The 25 Greatest Baseball Movies of All Time

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2011

The 25 Greatest Baseball Movies of All Time

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    Baseball has long been considered our national pastime, so it only makes sense that it would be a frequent topic in the world of film.

    There have been a number of movies centered around the great game of baseball through the years, some obviously better than others and one of the most anticipated movies of 2011 is Moneyball, which is based on the book about Billy Beane and his drafting techniques.

    So while Moneyball may make its way onto this list in the near future, here are what I feel are the 25 greatest baseball movies of all time as of today.

Honorable Mention: The Naughty Nineties, 1945

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    IMDB Rating: 7.2/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 78 percent

    Starring: Bud Abbot, Lou Costello

    While not a baseball movie, this film deserves at least a mention for the famous Who's On First routine by Abbot and Costello.

    In 1956, a gold record of the routine was placed in the Baseball Hall of Fame, as it will forever be a part of baseball history.

No. 25: The Scout, 1994

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    IMDB Rating: 5.1/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 18 percent

    Starring: Brendan Fraser, Albert Brooks, Dianne Wiest

    Al Percolo (Brooks) is a down on his luck baseball scout who is relegated to scouting in the small villages of Mexico after yet another player he signs turns out to be a bust.

    It is there he finds Steve Nebraska (Fraser), who is hands down the greatest player he has ever seen. However, once they return to the states, it quickly becomes evident that for as talented as Nebraska is, he is just as mentally unstable.

No. 24: Rookie of the Year, 1993

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    IMDB Rating: 5.4/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 39 percent

    Starring: Thomas Ian Nicholas, Gary Busey, Albert Hall

    Twelve-year-old Henry Rowengartner (Nicholas) has dreams of playing major league baseball, but he is far from a terrific athlete. That is until he breaks his throwing arm.

    When the arm heals wrong, Henry is suddenly able to throw the ball 103 miles per hour, and he soon finds himself pitching in the major leagues for the Chicago Cubs.

No. 23: Fever Pitch, 2005

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    IMDB Rating: 6.3/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 63 percent

    Starring: Jimmy Fallon, Drew Barrymore

    Ben Wrightman (Fallon) is a diehard Red Sox fan, and when he meets Lindsey Meeks (Barrymore) in the winter, they fall in love and she thinks nothing of his fandom.

    Then the season rolls around, and Ben goes back to spending every waking moment engrossed in Red Sox baseball. Soon he is forced to pick between the team and Lindsey.

No. 22: Angels in the Outfield, 1994

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    IMDB Rating: 5.5/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 35 percent

    Starring: Danny Glover, Tony Danza, Christopher Llyod, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

    When his father tells him that they will be a family again when the Angels win the pennant, Roger (Gordon-Levitt) makes a wish, and his prayers are answered.

    The Angels, who are the unquestioned worst team in the league, are suddenly aided by a band of angels that only Roger can see, and the team starts to turn things around. Lloyd is great as the leader of the Angels, and Glover plays the down on his luck manager perfectly.

No. 21: Hard Ball, 2001

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    IMDB Rating: 6.0/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 38 percent

    Starring: Keanu Reeves, Diane Lane, John Hawkes

    Conor O'Neill (Reeves) is a gambler who has dug himself a deep hole of debt, and in order to get a loan from a friend, he agrees to coach a Little League team in the Cabrini-Green projects of Chicago.

    While it starts out as just a way to make money for Conor, he soon realizes the impact he could make on the nine boys as a mentor to them and helps turn them into a real team. As much a movie about baseball as it is about how hard life in the projects can be, Hard Ball is a solid all-around film.

No. 20: Don't Look Back: The Story of Leroy Stachel Paige, 1981

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    IMDB Rating: 7.0/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: N/A

    Starring: Louis Gossett Jr., Beverly Todd, Clevon Little

    This story of former pitching great Satchel Paige examines his early life growing up, to his time barnstorming in the Negro Leagues, all the way up to his eventual major league debut while also looking at his personal life along the way.

    Adapted from Paige's own autobiography, Maybe I'll Pitch Forever, the movie chronicles what may be the most interesting player to ever set foot on a baseball diamond.

No. 19: The Jackie Robinson Story, 1950

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    IMDB Rating: 6.4/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 75 percent

    Starring: Jackie Robinson, Ruby Dee, Minor Watson

    This film is the rare biopic that actually stars the man the movie is about, as Robinson plays himself in this rehashing of the life of the man who integrated Major League Baseball.

    The film chronicles his days as a multi-sport star in college, his time in the Negro Leagues and his infamous meeting with Dodgers owner Branch Rickey. The film was made just three years after Robinson broke the color barrier and following the 1949 season in which he was named NL MVP.

No. 18: Cobb, 1994

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    IMDB Rating: 6.3/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 66 percent

    Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Wuhl, Lolita Davidovich

    Al Stump (Wuhl) is a sports writer who is chosen by legendary baseball player Ty Cobb (Jones) to help write his autobiography before he dies.

    Cobb is among the greatest players to ever play the game, but he was also among the most hated. Al soon learns why, and he has to choose between writing the true story of Cobb and writing the story that Cobb wants him to write.

No. 17: Kill the Umpire, 1950

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    IMDB Rating: 6.5/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 75 percent

    Starring: William Bendix, Una Merkel, Ray Collins

    When former baseball player Bill Johnson (Bendix) can't seem to hold a job once his playing days are over, he reluctantly decides to become an umpire at the advice of his father-in-law.

    Despite his efforts to be kicked out of umpiring school, he gets a job and does a fine job until a controversial call in the championship game leaves him facing an angry mob, with no one to vouch for him.

No. 16: The Rookie, 2002

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    IMDB Rating: 6.9/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83 percent

    Starring: Dennis Quaid, J.D. Evermore, Rachel Griffiths

    Jim Morris (Quaid) is a high school chemistry teacher and a baseball coach who was once a promising minor league baseball player before an injury cut his playing career short. When the Tampa Bay Devil Rays offer an open tryout, he uses this as a chance to motivate his team, agreeing to tryout if they win the championship.

    When they do, he keeps his word, but to his surprise he is clocked at 98 miles per hour at the tryout and is signed by the team. Based on a true story, this was a movie that was destined to be made, and Disney did a great job.

No. 15: Damn Yankees!, 1958

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    IMDB Rating: 7.2/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 79 percent

    Starring: Tab Hunter, Gwen Verdon, Ray Walston

    Oscar Nominations: Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture

    The film adaptation of George Abbott's Broadway musical, Damn Yankees! ran for 1,019 performances during its original production in 1955.

    Joe Hardy (Hunter) a fan of the floundering Washington Senators, makes a pact with the devil to help the Senators win the American League pennant and beat the damn Yankees.

No. 14: It Happens Every Spring, 1949

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    IMDB Rating: 7.0/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: N/A

    Starring: Ray Milland, Jean Peters, Paul Douglas

    Oscar Nominations: Best Writing, Motion Picture Story

    Professor Stephens (Milland) has his experiment ruined when a baseball flies through his window and spills all of the chemicals he is working with.

    However, the combination of chemicals somehow makes the baseball repel wood, and he seizes the opportunity by heading to St. Louis where he becomes a star pitcher in the big leagues, leading his team to the World Series.

No. 13: Fear Strikes Out, 1957

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    IMDB Rating: 7.0/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 80 percent

    Starring: Anthony Perkins, Karl Malden, Norma Moore

    The true life story of Jimmy Piersall (Stewart) who battled with bipolar disorder and the constant pressure of his father to become a major league baseball player.

    While he eventually made it as a member of the Red Sox, he had to battle back from a mental breakdown to have another shot at making it in the big leagues.

No. 12: A League of Their Own, 1992

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    IMDB Rating: 7.0/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82 percent

    Starring: Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty

    With so many men overseas fighting in the war, a women's professional baseball league is created and open tryouts are held for the teams.

    Two sisters, Dottie Hinson (Davis) and Kit Keller (Petty) become teammates and a rivalry forms between the two that threatens the success of the team. Hanks plays Jimmy Dugan, the washed up, alcoholic former player who is chosen to manage the team in a hilarious role.

No. 11: The Bad News Bears, 1976

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    IMDB Rating: 7.1/10

    Rotten Tomatoes: 96 percent

    Starring: Walter Matthau, Tatum O'Neal, Vic Morrow

    Morris Buttermaker (Matthau) is an aging former minor league coach who takes the helm of a Little League team that is made up of a band of misfits.

    However, when he brings aboard a girl pitching ace named Amanda (O'Neal), things turn around quickly, and the team has a shot at the championship.

No. 10: For Love of the Game, 1999

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    IMDB Rating: 6.2/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 54 percent

    Starring: Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston, John C. Reilly

    Billy Chapel (Costner) is wrapping up a Hall of Fame career, and he takes the mound for the Tigers in the final game of the season in what will be the final outing of his career.

    While in the dugout between inning, Chapel reflects on his career and his relationship with Jane (Preston), but on the mound, he is pitching the game of his life as he talks himself through the final outing of his career.

No. 9: Major League, 1989

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    IMDB Rating: 6.9/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 85 percent

    Starring: Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Wesley Snipe

    When the Cleveland Indians fall under new ownership, the team is torn apart and a band of cast-offs and criminals is brought in to play, as the new owner plans to move the team to a different city and hopes to justify it by poor attendance brought on by poor play.

    However, when the players discover her plan, they rally together and make an unlikely run at the playoffs in a movie that gave us some of the best baseball characters of all time.

    Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn (Sheen) is a former felon and flame throwing pitcher, Willie Mays Hayes (Snipes) is the unjustifiably cocky leadoff hitter and Jake Taylor (Berenger) is the former All-Star with one last chance.

No. 8: Bang the Drum Slowly, 1973

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    IMDB Rating: 6.9/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88 percent

    Starring: Michael Moriarty, Robert De Niro, Vincent Gardenia

    Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actor - Vincent Gardenia

    Henry Wiggen (Moriarty) is a star pitcher for the New York Mammoths and is good friends with backup catcher Bruce Pearson (De Niro) despite the fact he is limited both skill wise and intellectually.

    When Henry finds out that Bruce has been diagnosed with a blood disease and is terminally ill, Bruce looks to him for support but also for secrecy, and Henry insists that Bruce be his catcher for the rest of the season.

No. 7: Eight Men Out, 1988

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    IMDB Rating: 7.2/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86 percent

    Starring: John Cusack, Clifton James, Michael Lerner

    Eight Men Out is a dramatization of the famous Black Sox Scandal of 1919, when eight players are accused of throwing the World Series and are banned from baseball for life.

    The film examines the team's relationship with ultra-cheap owner Charles Comiskey, their play in the World Series and the ensuing trial two years later when it comes out that they threw the series.

No. 6: 61*, 2001

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    IMDB Rating: 7.8/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 80 percent

    Starring: Barry Pepper, Thomas Jane, Anthony Michael Hall

    Directed by life long Yankee fan Billy Crystal, 61* takes us inside the 1961 Yankees season when both Mickey Mantle (Jane) and Roger Maris (Pepper) made a run at Babe Ruth's hallowed home run record of 60 in a single season.

    With the nation enamored with Mantle, everyone was soon rooting against the soft-spoken Maris who is victimized by the media. The film not only looks at the on-field exploits of the two teammates but also their friendship off the field, as they make a run at baseball history.

No. 5: The Sandlot, 1993

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    IMDB Rating: 7.5/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 61 percent

    Starring: Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Patrick Renna

    When Scotty Smalls (Guiry) moves to a new town, he joins up with a group of kids in hopes of learning how to play baseball, where the best player in town (Vitar) becomes his friend.

    The movie follows the kids' shenanigans throughout the summer both on and off the field and culminates in their mission to retrieve a valuable ball from "The Beast" that lives on their other side of the fence.

    This may not be as high on other people's lists, but as a kid of the 1990s, I grew up with this movie, and it will always have a place in my DVD collection.

No. 4: Pride of the Yankees, 1942

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    IMDB Rating: 7.7/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 91 percent

    Starring: Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright, Walter Brennan

    Oscar Nominations:

    Best Picture
    Best Actor-Gary Cooper
    Best Actress-Teresa Wright
    Best Writing, Original Story
    Best Writing, Screenplay
    Best Art Direction
    Best Cinematography
    Best Effects
    Best Sound
    Best Music

    Oscar Wins: Best Film Editing

    The story of Yankees legend Lou Gehrig, who was forced out of baseball at the age of 36 when he was diagnosed with ALS or what is better known now as "Lou Gehrig's Disease."

    The film came out the year after Gehrig died, with his part being played by the great Gary Cooper. While it was a biopic of sorts, it contained a number of Gehrig's teammates playing themselves, including Babe Ruth, Bill Dickey, Bob Meusel and Mark Koenig.

No. 3: Bull Durham, 1988

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    IMDB Rating: 7.9/10

    Rotten Tomatoes: 98 percent

    Starring: Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins

    Oscar Nominations: Best Writing, Original Screenplay

    Career minor-leaguer Crash Davis (Costner) is sent to Class-A Durham to mentor the team's highly touted young pitcher "Nuke" LaLoosh (Robbins) and help him overcome his control problems.

    Durham team groupie Annie Savoy (Sarandon) has a tradition of having an affair with one player from the teach each season, but she quickly takes a liking to both Crash and Nuke, resulting in an immediate love triangle.

No. 2: The Natural, 1984

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    IMDB Rating: 7.5/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82 percent

    Starring: Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Bassinger

    Oscar Nominations:

    Best Supporting Actress-Glenn Close
    Best Art Direction
    Best Cinematography
    Best Music, Original Score

    Based on the acclaimed novel by Bernard Malamud, The Natural is the story of Roy Hobbs, an unknown 30-something baseball player who comes out of no where and takes the baseball world by storm, launching towering home runs with his seemingly magic bat "Wonderboy."

    With such a mysterious past, reporter Max Mercy (Duvall) sets out to find the true story behind the man, and slowly his past is revealed. On top of that, he is playing for a crooked owner and must choose between staying true to the game he loves or taking a fall to be with the woman he is enamored with.

No.1: Field of Dreams. 1989

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    IMDB Rating: 7.6/10

    Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88 percent

    Starring: Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta

    Oscar Nominations:

    Best Picture
    Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay
    Best Music, Original Score

    When farmer Ray Kinsella (Costner) hears a voice in his cornfield saying, "If you built it, he will come," he becomes convinced that he is supposed to built a baseball diamond in his field.

    When he does, the members of the 1919 Black Sox, including Shoeless Joe Jackson (Liotta) come to the field where they play each night and then disappear into the corn. Seeking answers, Ray finds author Terence Mann (Jones), and he is led on an adventure that is as much a mix of fantasy and baseball, as it is about family.

    Costner is the king of baseball movies, and this is his crown jewel, and what I feel is the greatest baseball movie ever made.

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