It happens every spring, pitchers and catchers start to report to spring training and America shifts its attention from thousands of other things to the National Pastime. You’ll see kids heading to little league, folks filling out their fantasy rosters, and – all over the country – people who have never visited New York will be wearing Yankees hats. Sadly, it’s never Mets gear. With the start of the new baseball season, we’re providing a scouting report for some of the best and worst baseball movies of all time.
Major League (1989)
There’s just nothing not to love about this story of a gang of ballplayers who were assembled to lose striking back against their evil owner by winning. There’s no shortage of laughs and triumphs in this flick, and Tom Berenger and Corbin Bernsen give career-defining performances as members of the Cleveland Indians. Charlie Sheen, who stars as the hot-headed ex-con, Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, a pitcher who can’t throw straight until he starts wearing glasses, seemingly never recovered from his role in this movie either.
The Sandlot (1993)
It’s the novel story of a time when children spent their days playing pick-up baseball games on a dirt clearing, and not developing their own e-commerce brands. It’s a story of how there is always space on the field for a new friend when baseball is being done the right way. The love for this movie will live on for-ev-er! For-ev-er! For-ev-er!
Bad News Bears (1976)
With an alcoholic pool cleaner and former minor league pitcher named Morris Buttermaker, played by Walter Matthau, at the helm of the clubhouse, you never stop cheering for the lovable losers on the Bears. Every part of this film is funny, such as the team jerseys being sponsored by a bail bondsman. Overall, the movie wins for being both charming and utterly realistic, with Buttermaker offering real world advice: “You didn’t come into this life just to sit around on a dugout bench, did ya? Now get your ass out there and do the best you can.”
The Natural (1984)
Based on Bernard Malamud’s 1952 novel of the same name, The Natural is not your typical sports movie. After being shot by a mysterious woman, Roy Hobbs, played by Robert Redford, returns to the big leagues at an age when most players retire with a foggy background and homemade bat that sends baseballs to crush stadium lights. It gets much better from there.
Bull Durham (1988)
Kevin Costner is at his coolest as Crash Davis, the career minor league catcher chasing the minor league career record for home runs. Tim Robbins is totally believable as Nuke, the childish young pitcher Crash has been assigned to mentor. They both fall for the same sultry woman (Susan Sarandon) in this baseball story of bats and fondled balls.
You might think a story about analytical probability in sports would be boring but add Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill and you’re going to fill some seats. The best part of Moneyball is that it’s not about team spirit, but how studying quantifiable happenings is the best way to build your team and win baseball games. Sadly, this concept of analyzing data over talent has ruined the actual game of baseball.
Field of Dreams (1989)
The story of Ray Kinsella building a regulation baseball field in his backyard, at the sacrifice of an income-producing corn farm in Iowa, is the journey of a person striving to realize what was in their heart. In this timeless film, Kevin Costner reclaims a relationship with his long-dead father through the construction of a magical baseball diamond that gave the disgraced 1919 Chicago White Sox a place to play.
Part sports movie, another part a tale of immigration to the United States, Sugar will be a relevant film for a long time to come. As players from the Dominican Republic have been prominent in organized baseball for ages, this is a poignant look at just how far they travel to make it to the big leagues.
Mr. 3000 (2004)
There are parts of Mr. 3000 where it’s clear that Bernie Mac was a talent we lost way too soon. While the story of a baseball player who loses a hitting record to a clerical era is funny in theory, the film really doesn’t last a full nine innings.
Major League II (1994) & Major League III (1998)
Both of these movies are just not good. The first Major League film would have been a great stand-alone comedy, but the urge to create a second film with another love story was too much to resist. The third film, given the sub-heading “Back to the Minors,” might have worked better on its own, but alas they chose to cartoon the Cerrano and Tanaka characters from the first two films.
Summer Catch (2001)
Like many sports films, Summer Catch couldn’t make it to the big screen without being ruined by being cut like a rom-com. Sure, it stars a 19-year-old Jessica Biel, but this movie is as cliched and predictable as any 90-minute film on the Lifetime Network. The rich history of the Cape Cod League is really reduced to some glorified beer league for attractive people.
The Scout (1994)
For years, the concept of this film (essentially the baseball version of Crocodile Dundee) was passed around Hollywood, with everyone from Peter Faulk and Rodney Dangerfield attached at one point or another. For years it went unmade, and perhaps that would have been for the best. The laughs never really get past first base. Brendan Fraser had the size to play the obnoxious but sensationally talented pitcher, but not the charisma to carry the part. At least we got to see Keith Hernandez’s sweet mustache.
You’d be hard-pressed to come up with a good reason as to a movie as vapid as Ed got made. There just isn’t any need for a movie about a baseball-playing chimpanzee. Matt LeBlanc was nominated for a Razzie Award for his work in this bullpen fire as Worst New Star, but couldn’t earn the win. Which, we guess is a silver lining.
For Love of The Game (1999)
If you can count on Hollywood for one thing, it is to take things that were done well in one film and do them to death in others. Kevin Costner didn’t need to make this film, but he did and it seems like a fraudulent attempt to reclaim the glory of Bull Durham and a Field of Dreams.
Minor League, Major Dreams
A Scout’s Life
Go get your peanuts and Cracker Jack because these three documentaries by Nathan Kaufman are hidden gems in baseball cinema. All shot in the early ‘90s, Kaufman’s films are an inside look at minor league baseball, the winter leagues in Venezuela, and the lives of pro scouts that any baseball fan will cherish.