Baseball has been embedded in American culture since even before the turn of the 20th century. As years have come and gone, the nickname “America’s Pastime” still reigns true today, as countless movies continue to be made that use baseball as the central theme in its storytelling. While there have been hundreds of baseball movies made over the years, we have narrowed down our top 10 baseball movies of all time, as chosen by Candy staff.
In the 1961 season, it was clear that either Roger Maris or Mickey Mantle of the Yankees would break Babe Ruth’s single season home run record, especially with the expansion of the season from 154 games to 162 games. Baseball fans and Yankee fans alike were rooting for the more popular Mantle to break the record, but as the season got close to the end, it became clear that Maris might be the one to do it. This film does an amazing job at showing the stress and hatred from fans and media that Maris had to deal with while chasing an all-time record that nobody wanted him to break.
Best Moment: Maris’ 61st home run in the last game of the season. Accomplishing such an incredible record only to have it largely ignored and asterisk’d by the baseball community is tough to watch.
9) Rookie of the Year
You could be “Like Mike” or you could be like Henry Rowengartner - both are absolutely crazy (but dreamy) scenarios of kids in the big leagues. Breaking your arm stinks, I’ve broken mine three times, I would know. The only thing that makes breaking your arm better is that arm healing so well you become a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. Henry Rowengartner was a little leaguer who found himself in the Cubs clubhouse after a freak accident. The downside of this? Your mom’s cringey boyfriend trying to sell your contract to another team.
Best Moment: All of Henry’s smack talk on the field. “Give him the cheese! The HOT, STINKY, CHEDDAR!”
8) Bad News Bears
Of course you will have your preference of the 1976 version or the 2005 one (1976 is better), but both are solid enough to make our top ten. Everyone loves the story of a grumpy ex-player coaching little league, with a beer and cigarette in hand at all times, just to end up killing it and turning the team into a success story (even though they lost the championship *spoiler). In the end the story resonates with both kids and adults. Kids see themselves as the ball players on the screen and go through the ups and downs of winning and losing both on the field and in general. Adults may see themselves as Buttermaker and may not - but I’m sure they all have similar stories of success and trials and tribulations.
Best Moment: I’m all for good sportsmanship and don’t condone this BUT, the best part is when they refuse to shake hands after losing the championship game.
Everyone is aware of what Jackie Robinson meant to the sport of baseball, but his impact on America as a whole in the age of segregation is something that will always be relevant. 42 expertly tells the story of Jackie Robinson through his personal experiences with racism that was present in baseball and in his personal life. Chadwick Boseman’s performance alone makes this movie an all-time classic that will withstand the test of time.
Best Moment: Jackie Robinson breaking his bat in the tunnel leading to the dugout. Boseman’s performance peaks in this moment as he portrays all of the emotion that Jackie had to keep to himself.
6) Bull Durham
Out of all of the movies on this list, Bull Durham does the best job at giving a gritty behind the scenes look at what life is like as a baseball player in the minor leagues. A 10 year minor league veteran catcher for the Durham Bulls has to manage all of the stress of playing for his career while also juggling his personal life as he is being romantically chased by Annie. Through all of the ups, downs, and arguments, Crash would leave his minor league teammates with wisdom for their future playing career, and finally unite with his lover that he was pushing away.
Best Moment: Crash gives up his playing career while Annie gives up her annual minor league affairs to be with him.
5) A League of Their Own
What happens when a women’s baseball league is formed and one of the teams is managed by a helpless drunk played by Tom Hanks? A very good movie happens. From hilarious to heartwarming, this movie has it all. It is based on the real All-American Girls Professional Baseball League which lasted from 1943 to 1954, though most of the plot in the movie is fiction. With a spin off series also titled “A League of Their Own” premiering on Amazon Video soon, this movie may move up in the all-time baseball movie list over time as the lore continues.
Best Moment: And debatably the most famous quote out of any baseball movie ever made. “There’s no crying in baseball!”
In a baseball world where big market teams can spend as much money as they want on their players, general managers of teams like the Oakland Athletics have to come up with creative ways to compete. Billy Beane going head-to-head and winning against his boomer scouts and manager is super satisfying to watch. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill have amazing screen chemistry in this underdog tale where the bad guys win anyways (spoiler).
Best Moment: The Streak. Even though the moneyball A’s couldn’t win the big one, setting the American League record for wins in a row proved that scraping together a bunch of undervalued players can actually work.
Honorable Mention: Because he gets on base.
First of all, I would love to know how many people own “You’re Killin Me Smalls” t-shirts because my dad and I have matching ones. Secondly, you’re lying if you don’t enjoy this classic. The whole squad is electric. Scottie Smalls is a legend, Squints gets his kiss and every girl's heartthrob was Bennie “The Jet” Rodriguez. The film was released two days after MLB’s opening day in 1993 and is an ode to how a lot of people started playing baseball: the neighborhood pick up games on the dusty dirt field. You’re taken through their lives on and off the field between chewing tobacco at the fair and when the biggest problem of their lives was losing Mr. Smalls signed baseball over the fence to get eaten by a slobbery dog.
Best Moment: “First you take the graham. Then you stick the chocolate on the graham. And then you roast the mallow. And when the mallows flaming you stick it on the chocolate.” - Ham
2) Major League
Major League is our pick for the best baseball comedy of all time. Start to finish, this movie gets laughs even on the 10th rewatch. In the present day this movie almost plays as a Moneyball parody if the GM was trying to put together the worst possible team on purpose. Seeing a forgotten group of bench players come together to be good again is an admirable underdog tale.
Best moment: Juuuuuuust a bit outside, tried the corner and missed.
Honorable Mention: The entirety of spring training.
1. Field of Dreams
If you build it… They will come… Our pick for the best baseball movie of all time is undoubtedly Field of Dreams. This movie perfectly captures how the spectacle of baseball transcends generations. While it may be a fictional tale, the movie includes true baseball stories like the 1919 White Sox who were banned from baseball after accepting bribes to throw the World Series. Ray giving these players a second chance at playing baseball by building a diamond in his cornfield would be a heartwarming story itself, but including the history of baseball in Ray’s family takes this movie over the top. And now that the MLB has made the Field of Dreams game an annual occurrence, baseball in a cornfield will likely be an iconic spectacle for generations to come.
Best Moment: Ray playing catch with his father with a line of cars coming to watch. After all of the obstacles he had to overcome, the prophecy came true. “They'll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past.”
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order)
- Mr. Baseball
- Major League 2
- For Love of the Game
- Angels in the Outfield
- Mr. 3000
- Little Big League
- AirBud: Seventh Inning Fetch
- The Natural