Grill up some hot dogs and grab your gloves, it’s opening day and we’re in a baseball mood! While your favorite team may very well wind up being one of the 29 that don’t win it all in October, April is the month when hope springs eternal and everyone can enjoy America’s pastime in equal measures. It’s also the time of year when many of us are in the mood to pop in our favorite baseball movies.
There might be more movies about baseball than any other sport (and there isdefinitely a higher percentage of baseball movies that star Kevin Costner than any other sport), so we wanted to pick the best, those films that not only entertain, they just feel, well, basebally. If you know what I mean by that, you’ll want to read this list of the Top 10 Baseball Movies Ever Made.
10. Little Big League / Rookie of the Year
This isn’t cheating at all, because both of these fall into the same category: movies you liked as a kid that aren’t actually that great but you still kinda like ’em anyway. So for #10 I’m taking all the best parts of these two silly stories (clever baseball humor that you might have missed as a kid in the former, Gary Busey in the latter, for example) and combining them into a single, totally legit baseball flick. And no, Angels in the Outfield doesn’t get to join them. Deal with it.
9. Eight Men Out
A dramatization of the infamous “Black Sox” scandal, Eight Men Out features a stellar cast and tells the story of one of the most notorious moments in the history of sports: when players on the Chicago White Sox threw the 1919 championship in the name of cash. Dripping with nostalgia, it may not be a lighthearted romp like some other movies on this list, but it’s still essential viewing.
8. Field of Dreams
“Hey, I’ve got an idea for a movie: this farmer guy is walking through a cornfield when he starts hearing a disembodied voice telling him to sacrifice a chunk of his livelihood to build a baseball field in his backyard on a whim, and when he follows through, a bunch of ghosts walk onto the field and start playing baseball, but nobody else can see them.” “Umm, I’m not sure that sounds like a compelling film.”
Well it is. It’s the eighth greatest baseball movie ever, in fact.
When Billy Beane found out Brad Pitt would be playing him in Moneyball, he probably looked in the mirror and said, “Yeah, that’s about right.” But Pitt’s job isn’t to be dreamy in this true story of a manager who cobbled together a great baseball team with super-limited funds in Oakland using innovative strategies that flew in the face of conventional wisdom. Although let’s face it: he totally still is!
6. Bull Durham
I stirred a bit of controversy in the office between people swearing by Bull Durham as a timeless classic and those who wrote it off as overrated, but the fact remains that the movie is one of the finest portrayals of minor league baseball you can watch. It also stars official-poster-boy-of-baseball-movies Kevin Costner (in his second appearance on this list) as a washed-up catcher brought in to mentor a hot new kid (Tim Robbins) poised to break through to “The Show.” As many great movies do, this one has a love story at its core, but it’s also about a group of people who love baseball so much they’ll suffer through the unglamorous minor league life just for a shot at the big leagues.
5. A League of Their Own
Let’s give the ladies their due: A League of Their Own is a fantastic baseball movie about a time when women stepped in to entertain baseball-loving Americans everywhere while many men were off fighting in World War II. And while female empowerment is the heart of this movie’s greatness, its single most important contribution to the field (haha, get it?) is but one immortal piece of wisdom: there is no crying in baseball.
The Sandlot takes place during a nostalgic era (the early 1960s), during a nostalgic time of year (summertime) and during a nostalgic age for the characters (pre-teens). It has all the ingredients of what makes the sport so magical when you’re young, but above all the film somehow just feels like baseball—and childhood. Because of this, more than most movies, The Sandlotwill live in our hearts for-evvvv-ver.
3. Bad News Bears
Bad News Bears is not about adults playing a kids game, it’s about kids playing a kids game, often very badly. So basically, it’s about how most of us play sports. It’s funny, it’s kind of sad and it could never be made today (seriously, the things the kids call each other in this movie are beyond the pale). It also has the best 14-year-old badass in movie history, Kelly Leak, who says things like “I got a Harley-Davidson. Does that turn you on? Harley-Davidson?” He is 14 years old. The ‘70s, man!
Most sports movies tell us that the game is about winning and losing with grace.Bad News Bears is having none of that. Who among us hasn’t wanted to tell the other team to “Take your apology and your trophy and shove ’em straight up you’re a**!” Bad News Bears speaks truth.
2. The Natural
The Natural transports us back to a day when baseball truly was America’s pastime. It’s the ideal nostalgia film, glorifying and romanticizing the game in a way few other baseball films have. Robert Redford’s Roy Hobbs is the perfect embodiment of an average Joe we can all identify with who comes out of nowhere and rises to great heights in his attempt “to be the best there ever was, and the best that will ever be.” The Natural does something that all great baseballs movies should do: it makes you want to grab a glove, bat and ball, and go play the game as soon as the credits end.
1. Major League
The story of a ragtag team of baseball misfits gathered to make an intentional disaster of a season in Cleveland isn’t quite your typical underdog story. While it features elements that are well-worn among sports movies, it rarely feels predictable (and never suffers from belabored attempts at being inspirational) by virtue of how funny it is—and it’s really, really funny. Most importantly, though: Major League is rooted in a genuine love for baseball, and it shows. All these qualities combine to make it the ultimate baseball movie and a staple of April watching every year.