Million Dollar Arm, starring Jon Hamm, opens in theaters tonight, giving us what seems to be a new annual tradition of a baseball blockbuster every year. Last year we had 42. The year before that? Trouble With The Cover. The year before THAT? Moneyball.

I can go on all day, folks.

For whatever reason, when it comes to sports, film and baseball in particularly have a special kinship. Maybe it translates better to the screen, maybe the stories are better, hell, maybe baseball’s just been popular for longer. I don’t know, all I know is there are a ton of baseball flicks out there, which makes trying narrow it down to a Top 9 sort of like picking your nine favorite baseball players of all time. In other words: someone great is BOUND to get left off the list.

Nevertheless, I submit to you here THESE Top 9 Baseball Movies. I won’t say of all time because, as some recent additions that you’ll find on here kindly remind us, that list is ever-changing as the torrid romance that baseball and cinema have with each other rampages on.

9. Fever Pitch (2005)

Fever Pitch

Look, you either love or hate this movie. I get it, and I accepted it when I put it on this list. But in between the romance of Fallon and Barrymore are some very real, very juicy nuggets that baseball fans will eat up. From baseball humor (See: Jimmy Fallon “falling off the wagon” watching the ‘Buckner Play’ on repeat over and over again) to baseball history (See: the fans of Fenway reliving every attack from the Curse of the Bambino) to the film even becoming part of history itself. The Red Sox 2004 postseason run was so spectacular and so unexpected that the end of the movie had to be rewritten for the Red Sox to actually win the World Series. Because, just like every one else in bean town, this script too had originally given up on the Sox.
Best ‘Baseball’ Moment: Fallon and his “summer family” of Fenway-goers explain the ‘Curse of the Big Bambino’ to Drew Barrymore’s character
Best Line: “That’s why you ran across the whole field?… Wait, you’ve got to tell me – was it spongy?” -Ben Wrightman (Fallon)

8. 61* (2001)


This is one probably not known the casual moviegoer. Directed by Billy Crystal and made for HBO, 61* is probably the best baseball movie you’ve never heard of. Putting together a rock-solid cast of great actors that just happen to be second-tier celebrities, 61* features Thomas Jane and Barry Pepper as Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris during the year the two competed for the home run record. Seen to the outer world as a fierce rivalry amongst teammates, 61*, while progressing through the season, tells the lesser-known story of the two’s friendship. How Maris subtly tried to help Mantle get his drinking under control. How Mantle took strides to cement Maris as a part of the team — and the city — when fans and sportswriters wanted to have none of it. The story itself is probably about as well known as the movie. That is to say, not very well known at all. Ironic, no?
Best ‘Baseball’ Moment: When Mantle tries Roger’s “special eggs” and nearly chokes, but continues to eat them seeing as he’ll “try anything” to break out of his current slump.
Best Line: “Ninety percent of the game is half mental.” -Yogi Berra

7. Eight Men Out (1988)

Eight Men Out

Tied for the oldest film on this list, Eight Men Out tells the story of the famous — or perhaps infamous — 1919 Black Sox scandal, where members of the Chicago White Sox decided to throw the ’19 World Series to spite their cheap boss and strike a pay day he would never dream of offering. The movie does a tremendous job of showing how quickly the lines of morality become blurred, how loyalty can have different definitions, and, perhaps most surprisingly, foreshadows how we’ve gotten to where we are today with multi-million dollar contracts and labor disputes of recent history. Starring John Cusack, Charlie Sheen (before he was publicly looney), David Strathairn, and Michael Rooker, Eight Men Out adds to the group of baseball movies to put together a solid cast.
Best ‘Baseball’ Moment: When David Strathairn’s character approach owner Mr. Comiskey about his 30-win bonus, and Mr. Comiskey falls back on the fact that Strathairn won only 29 games despite being intentionally benched for five starts to “rest his arm for the Series”.
Best Line: “If Landis wants to clean up the game; he should start with those birds on the steps with him.” -Ring Lardner, referring to the fellow team owners.

6. Field of Dreams (1989)

Field of Dreams

The second installment chronologically in what I like to call Kevin Costner’s Baseball Movie Trilogy, Field of Dreams really is a metaphor for baseball’s legacy. It’s need to remember the past, it’s constant striving to bridge generations of fans, and it’s willingness to fight for a piece of the future. Costner (already mentioned the film’s protagonist) hears voices telling him to build a ballpark in his cornfield. But what starts out as a crazy construction project leads to one of the unlikeliest of searches for a baseball player forgotten to history, and then, the discovery of someone else. It has it’s finger so squarely on the pulse of the game that most people who aren’t baseball fans shrug it off as a little bit of a looney fantasy film. But to the fans, the real fans of baseball, it’s poetry on the big screen.
Best ‘Baseball’ Moment: Ray Kinsella (Costner) dares Shoeless Joe Jackson to hit his curveball. Shoeless Joe hits it out of the field. Kinsella acknowledges Jackson can hit a curveball.Best Line: “At least he is not a book-burner, you Nazi cow.” -Annie Kinsella, defending her husband at a school meeting

5. Ballplayer: Pelotero (2012)

Ballplayer Pelotero

This is perhaps the most important film concerning the modern age of baseball. A documentary looking at the gold mine that has become baseball players from the Dominican Republic, Ballplayer: Pelotero shows you the game within the game: the fight amongst teams to sign the best players and the fight amongst prospectful teenagers to get paid the biggest signing bonuses. While it is a documentary, it’s as gripping as a first-rate thriller. The films vision is unflinching, showing you both the light and dark sides of everything that comprises modern day baseball. Everyone has a goal, everyone has an agenda. And Ballplayer: Pelotero shows you perfectly how those agendas turn the cogs of big money, big baseball, and big dreams.
Best ‘Baseball’ Moment: The craziness of July 2nd, Signing day for international talent in Major League Baseball
Best Line: “The gringos may have invented baseball, but we’re just better at playing it.” -Dominican baseball prospect

4. 42 (2013)


In it’s marketing campaign, last year’s big baseball movie seemed to have ‘forgettable’ written all over it. Based on Jackie Robinson coming to the majors from the Negro leagues, ’42’ seemed destined to do #42 about as much justice as John Goodman did Babe Ruth in ‘The Babe’. Instead, though, what we got was a magnificent performance from Chadwick Boseman and a Remember-The-Titans-esque story of breaking through racial barriers. The pessimistic moviegoers will dismiss the movie as typical. A black man is too good to be denied his rights and, with the help of a minority of forward-minded white people, helps turn the tide on the vast majority of racists in America at the time. That’s fine. They can say their piece, but ’42’ is unlike any other baseball movie. Equal parts baseball thriller, historical drama, and sports biopic, the film reminds us that baseball doesn’t care who you are or where you come from, it only cares if you can play the game.
Best ‘Baseball’ Moment: A powerful, hidden tantrum in the hallway leading to the dugout where Robinson (Boseman) lets his frustration out on a bat after being bombarded with racist heckles, knowing if he let’s the world see that kind of rage it’ll be used against him.
Best Line: “It means someday you’re gonna meet God, and when he inquires as to why you didn’t take the field against Robinson in Philadelphia, and you answer that it’s because he was a Negro, it may not be a sufficient reply!” -Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford)

3. Moneyball (2011)


Moneyball is to the modern baseball nerd what the bible is to the most devout of Christians. It is, as I include myself as a member of said group, an affirmation in our belief in numbers. It’s what gave us armchair managers the joe of fantasy baseball and it’s what drives the game forward in the modern era. What Moneyball really is, however, is the story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the GM of the Oakland Athletics who, without the deep pockets of rival ball clubs, is fed up with trying to put together a team the same old-fashioned way. That’s when a chance encounter brings him to Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), an Ivy League graduate working for — and being largely ignored by — a rival team. And when Brand pitches to Beane that every major league team is going about putting a team together the wrong way, Beane plucks him away from his employers. Together, they fight naysayers everywhere in an unintentional effort to reinvent how we view the game.
Best ‘Baseball’ Moment: Manager Art Howe pinch hits Scott Hatteberg a journeyman catcher turned first basemen who Brand and Beane assert is just the kind of guy baseball is overlooking, and Hatteberg proceeds to hit a home run.
Best Line: “If you lose the last game of the season, nobody gives a shit.” -Billy Beane

2. For Love Of The Game (1995)


I won’t say too much about the plot of this movie because I don’t want to ruin it for those who haven’t seen it, but this is the kind of movie that can make grown men cry. In that aforementioned Kevin Costner’s Baseball Movie Trilog, For Love Of The Game is the redheaded stepchild of that group. Everyone knows the other two, but for some reason, this one is glossed over. And that’s a real shame. Starring the likes of Costner (duh), John C. Reilly, Jenna Malone, Kelly Preston, Brian Cox and J.K. Simmons (plus Hall of Fame and legendary broadcaster Vin Scully), For Love Of The Game is the fictional tale of Billy Chapel, an aging baseball great on a team whose season isn’t going so great. Things aren’t staying the way they were, and there are talks that owner Gary Wheeler is selling the team and the new owners want Chapel gone. On top of that, on-and-off-again girlfriend Jane Aubrey (Preston) says goodbye (again). And yet, Chapel takes the mound as scheduled that day, when something completely unexpected begins to happen. All of this, the stories within the story, create the second-best baseball movie (so far) and the best baseball drama on this list.
Best ‘Baseball’ Moment: I won’t ruin it. I’ll just say the end of the movie.
Best Line: “The boys are all here for ya, we’ll back you up, we’ll be there, cause, Billy, we don’t stink right now. We’re the best team in baseball, right now, right this minute, because of you. You’re the reason. We’re not gonna screw that up, we’re gonna be awesome for you right now. Just throw.” -Gus Sinski (John C. Reilly)

1. Bull Durham (1988)

Crash Davis

Really, was there any doubt? I mean really. Of course this is the greatest baseball film. In fact, despite everything I’ve said here, I think it will ALWAYS be the best baseball film. It’s just too damn perfect. Bull Durham, from a synopsis standpoint, is about the trials and tribulations of a minor league baseball team. There are vets with little upside and prospects chock full of it. There are serious guys, goofy guys, and guys that are just plain weird. But what Bull Durham really is about is the dream of baseball and the boys who become men chasing it. It’s about every player we don’t know by name, every player who wanted to be the next Hall of Famer but never quite got there. For those that use the cliche they would play this kid’s game everyday for nothing, this film celebrates the men who actually put their lack-of-money where their mouth is. If you’re not a baseball fan, you’ll really like this movie. And if you are, you’ll love it unconditionally. Like it was your child. Plus, you can’t beat the cast. Kevin Costner. Susan Sarandon. Tim Robbins. As far as baseball films go, this is Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and every other baseball legend put together. In other words: it’s darn near perfect.
Best ‘Baseball’ Moment: The boys convene on the mound to discuss more than just the situation in the game.
Best Line: “I’m the player to be named later.” -Crash Davis (Costner)


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