42 and the Top 10 Baseball Movies of All Time

Eric McKelvieSenior Writer IApril 10, 2013

42 and the Top 10 Baseball Movies of All Time

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    Spring means baseball. And, this Friday, April 12 fans will have an opportunity to take in another movie focusing on America’s pastime, 42. 

    The story revolves around the great Jackie Robinson and Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey, as Robinson looks to break baseball’s color barrier. Chadwick Boseman plays Robinson, while Harrison Ford takes on the role of Rickey. The film is written and directed by Brian Helgeland and is rated PG-13.

    42 is the latest baseball oriented flick to hit the theatres and there will likely be many more in the future as the game continues to produce great storylines.

    With that in mind, there are a number of brilliant baseball dramas and comedies that should be remembered.

    Here are the top 10 best baseball movies of all time. 

Honorable Mentions

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    There are a number of other great baseball movies that may not have cracked this top 10, but do deserve recognition. 

    61* (2001) focuses on Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle as they chase down Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record in 1961. It stars Berry Pepper and Thomas Jane and was directed by Billy Crystal.

    A League of Their Own (1992) starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty and Madonna, tells the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. 

    Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) stars a young Robert De Niro as catcher Bruce Pearson and Michael Moriarty as pitcher Henry Wiggen. The movie follows the two best friends as they find out Bruce is terminally ill with Hodgkin’s disease.  

    The Rookie (2002) is based on the true story of Jim Morris, a high school baseball coach who first pitched in the majors at age 35. The film was directed by John Lee Hancock and stars Dennis Quaid as Morris.

No. 10 The Sandlot

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    There is a whole generation of kids who grew up watching The Sandlot.

    The film focuses on Scotty Smalls and the friends he makes after moving to a new town. Together they spend a big part of their summer playing ball at the sandlot.

    While it didn’t earn any major award nominations or garner significant critical acclaim, The Sandlot is somewhat of a cult classic and is likely one of the more popular baseball movies.

No. 9 Major League

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    Released in 1989, Major League is a classic sports comedy.

    The story examines the Cleveland Indians, whose new owner hopes to move the team south after inheriting it from her late husband. However, Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) Roger Dorm (Corbin Bernsen) and the rest of the team go on an improbable run.

    The film was enjoyed by sports fans and critics alike and grossed nearly $50 million (per IMDb). There were sequels released in 1994 and 1998, but neither was nearly as successful as the original.

No. 8 The Bad News Bears

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    Perhaps The Bad News Bears will bring up memories of your days in little league, or maybe not.

    This 1976 comedy starred Walter Matthau as Morris Buttermaker, once a minor-league ball player, now coach of a group of not-so-talented youngsters.

    It was so successful that there were two sequels made, a remake in 2005 and even a T.V. series. The Bad News Bears paved the way for many sports movies, specifically those focusing on children’s teams. 

No. 7. Pride of the Yankees

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    Way back in July of 1942, a movie was released that honored a baseball great who had passed away just a year earlier, Lou Gehrig.

    The first baseman died at age 37 after suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which of course, is better known today as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

    Legendary actor Gary Cooper played Gehrig, while Babe Ruth, Mark Koenig and other Yankees players appeared in the film as themselves. Pride of the Yankees was nominated for 11 Academy Awards including best picture, best actor and best actress. Daniel Mandell was the lone winner, taking home the award for best film editing.

    Gehrig’s speech holds a special place not only in sports history, but film history as well. 

No. 6 Eight Men Out

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    The 1988 film Eight Men Out focuses on the events surrounding the 1919 World Series, in which eight players on the Chicago White Sox intentionally lost games.

    The movie provides an interesting look at one of biggest scandals in sports history. It features a number of strong performances from actors such as John Cusack, Clifton James, Christopher Lloyd, Michael Lerner, David Strathairn and Charlie Sheen.

    This film shows just how much has changed in terms of how professional athletes are treated, especially when it comes to their salaries. 

No. 5 Sugar

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    Sugar is probably the most underappreciated movie on the list.

    Debuting in 2008 at the Sundance Film Festival, Sugar tells the story of young Miguel "Sugar" Santos, a pitcher from the Dominican Republic who is trying to make the big leagues.

    Dominican native Algenis Perez Soto stars as Santos, in what was his first acting role. The movie was written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the masterminds behind Half Nelson, starring Ryan Gosling.

    Sugar has gone on to receive critical acclaim, including being named one of the movies of the year at the AFI Awards, being nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and earning a nomination for best sports movie at the ESPY’s in 2009.

No. 4 The Natural

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    The Natural is an enduring tale about one man’s sudden rise to fame at the age of 35.

    Released in 1984, The Natural is based on the 1952 novel written by Bernard Malamud. This film runs over two hours, but viewers are never let down as they see the triumphs and tragedies of Roy Hobbs' life.

    The film stars Robert Redford as Hobbs, along with Robert Duvall, Glen Close and Kim Basinger. It was nominated for four Academy Awards including best supporting actress for Close, who played Iris Gaines. 

No. 3 Moneyball

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    Based on the 2003 book by Michael Lewis, Moneyball (2011) is one of the most successful baseball movies of all time.  

    Brad Pitt takes on the role of Billy Beane, the GM of the Oakland Athletics who is trying to keep his team competitive in 2002, despite a low payroll.

    You certainly don’t have to be a fan of the A’s to enjoy this movie. There are a number of superb acting performances, including that of Jonah Hill who plays assistant GM Peter Brand. Hill, who is known for his comedic roles, earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.

    Moneyball received five other nominations including best actor (Pitt) and best picture. 

No. 2 Field of Dreams

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    It’s a movie that should bring back childhood memories for many.

    1989 saw the release of Field of Dreams, a compelling baseball drama with a historical twist.

    The story revolves around Ray Kinsella, a farmer in Iowa who builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield. Shoeless Joe Jackson and other members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox appear and play ball. Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones and Ray Liotta star alongside baseball movie great, Kevin Costner.

    Field of Dreams was nominated for three Academy Awards, best picture, best original score and best adapted screenplay.

No. 1 Bull Durham

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    Bull Durham tops the list, although it and Field of Dreams are likely interchangeable to many, as they are two all-time great sports movies.

    Released in 1988, Bull Durham features Kevin Costner as "Crash" Davis, a long time minor league catcher who attempts to help prepare pitcher "Nuke" Laloosh (Tim Robbins) for the majors. 

    The film also stars Susan Sarandon and was written and directed by Ron Shelton, who spent a few years playing in the minors as part of the Baltimore Orioles’ organization.

    The film made over $50 million in the U.S. (per IMDb) and ranked No. 1 on Sports Illustrated's top 50 sports movies.