The Best Baseball Movies Ever Made

Whether it's Mickey Mantle or Ricky Vaughn, these are some of the greatest baseball stories ever told on the silver screen.

America’s pastime truly is an intricate sport. There are many layers to it at both an amateur and professional level, and a number of baseball movies have captured the game’s passionate struggles throughout the decades.

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It’s not always all about the action on the field that gets heated. Baseball is a vessel to tell human stories, make us laugh, or tell the truth behind some of the game’s greatest legends, like Jackie Robinson or Mickey Mantle. These heroes come to life on the silver screen, allowing younger generations to see what the game was like and how some of its most memorable moments came to pass.

And then there’s a child pitching for the Chicago Cubs. Baseball movies really have it all. Here’s the best of the best when it comes to baseball movies.

The Sandlot

Just a bunch of kids playing ball. This 1993 instant classic stars a bunch of kids playing baseball on a sandy old lot, but it was so much more. It’s really all about the friendships forged on the fields of our youth, a giant man-eating dog, and Wendy Peffercorn—who knew exactly what she was doing. This film has some genuinely funny moments (such as when the evil dog eats baseballs), but it is not quite a comedy, nor is it precisely a drama. Seemingly a slice-of-life movie about the “simpler times” of the late 1950s and early 1960s, it’s more like a surreal snapshot of the times in which we lived.

However, despite the fairly straightforward plot of the story, the excellent acting, direction, and writing make you care about these kids and captivate you from beginning to end. Any kid who ever grabbed their glove to play ball with their friends can relate to this one.

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The real-life story of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier is a harrowing story, not for the faint of heart. But it’s a must-watch for baseball and non-sports fans alike due to its visceral portrayal of Robinson’s struggles as the first Black man to play in Major League Baseball.

To alleviate the harsh examples of racism that pepper the story, there are elements of comic relief slowly woven into the narrative as you witness firsthand how Robinson’s teammates grew to accept him first as an accomplished ball player and then as a teammate and friend who shared his passion for the game. The late Chadwick Boseman turns in one of his best performances ever alongside Harrison Ford as Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey.

Moneyball

The 2002 Oakland Athletics were unremarkable in many ways—and that’s the entire point of Moneyball. Brad Pitt plays A’s general manager, Billy Beane, in his attempt to assemble a competitive team built with underrated, cheap talent using a sabermetric approach to the sport.

Despite the potentially dry subject matter, the movie makes the material compelling. While there is a lot of talking in this film, and not a whole lot of actual baseball is shown, which can disappoint some fans, it still provides a different perspective on the sport and how sports films are approached and presented, which is done expertly. The film received six Oscar nominations, including Best Actor for Pitt and Best Picture.

Rookie of the Year

The premise of a child pitching for the Chicago Cubs is pretty absurd on paper, but this movie just works. When little leaguer Henry Rowengartner breaks his arm, and his tendons heal “a little too tight,” he can suddenly throw the ball incredibly fast. That’s when the opportunistic Cubbies pick him up, and the adventure begins. There are a lot of laughs in this delightful film that makes you remember what it was like to be a mediocre baseball player, still hoping for a chance to play in the major leagues one day.

Though the subsequent story is heavily foreshadowed all the way to its predictable ending, the film remains charming and fun. Gary Busey and Daniel Stern as supporting cast help propel this silly fantasy film into legend.

A League of Their Own

Tom Hanks and Geena Davis turned in legendary performances in the 1992 classic about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). During World War 2, when baseball was suspended while the game’s players were sent off to war, women took the field to popular reception. Starring Tom Hanks as Rockford Peaches manager Jimmy Dugan and Madonna as centerfielder Mae “All the Way Mae” Mordabito, this film inspired by a true story is one of our list’s most memorable and quotable.

The performances in this movie are absolutely top-notch, and the actors are at the top of their games, including Hanks, who delivers the memorable “There’s no crying in baseball!” speech. In itself, this movie becomes an interesting view of how ruthless women can be in the sports arena, but at the same time, a sisterhood can thrive despite being plagued by an invisible horror overseas.

61*

Another film inspired by a true story, 61* epitomizes the legendary 1961 home run race between the New York Yankees’ Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. Created with passion by long-time Yankees fan Billy Crystal, Thomas Jane, and Barry Pepper turn in excellent performances as the M&M Boys in the movie that details their struggles through the season both on and off the field. 61* is a story that is brilliantly acted and beautifully shot. At times, it is brutally honest in its portrayal of the little-known amiable relationship between Maris and Mantle during the dramatic 1961 home run race.

The movie is also a great example of Crystal’s ability to recreate the time period in every way possible. He even managed to find actors to portray not only the Yankees but also the team’s opponents during that particular season. For Yankees fans, this film shouldn’t be missed.

Major League

One of the best sports comedies ever made, Major League’s ensemble cast carries the hilarious story of the bad-luck Cleveland Indians on their ascent to competitiveness. When the team’s owner purposely assembles a poor team to force losses and try to relocate the franchise to Miami, the ragtag group bands together. In this movie, we see a glorious story of an underachieving group of outsiders and underdogs who come together and finally win some games despite their chances.

The story may be simple, but the characters are memorable and wonderful, the wisecracking Harry Doyle is hilarious, and the entire cast just gels. Major League has always been one of those movies that, when you watch it again, you enjoy it a bit more and love to cheer for the little guy every time. Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, and Wesley Snipes are just a few of the film’s outstanding cast.

Field of Dreams

This 1989 sports fantasy drama film stars Kevin Costner as an Iowa corn farmer who starts hearing voices, and he interprets them as a request to build a baseball diamond in his crop field that attracts the ghosts of some of baseball’s most legendary players, such as Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) and the Chicago Black Sox. Also featuring Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, and Burt Lancaster (in his final film role), Field of Dreams is often described as an emotional rollercoaster of a film that gets even the most cynical moviegoers wiping away tears by its end.

A movie for all ages that is sincere to its core, with a performance by Costner that is often lauded as a career-best. It was nominated for three Academy Awards and, in 2017, was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

The Bad News Bears

The Bad News Bears is a lighthearted film that had kids and adults clamoring to see it in 1976. The comedy stars Walter Matthau as an alcoholic ex-baseball pitcher who becomes a coach for a no-talent youth baseball team known as the Bears. Having recognized his predicament, he recruits girl-pitching standout Amanda Whurlizer, whose mother is a former girlfriend, along with Kelly Leak, a motorcycle punk who happens to be one of the best players in town.

In addition to Matthau, the film stars Tatum O’Neal, Joyce Van Patten, Ben Piazza, and Jackie Earle Haley. The film is among Matthau’s many accomplishments, and O’Neal, as the pitching ace, is also impressive (she did most of the pitches in the movie on her own). After the original, two sequels were released: The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training in 1977 and The Bad News Bears Go to Japan in 1978, a CBS TV series from 1979 to 1980, and a 2005 remake.

Damn Yankees

Representing the musicals on this list, the 1958 adaptation of the smash hit Broadway musical is responsible for many of film’s most famous show tunes (notably “Whatever Lola Wants”). Joe Boyd (Robert Shafer) is a baseball enthusiast who loves the hapless Washington Senators. Boyd makes the terrible mistake of being willing to sell his soul to ensure the Senators have a chance of winning the series once more.

The Damn Yankees cast (mainly carried over from the stage show) is a delight, particularly a showstopping performance by the original Broadway Lola, Gwen Verdon, who plays the Devil’s vixen agent with an abundance of style and grace.


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