As MLB is wrapping up their field of dreams game in Iowa, the topic of baseball movies has been floating around social media.
To get in on the fun, I’m going to be grading every baseball movie I’ve ever seen at least once from start to finish. It’s not enough to have a baseball scene in a movie, but the story doesn’t have to be only about baseball either. I’ll be using the standard 20-80 grading system and the criteria for the grade are mine alone. This is a subjective list. Maybe I like a movie that you don’t? I don’t care. You can make your own list and you’ll be right. Finally, while I am going to number these movies, they aren’t in order of best to worst, though they may start out that way. It’s really not a serious things, so lets just have fun with it and get started.
For me, Bull Durham is a fantastic baseball movie and my absolute favorite. The story centers around the polar opposites of professional baseball players: the flashy first round pick with a rocket arm, and the career minor league catcher who is just trying to play the children’s game so long as he can. It’s got incredible character, great actors, and is extremely quotable. The travel scenes are awesome and the limited baseball action isn’t half bad either. At it’s heart, Bull Durham is a love story in which baseball plays the biggest role. Sign me up for that. Bull Durham is the perfect baseball movie and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
As far as baseball comedies go, Major League takes the cake. Its absurdly ridiculous with pretty solid baseball action. It’s also easy as a Mariners fan to compare John Stanton to Rachel Phelps, so that’s an added bonus. There’s a jailbird pitcher played by Charlie Sheen and a pretty boy third baseman played by Corbin Bernsen, what more could you want? The cast is fantastic, the jokes work whether you know a thing about baseball or not, and it’s a movie that is actually mostly about baseball. If you haven’t used seen this movie, you’re missing out. It’s a good movie that happens to be about baseball AND can make you laugh. Those are going to be important for me. Plus, Bob Ueker as Harry Doyle is one of my favorite characters in any movie ever.
Major League II
As sequels often go, the second installment of Major League isn’t as good as the first one. However, as a stand alone movie, it’s still pretty decent. While it’s not as good as its predecessor, it still holds up as a good comedy with a loveable group of misfits returning. Not gonna lie, the absence of old Eddie Harris hurts, but overall, it’s a solid feature.
Major League III
There are a few chuckles to be had, but we aren’t even in Cleveland anymore. A few returning characters help, but the new cast is just flat awful. It’s not memorable or quotable at all. We’ll always have the first two movie though
Field of Dreams
I know you’re not allowed to say anything bad about Field of Dreams, and I’m not going to. It’s a really good movie. But there are times where it kind of drags along. James Earl Jones’ monologue is iconic and Kevin Costner might have been born to star in baseball movies. It’s well written, well acted, and yeah can be quite emotional. It’s a good movie. Just, not my absolute favorite.
As a kid, I loved The Sandlot. It represent some kind of utopia for me. Playing baseball with you buddies all day long without a care or worry in the world. Of course until some moron brings a Babe Ruth autographed ball to the dirt lot to take batting practice with. But it’s a perfect summer movie and the Fourth of July scene is simply perfect. It’s a great movie and a fun story. I really enjoy it.
Bad News Bears
Look, the original and the new one are the exact same story. Is there a reason to separate them? Yeah the original is better. But they’re both comedies and I think they’re both pretty solid. I don’t love either film, though I don’t hate either. I’ll give the Billy Bob Thorton version a 50. As for the slightly better Walter Matthau version?
It’s a cool, real life story that has some redeemable qualities. But overall, it’s a little forgettable. I wouldn’t own the movie or go out of my way to watch it, but it’s not inherently bad. It’s the Mike Leake of baseball movies.
Rookie of the Year
Read the previous paragraph. It’s fine. End of discussion
A League of Their Own
Come on. Did you really think I forgot about A League of Their Own? How could you? This movie is absolutely incredible. Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, and Madonna in the cast? An incredible script with fantastic baseball action? It’s a comedy and a drama. It’ll make you laugh and cry? It’s simply incredible. Too many people sleep on this movie. It’s a great movie even if you don’t like baseball. It’s an absolute home run.
I mean, it’s not really a baseball movie, right? It’s a summer love story about a local boy pitching in the Cape Cod League and falling in love with somebody way above their social status. It has it’s moments, but overall, it’s not a must watch film. I happen to like it. It’s just entertaining enough that if it’s the only thing on, I’ll watch.
No thanks. It’s memeable and there are a few decent lines of dialogue. I just described Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. Yippee.
Meh, it fine. Not all that memorable, but not impossible to watch.
For Love of the Game
Again, not really a baseball movie, more baseball adjacent. But I genuinely like this film. It basically a biography of a future hall of famer on his last legs in the big leagues told through flashbacks while he’s in the middle of throwing a perfect game in Yankee Stadium. As he grapples with lost loves and his own baseball mortality, he is unknowingly throwing the game of his life. It’s not exactly what you’d expect from a baseball movie, but it is quite good. Plus, Vin Scully plays himself as the play-by-play man, so it’s awesome.
I like the movie version of Moneyball. I love the book Moneyball. And that was always going to be the case. I know a lot of hard core baseball fans don’t like the movie because it was “too simplistic” and ignored a lot of important aspects to that Oakland A’s team. But how do you make a 300 page book about baseball statistics into a movie that the masses will watch? But cutting things out and dumbing things down. I could understand wanting a documentary style film about Moneyball. But Brad Pitt isn’t appearing in that movie.
The case is incredible and Pitt does a great job as Billy Beane. It’s a well told cliff note version of Moneyball the book and I think people forget that when they critique the film. It’s a really good book that tries to humanize a book that is about statistics and it does it well.
If you don’t cry when G-Baby gets killed in a drive-by, you’re a monster. It’s a feel good story and it’s pretty solid. It’s a fun movie that is incredibly predictable but still solid overall.
The Perfect Game and 61*
I combine these two movies because I’ve seen each a couple of times and can’t remember anything about them. So, they aren’t great. I haven’t seen 61* in a long time, so a re-watch might change my mind, but meh.
42 (Clip is NSFW)
There is no player more important to baseball than Jackie Robinson. Hell, there may not be a more important athlete in American history than Robinson. So when you decide to make a movie about him, you have to nail it without shying away or white washing the actual struggles he and his family went through. 42 does a nice job at that. It begins with the casting of Chadwick Boseman as Robinson, a home run of a selection. Branch Rickey is played by Harrison Ford, which is a nice add. I think this is a solid movie that is equal parts cringey and inspiring. I tip my cap to the movie for doing a solid job at capturing the importance of Robinson, not only to baseball, but to America.
Sugar and Ballplayer
Both films capture the struggle of Latin born players attempting to realize their dream and become Major League Baseball Players. They’re informative and positively captivating. Would highly recommend if you want a more realistic baseball experience.
Eight Men Out
Another more serious baseball film, Eight Men Out tells the story of the 1919 Chicago White Sox and the gambling scandal that rocked the world. It’s an excellent period piece that is well written and performed by a talented cast. It’s just an overall solid movie and I would highly recommend watching it if you’re an avid baseball fan.
I think that’ll do it. There are a few more documentaries that I’ve seen but won’t grade, at least not at this time. The ESPN and Netflix documentaries are all pretty solid, and there really isn’t any use in trying to nitpick them that closely. None of them are higher than 60-grade and none are lower than 50, at least those that I’ve seen. You may notice that I didn’t rank Pride of the Yankees or Bang the Drum Slowly. Truth be told, I haven’t watched those films yet. I know they’re extremely popular so when I do get a chance to watch them, I’m sure I’ll give them favorable grades. But until then, this is my list.