agamemnon. In The Natural, we see the archetype of the epic and mythological hero transposed from the battlefields of ancient Greece to the baseball diamonds of 1920s America. Robert Redford plays Roy Hobbs, a baseball player whose promising career was cut short in his youth by a deadly dame. 16 years later, Roy is back to fulfill his dream of playing major league ball. Just as Achilles had his mythological armor made by the gods, Roy wields his mythic bat, aptly named “Wonderboy,” made from a tree struck by lightning. When you get down to it, The Natural is about re-birth and going after a dream no matter what it takes. Beautifully shot and masterfully scored, you’ll be bawling like a baby by the time the credits roll.

The Bad News Bears (1976)

As a kid, I loved the grittiness and edginess of The Bad News Bears. It’s a movie about a bunch of hapless, misfit Little Leaguers coached by an apathetic ex-minor leaguer (played by the great Walter Matthau) who spends his time nursing a can of beer in the dugout instead of coaching. The kids swear and drink like sailors, which was both jarring and hilarious to my nine-year-old brain. But behind the cussing and pre-teen drinking is a film about finding and maintaining your self-respect despite setbacks and not letting competition ruin the fun of the game.

Major League

The owner of the Cleveland Indians dies and his cold-hearted widow inherits the team. She hates Cleveland, so she hatches a plan to cobble together a team so bad the franchise will lose their fans, allowing her to relocate to Miami. A washed-up catcher with bad knees, a crazy formerly-incarcerated pitcher with wicked speed but no control, a power hitting voodoo priest, and a pop fly-hitting base runner, make up the core of this team of misfits. Despite the team’s lack of talent, the players come together to win games just to spite the owner. Major League is a fantastic comedy, and I still laugh out loud whenever I watch it. Comedian and former American League ballplayer/WWF announcer/Mr. Belvedere star, Bob “I must be in the front row” Uecker provides some great laughs as Indians announcer Harry Doyle.

The sequel to Major League was pretty good (For an entire summer my neighborhood friends and I would heft our imaginary giant testicles and yell,”You have no marbles!” at each other. Ah, childhood.), but the original is still the best.

Eight Men Out

Eight Men Out masterfully chronicles baseball’s original sin. In 1919, eight players on the Chicago White Sox conspired together to throw the World Series in exchange for money from gamblers in Chicago’s underworld.  The scandal tarnished the reputations of some of baseball’s greats (including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson) and nearly put an end to professional sports in America. While we often look back at baseball with Kodachrome and sepia-tinted nostalgia, Eight Men Out is a somber reminder that previous generations battled the same corrupting factors that we decry in sports today. The writing and acting in Eight Men Out is top notch, and it boasts some of the best ball playing scenes in cinema.

Moneyball

Who knew a movie about baseball statistics could be so compelling? Moneyball follows Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane as he breaks with convention by using statistics instead of scouts to put together a winning team full of undervalued ballplayers. The premise sounds boring, but it’s really another classic underdog story–here’s a guy trying to compete with much richer clubs like the Yankees and bringing together a bunch of players that everyone else had written off. It’s well acted by Brad Pitt playing Beane and Jonah Hill as his statistics man, Peter Brand. The chemistry between the two men makes the film work, and as you’d expect from an Aaron Sorkin-penned screenplay, the dialogue is smart and snappy.

Bang the Drum Slowly

It’s baseball’s Brian’s Song. In Bang the Drum Slowly, baseball serves as a backdrop to the story of an intense friendship between two men who face death together only to have one succumb and the other left a changed man. A young DeNiro plays a simple-minded catcher named Bruce Pearson who’s diagnosed with terminal Hodgkins disease. Bruce’s best friend, teammate, and roommate, Henry Wiggen (Michael Moriarty) stands by Bruce through what will be his last season. Watching Bruce face death humbly and heroically while his friend supports and comforts him puts a lump in my throat every time.

Baseball by Ken Burns

This isn’t just a single film, but an eighteen hour documentary broken up into nine two hour movies. But because Baseball captures the epic sweep of America’s pastime so beautifully, I had to include it in the list. Documentary director Ken Burns has made a career out of resurrecting the ghosts of America’s past so they can tell their stories to us. In Baseball, Burns explores how the sport has intertwined with all facets of American life from racism and war, to labor relations and art.

If you haven’t seen Baseball before, do yourself a favor and queue it up on Netflix or Amazon. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, you’ll gain an appreciation for the sport and its impact on America, for better or worse.

Fear Strikes Out

Fear Strikes Out is a PSA on the havoc overzealous Little League dads who live vicariously through their children can wreak on their progeny. Based on the real-life rise and public breakdown of professional baseball player Jimmy Piersall, Fear Strikes Out is less a movie about baseball and more of a psychological drama. Dads, if you don’t want your little slugger to grow up into a Jimmy Piersall, just keeping reminding yourself that “It’s just a game.”

A League of Their Own

What? A movie about a bunch of broads playing baseball on a site called The Art of Manliness? You betcha, brother. A League of Their Own is a classic baseball movie that gives us a glimpse into an oft-overlooked part of American history. Facing a shortage of men to field teams due to the WWII draft, baseball owners came up with an all women’s baseball league in order to keep interest in the sport alive during the duration of the war. A League of Their Own takes viewers along the ups and downs of a fictional example of one of those all-girl teams: the Rockford Peaches. This movie is simply a joy to watch. It’s a great story with great acting. Tom Hanks was brilliant as the alcoholic, former pro-player turned coach, Jimmy Dugan, and thanks to him, we will forever know that there’s no crying in baseball.

The Rookie

What would you do if you had a second chance at a dream? In The Rookie, we get to see the internal and outward struggle one man goes through when a second chance falls in his lap. Based on the true story of Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ pitcher Jim Morris, The Rookie tells the tale of how Morris went from being a washed-up minor league ballplayer coaching high school baseball in a small Texas town to pitching Major League ball at an age when most pro-pitchers retire. The Rookie is a Disney film, so it’s kinda schmaltzy and definitely tugs at your heart strings, but I don’t care. Morris’ story inspires me to never give up on the hope of finally fulfilling a long-held dream.

Up for Grabs

Remember when Barry Bonds broke the single season home run record in 2001? Did you ever wonder who the lucky guy or gal was that caught that historic and possibly lucrative ball? The documentary Up for Grabs tells the story of that famous ball and the two men who took part in one of the most epically humorous and head-shakingly sad legal battles of all time. My 1L property law professor used this film to introduce us to the famous textbook case of Pierson v. Post in which a NY court had to decide what constituted possession in a battle over a dead fox. In Up for Grabs the dead fox in Pierson is replaced by Barry Bonds’ home run ball. Up for Grabs is a comedic morality drama on the dangers of the greed and myopia that can creep into a man’s life if he doesn’t keep his guard up.

61*

What would you do if everyone was rooting for you to fail? To make matters worse, what if the person everyone wanted to succeed happened to be a friend and teammate? In 61* director and diehard Yankees fan Billy Crystal shows us how one man responded when faced with such a situation. In the 1961 baseball season, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris battled it out for the single season home run record. Yankee fans, seeing the gregarious Mantle as the heir to the Yankee dynasty created by Ruth, DiMaggio, and Gehrig, rooted for the Mick to beat the record and booed and even sent death threats to the more demure Maris.  We get to see firsthand how both Maris and Mantle handled the pressures and scrutiny that came with breaking the record set by the Great Bambino, and how that pressure forged a manly friendship.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think are the best movies about baseball? What did we leave off the list? Give us your picks in the comments!

{ 144 comments… read them below or add one }

101 alex May 2, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Thanks for (almost) nothing, Netflix… They only have “Up for Grabs” and “Baseball by Ken Burns” available to stream.

I guess I’ll head to my folks basement where 1/2 of those are on VHS…

Great list!

102 Mack Bee May 3, 2012 at 11:08 pm

There is a Detroit connection to *61. Tiger Stadium was used by Billy Crystal to portray Yankee Stadium as it appeared in 1961, before the renovation of the 1970s. It was pretty cool how he made that happen.

103 Ryan May 5, 2012 at 12:49 am

Can’t forget “for love of the game” Another Kevin Costner film. Solid baseball movie.

104 Jamaal May 8, 2012 at 1:11 pm

What about Rookie of the Year or Little Big League? I suppose The Sandlot absolutely crushes both of them, but the use of kids in an MLB setting was a cool 90s phenomenon. Even Angels in the Outfield was sort of fun.

105 Christine May 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I have a couple of old-time movies:
Kill the Umpire and The Babe Ruth Story

106 Tone May 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm

How about “Angels in the Outfield” with Paul Douglas and Janet Lee?

107 James May 16, 2012 at 5:13 am

I agree… “for love of the game” is an excellent movie…

Saw Moneyball the other day… excellent movie… recommended it to everyone I know.

108 Nickolas May 22, 2012 at 11:00 pm

“Sugar” is the best and most realistic modern baseball movie. People really need to stop sleeping on it.

109 Kevin from BA May 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I still have as my favorites, Eight Men Out and The Bad News Bears, and for different reasons. Eight Men Out I remember being released about the time baseball was declining in national popularity, and the story line of the movie paralleled that, only about 65 years earlier. BNB was just hilarious, and I think was the funniest sports movie until Major League, which would probably be my third-favorite.

110 Austin September 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm

I have another to add, even though it’s not really a movie, per se. Yankee Staduim: Baseball’s Cathedral. It was a film made to memorialize Yankee Stadium as it closed down in 2009. While I am a Yankee fan, and I’m obviously bias, this is an important piece of baseball history. The film was done very well, and touches on so many points throughout the history of baseball. It’s amazing to see how many timepieces in the sport were in some way involved with “The Stadium.”
You should check it out if you get a chance.

111 Connor Brodie October 20, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Awful! Didn’t put “For the Love of the Game”

112 Jamey Tucker January 24, 2013 at 9:30 pm

I agree on “For Love of the Game”, a pure baseball movie. Also “Fever Pitch” comedy that’s so true for Sox fans. I saw “Kill the Umpire” on tv when I was a kid. Would love to see that one again. “Little Big League” was great too.

113 Dan Rousse January 31, 2013 at 4:39 pm

One of my favourite baseball movies (and favourite titles of all time) was the Bingo Long Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings! Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor, James Earl Jones during the barnstorming baseball era,

114 C.P. February 11, 2013 at 10:43 am

No offense to anyone here, but I think “Up for Grabs” should be removed from this. I mean no offense for my reason, either: Barry Bonds cheated in my view.

115 james February 14, 2013 at 10:57 am

I’m really glad you included a League of Their Own. Even though my buddies give me crap about it every time I (apprehensively) bring it up, aside from Field of Dreams, I’m not sure there’s another movie that truly captures the spirit and sheer joy of baseball and its place in history. My only gripe is Lori Petty’s whiny, insufferable overacting, but Tom Hanks and Geena Davis more than make up for it.

116 Ron Burnett March 2, 2013 at 8:25 pm

One of my favorites isn’t really a movie, but a miniseries….”The Bronx Is Burning”. Tells the story of the relationships between George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin, and Reggie Jackson during the 1977 Yankee season. A bit of dramatic license is in this series, but still a great story…

117 Ryan March 27, 2013 at 1:10 am

Good list but I would have added “For the love of the game”

118 rachel gregorczik April 2, 2013 at 4:22 am

Thanx for a great list. My #1 is Gehrig. #2 Maris. And the I played when I was young. Only Girl on the team. SS/ DH! so ” A League of Their Own” is Beautiful to me. :)

119 Ray April 5, 2013 at 6:30 pm

“Are you crying? Why are you crying? There’s no crying in Baseball!”

120 Jalambi April 20, 2013 at 11:04 pm

The Stratton Story. Great movie, with the amazing pair, James Stewart and June Allyson. In my honest opinion, one of the greatest baseball movies of all time, right next to Pride of the Yankees.

121 Richard Munro April 23, 2013 at 12:56 am

Beat me to it. “The Stratton Story” is a very good baseball movie. But one of my favorites is “It happens Every Spring” with Ray Milland. Read the very funny book my Valentine Davies (author of Miracle on 34th Street). I agree the Sandlot is wonderful and an homage to a lost innocence of an America which, sadly no longer exists. There is virtually no sandlot baseball anywhere. Eight Men out is great but too sad to watch too often; on the other hand The Natural and Field of Dreams are wonderful So is the original Angels in the Outfield (the remake is entertaining also but I enjoy the original more.

122 Micah April 26, 2013 at 8:26 am

I would agree with a few other commenters. “For Love of The Game” should be up there. It made my brother cry and not because of the romantic side of it. Well, I guess the romantic side meaning the guy really loved the game and was experiencing the most epic night of any pitcher’s career. It really lets you feel how much emotion can happen in a game.

123 Aaron April 26, 2013 at 10:13 am

I know it’s a new movie but 42 was phenomenal! It certainly has made my top 5 favorite baseball movies. I’m glad to see Pride of the Yankees and The Sandlot made the list. Thanks for giving me a few more to check into.

124 sean April 26, 2013 at 11:55 am

Long Gone with William Peterson. Good movie.

125 Mark Murphy April 26, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I felt indifferent about 42. I’m a bit of a baseball historian, and I was not impressed with the film maker’s revisionist approach.

The movie was OK, but I could get past the details that were falsified.

126 Christopher April 26, 2013 at 12:34 pm

“4192: The Crowning of the Hit King” about the playing career or Pete Rose. Great documentary!

127 ed April 27, 2013 at 1:27 pm

great list but you have to include “for love of the game” with kevin costner, solid and entertaining. nix “up for grabs”. “angels in the outfield” deserves consideration. And “42″ is pretty good.

128 Waitsel Smith May 17, 2013 at 10:57 am

Now you have to add 42 – definitely a modern day classic, and one of the best baseball films I’ve ever seen – right up there with Field Of Dreams and The Natural. It doesn’t tell the whole story of Robinson – he was a strong man of faith as well as courage – but it tells enough, and definitely puts the nails in the coffin of prejudice. Great cast, great production.

129 Jason June 4, 2013 at 6:45 pm

I would definitely agree with everyone saying that “42″ should be in.

As a child of the 80′s and 90′s, “Rookie of the Year”, “Little Big League”, and “Angels in the Outfield” were heavy in rotation at my house.

I’d also suggest “Trouble with the Curve”. Really enjoyed that movie. I thought Eastwood was phenomenal.

130 leelu June 5, 2013 at 1:30 pm

The Comrades of Summer with Joe Mantegna is one of my favorites. He plays an injured American player who gets roped into coaching the Russian Olympic baseball team. Starting with no money, no equipment, and no baseball players.

Despondent pitcher to catcher: “Name one park he couldn’t have hit that out of.”
Catcher: “Yellowstone.”

What movie is that from??

131 Bob Jester June 12, 2013 at 1:00 am

I agree with your selections, my only comment is the name of Tim Robbins character in Bull Durham is Ebby Calvin “nuke” LaLoosh , not Eddy. I really appreciate the effort you put into your articles and look forward to reading more!

132 Sheldon June 28, 2013 at 10:20 am

This list needs to be rounded out with “For the Love of the Game” and “Sugar”. Knuckleball is pretty good too, although not good enough for a best of list.

133 Carl Sanders August 28, 2013 at 11:51 am

Must add “42: The Jackie Robinson Story” to any future list.

134 Bob August 30, 2013 at 8:17 pm

The Stratton Story

135 Marti September 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm

The 2010 movie “The Perfect Game” Based on a true story, a group of boys from Monterrey, Mexico who become the first non-U.S. team to win the Little League World Series.

136 Crash October 30, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Cant believe “Long Gone” isnt on this list! Fantastic baseball movie…If you love baseball flicks, and havent seen it, Its a MUST See!

137 Chris December 17, 2013 at 2:09 am

Maybe its because im a tigers fan but I cant believe “for the love of the game” and “Cobb” are not on this list.

138 Elliot January 9, 2014 at 3:12 am

The Fan. Staring Robert DeNiro (Bang The Drum Slowly) and Wesley Snipes (Major League).

139 Hank January 18, 2014 at 1:59 am

How about William Bendix?

Baby Ruth Story.
Kill the Umpire.

Love them

140 Bryan Smith February 12, 2014 at 4:10 pm

I love Angels in the Outfield. Classic

141 Tim Scott February 26, 2014 at 10:47 am

“42″ has to be included on any Best Baseball Movie list.

142 Lucky February 28, 2014 at 11:34 pm

Damned Yankees? Too old?

143 daniel April 13, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Can any one help in trying to find one my child hood film.. All I recall is it was about base ball and there is a lad orbit..
We’re there are circle’s in each other and the person rolls a ball or something and what circle it lands on he goes by or forward to that stage of his life

144 Big Dave April 21, 2014 at 11:42 pm

i know its slowpitch softball not baseball but artie langes Beer league needs to be mentioned on here absolutely hillarious check the best of on youtube

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