Baseball is famously known as “America’s Pastime” and while millions of people watch the various leagues around the country (and world), it’s a sport that lends itself to the silver screen as well. Some of the most memorable sports movies of all time are about baseball players, teams, coaches and managers. That’s why we turned to the experts to pin down the best baseball movies that have graced the big screen.
Some of these sports movies tell real life stories about certain people who changed the game – like Billy Beane in “Moneyball” and his static theory, even though it’s less useful now than it was back in 2008, when numerous other teams caught onto the trend, the competitive advantage of using the data began to decline. By 2013, 75 percent of MLB teams were using that approach.
Baseball fans are some of the most passionate sports followers across the board. In fact, some have even left the country to see a game. Results also found that 35 percent have specifically planned a vacation based on when and where their favorite team is playing. And the same number have taken a spontaneous trip to see their favorite team in action. Unfortunately, watching baseball at home, whether it’s through movies or a TV subscription is the only affordable way to watch the sport as one in three people can’t attend games due to price. Luckily, these titles can make you feel like you’re apart of the game, not just watching it.
Batter up! StudyFinds set out to do the research for you, visiting 10 expert websites to put together this list of the best baseball movies of all time. If you’ve got your own suggestions, please leave them in the comments below!
The List: Best Baseball Movies, According to Sports and Film Experts
“A compelling drama with an all-star cast, the film tells the story of a farmer in Iowa, Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), who is compelled by an unseen voice to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield by the mantra ‘If you build it, they will come.’ Sure enough, they do come—including ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) and the 1919 Chicago White Sox. James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster and Amy Madigan round out a solid cast for a film that received three Oscar nominations in 1990, including one for Best Picture,” says Bleacher Report.
Legendary movie critic Roger Ebert says, “As ‘Field of Dreams’ developed this fantasy, I found myself being willingly drawn into it. Movies are often so timid these days, so afraid to take flights of the imagination, that there is something grand and brave about a movie where a voice tells a farmer to build a baseball diamond so that Shoeless Joe Jackson can materialize out of the cornfield and hit a few fly balls. This is the kind of movie Frank Capra might have directed, and Jimmy Stewart might have starred in — a movie about dreams.”
The emotion range true, “Can a film that’s not really about baseball be called the greatest baseball movie of all time? That’s the question we have to ask ourselves regarding Field of Dreams, Phil Alden Robinson’s interpretation of the W.P. Kinsella novel Shoeless Joe, which blended history and fantasy – with a heaping helping of emotion – to create a story so moving that it’s unusual not to see men cry as they watch it. Including me. Let’s get this off the table right away: I cried the first time I saw the ending, and I at least tear up every time I see it again – even if the sound is turned off on the TV! What is it about this film (whose tagline ‘If you build it, they will come’ has become a part of our American lexicon) that has left an indelible mark on the psyche of baseball fans?” asks Sports Collector’s Digest.
Another film with Kevin Costner as the star, this romantic comedy features Susan Sarandon as his love interest and is set in the minor leagues. It explores the relationships between players, coaches, and fans.
“Bull Durham is the greatest baseball movie because it isn’t really about baseball, even though writer-director Ron Shelton drew on his own experience as a minor-league player and captured the particulars of that world like no filmmaker before or since. Its true subject is passion,” says AV Club.
Cinema Blend swung for the fences with this one, “As far as I am concerned, Bull Durham is not only one of the all time great baseball movies, an example of a great romantic comedy, and one of Kevin Costner’s best performances, it’s also one of the greatest films of all time.”
There is good acting all around, “The actors are all terrific. Robbins plays LaLoosh with goofball naivety, Sarandon never looked or acted better (she and Robbins would become real-life mates), and Costner, in the midst of a terrific string of highly praised commercial hits that ran from The Untouchables to JFK, skews sensibility and frustration as he grudgingly tries to suppress publicity over his minor league achievements—a presage to Mike Hessman, a real-life catcher who would set the mark for most minor league homers while barely getting a taste of the majors,” says This Great Game.
The main thesis of the movie is fascinating, “Moneyball tells a story that transcends the game itself, but ironically the film preaches something almost all sports disavow. It focuses more on the individual than it does the team. However, it doesn’t simply try to say that the best baseball players are the ones who hit the most home runs, or draw the most walks. The film tries to tell you to look at what’s underneath. Don’t just take something at face value or what the stats tell you, and never is this more important when looking at how you rate and value yourself,” says Bleacher Report.
It’s summed up nicely here by Collider, “The magic trick of Bennett Miller’s movie is showing not only how those statisticians upended baseball but were able to inject more romanticism into the game by leveling the playing field. The film consciously begins showing us numbers, but they’re not OBP or WHIP or any of the other acronyms that dominate the stat line. It’s the payroll for the New York Yankees vs. the payroll for the Oakland Athletics. Those were the numbers that were dominating the sport with rich teams and poor teams, and yet that’s supposed to be the world we romanticize? For all the talk of intangibles, those are very clear dollars and cents, and as Beane recognizes early on, if they play that game, they will lose and all the flowery language in the world doesn’t change a win-loss record.”
The ending of the movie feels true to life, “The true brilliance of Moneyball is that it isn’t even really about whether the A’s win or don’t win as it is a gorgeous study of human frailty and disappointment and the thousands of ways in which people are under-valued. And, of course, what makes the film truly different is that there is no winner. There’s no everlasting triumph. It’s just the season ending and Beane sitting with Brand, looking around the forlorn, post season dressing room as though noticing it properly for the very first time,” says Irish Times.
Starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna, this movie tells the story of the first professional women’s baseball league, which was formed during World War II when many male players were serving overseas.
The Guardian says, “Director Penny Marshall knocked it out of the park with this terrifically warm, heartfelt and effortlessly entertaining baseball picture, scripted by the veteran screenwriting duo Lowell Ganz and Marc Babaloo Mandel, in the spirit of old-fashioned films such as The Pride of the Yankees with Gary Cooper, or Knute Rockne, All American with Ronald ‘The Gipper’ Reagan.”
“Under Penny Marshall’s spirited, warm direction, the players shine: Davis, whose catching skills could win even a grunt of approval from Crash Davis (Kevin Costner’s Bull Durham character), is the team standout with her rich portrayal of the down-home wife/big sister/team leader. A can of chew to Tom Hanks for his big-gutted performance as the downsliding team manager and a tip of the brim to Garry Marshall for his herky-jerky performance as the crusty candy man. As the fastest player around the bases, Madonna flashes her skills to the max,” says the Hollywood Reporter.
Reel Views says, “Sometimes, pure technical accuracy isn’t enough. Sometimes, artistry has to be taken into account. One such case in point is Barry Levision’s The Natural, arguably the best baseball movie ever made. The film works not because it is flawless in its depiction of what transpires on the diamond (more on a significant mistake later), but because it captures the spirit of the game at a time when baseball truly was the National Pastime.”
The talents of the filmmakers involved is mentioned by Spirituality & Practice, “Barry Levinson directs The Natural by keeping his eye on the ball; he evidences an appreciation for the story’s fairy-tale elements and the idiosyncrasies of its characters. The combined talents of cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and composer Randy Newman give the movie ample richness of sight and sound.”
The music is a real selling point for the film, “Another huge hit for ‘The Natural’ is Randy Newman’s soundtrack. Newman is responsible for a quintessential American sound that borrows stylistic qualities from legendary composers Aaron Copland and Elmer Bernstein. ‘The Natural’ theme, created by Newman, is widely recognizable from the soundtrack. If you have not watched the movie yet, you have more than likely heard the theme when baseball stadiums are introducing home teams and their players as a collective,” says The Movie Buff.
You might also be interested in:
- Bleacher Report
- Roger Ebert
- Sports Collector’s Digest
- Reel Views
- Spirituality & Practice
- The Movie Buff
- Cinema Blend
- AV Club
- This Great Game
- Irish Times
- The Guardian
- Hollywood Reporter
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.