There are few things in the world I love more than baseball, but movies are right up there. At our house, our movie collection is vast. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily deep with content, because there are a lot of mindless comedies and the Marvel Cinematic Universe makes up a solid chunk. However, baseball movies also take up ample amount of space within the movie cabinet. The following are my six favorite baseball movies with a pair of honorable mentions.
I’d like to preface it with my criteria for quality baseball movies:
Staying powerHow memorable is the movie? If there aren’t memorable lines or scenes from the movie, it’s out.
Game accuracyYou cannot completely disregard the rules or general gameplay of baseball. Sorry Air Bud: The Seventh Inning Fetch, you’re out.
Pace of playI love movies, but it has to move.
Let’s get to it and start with some honorable mentions.
Honorable Mention Baseball Movies
Rookie of the Year (1993)
Henry Rowengarter got to live out every kid’s dream of playing in the major leagues as a 12-year-old after the tendons in his broken arm healed too tight. Never forget the cast removal scene where he hits the doctor in the nose and spits, “Funky butt lovin’!” The kid throws gas and hits triple digits on the radar gun, so the reeling Chicago Cubs add him to their bullpen. How could that be a bad idea? Rowengarter’s only appearance on the base paths gave us the classic taunt, “Pitcher’s got a big butt!”
The part that I struggle with from this movie is that the Cubs would never have played the New York Mets in the NLCS prior to division realignment. Yes, I’m splitting hairs, but it’s been making me crazy since I realized what year this movie was released.
Overall, this movie is just fun enough to get in my top six.
Moneyball is a fantastic movie and it was close to making the list. Brad Pitt did an excellent job of portraying a major league general manager. Whether he truly portrayed Billy Beane or not, I don’t know, but the way he described his competitive nature is perfect.
Beane: You get on base, we win. You don’t we lose. And I hate losing, Chavy. I hate it. I hate losing more than I even wanna win.
Unfortunately, I can relate to this too well.
As great as Moneyball is, it doesn’t move fast enough for me. I find myself checking my phone several times throughout the movie and that’s a key indicator for how slow a movie is moving along.
Ok, now let’s get to the good ones.
Best Baseball Movies
Little Big League (1994)
One thing I’ll never forget about this movie is walking out of the theater and hearing my dad smirk, “Yeah, when was the last time the Mariners made the postseason.” At that point, never. Among the list of all-star major leaguers to make cameo appearances in the film, Ken Griffey Jr. has a significant role in the final game, so I was all in on this one.
This movie showed the next best thing to playing baseball for any kid who loves the game. 12-year-old Billy Heywood is given ownership of the Minnesota Twins, then becomes the manager. He’s fully exposed to the realities of life in the big leagues and tries to maintain a Chihuahua’s confidence among alpha dogs.
The exchanges among the team in the clubhouse and the dugout are perfectly written. One of the best is before Heywood enters the clubhouse for the first time as manager.
Lonnie Ritter: Kids today are amazing. I played winter ball down in Venezuela, they had kids half his age, every one of them speaking Spanish. That’s a hard language.
Lou Collins: They speak Spanish in Venezuela…
Lonnie Ritter: I know! That’s my point!
As I previously mentioned, there are a lot of mindless comedies in our vast movie collection, and Benchwarmers is one of them. Judge me, I don’t care, it’s fantastic. There is a heap of quotable one-liners throughout the movie that can be used as witty comebacks during playful banter with friends, relatives, and especially a significant other.
I’m reminded of this movie every year when the Little League World Series rolls around and there’s some kid with a mustache hitting bombs off a poor, undersized 11-year-old pitcher. I can’t help but share a GIF from the scene where Carlos is introduced drinking a beer and presents “el birth certifico” that has his adult photo and has “I am 12” written in crayon. Seems legit.
The big part about this movie that goes unmentioned in all the silliness is the moral. Benchwarmers has a strong anti-bullying message and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m a firm believer that baseball is for everyone and it’s truly better when we do baseball together.
The name of the movie says it all. Anybody who’s into baseball at all knows the significance of the number 42. This movie is a terrific depiction of such an important time in baseball history. It paints enough of a picture to give you a taste of what Jackie Robinson went through to get you to sympathize (Branch Rickey’s words in the movie), but doesn’t take it so far as to make you never want to watch it again.
You’ll come to find out, especially in this list, that I don’t take myself too seriously, so my movie preference goes toward comedies. However, 42 is a spectacular drama that moves fast. At 128 minutes, this one feels like 90 minutes.
Major League (1989)
I’m pretty sure Charlie Sheen wasn’t acting in his role as Rick Vaughn, which makes this movie a blast to watch. However, the real comic genius of this movie is Bob Uecker as Harry Doyle while he lays on the sarcasm and says what we’re all thinking when we follow our teams during a down year. (Every year is a down year when you’re a Seattle Mariners fan. Here’s hoping to next year.)
Harry Doyle: In case you haven’t noticed, and judging by the attendance you haven’t, the Indians have managed to win a few here and there, and are threatening to climb out of the cellar.
I spent a summer with a Rookie League team, and that’s how it felt as the team started winning toward the end of the season.
Coming in at No. 3 on the list, there are few movies in life that come in ahead of Major League.
The Sandlot (1993)
If you can go a day without referencing this movie, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life. The Sandlot shows us how applicable to our daily life baseball really is. No matter how big of a pickle you get yourself into, you can always get out of it if you work hard enough.
Ham and Squints drop some real knowledge in this one as Ham teaches Scotty Smalls about Babe Ruth, how to make a s’more and shows us all proper ball field banter. Squints showed us all that courage prevails, especially when it comes to getting the girl. As a bonus, Babe Ruth himself taught us that heroes get remembered, but legends never die.
Bull Durham (1988)
It’s not only my favorite baseball movie, but Bull Durham is toward the top of my list of greatest movies ever. That’s right. After watching Bull Durham, baseball games are more enjoyable for even the casual observer. With all the visits Crash Davis pays to the mound to school Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh, stoppages in baseball become more enjoyable by getting a brief glimpse into the conversation. Like Ham in The Sandlot, Crash is a wise, veteran catcher who drops some knowledge on Nuke (and viewers) with these quality nuggets.
“Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls, it’s more democratic … And don’t hold the ball so hard, OK? It’s an egg. Hold it like an egg.”
“You be cocky and arrogant, even when you’re getting beat. That’s the secret. You’ve got to play this game with fear and arrogance.”
“You never f*** with a winning streak.”
And of course, “The rose goes in the front, big guy.”
I could go on forever, but we’ll leave it with these gems. Watching Bull Durham is an Opening Day tradition in my house. If you don’t mind the language and a crappy love story, this is a classic movie for any baseball fan.