Baseball, at its core, is theatre. It’s a synchronized dance. A pitcher’s wind-up, a hitter’s swing, even umpires personalized strike three calls are all part of the beautiful dance that we love. But this doesn’t always translate onto the big screen. Which is why we’ve taken it upon ourselves to provide for you the best baseball movies ever made. It’s the top of the 9th, so what are we waiting for? Let’s get it!
In no particular order, here is Routine’s Top 9 list of baseball movies ever made.
We all know about teams “tanking” in professional sports. However, it’s not often that the players on the team decide to do something about it. Loaded with an impressive cast of characters (Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes, and who could forget about the great Bob Uecker) the Cleveland Indians set their site on an American League pennant. Unfortunately for them, their wicked new owner, Rachel Phelps, had other plans. With a deal in place to move the team to Miami all Phelps needed was an abysmal season and a lack of fan support. What she got instead was a rag-tag bunch of ballplayers that weren’t afraid of anybody. If you haven’t treated yourself to Major League, grab some popcorn from the store and cancel any plans for tonight.
Fast Fact: Charlie Sheen was clocked in the mid-’80s during the shooting of his character, ‘Wild Thing’ Rick Vaughn.
A League of Their Own
With World War II in full effect, most of the country’s athletic young men were deployed overseas leaving a large vacancy in professional sports. Insert a group of highly entertaining (and sometimes emotional) women’s baseball players. Led by another strong cast of actors and actresses (Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna, and Tom Hanks) the Peaches work their way through every imaginable obstacle to reach their ultimate fame. And they play good, quality baseball along the way. It can be a little bit emotional, but if Jimmy Dugan has his way then you won’t dare cry.
Fast Fact: The fictionalized storyline was inspired by the career of baseball legend Dottie Collins. During World War II, Collins played for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and pitched seventeen shutouts during her six-year career.
Field of Dreams
Hang with us here because the first few parts to this plot are… odd. But trust us, this is definitely one of the best baseball movies to ever do it. Ray Kinsella is a corn farmer in Iowa (not odd.) Then he starts hearing voices from his cornfield (odd.) “If you build it, he will come.” The voices cry out. So apparently Ray takes this to mean he should build a full baseball field on his farm? Nonetheless, IT WORKS. We’ll leave it at that. It’s a movie centered around hope, which the game of baseball provides to all of us. If you haven’t yet, you should.
Fast Fact: There is a scene filmed at Fenway Park. Although unknown at the time, both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were among the thousands of uncredited extras in the shot.
You ever wonder what it’s like to grind out seasons at the minor league level? This 1988 film starring Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon perfectly depicts the highs and lows of minor league ball. From the rapidly aging veteran catcher, Crash Davis, to the young, lively arm with control problems, ‘Nuke’, the Durham Bulls hold nothing back. Yeah yeah, it has its fair share of romantic scenes but at the core of this film is an accurate dramatization of life in the minors.
Fast Fact: Ron Shelton (Writer/Director) was a former minor league player. He drew from personal experiences as he wrote the script.
There’s nothing quite like a young Robert Redford depicting the fictional character of Roy Hobbs. Sporting his lightning-struck wood bat, the once-heralded pitching prospect finds his true calling in the batter’s box. It’s a great story filled with enough lore and excitement to entertain any baseball enthusiast.
Fast Fact: Hobbs breaking the scoreboard clock with a home run was inspired by Bama Rowell of the Boston Braves doubling off the Ebbets Field scoreboard clock on May 30, 1946, showering Dixie Walker with glass. Though he'd been promised a free watch by Bulova for hitting the company's scoreboard sign, Rowell had to wait until 1987 to receive it. (IMDB)
Baseball by Ken Burns
Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room, this is not a movie like the rest of this list. This is a documentary. In fact, it’s an eleven-part documentary with over 19 hours of total content. Travel through time as Ken Burns uses old photos, sound bites, video clips, and more to tell the game’s most important stories. If you consider yourself a fan of baseball or history or both, then you have got to check out Baseball by Ken Burns.
Fast Fact: Ironically, this was originally released in 1994, which was the last time the season was altered due to a strike. Ken Burns would later release an additional part centered around the strike and the impact afterward.
The story of Jackie Robinson’s journey into the Majors is well-documented in printed work. However, it wasn’t until 2013 that the story would be made into a major motion picture. Starring Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson (also, Marvel’s Black Panther) the film only begins to scratch the surface as to the hardship and hate Robinson endured during the 1947 season but does paint a crystal clear picture about the man that he was. If you’re yet to watch 42, or if you haven’t watched it in a while, maybe now is a perfect time.
Fast Fact: Former College of Charleston baseball player, Jasha Balcom, was Boseman’s stuntman during the filming of 42.
Ahh, the age of sabermetrics. And who better to help explain these ideas to the masses than Brad Pitt himself? Tasked with replacing an All-Star cast of departures in Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Jason Isringhausen A’s general manager Billy Beane (Pitt) is forced to rethink the way ‘value’ is assessed in the game after his payroll allotment hits rock bottom. The rest, as they say, is history.
Fast Fact: Although nine (9) stadiums are depicted in the film, the crew only shot in Oakland’s Coliseum and Dodger Stadium. Dodger Stadium was dressed up to depict the seven other stadiums.
The essence of childhood. Baseball, friends, and tricking cute lifeguards into kisses. The Sandlot has an innate ability to make time slow down. Things just feel ‘right’ as we watch Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) go through the struggles of being the new kid in town. Well, that is until he borrows his step dad’s Babe Ruth-signed baseball (~$400,000 present-day evaluation) for a local pick-up game. It’s a great watch for all the family. So if you still have never seen the Sandlot, simply turn off your computer, silence your phone, and go watch it… Now.
Fast Fact: PF Flyers were brought back in limited fashion after the release of the movie.