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The 11 best baseball movies ever made – from Bull Durham to The Natural

There are so many to choose from, so start with these great baseball films

Field of Dreams scene
AJ Pics / Alamy

Baseball has been America’s pastime since the moment of its invention, and it has a long history in American culture. There have been plenty of legendary moments in the history of the game, but one of the great things about baseball’s legacy is that it extends far beyond the shores of the sport itself. Baseball is unique not just in the history of America, but also in the history of cinema, and in the long history of movie-making, few sports have proven to be more cinematic. 

There are tons of great movies set in and around the world of baseball, and they range from true stories to utter fantasies. What unites them all, though, is a sense of romance about one of the greatest games that’s ever existed. Baseball is poetry, it’s a series of one-on-one duels, and more than anything, it’s romantic. These are the greatest baseball movies ever made, and many of them will remind you what makes the sport so great to begin with.

Moneyball (2011)

Moneyball
87%
7.6/10
pg-13
134m
Genre
Drama
Stars
Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Directed by
Bennett Miller
Watch on Amazon
Moneyball‘s true story is all about the math of baseball, but that doesn’t make the movie any less heartwarming. Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is the general manager of the Oakland A’s with a budget that is dwarfed by other teams in the league. With the help of an Ivy League grad, (Jonah Hill), he redefines the traditional assembly of a baseball team using statistical analysis and Beane’s unfettered charm and optimism. Moneyball is a story about the romance of baseball and how hard it is to change a game that’s been played for more than a century.

42 (2013)

42
62%
7.5/10
128m
Genre
Drama
Stars
Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie
Directed by
Brian Helgeland
Watch on HBO Max
Starring in one of his great roles as a leading man, Chadwick Boseman plays the legendary Jackie Robinson. Based on very real historical events, Robinson is the first-ever African-American man to play in major league baseball. Set in 1947, during the year of his integration, 42 is an inspiring and heart-breaking tale. While it’s one that many viewers have likely seen before, Boseman brings a unique charisma to Robinson that makes his performance shine.

Field of Dreams (1989)

Field of Dreams
57%
7.5/10
pg
107m
Genre
Drama, Fantasy
Stars
Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, Gaby Hoffmann
Directed by
Phil Alden Robinson
Watch on Amazon
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 to build a baseball field in the middle of Iowa, he winds up playing catch with his long-dead father. Based on the 1982 novel Shoeless Joe, which is loosely based on a true story, Field of Dreams is a movie that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s all the better for that.

A League of Their Own (1992)

A League of Their Own
69%
7.3/10
128m
Genre
Comedy, Drama
Stars
Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna
Directed by
Penny Marshall
Watch on Amazon
Focused on the family dynamic between two sisters, A League of Their Own is a delight from beginning to end 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, this film follows the first women’s baseball league, which was born during the war to keep the spirit of baseball alive. Ultimately, though, A League of Their Own is about hope and perseverance, and it also features an all-time great comedic performance from Tom Hanks as the team’s coach.

The Sandlot (1993)

The Sandlot
55%
7.8/10
pg
101m
Genre
Family, Comedy
Stars
Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, James Earl Jones
Directed by
David M. Evans
Watch on Disney+
In a coming of age tale that spawned the legendary line, “You’re killin’ me, Smalls!” The Sandlot is a wonderful piece of wholehearted American nostalgia. 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. Baseball is really just the backdrop to The Sandlot, though, which is mostly about what it’s like to be a kid with your own fears, turmoil, and inner life.

Sugar (2008)

Sugar
82%
7.2/10
114m
Genre
Drama
Stars
Algenis Perez Soto, Jose Rijo, Walki Cuevas
Directed by
Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Watch on Amazon
Sugar is a beautiful and smart film about baseball that offers a fairly original perspective on the game. When a 19-year-old Dominican baseball pitcher with an incredible arm is recruited to play American baseball in Iowa, he encounters a culture that doesn’t necessarily welcome him with open arms. This film also focuses on the difficulties of facing a language barrier when trying to make a name for yourself and feels true to the experience many immigrants may have when they’re plucked out of the country they call home to play a sport somewhere else.

Bull Durham (1988)

Bull Durham
73%
7/10
108m
Genre
Comedy, Romance
Stars
Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins
Directed by
Ron Shelton
Watch on Apple TV+
Another Kevin Costner classic, Bull Durham follows players in the minor leagues as they show us that there is more to baseball than just the majors. With fantastic performances from Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins, Bull Durham is really a romantic comedy following a love affair set against some truly depressing minor league games. It’s a movie about the romance of baseball that also acknowledges how crummy the sport can be.

The Bad News Bears (1976)

The Bad News Bears
84%
7.3/10
102m
Genre
Family, Comedy
Stars
Walter Matthau, Tatum O'Neal, Vic Morrow
Directed by
Michael Ritchie
Watch on Amazon
Another baseball comedy, The Bad News Bears is a raunchy and hilarious film that has remained a classic for decades, gaining so much acclaim that they re-made it in 2005. While the new version has some great moments, it will never match up to Walter Matthau’s comedic timing and performance in the original. Mathau plays a grumpy man who couldn’t make the minor league cut and 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.

Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)

Bang the Drum Slowly
80%
6.8/10
pg
96m
Genre
Drama
Stars
Michael Moriarty, Robert De Niro, Vincent Gardenia
Directed by
John D. Hancock
Watch on Amazon
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 pitcher, Henry (Michael Moriarty) and a simple-minded catcher, Bruce (Robert De Niro), 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 suffering 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’s also lovely and inspirational from beginning to end.

The Natural (1984)

The Natural
61%
7.4/10
pg
137m
Genre
Drama
Stars
Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close
Directed by
Barry Levinson
Watch on Amazon
The Natural comes loaded with an original 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 central to what makes The Natural so powerful, but Redford shines in this role as he does in many of his films.

The Rookie (2002)

The Rookie
127m
Genre
Drama, Family
Stars
Dennis Quaid, Rachel Griffiths, Jay Hernandez
Directed by
John Lee Hancock
Watch on Disney+
The Rookie is a true story about chasing dreams and second chances in baseball. Jim Morris (played by Dennis Quaid) is a high school science teacher and baseball coach in Texas. Jim had dreams of playing in the major leagues, but an injury ended his minor league career years ago. To motivate his team, Jim makes a deal with them: If they win the district championship, he’ll try out for a major league team. At age 35, Jim hasn’t played professionally in over a decade, but the team rallies and wins the championship, forcing Jim to follow through on his promise. However, he faces doubts from himself, his family, and others about his ability to compete at such a high level.
Movie images and data from:
Joe Allen
Contributor
Joe Allen is a freelance culture writer based in upstate New York. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The…
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