I love movies. Watching and talking about movies is probably one of my favorite things to do, it’s why I love to follow YouTube accounts like Lessons From The Screenplay (and their excellent podcast), Jack’s Movie Reviews (which, sadly, is on an indefinite hiatus), Every Frame a Painting, and plenty of others.
It’s also why the website Letterboxd is one of my favorite places to go, because I can make film lists, keep a film diary, write reviews, everything you’d want out of a film social network (and if you’re on Letterboxd, hit me up!).
I also love baseball, obviously. It’d be weird if I was writing for this site and didn’t. So naturally, baseball movies hold a special place in my heart. Not just because it’s the intersection of two things I love, but because many of these movies hold a more personal significance to me because I watched a lot of them for the first time with my family (who is about as obsessive about baseball as any family can be).
So roughly a year or so ago, I came up with the idea of doing an article on the best baseball movies of all time. I will caution two things: first, this list isn’t exhaustive. I’m sorry, but I didn’t watch Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch (maybe I should have), but I feel like I watched a good number of baseball films to do this article.
Second, and this is very important to remember, this is entirely subjective. Is Seventh Inning Fetch your favorite baseball movie of all time? Well, I apologize for not having it on my list.
So anyways, let’s take a look at my 15 favorite baseball movies ever (with a couple notes at the end about three baseball movies I really do not like).
Note: Some of these reviews contain spoilers for the film
No. 15: The Rookie (2002)
This follows a pretty well-worn underdog sports movie formula, but you know what? This is a really sweet film that’s made with a ton of heart, and it makes that formula a lot easier to watch.
Also, let’s not forget that this is based on the true story of Jim Morris, which goes to show that sometimes the generic underdog movie formula can happen in real life.
If you’ve seen John Lee Hancock’s other work, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what this is, but it’s pretty well made. It’s not something that’ll blow you away from a technical perspective, but Hancock does a nice job here and there are some really nice shots too (especially the one used in the movie poster).
Dennis Quaid does a really good job playing Morris, who has a pretty interesting dynamic between trying to win his withholding, strict father’s approval, and trying to be there for his children and make them proud. There’s sort of a subtle undertone of the idea that Morris doesn’t want to be like his father while still desperately trying to get approval and love from his father that’s really well done.
There’s a place for all kinds of different movies—depressing ones, challenging ones, and even easy, heartwarming films like this.
No. 14: No No: A Dockumentary (2014)
I had heard of Dock Ellis’ LSD no-hitter before, and as an Orioles fan, I definitely knew about the 1971 Pirates beating the Orioles in the World Series, but that was about all I knew.
I’m glad I got to see this, because there was a lot behind Dock Ellis that I honestly didn’t know, and this documentary touches on a few really interesting notes. It’s primarily about Dock, and his story is fascinating. Sure, him pitching a no-hitter on LSD is wild, but the more interesting story is his struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction, and how he turned that around and became a drug counselor.
This movie also touches on drug use that was rampant throughout the 1970s in Major League Baseball, something that I feel like should be talked about more when we berate the players of the Steroid Era for using steroids. While amphetamines don’t make you stronger like steroids do, it’s hard to argue they’re not performance-enhancing drugs.
The movie also is a cool look into the 1971 Pirates, a groundbreaking team that was the first to field an all-black lineup.
If you’re a baseball fan, this is a pretty fascinating story. As far as the documentary itself goes, it’s well-paced, but otherwise it’s a pretty standard sports doc. Still, a really fascinating story that’s told well.
No. 13: The Natural (1984)
I’m very conflicted with this movie, because there is a lot to like about how it’s made, but the writing just kind of got away from me, and that’s really my biggest problem with the film.
This movie is really well-made and well-acted, but the story just had too much suspension of disbelief.
We get this serial killer (I guess?) at the beginning of the film but we never learn anything about her. Why was she killing athletes? Why did she target a kid who hadn’t step foot in the majors yet? Why did she kill herself? How was everyone totally okay with that killer never being caught or, if she was caught after death, why does no one care? Why is none of this addressed in any way, shape, or form?
And then we’ve got Robert Redford’s magic bat, which, okay, that’s fine. I can live with that. But to literally hit the cover off a baseball (and on command)? And to make the lights explode into fireworks? That’s not how lights work. But hey, it made for some really cool visuals.
And how about the medical explanation for why Roy can’t play? His stomach lining is deteriorating and playing baseball (and only playing baseball, not any other strenuous activity) is going to kill him?
Like I said, there was a lot of suspension of disbelief here, to the point where it’s a little over the top, which can make the drama feel contrived and unearned.
Still, the visuals are great, I absolutely love the art direction in this movie, the cinematography is really nice (especially the ending scene, even if it’s far-fetched), the acting is great, you’ve got a really good cast here with Redford (who is looking peak handsome Robert Redford), Glenn Close, a young Michael Madsen (who is very good at just playing Michael Madsen, even in this). Plus, Wilford Brimley plays a grizzled old-school manager well and Darren McGavin makes for a good villain. And also Robert Duvall is in it but just kinda…..in it. His character seems important and is never hesitant to remind you that he is very important, but doesn’t have a massive impact on the story.
Overall, it’s a nice film, and if you’re looking for a baseball movie to scratch the baseball movie itch, this will definitely do. It’s, again, a beautiful movie to look at. It’s really well-shot, but I think the story kept it from really being a great movie.
No. 12: Eight Men Out (1988)
The Chicago Black Sox scandal is one that every baseball fan knows. Their fixing of the 1919 World Series and the fallout after it is perhaps one of the most infamous scandals in all of baseball (especially thanks to Field of Dreams), and Eight Men Out is a pretty well-done dive into that scandal.
Sometimes a story is so interesting that it can drive an entire movie, and that’s what happens in this movie. It also features quite an ensemble cast, including John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, Michael Rooker, D.B. Sweeney, Christopher Lloyd, John Mahoney, and Bill Irwin, all of whom do an excellent job.
However, I do think there’s a slight bit of potential wasted in this movie. It’s a fairly unemotional film, and considering the subject matter should actually be pretty emotional (it certainly was for the players), I think there’s more that could have been done here.
Specifically, I think a deeper look into the conflict that some of the players had (especially Shoeless Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver) with the decision to throw the World Series or not would have been interesting. They do dive a bit into Weaver, but it’s not a lot, and he’s really the only one.
Overall though, this is definitely an interesting movie if only just for the story it’s about, but it’s one that I think could have been a lot better had it decided to dive a bit more into the characters rather than giving us what essentially amounted to a living Wikipedia page.
No. 11: Ballplayer (Pelotero) (2012)
If you haven’t heard of this film, it’s okay, but I definitely recommend checking it out. This is a documentary on how MLB recruitment works in the Dominican Republic, and it’s a really fascinating dive into the topic.
Perhaps more importantly, the film really dives into how the MLB often tries to take advantage of very poor kids desperate to sign a major contract they and their families are depending on. This is not a film that offers a positive perspective on MLB. In fact just the opposite: it takes a very critical stance on MLB and almost plays out their recruiting process like some form of slavery.
The film specifically focuses on two prospects: Jean Carlos Batista and Miguel Sano. Batista’s story is the more heartwarming of the two; a kid who lost his father at the age of 10 and whose coach, Astin Jacobo Jr., becomes sort of a surrogate father figure for him. Batista isn’t an other-worldly talent like Sano was at the time, but he’s a solid player, and his story is definitely an interesting one.
If you’re on this site, you’re a baseball fan, and you know what eventually happens with Sano. In fact, if you may recall, there was a whole debacle over whether Sano really was the age he said he was, and this film really dives into that scandal. Specifically, it shows how many hoops Sano had to jump through over and over and over again to prove his age, and how that was used to try and lowball him on his potential bonus—money that he and his family desperately needed.
There’s also a very interesting bit on how the Pittsburgh Pirates really tried to screw Sano over, using that scandal. I won’t spoil the details but, suffice to say, it is very much not a good look for the Pirates.
It’s unfortunate that the system in place feels like it’s just taking advantage of poor 16-year-olds (I mean, it is), but given the lack of care the MLB has shown in the past and showed in this documentary, I can’t imagine that system changing anytime soon. As one scout says in the film about Sano, “At the end of the day, he’s merchandise.” Yikes.
No. 10: The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014)
I’ll admit, coming into this documentary, I had never heard of the Portland Mavericks, nor had I ever heard of what Bing Russell did for baseball in the 1970s. But suffice to say, I’m glad I know now, because this is an absolutely fascinating story.
After the city of Portland, Oregon lost their minor-league affiliate, Bing Russell (Kurt Russell’s dad, and yes, he’s also in this), who played minor league baseball a little bit before becoming a famous actor (in case you didn’t know, he was in Bonanza), built a team to operate outside of MLB.
Honestly, this story operates almost as a real-life Field of Dreams. Bing Russell built this independent team of baseball misfits (including a left-handed catcher and former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton, who was blackballed from MLB) because he loved baseball, and what happened? The people came in droves.
This movie is a lot of fun. It’s filmed as a pretty straightforward sports documentary, but that’s fine, because the story is absolutely fascinating. I will say, the way the championship at the end was filmed with silence, that was a really nice touch. But if you’ve never heard of the story of the Portland Mavericks, you really need to catch this.
No. 9: Fear Strikes Out (1957)
I actually had never heard of Jim Piersall before I saw this film, but I’m glad I know now, because it’s a fascinating story.
I would have loved it if this film had been made at the end of Piersall’s career, but obviously that wouldn’t have been possible given that he retired 10 years after this movie came out.
Still, the story of Piersall’s struggles with his mental health are fascinating, and when viewed with the context of knowing how the rest of Piersall’s career went (two All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves, and a top-10 MVP voting finish), it really makes you appreciate what Piersall was able to accomplish.
Also, I give this film credit for being fairly sympathetic towards mental illness when that was not really the prevailing view in 1957. They could have very easily just dismissed Piersall as “crazy,” but they didn’t, they acknowledged that he was sick and needed help.
Now, I think this movie probably blames Piersall’s father a bit too much for his mental illness, and I think Piersall would probably agree with that based on some of his quotes about the film. I think his father certainly exacerbated Piersall’s mental health problems, but I don’t think he caused them, as the movie seems to suggest.
Still, the dynamic between Piersall and his constantly emotionally withholding father is pretty powerful to watch, and that’s owed almost entirely to Anthony Perkins and Karl Madsen, who do a phenomenal job.
Perkins is especially fantastic. This is early on in his career and he absolutely kills this role. All you need to do is look into his eyes and you can just see everything, all the conflict, the irrational rage during his outbursts, the emotional turmoil, it’s all there on Perkins’ face.
While this is a baseball movie, obviously, it’s more a drama than anything else about a son desperately trying to seek his father’s approval and wanting his father’s love, but never actually getting it.
I will say that the movie does drag a little bit at the end, but overall this is a really fascinating film that’s very well-acted.
No. 8: Sugar (2008)
I was really impressed by this, it was a beautifully-written, emotionally powerful story.
This is much much more than a baseball film. This is a film that touches on a number of themes, but mostly it’s a character study that asks a fascinating question: what happens when you’ve spent your whole life with the singular pursuit of playing professional baseball as your family’s way out of poverty, only to just end up as a very good but not good enough minor leaguer? Where do you go from there?
Pelotero, which I mentioned earlier in this article, provides a fascinating insight into how the MLB essentially exploits very poor teenagers for their baseball talents, and this film dives into the emotional impact of that exploitation.
Miguel Santos is a very good pitcher, and while he starts off succeeding in the minor leagues, he falters, and eventually breaks down. The film doesn’t explicitly say this, but I believe one of the main things that led to his downfall was the fact that he and all the other players were essentially treated like pieces of meat. They were tools to be refined, and if they couldn’t be refined, they were let go without a second thought. As a result, Miguel continues to lose the family he’s developed on his team, the only family he has as an immigrant in the United States.
Then he begins to question whether he really should be pursuing baseball. It’s this sort of existential crisis he goes through, the one thing he’s been pursuing his whole life and now he’s wondering if he can even do it.
And thus begins his search for happiness, and I think that’s what he was looking for all along—happiness and belonging. That’s why the minor league system bothered him, he never got a chance to belong.
But once he does find that belonging in a simple life with people he cares for and who care for him, playing baseball because he loves it, not because he needs it, it’s kind of a beautiful transformation.
The film also really touches on the immigrant experience, showing these players coming to Iowa into an essentially all-white community, knowing very little English unrelated to baseball, and having little concept of the American way of life. It’s all told so empathetically that you can’t help but feel for these 20-year-old guys who are very out of their comfort zone.
Major major credit to Algenis Perez Soto, who absolutely kills it as Miguel. He puts so much emotion and conflict into his performance, it’s powerful.
And also major credit to Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who directed this movie quite well and also wrote a beautiful story. There are some really great shots. I especially love the location of the minor league ballfield with the long bridge in the background, it’s beautiful, and there’s a nice Spielberg-style oner that follows Miguel through a restaurant that’s subtle and nicely done.
Overall, this film is criminally underrated in my opinion, I honestly hadn’t heard of it until I started doing research on baseball movies, but it absolutely deserves more praise. It’s not just a baseball movie, it’s a well-written drama that happens to feature baseball.
No. 7: 61* (2001)
I firmly believe that this is one of the most underrated baseball films out there, and it’s a fine piece of directing from Billy Crystal. I’m not overly shocked that this movie isn’t super well-known, it was a made-for-cable film in 2001, but it’s a solid movie.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know that much about the story of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris’ home run race, and as a result, this movie was really interesting.
This movie is less the story of the home run race and Maris’ record-breaking season and more a character study of two very different men in Mantle and Maris. Both Pepper and Jane do an excellent job with their characters, Pepper especially, as he’s able to convey a self-doubting, quiet ballplayer thrust into a spotlight he wasn’t exactly adept at handling in Maris. He also looks a lot like Maris, which is wild.
I also absolutely love the way the games were filmed, the color is beautiful and looks very authentic. Shoutout to Crystal for very clearly taking a lot of care with this film.
Now, sure, the luster of Mark McGwire breaking Maris’ home run record (which the movie is framed around) has worn off significantly, but I don’t think you can fault the movie for that (it was made in 2001 after all), nor do I think it detracts from the film as a whole.
No. 6: Major League (1989)
If Major League is anything, it’s a lot of fun.
It’s far from perfect, the whole romance part of Tom Berenger’s story is pretty predictable and has been done a billion times, but the movie also doesn’t spend all that much time on it.
Instead, this is a funny and extremely easy to watch baseball comedy with very well-written and memorable characters. And I have to say, one of the strongest aspects of this film is its pacing.
A lot of baseball movies can rush major climactic games, and that’s understandable. From a filmmaking perspective, your audience has been waiting around for 90 minutes already for a payoff, I can understand the temptation of wanting to get there quickly.
But Major League doesn’t do that, because it knows that what makes baseball so great is the suspense, the built-up anticipation, which makes the payoff infinitely better. The final game in this movie against the Yankees takes its time, and that makes the payoff so great. It’s hard not to just smile and feel a little emotional at the end of this film.
Also, the performances all around are excellent and I think the film was basically perfectly cast, but a special shoutout to Bob Uecker who is absolutely hilarious in this film. Every single scene he’s in, it’s brilliant.
Also, quick fun side note: Neil Flynn (the janitor from Scrubs) pops up in this at the end as a longshoreman at a bar that hugs one of the Ricky Vaughan fans.
Unfortunately, the success of this movie would spawn Major League II, which was essentially a repeat of Major League and even features what essentially amounts to “previously, on Major League” at the start, a carbon-copy of the same plot, predictable jokes that don’t land, Omar Epps replacing Wesley Snipes, and a super racist Asian character. So….don’t watch that.
No. 5: Field of Dreams (1989)
This is not a perfect movie by any stretch, but I think if there’s one thing Field of Dreams does exceptionally well, it’s sincerity. Is the story a little wonky? Sure. Should you avoid thinking about the mechanics of it too much? Yes. But this movie executes it’s weird little story really well, and with a lot of heart.
Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, and Ray Liotta all do a wonderful job here, especially Costner, who is basically the acting god of baseball movies.
This movie is about baseball, yes, but it’s more than that. It’s about growing up, it’s about recognizing who your parents really are—just people. People trying their best, people who have flaws, people who may not really know what they’re doing when it comes to raising children.
Ray Kinsella learns this lesson in the movie, and he learns it through baseball. I grew up in a baseball family, and baseball has long been a deep connection I’ve had with my family. When Ray plays catch with his dad at the end of the movie, I can’t help but think about playing catch with my dad and my brother growing up. This whole movie just makes me think about the bond baseball can create between family members, between loved ones of any kind.
It’s a well-written movie with loads of heart, and if you grew up with baseball like I did, watching this film is a heartwarming experience.
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again.”
Man, I love baseball.
No. 4: Fastball (2016)
I need to be fully transparent here, I loved this documentary because it so specifically appeals to the things I love: baseball, pitching, and diving way too deep into how pitching works.
The fastball is perhaps the most famous pitch in baseball, and everyone always wants to know how fast someone can throw and who was the fastest of all time.
This documentary attempts to answer that question, and I think it probably does it as well as anyone possibly could. The explanation of how the fastball works, why hitters see a fastball rise, how measuring the speed of a fastball has changed through time, it’s fascinating to me.
It’s also pretty eye-opening to see that guys like Nolan Ryan and Bob Gibson were actually throwing some of the fastest pitches in history when you adjust for how fastballs are measured today. If Ryan’s 100 MPH fastball was measured with today’s technology, it’d probably read around 108 MPH, according to this documentary, which is mind-blowing.
I also just love hearing the former and current major league baseball players talk about playing the game. I could’ve sat and listened to that group of hall of famers chat and talk about who they faced and who was the best for hours.
Like I said, this is a niche documentary. If you love baseball and pitching like I do, you’ll love this too. They way they use stop-motion and slow motion to show you in detail how the fastball works and what the difference in speed can mean to a hitter, it’s exceptionally well-done. If this is your kind of thing, you will love this.
No. 3: A League of Their Own (1992)
This movie is special to me for a number of reasons. First, the first time I saw it was with my parents and my brother in a hotel in Cooperstown, New York on a family trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame. As I said earlier, baseball is extremely important in my family and seeing this as a young teenager with my parents and my brother as we were on a trip to the Hall of Fame, it was really nice.
It’s also a special movie to me because baseball is so important to me, and if this movie is anything, it loves baseball. Does it over-romanticize the 1940s a little? Sure, I can understand that. But it also romanticizes baseball in a way that I love so much.
In all, I really do love this movie. Is it the most well-made, innovative film out there? No, not really. Is it, at its heart, not much more than just kind of a nice popcorn movie? Perhaps.
But it is well written and well performed. It’s character-driven, and it goes beyond baseball. It isn’t about a team trying to make it to the World Series or trying to win a specific game or whatever, it’s about people. It’s about a group of women who have been told by society that they’re not worth much outside of their bodies and child-rearing abilities finding themselves and finding individual identity.
And on top of that, it’s pretty funny. Tom Hanks, obviously, is fantastic. Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna are excellent every time they’re on screen, and Geena Davis and Lori Petty have excellent chemistry together as sisters.
And then there’s the ending. I don’t know why I get all emotional about the ending of this film, but I do. Seeing baseball mean so much to these people, seeing how it brought friends and family together, all of that mixed with a friendly reminder of our mortality, it just made me think of how much baseball has had an impact on my family, including those that aren’t around anymore.
Anyways, my opinion on this movie is heavily influenced by my personal experiences with it, but that’s okay. That’s what movies are supposed to be for us. It’s important to try and not always look at films objectively for their technical excellence and just let a movie make you feel things.
No. 2: Moneyball (2011)
I hadn’t seen this movie since it came out, and rewatching it for this article reminded me of just how good this movie really is.
Now, part of the reason I love this is because it’s a handful of my favorite things all in one film: Aaron Sorkin, baseball, analytics, and 2000s-era baseball (the decade where I started really getting into baseball).
Throw that all together and add in two excellent performances from Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill and you’ve got yourself quite a movie.
The story of the Oakland Athletics‘ 2002 season is pretty incredible, and the way sabermetrics was introduced to baseball despite it (and Bill James) almost being a curse word at the time is a really cool story, and luckily, Sorkin, alongside Steven Zaillian, both of whom are phenomenal screenwriters, is able to craft this story in a really compelling way.
“It’s hard not to get romantic about baseball,” Pitt’s character of Billy Beane says, and I fully agree. In fact, this movie feels like it was written by people who are romantic about baseball. I’m not sure of how Sorkin or Zaillian feel about baseball, but it’s not hard for me to imagine both of them feeling romantic about the sport, because it comes through in the writing.
No. 1: Bull Durham (1988)
When I first saw this, I walked away saying “Wow, that’s the best baseball movie I’ve ever seen.” And rewatching it for this article, I walked away saying, “Wow, that’s still the best baseball movie I’ve ever seen.”
It’s just so well-written. The dialogue is fantastic, it balances hilarious (I still love the scene of everyone talking on the mound about stupid life stuff in the middle of a game, which I guarantee has to happen in MLB games) and heartbreaking seriousness quite well.
Kevin Costner is excellent, his character of a cynical “I’m too old for this” career minor leaguer is so well done. You think he’s got everything together because he’s such a smart player, but you realize he’s full of this bitterness and resentfulness that he tries to keep inside.
He’s a really complex character, but that’s what I love about this movie—most of the characters are fairly complex. Nuke, played exceptionally well by Tim Robbins, seems like a cocky superstar, but in reality, he’s insecure and just kind of a manchild who learns how to take responsibility for himself and treat the game of baseball with respect.
And Annie, another very insecure character who is doing everything she can to put on a show for everyone around her to show how intelligent and thoughtful she is, when in reality she’s just empty and lost, looking for something to fill a hole in her life that she can’t seem to get rid of.
Even a small character like Millie, it’s so sad to see her getting in her wedding gown wondering if she even deserves to be married. Wondering if her past has made her irredeemable.
But ultimately, while this movie is a baseball movie, it’s really a movie about insecurity. It’s a movie about putting on an act so you don’t have to actually show the rest of the world who you really are, and about why it’s so important to drop that act and be honest with yourself.
“The world is made for people not cursed with self-awareness,” Annie says, and that’s what this movie is about. Self-awareness.
It’s my favorite baseball movie, and it’s one of my favorite films of all-time.
A Note on Three Other Baseball Movies
It’s a lot more fun to talk about movies I love, but sometimes it can also be fun to talk about movies I really don’t like. That’s why I want to take a moment to talk about three baseball movies in particular—two that always seem to be on everyone’s list of the best baseball movies ever (for some reason), and one that isn’t but is just so bad I really wanted to talk about it.
Pride of the Yankees (1942)
I want to like this, I really do, but good lord is this a bland film. This movie is entirely about the third act, and the first and second act (or are there two acts?) feel like there’s just nothing happening.
See that’s the problem with this film—there’s virtually no conflict until the very end. Lou Gehrig is presented here as basically the second coming of Christ, the All-American Boy who loves his mother, works hard, plays baseball, and is so red-blooded American he can do absolutely no wrong. For 90 minutes, you just see him succeed over and over and over again with ease, with the only minor conflict coming from him potentially upsetting his mother because he doesn’t like her wallpaper selection.
I think part of that is honestly because this movie was made literally a year after Gehrig died. He was a guy that the baseball world loved so much (understandably) that creating a movie about him with any kind of nuance to his character other than a worship piece likely would’ve been thrown out of every theater in America.
But I think there’s a really interesting story to be told here. A guy who has his whole life taken away by ALS, whose life and identity is about baseball and going to work every single day, for 2,130 games straight, only to have that all taken away by a neurological disease? I can only imagine how abjectly heartbreaking that was for Gehrig, and instead, this movie sort of presents it as kind of a bummer that made some people sad, when it likely was an earth-shattering tragedy for Gehrig.
Also, Gary Cooper is, what, in his 40s in this movie? And he’s playing college-age Lou Gehrig? I’m not quite sure what that was all about.
We’ve also got some really ham-fisted rah-rah America stuff jammed into this through Gehrig’s mother in the beginning. I don’t know how many times she has to remind us that America is the greatest country on the planet where anyone can be anything if they try hard and everyone has an equal chance at success.
I will say this, Cooper does a good job and both he and Teresa Wright have good chemistry together. Cooper does especially well at the end with Gehrig’s speech, finally injecting some pain and emotion into Gehrig’s character, something I wish I had seen more of.
Also, it’s just kind of fun to see Babe Ruth in this movie, even if he doesn’t really do anything but exist for the sole purpose of having Babe Ruth in the movie.
The Sandlot (1993)
Look, don’t hate me. I really don’t like The Sandlot. In fact, how much I don’t like The Sandlot has become a running joke among the staff here at Pitcher List. I know, I know, it’s probably one of your favorite baseball movies, and before you run to the comments to tell me that I’m a heartless evil human being with no soul, I want you to know that it’s totally fine that you love The Sandlot (assuming you do).
See, here’s my theory: I personally believe that many of the people my age (in their late-20s/early-30s) who love The Sandlot saw it when they were kids, loved it when they were kids, and now view it through the rose-colored glasses of 90s nostalgia. And that’s totally okay, honestly.
I did not see this as a kid, I saw this as an adult. And what I saw was a film that felt trite, overly-nostalgic for the 60s, predictable, and poorly acted. Not to mention it was a film that was almost exclusively about men, with women being used as little else than teasing and motherly worrying. But here’s one thing The Sandlot does exceptionally well, and it’s why I believe it connects so well with kids: it has a lot of heart.
The Sandlot is a very genuine movie. This wasn’t created because someone saw The Goonies and said “that, but baseball instead of treasure hunting,” and wanted to sell this to kids. Quite the opposite, I truly believe that David Mickey Evans honestly loves baseball and really put his heart into this movie, and it comes across. And when you’re eight, nine-years-old, you feel that, especially if you’re a kid who loves baseball.
And here’s the thing, it’s totally cool to have a deep, personal connection to a film, regardless of its quality. I know I do, and I know plenty of people do, that’s the beauty of movies, and to be honest, I would argue that’s why we watch movies, that’s why we make art, for an emotional connection.
But when The Sandlot gets named the second-best sports movie of all time, beating out every sports movie ever made except for Raging Bull, that’s where I get a little skeptical that nostalgia is heavily influencing our perspective on this film.
In my opinion, The Sandlot is not a good film. It’s a perfectly fine children’s film that’s sweet and somewhat charming, but I honestly don’t think it deserves the deification that it has received.
Also, total side note: This movie takes place in California in 1962 and we’re going to pretend like these kids are definitely obsessed with Babe Ruth? I mean, sure, it’s possible. But that’s a year after Roger Maris broke the Babe’s record and not long after the Dodgers came to Los Angeles.
Trouble With the Curve (2012)
I’ve long tried to figure out what’s worse, mediocre movies that don’t even try, or terrible movies that try really hard, and I think it’s the former.
As someone who loves baseball and writes about it professionally, and as someone who loves movies, this film infuriated me on a number of levels.
First off, this is about as cookie-cutter of a movie as it gets. I mean, the script is entirely predictable, you know every beat before it comes. It’s a dash of romance, a dash of baseball, mix it all together and bake for just under two hours. It is truly one of the most boring, uninspired pieces of writing I have ever seen, it’s like the film’s writer Randy Brown Googled “movie cliches” and used that as a guide for creating this script (and considering his only other film writing credit is Miracles From Heaven, I guess I’m not shocked).
Oh, and it would’ve been nice had this movie been written by someone who knows literally anything about baseball. The film kicks off with a hatred towards any kind of analytics in baseball (your computers don’t know nothin’!) which is a perspective I absolutely abhor in baseball.
Also, you mean to tell me that this potential number one pick (who is central to the film’s plot) was being scouted for games and games, and it wasn’t until his final game that either A. someone finally threw him a curveball or B. God of All Scouts Clint Eastwood just happened to finally notice he can’t hit curveballs?
And that’s not even mentioning the generic baseball jargon thrown into this movie that means nothing. At one point in the film, Amy Adams’ character is at a restaurant when she overhears that a no-hitter has been thrown. She asks who threw it and is told that it was Jair Jurrjens. She then proceeds to incredulously exclaim “Jair Jurrjens couldn’t throw a no-hitter! He’s a sinkerball pitcher who works on the corners!” (I can’t guarantee that’s an exact quote).
Ignoring the fact that Jair Jurrjens never threw a no-hitter (he did throw a one-hitter in 2009), that statement means absolutely nothing. It’s a bunch of baseball jargon thrown into one sentence to look like it meant something. Just because Jurrjens throws a sinker often doesn’t preclude him from being able to throw a no-hitter.
And then there’s Matthew Lillard’s character proclaiming this first-round pick to be a “five-tool player” when literally all we see him do in the movie is hit home runs (he never fielded, and considering he looks like he’s about 320 pounds, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say he likely doesn’t steal bases).
It’s a good thing they cast someone like Justin Timberlake who oozes more charisma out of his pinky than most people do in their entire lifetimes, or actors like John Goodman and Amy Adams who actually put in work here and were good at their jobs (Eastwood does fine too, even if he’s just growling the whole movie, but that’s what he does), otherwise, this film would’ve been even worse, and I shudder to think about that.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)
Great!, make it 25 add ur other 3 and Stratton Story, The Winning Team, Angels in the Outfield 1951 & 94, Fever Pitch, The Jackie Robinson Story & Summer Catch
I’ll be honest, I thought The Jackie Robinson Story was pretty rough. I appreciate what it was and it was cool to see Jackie Robinson on screen, but Jackie is very much *not* an actor and it shows.
“For Love Of Game” Kevin Costner.
So I really liked parts of For The Love Of The Game, but the love story in it felt so generic that it had me dying for the baseball parts to come back. Plus, the film desperately needed an editor. It’s a fine movie, and the baseball parts are excellent, mostly thanks to Vin Scully being incredible, but the rest of it is pretty uninteresting
Before Bull Durham there was Long Gone. A forgotten classic, plus I love Hank Williams.
I’m not the only man who didn’t like the sandlot? And yes, seen for first time as adult.
Personally I would find a spot for Bad News Bears. And not a movie and kinda cheesy, but really enjoyed Bronx is Burning.
And honorary mention to The Love of the Game. The baseball scenes are well done, and Scully is timeless.
Baseball scenes in For The Love Of The Game are great, it’s just the love story that felt fairly generic and uninteresting.
As for Bad News Bears, I certainly enjoyed it, and it just barely missed the top 15, but there is so much in this movie that has not aged well at all. Like the way the kids are treated, the racial slurs, the creepy, weird way a 13-year-old girl is sexualized throughout the film. At the time, it all likely seemed more innocent, but some of that movie is hard to watch today.
It’s not a bad movie at all, it’s generally enjoyable, but I didn’t love it.
Stop with the political correctness. Great film.
Oh it’s definitely an enjoyable movie, but I don’t think feeling uncomfortable with a film sexualizing a 13-year-old and saying racial slurs really falls under the category of political correctness gone too far
I’m older and we were different then. I didn’t say better (but I’m thinking it). Haha
No Rookie of the Year or Angels in the Outfield??!!
The running joke should be that you took a year to write this list and couldn’t come up with a better reason to not like The Sandlot. Just be honest, it doesn’t make your list because you wanted to be a contrarian on this. I get it man. I crapped on Game of Thrones for 8 years because I was tired of hearing how great it was.
If you really defended your stance to staff and none of them picked these L-7 weenie points apart, let me be the first. First, the weeniest argument.
Baseball movies generally are exclusively about men. There’s nothing wrong when they’re not, as was the case with A League of Their Own, but usually you’re going to see a lot of male dominated story lines in a baseball movie.
But if we want to do female character studies in The Sandlot, lets give Mom and Wendy Peffercorn the credit they’re due. Scotty’s mom raised him alone after his dad died then married Bill. We didn’t see her “yes, dear.” when Bill pushed back on playing catch with Scotty. She gave Bill those eyes and he knew the deal. Mom was also a grown up girl who knew who Babe Ruth was.
I’m betting you love strong and independent Annie Savoy and how she quotes Walt Whitman. Yet you totally ignore Wendy Peffercorn. She owned that pool and her body. Quick to action saving Squint’s life, then bounced him and an entire squad out the pool after Squints got creepy. Doesn’t get much stronger than Wendy.
Regarding the nostalgia factor. Yes, I saw it as a kid. I also watched Angels in the Outfield, Rookie of the Year, and Little Big League as a kid. There’s a reason The Sandlot is usually ranked and those aren’t and it isn’t 90’s nostalgia; Or at least not solely because of it.
The Sandlot is relatable to our childhoods whether you grew up in the 60’s or 90’s. But you get the emotional connection so I won’t linger on this.
It’s a good movie not only because it’s relatable or it has heart, or simply because it’s a baseball movie. Baseball is the reason you write for Pitcherlist and I read the work you do. The Sandlot captures how many of us expressed our love for baseball during those early years. I’m watching my son grow into one of those boys.
It’s a great movie because it has all of that and it’s so well written that you’re going to hear it quoted for-ev-er. I question anybody who has never followed their disapproval with “You’re killing me Smalls.”
Also, 30 years after the year this movie was set in, I’m not sure any of the kids in my neighborhood pretended to be Maris at bat but we all called our shots like the Babe when we weren’t pretending to be Junior.
And Benny is wearing a Dodgers hat the whole movie so there’s obviously some fans in the movie.
Like I said, it’s totally cool if you love The Sandlot, and plenty of people I know love that movie for the reasons you expressed, and again, that’s totally cool. And like I mentioned at the top of this article, all of this is entirely subjective, it’s just how I feel about the movie.
What I can promise you is that I never have a view on something just to be a contrarian. I think that’s an idiotic thing to do, personally, and is entirely counterproductive to any kind of good, meaningful discussion about art or virtually any other topic (as is belittling someone who disagrees with you and trivializing their own views on something as subjective and silly as movies).
I did not like The Sandlot for the reasons I stated above. I saw it as an adult and it just didn’t appeal to me, it felt really predictable, the acting was pretty mediocre (though, I mean, they’re kids so I give them some leeway), and it just wasn’t all that great of a movie, in my opinion.
As for your point on the women, I don’t love Annie Savoy because she’s strong and independent, I love her because she’s a broken human being who, throughout the film, learns that quoting Walt Whitman and sleeping around with baseball players pretending to be some good luck charm isn’t how you find belonging and meaning. Instead, it’s through self-awareness and understanding who you are as a person, and finding someone who will accept you for all of that, faults and all.
And yea, you usually see a lot of male-dominated stories in baseball movies. 1. that doesn’t mean we should just be cool with that (do women not play baseball…?) and 2. even if the subject of the film is a man playing baseball, the women around that man can still be important.
For as much as I don’t really like Pride of the Yankees, Teresa Wright’s character of Eleanor is a good character (likely because the real-life Eleanor was similar), she’s an extremely important one in the life of Lou Gehrig, and is treated as such.
But like I said, it’s movies, we all like different movies for different reasons and that’s totally cool. You love The Sandlot? That’s awesome. I’m genuinely happy that that film brings you joy and that you have an emotional attachment to it – that’s what movies are for and that’s why I love them so much.
Not a criticism but just wondering, have you seen Mr. Baseball? Would be my #1 (OK I haven’t seen it since I was 14 but still…)
I actually have not! I’ll have to get to it
No Angels in the Outfield? How could you?
Its actual criminal negligence not to have Angels in the Outfield. This man should be put in prison. Its the ONLY baseball movie needed on this list. And it has more star actors than all these other movies combined.
Bull Durham is the only correct choice for #1.
Not an entire movie and with the understanding that it’s a slap-stick comedy, I love the baseball scene in Naked Gun.
Naked Gun is one of my favorite movies of all time. I didn’t include it because I didn’t really think it counted as a baseball movie
So glad to see 61* on this list. My all-time favorite baseball movie, just ahead of Bull Durham. Lots of funny moments in 61* and the cathedral Crystal shot the game scenes in, I believe, is Tiger Stadium.
Decent list. I find your reasons for not including the Sandlot to be a bit spurious. I checked out your list of favorite movies of all time and it’s extremely male oriented. As a commenter already stated baseball movies are usually pretty male centric.
That said if you want a kids baseball movie with a great female character try Bad News Bears. Such an amazing movie.
My favorite movies of all time are male-oriented? That seems…odd to say. Have you seen them all? Because there are plenty of films on that list with strong female characters as well.
As for Bad News Beras, I enjoyed the movie, but a lot of that movie hasn’t aged well. The way a 13-year-old girl is pretty heavily sexualized throughout the movie, the racial slurs, the way the kids are treated by Walter Matthau’s character. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s an enjoyable film and just missed this list, but a lot of it is pretty cringey.
Omg. Original Bad News Bears with Walter Matthau. Tops!!
This list is worse than the Orioles
Honestly I didn’t know that was possible
I dont think it belongs on the list but best baseball performance in a movie is “The Scout”.
Field of dreams is too high .. Eight men out is too low.. Original Bad News Bears needs to be top 10. Have you seen The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars? It’s been awhile for me but i remember enjoying it.
For the record, in Trouble with the Curve, Amy Adams doesn’t doubt that Jair Jurrjens threw a no-hitter, she doubts that he was “blowing everyone away”, while doing so, which leads to her generic gobbledygook about his being a sinker ball pitcher who paints the corners. Which might be a fair point, given that there have been some ugly no-hitters thrown (Dock Ellis’ LSD assisted one being a prime example). However, we are told that Jurrjens was one walk away from a perfect game. While there is a wide spectrum when it comes to “blowing them away”, I think no matter how Jurrjens performed in his fictional no-hitter, that one little fact suggests Amy Adams should have just
said “way to, Jair” and left it at that.
When will a blogger finally have the stones to come out and say that Major League is a shit movie? A similar nostalgia logic that applies to the Sandlot snub applies to Major League, except the nostalgia is secondhand. Scores of young players are to told they need to like it by older players who have no idea why they like it. Every ballplayer turns into a robot when that film is mentioned; all it does is ruin conversations about good baseball films because some chode knows all of its quotes. Also, Rookie of the Year should be on this list.