Iconic Movies Built Around BaseballPublished on June 29, 2017. Updated March 16, 2020
Baseball games remain one of the cheapest tickets in town, and statistics suggest the rise of the mid-market team is leading a resurgence in baseball popularity. There’s nothing quite like a great movie about baseball to trigger the desire to get out to the stadium, and root, root, root for the home team… or the visitors if you’re a fan. For your consideration: some of the greatest baseball movies ever made.
12. Bang The Drum Slowly
Bang The Drum Slowly (1973) is a baseball drama starring Robert DeNiro and Michael Moriarty, and it delves into the heart of friendship and loyalty. Sure, it could be higher on the list, but there’s something lost in opting for the play on drama, as opposed to quality baseball. Sure, it’s a tough balance, considering the elite level that big league ball players execute the game, but that’s the one thing missing from the telling of this story. The baseball play looks very amateur at times. That said, it’s a wonderful film, and a must see for anyone who considers themselves a baseball aficionado, or is a sucker for brotherly sentiment.
11. The Pride of the Yankees
Gary Cooper playing the Iron Horse — it doesn’t get much better than that. A film that featured several prominent baseball figures as themselves, including Babe Ruth as Babe Ruth, The Pride of the Yankees chronicled Lou Gehrig’s famous battle with ALS. Gehrig was the first major celebrity to endure the diagnosis of ALS and, because of this, it is most often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The story — though exceptionally sad — was marked by one of the most courageous human beings to ever don a sports uniform, and one of the greatest, and most memorable sports speeches ever made.
10. The Rookie
A truly inspirational story told with all the saccharine sweetness that Disney could muster, The Rookie (2002) followed the life and baseball career of Major League Baseball pitcher, Jim Morris, who opted for a life as a baseball coach in a small Texas town, after his pro ball dreams didn’t quite pan out. After years of throwing batting practice to his high school players, Jim discovered that his arm strength and velocity had reached levels he hadn’t attained in his youth. The chemistry between Dennis Quaid and the cast of teenage actors was superb, and it’s tough to watch this one and not dust off the old mitt for a game of catch.
9. The Sandlot
Maybe it’s not the most well-crafted film. Maybe it’s completely juvenile. Maybe the acting is pretty bad, being that it relies on a cast that is 90 percent children, but it still ranks high in the awesome category. The Sandlot is another great film about friendship that uses baseball as a tool in telling the story. And sure, there’s a nice little payoff for Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez in the end. For those who have never seen it, it is best enjoyed when watching with a younger audience, though it offers enough universality to take you back to prepubescence during each and every viewing.
8. Major League
“Forget about the curve ball, Ricky. Give ’em the heater!” Major League is part of the fabric that is definitive of the 1980s. Very funny, filled with sentiment… and who doesn’t love an underdog story? Major League is a glimpse of Charlie Sheen and Wesley Snipes when they were at their absolute best, and a look at Dennis Haysbert before anyone really knew who he was. The love story between Tom Berenger and Rene Russo was enticing to a massive audience, and further played into rooting for the biggest of underdogs. It was, of course, followed by several less successful sequels, but the original still stands the test of time.
7. The Bad News Bears
There may not be a more entertaining film about baseball than The Bad News Bears. Walter Matthau led a stellar cast of kids, as a foul-mouthed, beer-guzzling little league coach and manager, who was able to put together the rag-taggiest group of ball players that have ever been assembled on film. Considering the era, The Bad News Bears was in conversations like, “Have you see JAWS yet?” It was a wild success, and went on to garner a sequel, and a remake in 2005 starring Billy Bob Thornton. For first-timers choosing between the two, there’s no question… there’s only one.
Moneyball could easily top any list of baseball movies. Exceptionally well executed, the film did a wonderful job of bringing the book to life. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill were both worthy of the award nominations they received and, considering story, it was a wonderful look at the business of baseball, even if it over-embellished the system in place for many small and mid-market teams that are looking to compete on a regular basis. For lovers of baseball, any glimpse at the life of Billy Beane is an interesting one — a prospect who never quite reached his potential, but once again found his love for the game on the other side of the fence.
5. Eight Men Out
The 1919 Chicago White Sox — better known as the Blacksox. The be-all and end-all of baseball scandals. During the 1919 World Series, eight integral pieces of the Chicago White Sox roster were in cahoots with some money-men bent on fixing the World Series. This, in order to score big with their bets. It was a scheme that nearly destroyed the franchise and, sadly, got every player banned for life, including legendary outfielder, Joe Jackson. As lore would have it, Joe wasn’t involved in the scandal, and his play in the World Series suggested that he never had any interest in it. Statistically, and via eye-test, Joe outplayed every other player on the field. Eight Men Out is a wonderful telling of the story, based on the book of the same name.
4. A League Of Their Own
A little love for the ladies — and not by default — A League of Their Own is one of the most underrated baseball movies ever made. Actors playing baseball players often leaves a lot to be desired from the true baseball fan — actors are simply lacking the skill set. With A League of Their Own, Penny Marshall was able to assemble actresses who were jocks, as well as some hardcore, female softball and baseball players to fill out the field. Add to the historical significance, a great script, stellar score and some gorgeous exterior cinematography, and you’ve got a winner. Tom Hanks may have won his Oscars for other roles, but it’s hard to suggest that he has ever been better than his turn as Jimmy Dugan.
3. Bull Durham
Generally at the top of every baseball list ever made, Bull Durham is a dandy. In terms of baseball comedies, there isn’t one that’s better. In terms of baseball movies…? It deserves to be near the top. Baseball movies should leave a person wanting to go to the ball park, or digging their stuff out of the closet to have a catch. Yes, Bull Durham possesses a little of that pop, but regarding the glory of baseball, there’s another film that Kevin Costner did that carries a little more weight. Bull Durham is lost in delicious absurdity, and it remains supremely entertaining, 25-plus years after its release.
2. Field Of Dreams
“If you build it, he will come…” Field of Dreams was a box office smash, and it also coined a term that people repeated for the next several years. The film is a timeless tribute to the most beautiful game of baseball — nobody saying it better than James Earl Jones when he takes the baseball field cut into the corn. Released in 1989, the film still holds up, and looks incredible now that it can be viewed in HD. The mix of fantasy, placed in such a mundane yet beautiful location as a corn farm in Iowa, was a stroke of absolute brilliance. Ultimately, it’s a story about forgiveness, regrets and the weight of having dreams. Few films have done a better job of putting it on screen.
1. The Natural
It’s hard to avoid the influence of Shoeless Joe Jackson in many baseball films, including The Natural. Filled with tributes to living legends, and filled with a cast the likes of which is rarely assembled, The Natural is the quintessential film built around the world of baseball. It is Robert Redford transitioning in his career after being the typical leading man and youthful sex symbol — and he does it by playing a character who should be past his prime, but is just making his baseball prowess known. A fascinating look at the human spirit, as well as the blessings of persistence and the necessity of urgency when the time is right, The Natural is the film that makes you fall in love with baseball all over again.