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With the Coronavirus pandemic affecting everything from movie releases to conventions, Major League Baseball was forced to suspend spring training and postpone the start of the 2020 season, baseball fans will have a lot of time on their hands. With all that time on their hands before games pick back up later this spring, fans of the sport have been given a golden opportunity to catch up on all those baseball movies available on streaming platforms or available to rent.
To get you by until a delayed opening game, I've put together a list of 10 great baseball movies that can be rented or streamed from the comfort of your couch while this whole thing blows over.
The Natural (Netflix)
The Natural has gone down as one of the quintessential baseball movies from the past 40 or so years, and there's a good reason for that. This American classic stars a young Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, a gifted baseball player who is injured during a shooting only to make a triumphant return 16 years later in a bottom-dwelling team. Hobbs, along with his trusty bat, "Wonderboy" coming through time after time.
I actually knew of the theme song (composed by Randy Newman) from The Natural before I even saw the movie way back when. Growing up, the closest baseball team was the Texas Rangers, and I'll never forget the first time my family and I went to a game at The Ballpark In Arlington and head the dramatic brass arrangement come over the public address system whenever a Ranger would hit a home run. I'm taken back to childhood bliss whenever I watch the movie or hear the theme song, some 25 years later.
Where To Stream: Netflix
Major League (Rent on Amazon)
What happens when the new owner of the baseball team intentionally puts together the worst possible team in hopes of moving the franchise to sunny Florida? They lose, right? Well, that's not the case for the fictionalized Cleveland Indians team in the 1989 sports comedy classic Major League.
With a team anchored by a washed up catcher with bum knees, Jack Taylor (Tom Berenger), a hot shot pitcher straight out of prison, Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), and a quick as lightening Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes), this band of misfits takes their off unorthodox brand of baseball all the way to the top of the standings. Who doesn't love a great underdog sports movie with enough drinking, smoking, and cussing to please the degenerate in all of us.
The Sandlot (Amazon)
I don't know what it is, but there's something about the 1993 coming of age baseball movie, The Sandlot, that takes me back to my childhood. I was just a little kid when my dad randomly took me to see this beloved classic about a group of young boys playing baseball in a vacant lot over the course of a single summer in the early 1960s.
Nearly 27 years later, I still find myself feeling a strong connection to the Scotty Smalls, Benny Rodriguez, Ham Porter, and Squints Palledorous. I mean who can forget the campout scene in the treehouse, Squints' stunt at the pool with Wendy Peffercorn, and when the gang walks all over the Little League team from the other side of town? They're classic. Why else do you think the MLB Network essentially plays this move every night of the week during the offseason?
Bull Durham (Tubi)
Although it is not as well remembered as another Kevin Costner baseball movie that would come out two years later, Bull Durham remains as one of the most accurate portrayals of life in the minor league baseball system. This sports comedy tells the story of the Triple A Durham Bulls over the course of a season where a fastball throwing rookie Ebby "Nuke" Laloosh (Tim Robbins) is forced to take advice from journeyman Crash Davis (Costner) before the pitcher is called up to "The Show." To make matters worse, both players pine for the same woman, Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon).
While it lacks the glitz and glamour of some of the more prestigious baseball movies available to stream or rent, Bull Durham has more heart and guts than most that came before or since. Plus, it gave us one of the greatest non-baseball scenes in a baseball movie when Crash goes on a long diatribe about his beliefs, in regards to baseball and matters of the heart.
Field Of Dreams (Starz)
Two years after the release of Bull Durham, Kevin Costner returned to the sports movie world with the 1989 fantasy drama Field Of Dreams. I don't think you can call yourself a baseball fan if you haven't seen this movie, and I don't think you are being honest if say you can get through this movie without shedding at least one tear.
When you get down to it, Field Of Dreams is so much more than a movie about an Iowan farmer building a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield before going on a baseball odyssey. It's about a man doing everything in his power to connect with the one person he could never relate to - his father. Every single time I get to the end of this movie, my eyes begin to well up with tears and I feel that lump in my throat return for the 100th time, and whenever Ray Kinsella looks to his dad and says, "Hey Dad. Do you want to have a catch?" I lose it.
For Love Of The Game (HBO)
A decade after Kevin Costner made everyone call their dads with Field Of Dreams, he returned to genre for his third baseball movie, For Love Of The Game. Costner portrays Billy Chapel, an aging pitcher who is in the middle of throwing a perfect game. In addition to focusing on throwing the game of his life, Chapel is also coming to terms with the on-again/off-again relationship with Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston).
This is not your traditional sports movie, nor is it your traditional romantic drama as it interweaves the two narratives into one of the most fulfilling and fully realized sports/relationship movies I've ever seen. And while it does get a little long (138 minutes), the direction by Sam Raimi (yes, that Sam Raimi) and beautiful score make it worth the watch.
Do you know how to make a great, timeless baseball movie? First, you take one of the greatest baseball stories from the 21st Century, have Michael Lewis write a phenomenal book about the event, get Aaron Sorkin write a screenplay, and then get a cast that includes Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Chris Pratt, Robin Wright, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. That's exactly what led up to the release of Bennett Miller's 2011 biographical sports drama, Moneyball.
Centered around Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) using analytics to put together one of the most undervalued and overachieving teams in recent memory, Moneyball plays more like a procedural than your traditional sports movie. Sure, there are some amazing baseball scenes, but the meat and potatoes of this affair are seen behind the scenes as Beane and his associates fight the system to create something new.
A League Of Their Own (Amazon)
Long before Tom Hanks was testing positive for the Coronavirus, he was starring in A League Of Their Own, the 1992 sports drama following the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which was created when World War II threatened to shutter Major League Baseball. With an all-star cast that included Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty, and Rosie O'Donnell, this timeless classic quickly became a fan favorite among baseball fans upon its release.
The movie was just as revolutionary as the league on which it was based, and helped show audiences that you didn't need an all-male cast in order to pull off a sports movie. It's just a shame we haven't seen anything like it since.
Eight Men Out (Tubi)
Before there was the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal, the steroids scandals of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and even before the Pete Rose gambling saga, there were the 1919 Chicago White Sox, who have since been called the Black Sox for throwing the World Series. The event was dramatized for the 1988 sports drama Eight Men Out, which shows what led to the desperate players intentionally losing the series as well as the fallout from their decision.
With a cast of whose who of 1980s young Hollywood, Eight Men Out showcases the talents of John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, and Michael Rooker to name just a few. If you already didn't feel bad for the egregiously underpaid members of the ill-fated Chicago White Sox before watching this movie, you definitely will after.
Ken Burns Baseball (Amazon Prime)
And since we won't be seeing any baseball until at least the middle of April 2020, now would be a perfect time to watch (or rewatch) Ken Burns' Baseball. This behemoth of a documentary was originally split up into nine innings that chronicled the entire story of the sport, dating back to the 19th Century and taking viewers up to the 1980s.
Burns released a followup to the film in 2010 with the release of The 10th Inning, which was split into two sections and continued the story of the sport up until the mid-2000s. With everything that has happened in the MLB over the past six months (Astros cheating scandal, the Coronavirus postponing the start of the season), hopefully we'll see an 11th inning before too long.
Where To Stream: Amazon Prime
Those are just 10 of the best baseball movies to get you by until play resumes sometime in April 2020. Did we miss a baseball classic you think should be on the list? Let us know in the comments.