Baseball: the great American pastime. For generations, baseball has been a part of our culture and history, separating us from the rest of the world until adopted by other countries such as the Dominican Republic, Japan, Canada, and Puerto Rico, and others. Despite its current global popularity, American baseball is and always will be something we can be proud of as a nation. Through thick and thin, the sport has stayed alive from its birth in 1839 all the way up to 2020 which, though limited by a pandemic, still managed to entertain its die-hard fans.
For all of you devoted fans of baseball, whether you enjoy sports podcasts, sports documentaries, or fictionalized movies, we are here to facilitate the consumption of any and all sport-loving mediums. Here today, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best baseball movies ever made, some of which account for some very real and historic events that changed the way of baseball forever through racial and gender inclusion, adaptation, and encapsulation of the culture surrounding baseball.
In a sort of Gridiron Gang fashion (with less assault), Moneyball is an unlikely tale based on a true story that grips the audience throughout. Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is the general manager of the Oakland A’s with a budget that is relatively nonexistent. With the help of an Ivy League grad Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), they redefine the traditional assembly of a baseball team using computer analysis and Beane’s unfettered charm and optimism. Complete with a cohesive cast and incredible spirit, this film is a ride from start to finish.
Director: Bennett Miller
Main Cast: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, Jonah Hill
Runtime: 133 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.6
Starring in one of his greatest roles during his marathon of film features, the late, great Chadwick Boseman stars as legendary Jackie Robinson. Based on very real historic events, Robinson is the first-ever African-American man to play in major league baseball, the year is 1947 and racial tensions are very high. An inspiring and heart-breaking tale, we see a Hollywoodized re-creation of openly accepted racism in professional sports as Robinson fights against hate, discrimination, and violence with poise and determination.
Director: Brian Helgeland
Main Cast: Chadwick Boseman, T.R. Knight, Harrison Ford
Runtime: 128 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.5
Referred to as “my generation’s A Wonderful Life” by star Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams is a heartwarming account of an Iowa farmer compelled to create something magical. When Ray Kinsella (Costner) gets inspiration from a detached voice telling him the ever-referenced line, “If you build it, he will come,” he becomes compelled to transform his ordinary cornfield into a baseball diamond. Based on the 1982 novel Shoeless Joe, which is loosely based on a true story, we witness the dream of a man inspired by what some called lunacy but which turns out to be one of the most magical baseball films of the century.
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Main Cast: Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta
Runtime: 107 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.5
Focused on the family dynamic between two sisters, A League of Their Own is a fun-loving film and one of the only movies on this list that surely passes the Bechdel test. In the early 1940s, America’s young men went off to war, which left American baseball severely lacking. A fictional story based on true events, the first women’s baseball league was born to keep the spirit of baseball alive. Confronted by funding difficulties and the need to overcome the idea that women can’t play sports, there is a great theme of hope throughout the film, paired with comedic moments of absolute genius from all members of the cast, but namely from Tom Hanks as the temperamental and reluctant coach.
Director: Penny Marshall
Main Cast: Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty
Runtime: 128 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.3
In a coming of age tale, coining the forever recited line, “You’re killin’ me, Smalls!”, The Sandlot is a classic piece of nostalgia that most sports lovers will recognize. When the new kid, Scottie Smalls (Tom Guiry) moves into town, he manages to make friends with a group of young boys who play baseball every day at their local baseball diamond. Full of charming childhood adventures and memorable moments of small-scale fear extrapolated, this movie reminds us how sports can bring people together to form friendships that last a lifetime.
Director: David Mickey Evans
Main Cast: Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Art LaFleur
Runtime: 101 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.8
Facing obstacles of racism and anti-immigration tendencies, Sugar is a beautiful and smart film about baseball that offers another point of view to consider. When a 19-year-old Dominican baseball pitcher with an incredible arm is recruited to play American baseball in Iowa, he encounters a different culture and ideologies that could potentially blur his focus. This film also focuses on the difficulties of facing a language barrier when trying to make a name for yourself, and if you like movies based on a true story (as are many on our list today), you may like to check out some sports documentaries to learn more about a more accurate depiction of sports history.
Director(s): Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Main Cast: Algenis Perez Soto, Jose Rijo, Walki Cuevas
Runtime: 114 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.2
Another Kevin Costner classic, Bull Durham follows players in the minor leagues as they show us that there is more to baseball than just baseball, especially when your team has a devoted, annual groupie. With fantastic performances from Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins, we take part in a romantic comedy following a love affair that, in the major leagues, would have gained much more attention from the fans, making it so much more fun to watch in the rough and tough minor leagues of baseball.
Director: Ron Shelton
Main Cast: Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins
Runtime: 108 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.1
Another baseball comedy, The Bad News Bears is a raunchy and hilarious (when you consider when it came out) film that has remained a classic for decades, gaining so much acclaim that they re-made it in 2005 to update the jokes so as to not be so offensive in today’s world. That being said, and while the new version has some great moments as well, it will never match up to Walter Matthau’s comedic timing and performance. When a grumpy man who couldn’t make the minor league cut is forced to coach a team in an uber-competitive California little league division, he tries out some unconventional methods and goes against all the rules. Fair warning: Having come out in 1976 (before the MPA ratings change) and containing a few distasteful racial slurs, this movie is not PG by any of today’s standards.
Director: Michael Ritchie
Main Cast: Walter Matthau, Tatum O’Neal, Vic Morrow
Runtime: 102 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.3
In the 1973 drama Bang the Drum Slowly, we follow a tragic and sincere tale of two players united by unlikely conditions. A charismatic rising star of a pitcher, Henry (Michael Moriarty) and a simple-minded catcher, Bruce (Robert DeNiro) play opposite each other on the fictional New York Mammoths, but have a hard time connecting due to Bruce’s lackluster personality and inability to connect with others. After discovering that Bruce is slowly fading from a terminal illness, Henry begins to form a bond with him, resulting in rising suspicions and frustrations from the rest of the team. Though this film has moments of tragedy and sadness, it does well not to dwell on them and focus instead on the theme of brotherhood through thick and thin.
Director: John D. Hancock
Main Cast: Michael Moriarty, Robert DeNiro, Vincent Gardenia
Runtime: 96 minutes
IMDb Rating: 6.9
In the last but not least feature on our list, The Natural is a movie with an inventive story, only partially based on true events. When a young and promising pitcher (Robert Redford) is on his way to try out for the Cubs, he is shot by an unstable baseball fan and goes into a 16-year physical and emotional recovery. After his time away, he comes right back to the game and is forced to join the worst team in the league, the New York Knights. Despite his sedentary years, he makes a fantastic comeback and takes the team to new heights, defying the chaotic odds placed before him. Defying the odds, as with many sports movies, is the main theme of this film, but Redford shines in this role as he does in many of his films.
Director: Barry Levinson
Main Cast: Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close
Runtime: 138 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.5
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