10 Great Movies About America’s Favorite Pastime
With baseball season swinging back into action, we think it’s the perfect time to pay tribute to some of our all-time favorite baseball movies. America’s Pastime has always been a subject ripe for the big screen, and many great films have swung for the bleachers over the years. They can’t all be home runs, but these 10 classics definitely come close to hitting grand slams.
A nonfiction book all about sabermetrics — the statistics-based analysis of baseball that’s all the rage in the Majors these days — doesn’t exactly sound like riveting big-screen fodder, but this movie actually makes math fun. Brad Pitt stars as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, whose use of sabermetrics to guide his cash-strapped team’s personnel decisions doesn’t jive with manager Art Howe’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman) old-school approach. The result is one of the longest winning streaks in MLB history for the A’s — and probably one of the most entertaining movies about statistics that will ever be made.
‘The Bad News Bears’ (1976)
The Bears are the worst team in little league baseball until their drunken manager recruits an awesome girl pitcher and a rebel star outfielder who help the team pull its act together and force a showdown with the dreaded Little League Yankees. Politically incorrect and offensive in all the right ways — unlike the 2005 remake starring Billy Bob Thornton, which was just offensively bad and doesn’t even deserve to be in the same ballpark as the original.
‘Eight Men Out’ (1988)
A historically accurate and entertaining portrayal of the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919, in which eight players on a superb Chicago White Sox team conspire with seedy underworld gamblers to throw the World Series — and get kicked out of pro ball for life because of it. Fun fact: Former Sonic Youth drummer Richard Edson, who left music for an acting career that’s yielded roles in ‘Platoon’ and ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,’ plays real-life gambler Billy Maharg in ‘Eight Men Out.’
‘Brewster’s Millions’ (1985)
While not strictly a baseball movie, the ball scenes in ‘Brewster’s Millions’ are so good they make up for any lack of quantity — especially when Montgomery Brewster (Richard Pryor) pays out big-time just so his semi-pro team the Hackensack Bulls can play an exhibition game against the New York Yankees, with Brewster himself on the mound. That’s just one scam in a long line of them as Brewster must blow $30 million in one month to inherit $300 million — and we assume buy the Yankees with his newfound fortune.
‘Cobb’ tactfully goes behind the legend of one of the greatest players to ever don a major-league jersey to tell the legend of one of the all-time most hated players. Ty Cobb was the first man inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame — and the last man many people would ever want to see there, judging by his bitter, bigoted and violent ways on the field and off.
‘A League of Their Own’ (1992)
Who says girls can’t play baseball? Washed-up manager Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) certainly has that thought when he first finds himself managing the Rockford Peaches of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which existed for a brief run in the ’40s. Then Dugan and the girls both earn some respect, and everybody lives peachily ever after. Geena Davis leads a stellar ensemble cast of ball-playing ladies in the Penny Marshall-helmed flick that also includes Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna.
‘Field of Dreams’ (1989)
This beloved fantasy tells the story of Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), an Iowa farmer who uproots part of his cornfield at risk of financial ruin to build a diamond after hearing voices whispering the immortal line, “If you build it, he will come.” Soon the ghosts of the 1919 White Sox show up to play — and eventually hordes of ticket buyers looking to relive their childhood dreams.
‘Major League’ (1989)
The owner of the down-on-their-luck Cleveland Indians recruits a bunch of has-beens and never-weres to intentionally throw the season so she can move the team to Miami — and the Tribe responds by playing their hearts out, beating the mighty Yankees to make the playoffs and saving baseball in Cleveland. The stellar cast (Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Bob Uecker and more) helps make this one of the greatest baseball comedies ever made.
‘The Natural’ (1984)
A big-screen classic in every sense of the word. Roy Hodges (Robert Redford), an aging ballplayer with immense natural talent who never reached his potential after suffering from a gunshot injury as a young man, comes back to lead the fictional New York Nights into the playoffs when his manager finally lets him take the field. It was nominated for four Academy Awards.
‘Bull Durham’ (1988)
Many lists of Hollywood’s best baseball flicks are topped by ‘Bull Durham,’ and who are we to disagree? Kevin Costner, who’s on our list twice (see ‘Field of Dreams’ above) plays “Crash” Davis, a veteran catcher brought to the minor-league team the Durham Bulls to school rookie pitcher Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) in the ways of major-league ball. Sure, what unfolds is just as much a romantic comedy as it is a sports flick, but whatever category you put it in, it’s classic all the way.