“What’s your favorite baseball movie?” is a pretty tough question. Just because two movies deal with the same sport doesn’t mean they have anything else in common. Baseball movies come in all shapes, sizes, tones, and attitudes, so with a new season just getting underway, use this handy guide to choose a baseball movie based on your mood!
Melancholy Baseball: Eight Men Out (1988)
John Sayles’ handsome, compelling, poignant period piece is based on the infamous White Sox scandal of 1919, and it’s packed with great moments, wonderful period design, and a bittersweet, powerful screenplay. Plus it’s one of those movies in which familiar character actors pop up every 12 minutes, and that’s always a lot of fun.
Supernatural Baseball: The Natural (1984)
Barry Levinson’s beloved baseball epic is practically mythological in scope, from its colorfully archetypal characters to its wondrous closing images of light cascading across a baseball diamond — but it’s also a quietly creepy and pointed story about the mistakes we make when we’re young, and how they can come back to haunt us.
Sexy Baseball: Bull Durham (1988)
A funny baseball movie and a steamy romance rolled into one? Sounds good, if you can pull it off. Suffice to say that sports-centric filmmaker Ron Shelton (The Best of Times, Blue Chips, Cobb, Tin Cup) does a fantastic job of it, thanks in large part to the rascally charm of Kevin Costner, the powerful allure of Susan Sarandon, and their sassy, sexy on-screen chemistry.
Sweet Baseball: A League of Their Own (1992)
Did you know that during WWII there was an all-female baseball league? Well, you would if you’d seen this good-natured, consistently funny, and reliably rousing crowd-pleaser that brings a cool piece of sports history to life. Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Rosie O’Donnell, and Madonna do a great job as the key players, and they’re backed by capable support in the form of Tom Hanks, not to mention a brief but hilarious appearance from the scene-stealing Jon Lovitz. Plus the period design looks great. Hey, that matters in movies like this!
Nostalgic Baseball: Field of Dreams (1989)
If you happen to know an especially manly man (the kind that very rarely shows emotion), feel free to play this warm, wistful, and entirely lovable Kevin Costner baseball classic. On the surface it’s about an eccentric farmer who decides to build a baseball field on his land, but just beneath that is a whole bunch of father/son emotional bonding stuff, and frankly that’s always nice to see. Especially when it’s done with this type of good humor and sincerity.
Wacky Baseball: Major League (1989)
The 1980s were loaded with lots of amusing “snobs vs. slobs” comedies, so of course it was only a matter of time before professional baseball got its own goofy, raunchy, and oddly adorable “motley crew” ensemble. Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes, and Corbin Bernsen anchor a colorful cast of failing athletes who decide to start winning when their nasty owner threatens to move the team to Florida. It’s all very simplistic and broad, but (again) the cast is great, the screenplay has some good gags, and there’s even a sweet little romance tossed in for the happy ending factor.
Romantic Baseball: For Love of the Game (1999)
Most movie nuts know Sam Raimi from his widely-admired Evil Dead and Spider-Man trilogies, but the rest of his filmography is littered with great little movies that unfortunately didn’t make a whole lot of money. This old-fashioned — and sometimes even cornball — mash-up of rah-rah baseball movie and earnest romantic drama came and went from the theaters pretty quickly, but it holds up pretty well thanks to a great supporting cast (like John C. Reilly!), some fantastic baseball footage, and a sense of romantic sweetness that’s not all that prevalent in most baseball movies.
Mischievous Baseball: The Bad News Bears (1976)
Walter Matthau coaches some of the roughest, toughest, and most amusingly profane little league players you’d ever want to deal with, and the result is a smooth, simple baseball farce that might be a bit dated today but still holds up as a very funny flick. And while the 2005 Richard Linklater remake has its moments, it lacks the scruffy charms of the original film.
Childish Baseball: The Sandlot (1993)
Few movies capture the nostalgia of being a happy kid on an adventure. The Goonies, The Monster Squad, and Stand By Me all deliver on that count, as does this charming cult classic that’s about nothing more than a bunch of likable kids who spend one lazy afternoon trying to play baseball despite a bunch of distractions. Great stuff. Avoid the sequels.
Scary Baseball: The Fan (1996)
Robert De Niro is a nutty baseball fan who gradually becomes more dangerous. Wesley Snipes is the major league star he’s obsessed with. It’s all pretty simplistic and predictable (the book is a bit better), but the two stars and Tony Scott’s reliably handsome direction keep this thriller from ever becoming dull.
Bizarre Baseball: Battlefield Baseball (2003)
Enjoyably wacky Japanese horror/comedy mash-up. It all starts to feel like nonsense after a while, but it’s certainly unique. And I had to include at least one baseball movie you probably haven’t seen.
Scott Weinberg lives in Philadelphia, has three balls on him.