Although some will argue that dramas set on the gridiron or blacktop are at the top of the list of the best sports movies of all time, there’s a case to be made for baseball-centric stories to be on the top-tier of that list. Over the years, there have been dozens of excellent baseball movies that show all sides of the game, whether it be a small-market general manager changing the game instead of breaking the bank, a man who listens not to reason but the voice in his cornfield, or an all-female league setting out to prove they’re just as good, if not better, than the boys.
If you want to check out some of the great baseball movies that have been released throughout the years, then look no further because we’ve got a whole list of hall of famers and where you can watch them streaming and other ways online.
A few years before he became one of the most popular superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with his portrayal of Black Panther, the late Chadwick Boseman helped tell the story of one of the sports world’s most prominent and inspirational figures: Jackie Robinson. Released just days before Jackie Robinson Day in April 2013, Brian Helgeland’s biographical drama shows how the Brooklyn Dodgers player forever changed not only baseball, but professional sports as a whole.
From his days as a member of the Kansas City Monarchs to his first season as a Dodger, the movie offers a detailed look at Robinson’s life and the struggles he faced on and off the field. Boseman’s performance would help establish the actor as one of the most promising young stars in Hollywood.
The Bad News Bears (1976)
Michael Ritchie’s 1976 classic The Bad News Bears doesn’t follow a team in the majors, minors, or any other professional level, but instead a ragtag group of Little League players as they are led by the grumpy and booze-drinking Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau). What starts out as a disastrous season where the team struggles to put together a win slowly turns into one of the best underdog stories in all of sports.
The movie is made all the better thanks to the dynamic performances by the child actors including Tatum O’Neal as star pitcher Amanda Wurlitzer and Jackie Earle Haley as Kelly Leak, a motorcycle-riding chainsmoker who proves to be one of the best all-around players in the league.
The Natural (1984)
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 heard 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, more than 25 years later.
Major League (1989)
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.
The Major League cast, , which includes 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 lightning Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes), as a band of misfits who take their 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 (1993)
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 30 years later, I still find myself feeling a strong connection to 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 (1988)
Although it is not as well remembered as another Kevin Costner baseball movie that would come out the following year, 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 glamor 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 (1989)
Not even a year 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 you 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 his father . Every single time I get to the end of this movie, my eyes begin to fill 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 (1999)
A decade after Kevin Costner made everyone call their dads with Field Of Dreams, he returned to the genre for his third baseball movie, For Love Of The Game. Costner portrays Billy Chapel, an aging pitcher in the middle of throwing a perfect game who also looks back on 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 ever released.
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 (1992)
Penny Marshall’s 1992 sports drama A League Of Their Own follows the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with its primary focus on the Rockford Peaches. Led by Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty, Rosie O'Donnell, and Tom Hanks, 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. And with a Prime Video series based on the movie in the works, its legacy still lives on 30 years later.
Eight Men Out (1988)
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 who's 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 (1994, 2010)
There is never a bad 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 few years hopefully we'll see an 11th inning before too long.
Each of these 12 great baseball movies offer a different perspective of the sport and show you all sides of the great game. And who knows, maybe another great movie will come along in the near future and get added to this list.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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