The Top 10 Baseball Movies of All-Time
Unlike other websites, our Top Ten lists are created from the empirical data of our global rankings decided upon collectively by all the users of Flickchart.
As the American pastime, it’s only fitting that baseball should have been the subject of so many beloved movies. Baseball lends itself easily to the film medium, in part because the game is structured much like a narrative. It is a game that appeals to fans of all ages, from children who play Little League and pick-up games in their backyards all the way up to the old timers who love to tell stories of their time on, or around, the diamond. Baseball movies have captured it all, from up-and-comers to has-beens and never-weres.
Though Major League Baseball players real and fictitious are the most prolific figures, movies have often found diamonds in the rough elsewhere. The movies on this list focus on boys and girls playing youth baseball, a team of women, and even an owner whose contribution to baseball is rooted in nerdy sabermetrics rather than exciting athleticism. These are the Top 10 Baseball Movies of All-Time, as determined by the Flickchart global community.
10. Eight Men Out
The most immaculately researched and handsomely mounted film on this list, John Sayles’ account of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal stakes a claim to greatness not just among baseball movies, but also among period pieces and within Sayles’ storied directing career. John Cusack, D.B. Sweeney and David Strathairn are three of the members of the White Sox accused of throwing the World Series as part of a betting scheme, and Sayles places us right in that era, at the heart of when baseball was everything to America — and when eight corrupt players treated it like it was nothing. Complexity interests Sayles more than the apparently black-and-white venality of these black-and-white Sox, so the film makes us understand why some of the players did what they did. Even back then, sports were a business where the people who played by the rules — especially the bottom-line team executives — seemed like they were the ones cheating. – Derek
If you can stomach the (many) casual slurs bandied about by Tanner (Jackie Earle Haley), who manages to offend just about every ethnic group there is in the film’s most notorious line, there’s quite a lot to appreciate here. Surely, the most enduring aspect is the relationship that Coach Buttermaker (Walter Mathau) forges with his misfit players. It’s a testament to the power of baseball to bridge disparate people – a power that I’ve certainly felt over the years. It may be hard to watch at times, but The Bad News Bears stands tall as the paradigm for underdog youth team sports movies. – Travis
Were it not for A League of Their Own, it’s likely that by now, only historians would even know of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. This film not only made people aware of the women who helped keep baseball alive during World War II; it also inspired an entire generation of girls and young women to know that a place had already been made in baseball for women. Beyond being important for its impact on mainstream consciousness, though, it’s also a solidly entertaining movie. We don’t get many ensemble movies populated primarily by women, and fewer still with the caliber of talent here. Plus, there’s Tom Hanks delivering perhaps the single greatest line related to the game not attributed to Yogi Berra: “There’s no crying in baseball!” – Travis
Anyone familiar with medical terminology would come into The Pride of the Yankees knowing that things weren’t going to end well for Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper). After all, the disease that eventually killed Gehrig came to be named after him. Before his condition forced him into early retirement, however, he was one of the game’s greatest and most durable players, a true star who truly made his city proud. Cooper plays him with a decency and humility that just breaks your heart, especially when he delivers his famous speech about being the “luckiest man on the face of the earth.” The movie itself is a bit square in ways, but then again, the sport of baseball itself can be pretty square — which is precisely why some of us love it. – Derek
6. Major League
Few underdog stories are more perfectly constructed than David S. Ward’s Major League. They should teach Major League in screenwriting classes, so effectively does it set up its team of lovable oddballs, the Cleveland Indians, who are being specifically constructed to perform poorly enough that the new owner can move them to Florida. (This was before Florida had not one, but two major league teams.) It then perfectly follows them on their hilarious journey through spring training and a pretty darn awful April and May, establishing storylines for each of the featured players. These narratives come together in a symphony of satisfying storytelling as the team inevitably improves and threatens to make the playoffs, culminating in one of those classic do-or-die games guaranteed to tingle spines. The movie is also ribald and profane, two final perfect touches that would be nowhere near this movie if it were made today. – Derek
5. Field of Dreams
Lists of movies that men admit to making them cry usually feature Field of Dreams pretty close to the top. An engrossing baseball fantasy that shimmers with magic, the second of Kevin Costner’s unofficial triumvirate of baseball movies turned ghostly whispers about building baseball diamonds in Iowa cornfields into a clarion call, to all the fathers and sons who have bonded together over America’s pastime. The second movie on this list to invoke the Chicago Black Sox scandal, Field of Dreams interweaves baseball history with memory, life with death, the household names with those who missed their chance for a single at-bat in the majors. When he does build it, and they do come, the movie has built itself toward a cathartic emotional outpouring over a simple game of catch.There may have been dry eyes in some houses, but not in mine. – Derek
4. The Sandlot
The Sandlot came out just as I was coming of age. I had fallen out of love with baseball at that point in my adolescence. Yet, I couldn’t help but to feel instant kinship with the boys in this movie. Life is about finding your place in the world, and that’s the heart of this story. I related easily to its themes and characters, as have most people who have seen it. It’s a cliche to characterize baseball as a metaphor for life, but cliche or not, it’s a metaphor I believe to be true. I think the wide appeal and popularity of this film attests to that. – Travis
Why did so many non-sports fans love Moneyball? It wasn’t because it shouldn’t have worked as a sports movie in the first place, focusing on a statistical approach to assessing the formula for winning baseball games. Most traditional sports movies rely on intangibles like chemistry and heart. Rather, it’s that this movie has its own sense of heart in among all the on-base percentages, finding the emotional core of the tempestuous general manager who never made it as a ballplayer (Brad Pitt), the has-been catcher trying to reinvent himself as a first baseman (Chris Pratt), the fading veteran asked to provide clubhouse leadership, when he’s not even sure he buys into the program being sold to him (Stephen Bishop). Moneyball was so money not just because it brought to crisp and scintillating life an unlikely bestseller that should never have been filmable, but because it gave this statistics-driven story a deceptively human dimension. – Derek
2. Bull Durham
If any one movie defined baseball for me, it must surely be Bull Durham. My dad rented it on VHS around the same time I first got into baseball. I grew up just outside Louisville, KY, a Triple-A market then and now. I’ve gone to see the real life Durham Bulls as a visiting team a few times over the years. I think that has something to do with how personal Bull Durham is to me. It’s a classic mentorship, with the veteran Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) on his way out, trying to pass on what he knows to the up-and-comer Nuke Laloosh (Tim Robbins). It’s a love triangle story, with uber-fan Annie (Susan Sarandon) toying with both players. Beyond that, it’s a whole lot of fun chock full of some great lines that are quoted by fans of baseball and film alike.
Incidentally, Costner and Robbins recorded an audio commentary for the DVD release, and it’s highly entertaining. It’s one of the very few commentary tracks I’ve heard that I actively encourage fans to play. – Travis
1. The Natural
Bill Simmons (ESPN’S The Sports Guy) once declared that, “Any ‘Best Sports Movies’ list that doesn’t feature either Hoosiers or The Natural as the No. 1 pick shouldn’t even count.” He’ll be glad to know that the Flickchart community agrees with him. The Natural is steeped in melodrama, which sometimes bogs down its off-field stories, but man…when Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) limps out to take his whacks in the finale? That’s the good stuff. It may be tempting to write off a moment like that as “pure Hollywood”, but I’ve watched enough baseball that I’ve seen things like that happen for real…and every time I do, I hear Randy Newman’s score playing. Sometimes, it’s because the public address announcer has played it in the wake of a home run. Sometimes, it’s just there in my head because The Natural proved that unbelievable moments need that music. – Travis
Not all great baseball movies take place on the field. In fact, Ron Shelton’s biopic of one of the game’s consensus all-time greats — the detestable Ty Cobb — takes place exclusively during the man’s old age, when he gruffly consents to work with a biographer on telling his life story. Only a single flashback to his playing days shows the kind of player Cobb was, coming in spikes up on the fielder on consecutive steals of second and third base, intending to hurt him. The movie is instead a battle of wills between Cobb (Tommy Lee Jones) and Al Stump (Robert Wuhl) as Stump tries to find a nugget of humanity somewhere inside this irascible old bastard — who is treated with ignorant reverence everywhere he goes by people who don’t know who he is, and feels the emptiness of a life lived cruelly.
I was in attendance on the night of May, 28 2010, when Todd Redmond threw the first-ever no-hitter at Louisville Slugger Field. It would have been more exciting if Redmond had played for the Louisville Bats instead of visiting Richmond Braves. I keep score when I go to ballgames, and somewhere around the seventh inning I found myself thinking back to For Love of the Game, in which Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) throws a perfect game as the visiting pitcher against the New York Yankees. I started looking around to see if anyone was heckling Redmond. If they were, I was too far away to hear it.
It’s hard to resist rooting for someone on the cusp of something so special. Similarly, I found myself rooting for Billy to win back the favor of Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston) by the end of the movie. I’m generally against melodrama, but if everything else in it is done well, I can accept it in a baseball movie. – Travis