I’ve been putting this off for far too long. Though I’m not sure I’ve seen all the baseball flicks worth seeing. like the original Angels in the Outfield or The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars & Motor Kings. I’ll reckon I’ve seen enough to make this list. Yes this is my “Top 10 favorite Baseball Movies” in all it’s pride and glory. What makes a good baseball movie? Well in my opinion it’s got to have some good gameplay, plenty edge of your seat moments and a whole lotta heart. You may not agree with my choices, no Sandlot or Pride of the Yankees here, I find those movies overrated but hopefully you can enjoy it for what it is, play ball!
10. Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)
: Based on the 1956 Mark Harris’ novel of the same name, Bang the Drum Slowly tells the story of a relationship between ace pitcher Henry “Author” Wiggen (Michael Moriarty) and his slow but sweet friend, catcher Bruce Pearson (Robert De Niro). Both playing for the fictional New York Mammoths, in the middle of a winning season, things take a turn for the worse when Bruce is diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. Hiding it from the rest of the team, Bang the Drum Slowly is more or less the baseball equivalent to Brian’s Song. Though it never comes off as sappy and is definitely worth watching for De Niro’s performance. It’s a much different role than the charismatic loner’s De Niro usually plays, more sensitive and soft-spoken and very touching.
9. 61* (2001)
I wasn’t sure about the inclusion of made-for-TV movies but this one is just too good to ignore. Actor/well known Yankee fan Billy Crystal steps behind the camera to tell the story of the Yankees’ legendary 1961 season. When both Mickey Mantle (Thomas Jane) and Roger Maris’ (Barry Pepper) found themselves within pursuit of Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record of 60 set in 1927. One the team’s most beloved player, the other the quiet, soft-spoken midwesterner both creeping up on a record then thought untouchable. Presented in nostalgic fashion 61* is like your grandpa sitting down and regaling you with a great baseball story of yesteryear.
8. Eight Men Out (1988)
Coming in at number eight is Eight Men Out released in 1988… Damn that’s a lot of eights! This little slice of history chronicles the infamous “1919 Black Sox” scandal when eight players on the 1919 Chicago White Sox conspired to lose the World Series in order to rake in some major dough. A dark period in baseball well captured by noted indie director/screenwriter John Sayles, who excels at telling strong, politically aware stories. It’s also notable for it’s talented ensemble cast including; John Cusack, David Straithairn, Michael Rooker, Charlie Sheen and my favorite performance, D.B. Sweeney as legend Shoeless Joe Jackson.
7. A League of their Own (1992)
An often overlooked period in sport’s history is the formation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 1940s. Penny Marshall (Big, Awakenings) directs this light hearted, fictionalized account of the Rockford Peaches first season. Playing with something to prove, Geena Davis stars as the team’s star catcher and is accompanied by a cast of colorful characters. Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna are probably some of the bigger names in the cast and are surprisingly tolerable… But Tom Hanks steals the show as the team’s washed up manager Jimmy Dugan, based on Hall of Famer Jimmie Fox. He also delivers what’s probably one of the most memorable quotes in sports movie history with “There’s no crying in baseball!”
6. The Natural (1984)
The Natural just has that mythic fable-like feel to it. Like the story King Arthur, though instead of the mighty Excalibur he wields “Wonderboy” a bat made from a tree hit by lightning. Robert Redford stars as Roy Hobbs a hopeful 19-year old pitcher with big ball aspirations. Though things take a turn for the worse after a severe gunshot wound shatters his dreams. 16 years later Roy gives it another go and is signed to the fictional 1939 New York Knights. Now an accomplished hitter, Roy quickly wows his teammates with his hitting ability. What follows are the highs and lows of Roy’s season in a classic sports film. It’s worth seeing just for that iconic theme. One of my favorite soundtracks, period. I can’t believe Randy Newman didn’t take home the music oscar that year.
5. Major League (1989
It’s cooky, wild, crazy and lots of fun. The sports comedy classic major league is your typical, predictable underdog story but also a humorous tribute to America’s pastime. You got the seasoned veteran (Tom Berenger), the prima donna (Corbin Bernsen), the speedy rookie (Wesley Snipes) and the Wild Thing himself (Charlie Sheen). Rounded out by a voodoo practicing power hitter (Dennis Haysbert) and an oily veteran pitcher (Chelcie Ross) and you got yourself a lovable cast of misfits. All I know is if I was a fan of the Tribe, I would probably worship and reference this movie all season long.
4. Sugar (2008)
I can see why Sean’s such a fan as this probably the most realistic and powerful baseball movie on this whole list. Miguel “Sugar” Santos is a Dominican pitcher struggling to make in the big leagues. Playing on a Single A team in Iowa, Sugar faces a day to day struggle of playing ball and trying to live in another country. It’s the classic fish out of water story with glimpses of great humor and all out heart. The only aspect holding it back is the latter half of the film’s focus on Sugar’s abandoning baseball to live in New York. Though it’s still a great film and a must see for sports movie fans.
3. The Bad News Bears (1976)
Without a doubt the funniest movie on this list. It’s hard to imagine that a movie like this even exists. On one hand it’s a movie about a little league team but on the other it’s a raunchy, refreshingly un-P.C., comedy with no skimpin’ on the expletives. Walter Matthau as the drunken head coach Buttermaker is priceless but all the kids have their moments. Probably my favorite line, in response to missing several fly balls is “Don’t give me none of your honky bullshit, Buttermaker. I know they were easy.” And that’s just one of many memorable lines. Though this film hits even deeper than your typical sports comedy. The Bad News Bears is a striking portrayal of the unnecessary pressures put on kids playing team sports. Avoid the remake and sequels but don’t ignore this classic.
2. Bull Durham (1988)
A big fan favorite with no shortage of memorable moments, Bull Durham is a humorous romantic comedy with an entertaining insight into the world of minor league ball. The dialogue here is pitch perfect and the performances are undeniably entertaining most notably Tim Robbins as hot shot pitcher Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh. It’s repeatedly been chosen as one of the best sports movies, which made it tough to pick the top spot.
1. Field of Dreams (1989)
Field of Dreams isn’t as much about playing baseball as it is the myth of baseball. The magic of the game, the larger than life players and the people that it brings together. “If you build it, they will come.” is the classic quote that inspires one Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) to build a baseball field over his Iowa cornfield. What follows is a supernatural phenomenon as Ray gets to meet the ghosts of former legends, most notably Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta). The story is unique and the characters are likable. James Earl Jones provides plenty of ammo for the Vader sessions, if you don’t know what that means consider yourself lucky. Not to mention Burt Lancaster shines in his final role. This is the kind of baseball movie that dreams are made of.
For Love of the Game