America’s love of baseball extends to films made centering around the sport. Not every movie set on the diamond is a home run, and there are as many strike-outs as their are solid grounders. However, when it came to putting together the scorecard for the best films about baseball, there wasn’t much debate over the movies that made the roster.
Here are 10 baseball movies that are must-sees for every fan of America’s favorite pastime.
1. Field of Dreams – Starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta
Tagline: “All his life, Ray Kinsella was searching for his dreams. Then one day, his dreams came looking for him.”
A simple, magical story of a farmer, Ray Kinsella (Costner), who hears a voice in his cornfield saying, “If you build it, he will come.” To his family’s dismay he becomes convinced that he’s supposed to plow under his cornfield and build an actual full-size baseball field in place of his crop.
After following the instructions of the mysterious voice, ghosts of the 1919 Black Sox – including the legendary Shoeless Joe Jackson (Liotta) – turn up to play. By day they take part in batting practice and act like kids playing their favorite sport. As the sun goes down, the disappear back into the crops surrounding the outfield. But building the field was just the first step in a series of instructions Ray receives from beyond. In order to understand the true meaning of the instructions, he must take a road trip to find an author from the 1960s who’s now a recluse.
Despite the fact the bank wants to foreclose on his property, and despite the fact that everyone except his wife and young daughter believe he’s completely lost his mind, Ray is not deterred from following through with this amazing journey to its completion.
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture , Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Music, Original Score
2. A League of Their Own – Starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty
Tagline: “To achieve the incredible you have to attempt the impossible.”
The movie focuses on a women’s professional baseball league created when men were overseas fighting a war, and it features one of the most memorable lines in any sports movie: “There’s no crying in baseball!”
Tom Hanks plays Jimmy Dugan, a former player who’s more often found now clutching a bottle of alcohol instead of a baseball bat. Washed up and pathetic, with limited income and not many prospects for employment, he’s all but forced into managing one of the teams in this new league. Dottie Hinson (Davis) and her slightly less talented little sister, Kit (Petty), become teammates with a rivalry forming that threatens the success of the team. But even with mostly female cast, it’s Hanks who manages to steal the movie.
3. The Natural – Starring Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger
Tagline: “The best there was!”
The Natural is the compelling story of Roy Hobbs (Redford), an unknown middle-aged baseball player who emerges from obscurity to help turn around a losing baseball team in the 1930s. With a firm grip on Wonderboy, his unique bat made from a lightning struck tree, Hobbs hits homers that wow fans.
Hobbs’ story sparks the interest of reporter Max Mercy (Duvall) who sets out to find out what makes Hobbs tick, slowly revealing details of his past. Ultimately, Roy must choose between the game he loves with all his heart or being with the woman who’s his soulmate.
Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting, Actress-Glenn Close, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Music, Original Score
4. Bang the Drum Slowly – Starring: Michael Moriarty, Robert De Niro, Vincent Gardenia
Tagline: “Nothing is more important than friendship. Not fame. Not money. Not death.”
A very heartfelt story of two teammates, Henry Wiggen (Moriarty) and Bruce Pearson (De Niro). Henry is a star pitcher on the New York Mammoths and his unlikely best friend is Bruce, a teammate who’s mentally disabled and has limited baseball skills.
When Bruce is diagnosed with a fatal illness, Henry does everything he can to support his friend. Have a big box of tissues nearby when you watch this one.
Oscar Nomination: Best Supporting Actor – Vincent Gardenia
5. Bull Durham – Starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins
Tagline: “A Major League Love Story in a Minor League Town”
This baseball comedy focuses on career minor-leaguer Crash Davis (Costner). Crash has been to the show before and he knows what it takes to get there, so he’s sent to the Class-A Durham team to help out rising star ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh (Robbins). Robbins has a big heart, but needs a steady hand to guide him. He’s got the makings of an ace pitcher but not the control. Crash’s job is to rein in the wild young talented Nuke by being his catcher.
However, things get complicated off the field when a love triangle develops between baseball groupie Annie Savoy (Sarandon), Crash and Nuke. Annie chooses to be with the fiery Nuke, but it’s Crash who makes her body quiver and stimulates her intellectually.
Oscar Nomination: Best Writing, Original Screenplay
6. The Rookie – Starring Dennis Quaid, J.D. Evermore, Rachel Griffiths
Tagline: “It’s never too late to believe in your dreams.”
Based on a true story, The Rookie is the tale of Jim Morris (Quaid), a once-promising minor league baseball player whose career ended before it really began due to an injury. Forced to give up that dream, he turned to teaching and coaching baseball. But when a Major League baseball team offered an open tryout, he decided to use the tryouts as a way of motivating his team. The deal: he’d tryout if the team wins the championship.
And because this is a feel-good Disney film, you know the ultimate outcome before the opening credits roll – even if you’re not familiar with the true story. His team wins and, of course, his 100 miles per hour fastball is good enough to get him an offer to turn pro.
7. Eight Men Out – Starring John Cusack, Clifton James, Michael Lerner
Tagline: “1919. The year America saw major league baseball played a whole new way…underhanded.”
Eight Men Out is based on the incredible true story known as the Black Sox Scandal of 1919, when eight players (thus the film’s name) were accused of throwing the World Series. Their punishment for tarnishing the sport was a permanent ban from baseball.
The Chicago White Sox were considered the greatest team in baseball and had to deal with an owner, Charles Comiskey, who hated to part with his money. Because he wouldn’t share the wealth, a handful of his players decided their only option at getting paid real money was to take bribes and throw the World Series. The players involved in the scandal went on trial two years later.
8. Bad News Bears – Starring Walter Matthau, Tatum O’Neal, Jackie Earle Haley, Vic Morrow
Tagline: The coach is waiting for his next beer. The pitcher is waiting for her first bra. The team is waiting for a miracle. Consider the possibilities.
Former minor league coach Morris Buttermaker (Matthau) takes the helm of a Little League team no one else wants to handle, settling himself in as the coach of a ragtag group of misfits many of whom have very little baseball talent.
To this group he brings onboard a motorcycle riding punk, Kelly Leak (Haley), and a girl pitching ace named Amanda (O’Neal). These two are so good, they lift the playing level up and give the team a real shot at championship glory.
9. Major League – Starring Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Wesley Snipes
Tagline: “When these three oddballs try to play hardball, the result is totally screwball.”
The Cleveland Indians wind up in the hands of an exotic dancer who gained control when her new husband died on their honeymoon. She inherits the team loaded with ne’er do wells and petty criminals and immediately sets her sights on moving them to a better (in her opinion) city in a warmer climate. The only way she can legally uproot the team is to ensure they fail to draw in any fans. To do that, the Indians have to play horribly.
Fortunately for Cleveland, the players get wind of what’s going on and decide that, despite all their differences, they need to come together as a real team and get serious about making a run for the playoffs.
Major League benefits from great writing and a colorful assortment of characters. Jake Taylor (Berenger) is the elder statesman of the group, a former All-Star looking for one last shot at glory. Wesley Snipes is a delusional lead-off hitter who thinks he’s much, much better than he actually is. But it’s Sheen as ‘Wild Thing’ that’s the real stand-out. He’s wild and unpredictable, and actually has an incredible arm.
10. Fever Pitch – Starring Jimmy Fallon, Drew Barrymore
Tagline: “A comedy about the game of love.”
Ben Wrightman (Fallon) is a diehard Red Sox fan who lives and breathes for his team. But when he meets an attractive and fun to be around woman, Lindsey Meeks (Barrymore), in the off-season, he falls head over heels in love. However, poor Lindsey has no idea just how much of a Red Sex fanatic he really is. And as the new season gets underway, his attention becomes fully focused on all things Red Sox so much so that it soon becomes obvious that he must decide whether he’s strong enough to back off on his Sox support in order to keep Lindsey in his life.