Ranking the 10 Best Baseball Movies of All Time (2024)

There's no crying in baseball, supposedly, but tears could well be shed over the exact order of our list compiling the 10 best movies celebrating the most cinematic of all athletic pursuits.

While folks complained for years that MLB games ran a bit too long for the patience of ADHD-addled Millennial and Gen Z fans — to the point where the league instituted fresh rules to expedite the game — movies compress the timing of each game even more. Filmmakers routinely compress matchups to their most critical moments in a two-hour window, while ratcheting up the pathos on and off the field to dramaturgically-friendly levels.

Baseball is such a uniquely movie-friendly sport, in fact, that we had to make a ton of very tough final cuts to this list, including (no doubt controversially) kid picture favorites The Bad News Bears (the 1976 original), Angels in the Outfield (the 1994 remake) and The Sandlot (1993), plus the incredibly depressing Anna Bolden-Ryan Fleck baseball prospect drama Sugar (2008) and Disney's inspirational Dennis Quaid true story The Rookie (2002). Omitting Fever Pitch (2005), however, took no time at all.

When it comes to baseball cinema, one name stands tall above the rest: Kevin Costner, who has made not one, not two, but three classic baseball flicks. Do all three make the cut?

Ranking the 10 Best Baseball Movies of All Time (1)

We're not telling you yet. Just scroll down.

10. Rookie of the Year (1993)

While we did excise several children's films from our final roster, we had to reserve a spot for one of the most creative adventures in the baseball cinematic canon. Home Alone crook Daniel Stern turns director and co-star in this tale of a precocious (is there any other kind?) 12-year-old (Thomas Ian Nicholas) who, following an accident, becomes an ace pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. As the kid, Henry Rowengartner, rises through the team's pitching ranks, romance ensues between his mom (Amy Morton) and veteran pitcher Chet "Rocket" Steadman (Gary Busey). Presumably because winning the World Series would seem a tad too optimistic even for Cubs fans at the time, the flick ends with our hero propelling Chicago to a "mere" pennant, meaning the team will head to the World Series. This is (ahem) a pitch-perfect wish-fulfillment tale, and remains a stone-cold classic three decades on.

9. Little Big League (1994)

For whatever reason, the '90s proved to be an especially ripe time for baseball movies. While Rookie of the Year was a fantasy wherein children could project themselves as MLB superstars, Little Big League was clearly made for the weirdos who dreamed of one day owning and operating a major league ball club. In this underseen gem another 12-year-old, Billy Heywood (Luke Edwards), inherits the Minnesota Twins after his grandfather Thomas (Jason Robards) passes away. Billy, a baseball fanatic, eventually installs himself as Minnesota's manager. It's another wish-fulfillment kids movie that doubles as a romantic comedy between a player and our star kid's single mom. The baseball scenes are navigated very sweetly, and Billy's aptitude for both his jobs never feels phony.

8. Moneyball (2011)

For non-12-year-olds interested in seeing the inner workings of an MLB front office, there's no picture better than this Brad Pitt vehicle. While not flawless, it's the most realistic depiction of that side of any sport (Draft Day, eat your heart out). Adapted from the essential Michael Lewis book, Moneyball tracks the fundamental evolution of baseball analysts, spearheaded by draft bust-turned-Oakland A's decision-maker Billy Beane (Pitt). The film would have vaulted a few spots higher on this list if it didn't pretend that Beane's guitar-playing tween daughter didn't write a song that had already been an earworm Old Navy jingle by the time the movie came out. We can be petty; it's our list.

7. Bull Durham (1988)

Costner makes his first appearance on our list, but not his last. (Sorry, For Love of The Game, not you.) At the heart of Durham is a great love story. Costner plays aging minor league catcher "Crash" Davis, who remains stubbornly insistent that he could make the majors despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Tim Robbins is a highly-touted prospect, Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh — a dynamic young pitcher Crash is essentially tasked with low-key coaching. Groupie Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) is the woman caught between the two men. Just as Moneyball represents the best depiction of the front office world committed to celluloid, so too is Bull Durham the most poignantly astute representation of the world of minor leaguers, and their trials and tribulations.

6. The Natural (1984)

Remembered best for its iconic score, this Robert Redford vehicle tells the tragic tale of Roy Hobbs Jr. (Redford), a budding baseball superstar dealt a devastating injury fate. Eventually, Hobbs achieves his bittersweet baseball immortality a full two decades after he was originally supposed to. This one, too, nails its key romance, between Hobbs and the niece of his team's owner (Kim Basinger).

5. Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

Essentially Dazed and Confused with College Baseball Players, Richard Linklater's spiritual successor to that prior good-times masterpiece is one of the great 21st-century hangs. Co-starring a young Glen Powell and Zoey Deutch, Everybody Wants Some!! dives deep into the circa-1980 world of Texan collegiate prospect Jake Bradford (Blake Jenner) and his teammates during their first week of training. Ideally watched while nursing a Coors, this one boasts one of the all-time killer soundtracks, and thrives with rich, fully realized characters and conversations. There is no "big game" in Everybody Wants Some!! It's a film about the kind of brash personalities on a high-level ball club and how they spark off each other.

4. Major League (1989)

There's no wrong way to rank our top four. Not really. The original Major League, the clear inspiration for Apple TV+ soccer series Ted Lasso, is one of the all-time great sports comedies. It tracks a sorry Cleveland Indians team's rise from worst to first, despite the worst intentions of team owner Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton), who wants the club to tank so she can move it to Miami. Major League boasts an absolutely loaded cast (Tom Berenger, Wesley Snipes, Charlie Sheen, Rene Russo, Corbin Bernsen and a young Dennis Haysbert), doesn't skimp on realistic baseball scenes (Sheen was a high-level high school pitcher), and remains one of the great feel-gooderies in movie history in any genre.

3. 61* (2001)

Billy Crystal steps into the director's chair for the winning story of a breaking-down Mickey Mantle (Thomas Jane), deep in the throes of alcoholism, competing against his upstart New York Yankees teammate, Roger Maris (Barry Pepper) to break Babe Ruth's long-standing single-season record of 60 home runs during the 1961 season. Yes, this was a made-for-HBO movie. Once you see it, you'll appreciate why it deserves a slot on these rankings.

2. A League of Their Own (1992)

Penny Marshall's classic is a fictionalized rendition of the events surrounding the formation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), formed during World War II when most able-bodied American men were serving their country. It tells a great, high-stakes story that never forgets to center itself around its core characters, hyper-talented superstar catcher Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and her unheralded kid sister, pitcher Kit Keller (Lori Petty) — plus the bitter manager (Tom Hanks) whom Hinson eventually convinces to care.

1. Field of Dreams (1989)

The ultimate rebuttal to Hanks' infamous "There's no crying in baseball!" tirade in A League of Their Own is Field of Dreams, Costner's second entry on our list. After Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (Costner) starts hearing voices insisting he convert part of his cornfield into a baseball diamond, he soon finds himself watching the ghosts of the blacklisted 1919 Chicago Black Sox, led by "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta), relive their long-gone glory days. Ray's adventures eventually lead him to bring aboard reclusive author Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) and minor leaguer-turned-doctor Archibald "Moonlight" Graham (Burt Lancaster). We dare you to watch this all the way through and not cry. It's an impossible ask.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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