“Take me out to the ball game!”
Just imagine the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, and the cheers as the home team covers the bases! Kids watch in awe as the scoreboard lights up, indicating another win for the hometown heroes. Baseball remains America’s favorite pastime, and what better way to spend the off-season than with some of baseball’s best films? From comedies to dramas and even romances, there’s something for baseball fans of all kinds! So oil up your mitt, throw some popcorn in the microwave, and gather around the family for some feel-good fun. Check out our choices for must-see baseball movies.
Major League (1989)
“Are you trying to say Jesus Christ can’t hit a curveball?”
The ultimate in comedic baseball movies, Major League, introduces the audience to a bunch of misfits and has-beens taking a swing at a second chance. The Cleveland Indians are in a 34-year slump, and their new female owner, the spiteful Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton). In a move that resembles Rebecca Walton on Ted Lasso, Rachel owns the team simply to plot its demise. Inherited from her now-deceased husband, she plans to create the worst team in the MLB.
In one of his earliest comedic performances, Charlie Sheen plays pitcher Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn. Former baseball player/broadcaster turned actor Bob Uecker also highlights adding humor and warmth. Major League’s popularity spawned two sequels, though sadly, neither captured the charm of the first. Everyone loves a good underdog story and Major League was one of the originals.
A League of Their Own (1992)
“There’s no crying in baseball!”
What’s not to love about a movie packed with stars like Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell? A movie that brings to life Hollywood’s version of the women players who saved baseball during World War II? Hanks plays a down-on-his-luck manager with a drinking problem and a hard shell around his soft heart. A group of women shows him that grit and compassion can inhabit the same form. A League of Their Own is the perfect film to make baseball fans of any family!
Field of Dreams (1989)
“If you build it, he will come.”
If the words “sports fantasy drama” were uttered -and the word “draft” wasn’t included- you might think the speaker’s gone crazy. But baseball can indeed fit any genre. Field of Dreams stars Kevin Costner as a farmer who gets inspiration to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield. Based on the novel Shoeless Joe, the movie beautifully weaves together the love of baseball, family, and fulfilling dreams. The film received three Oscar nominations and features Ray Liotta and James Earl Jones as the ghosts of baseball’s legends. As one of the most celebrated and famous movies of the 1980s, Field of Dreams any baseball or film lover shouldn't miss it.
The Natural (1984)
“There goes Roy Hobbs. The best there ever was, best there ever will be in the game.”
A film that features Robert Redford, baseball, and romance? The Natural hits it out of the park with its engaging and heartfelt plot. It’s hard to match the combination of this Barry Levinson-directed film based on the 1952 novel of the same name. Redford plays Roy Hobbs whose baseball career is cut short by tragedy and the love of a good game and an even better woman helps to bring him back. The movie also features Robert Duvall, Kim Basinger, Glenn Close, Barbara Hershey, and Wilford Brimley. Variety called it an “impeccably made….fable about success and failure in America.” ESPN called it the 6th best sports movie of all time and it was nominated for four Academy Awards.
The Rookie (2002)
“I’m a Texas woman, which means I don’t need the help of a man to keep things running.”
The Rookie tells the true life story of Major League rookie Jim Morris. He was an outside shot as a pro hopeful at 35. This movie has it all: chasing after dreams, the power of believing in yourself, and so much more. It’s a feel-good baseball story to watch with your kids and an excellent underdog story with fantastic performances by Dennis Quaid as Jim Morris and Rachel Griffiths. The Disney-made film is perfect for all ages and can really foster conversations between parents and children.
Bull Durham (1988)
“Charlie, here comes the deuce. And when you speak of me, speak well.”
Anyone looking for the ultimate in baseball and romance, Bull Durham is a can’t-miss. It features Kevin Costner (in his second baseball movie) as Crash Davis, a minor league catcher for the AAA-rated Richmond Braves. He ends up being teamed up with baseball groupie Annie Savoy played by Susan Sarandon. Together they work to inspire rookie pitcher Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins).
Of course, Annie’s attention starts to be drawn as she and Bull work more closely and flyballs and sparks go hurtling into the outfield. The film is loosely based on the baseball experiences of writer/director Ron Shelton. Due to its sexual content and innuendo, grown-ups should watch this one without the kids.
Angels in the Outfield (1994)
“So maybe you can help them win a little? Amen. Oh, a-woman, too!”
Both versions of Angels in the Outfield are magical. Whether it’s the 1951 version starring Paul Douglas and Janet Leigh, or the 1994 remake with a young Joseph Gordon Levitt with Christopher Lloyd playing the lead angel. A young orphan (Levitt) becomes a good luck charm to the California Angels—the worst team in baseball—as he seeks angelic intervention on a quest to win the World Series. He does it to try and get his family back, but learns along the way that sometimes family constitutes those you love and love you back. Gather the family around for this heartwarming and entertaining flick.
The Sandlot (1993)
“You’re killing me, Smalls!”
Another one for families: The Sandlot has become a nostalgia lover’s dream. The film takes place in 1962 during the halcyon summer days when friendships are formed on the local baseball field called The Sandlot. The family-friendly film is part Stand By Me, part Goonies with a bit of The NeverEnding Story mixed in. Whenever the team hits a flyball, it ends up in the yard of a fearsome creature called the Beast. While they have to contend with this monster, they also have to figure out first crushes, new friendships, and overcoming their fears. The film was so popular that it spawned two direct-to-TV sequels.
The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
“Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth… play ball!”
This dramatic biopic chronicles the life of arguably the most famous Yankee of all time. Played by Gary Cooper, Lou Gehrig became the Yankees first baseman. Sadly he succumbed a year before the film’s release of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis which would become known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The Pride of the Yankees tells the story of Lou Gehrig (played by Gary Cooper), from his early beginnings in sandlots in New York City, through his retirement speech in 1939. It even features a cameo from the real Babe Ruth. The movie’s pace can be slow-moving at times, partly due to the film's era, but it’s no less enjoyable. Be sure you have some tissues handy for what has been dubbed “one of the greatest sports movies of all time.”
“There are rich teams and there are poor teams. Then there’s 50 feet of cr@p, and then there’s us.”
Analytics and sports stats fans get a treat with this title. Moneyball explores the inner workings of baseball, and how if it doesn’t adapt, it will die off. The documentary style is fitting and closer to the book, though it stars amazing Hollywood talent. Brad Pitt earned an Oscar nod for his portrayal of Billy Beane, the GM of the Oakland A’s, who used unorthodox scouting methods and a computer-based system created by his intern, played by Jonah Hill (also Oscar-nominated), to assemble his roster. The fast pace of the script means apt attention must be paid, but it provides a great look inside the baseball game based on real events and people. Talk about “inside baseball!”
Billy Crystal directed this HBO film about the rivalry between Mickey Mantle (Thomas Jane) and Roger Meris (Barry Pepper) as they try to break Babe Ruth's home run record. The movie offers some (cough) inside baseball visions into the evolution of pro-sports. For all their celebrity, Meris and Mantle never enjoyed great paychecks. Moreover, the two both battled personal demons as they struggled with life in the spotlight. As a film that both deconstructs and adds to the legend of two of baseball's most iconic players, 61* offers plenty to baseball fans, and to those new to the sport.
The Bad News Bears (1976)
Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal star in this story of an awful little league team that decides to take a risk by inviting a female pitcher to join the team. Jackie Earl Haley also has an early role as a member of the team.
A breakout hit in 1976, The Bad News Bears remains one of the best kiddie baseball movies ever made. Using the classical music of Georges Bizet to comment on the disaster of the team, it will still invite wild laughs from viewers today…even if some of those jokes haven't aged well.