Because the world needs right and wrong and an established order of things, I have taken the time to compile a list of the top 5 baseball movies of all time. Some are comedies, some are dramas. All are great. Caleb is making a list, but mine is better—simply by virtue of being correct.
A classic coming-of-age baseball movie that introduces a new kid to a rag-tag group of kids playing knockaround baseball. This movie is funny and poignant, with a great twist ending. Squints and Wendy Peffercorn plus a crazy attempt to retrieve a Babe Ruth autographed baseball get this one close. This movie is pure gold, but not a top fiver.
Eight Men Out
It’s hard to have this one come down outside the top five for me. This is a brutal movie on your emotions, especially considering the masterful depiction of the level of harm done to “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and other non-cheating members of one of the greatest teams baseball has ever seen. I believe Jackson should be in the Hall of Fame, and the travesty of the “moral high ground” in Cooperstown only grows more absurd with each year that passes without his inclusion. This movie makes me angry and sad. To this day, I still can’t bring myself to watch it again. Fantastic movie. It’s also out because I could only bring myself to have one Charlie Sheen movie on my list, pre-crazy or not.
This movie pits a washed up catcher, Crash Davis, against a rookie pitcher, Nuke LaLoosh. If this list was simply based on baseball movie one-liners, it would be near the top. This is one of those hilariously quotable movies that has stood the test of time. With all these great movies, I should have made a top 10 list. Maybe next time.
Cracking the top 5 is Billy Crystal’s biopic about the M&M boys—coined for Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle—of the 1961 New York Yankees. This is the dark horse of the five because it was made for HBO. This movie is impeccably acted and shot. It captures the drama on the field, and the fracturing of a fanbase that found itself having to choose between Mantle and Maris as they chased the record that summer. I love this movie, and personally feel the record needs to go back to Maris—and Aaron while we’re at it, but I digress. Also, Ford Frick is a despicable human being for placing that albatross of an asterisk on the record.
4. The Natural
Sundance delivers as Roy Hobbs in this incredible adaptation of a fantastic book. This movie has one of the best stories of any on this list and the acting is a who’s who of spectacular actors and actresses early in their careers. Redford is just incredibly likable in the lead role and the baseball drama is exceptional. The ending is perfect and prototypical for the iconic feel-good baseball movie, heroics and all. The Natural’s layout is the gold standard for iconic sports movies, not just baseball. I was inclined to rank this higher, but the 3 north of this one are juggernauts.
3. Major League
First of all, is there any doubt that Bob Uecker is the funniest man in the history of baseball? His portrayal of Harry Doyle in this movie is one for the ages. They are the parts I have hung on to when quoting one-liners from this masterpiece. This movie is hilarious, irreverent, and a lot of fun. The comedic ensemble includes the likes of Wesley Snipes, Tom Berenger, Dennis Haysbert (of Allstate and 24 fame), and Charlie Sheen. This movie is a riot, and doesn’t try to take itself seriously. It is easily the funniest one on this list.
2. Little Big League
So, here’s the deal. Growing up, this and Rookie of the Year came out around the same time. People picked sides, it’s just what happened. While some have come around and like both movies, I cannot be counted among them. Little Big League is the superior movie in terms of humor, plot, and sheer awesome. I may be a little biased because Jim Bowers is my spirit animal, and the math scene is gold. This movie is hilarious, entertaining, and not appropriate for children thanks to the Night Nurses from Jersey. This is a must see and is unshakably part of the Mount Rushmore of baseball movies.
1. Field of Dreams
I really don’t think I need to explain this. This movie wrecks me twice—the doctor and having a catch. It is a tour de force in its own account, moreso when we consider it with other sports movies. The credits roll off like the front row at the Oscars: Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, Burt Lancaster. Each of them owns their role. This movie has a major supernatural element at play, and the viewer gets so swept up that we forget that Costner is just listening to a random voice in his head. I could watch this movie every day for the rest of my life and be moved every time. It’s wonderful, it’s compelling, and it’s very, very real.
I was going to rank Little Big League as my number one, but few movies compare to Field of Dreams, fewer still that are baseball movies. The positions of 2-5 and the mentions may move around from day to day, but I can’t rank a movie about baseball ahead of Field of Dreams. Now, Caleb will be ranking his five eventually and he’s never heard of Little Big League. So, he’s clearly got a tough job of convincing me and others ahead of him.
The Voice in Field of Dreams gives good advice here.
Go the distance.