Ranking movies like this is an incredibly subjective exercise. A lot of what determines someone's "favorite movie" has a lot to do with when they saw it, their personal connection to it, how many times they've seen it, etc. For example, any baseball fan who grew up in the '80s probably loves The Natural. I remember seeing it for the first time a few years ago, after hearing about how it's arguably the best sports movie of all time. I came away very unimpressed. I'm sure anyone who saw it when it first came out liked it, but there were way less sports movies then. Just because it was one of the first "good" baseball movies doesn't mean it's still the best.
Anyways, I don't want to piss of anyone that really likes The Natural. It just wasn't for me, but it still made my list of baseball movies worth checking out (below). Then I take a deeper look at the four baseball movies I think are the best and that still hold up in 2017. It killed me not to put Field of Dreams on the list, if you want to tell me it should be ahead of some of these I won't fight you on that. It just moves a little slow for my taste.
Other ones worth checking out:
The Natural (1984)
Eight Men Out (1988)
Field Of Dreams (1989)
A League Of Their Own (1992)
The Rookie (2002)
Trouble With The Curve (2012)
Million Dollar Arm (2014)
Now, on to the MOUNT RUSHMORE OF BASEBALL FILMS
4. Bull Durham, 1988
Bull Durham is the type of movie that doesn't get made today. It's a baseball movie that isn't even necessarily about baseball. Is it a chick flick? I don't know, but it could be considered a love story that revolves around baseball. This basically makes it the perfect date movie though. It has sports, romance, great one-liners, and enough actual conversation to make you think about life and whatnot.
What's cool about Bull Durham as a baseball movie is there is no gimmick to it. There's no magic bat, Angels in the outfield, or 10 year old kids that become big league pitchers. It's just a real movie that does a surprisingly accurate job of showing the unglamorous life of the minor leagues. The movie covers all their bases from the rising superstar passing through (Tim Robbins) to washed up veteran who isn't going anywhere (Kevin Costner) to local townie (Susan Sarandon).
It's unique as a sports movie because we don't care what happens to the team at the end. There's no championship game and we don't even really learn much about the Bulls season. A lot of the movie actually takes place over the off-season. That being said there's still plenty of baseball for the fans, and Costner's Crash Davis is on the short list of all time baseball movie characters. Dude was an all around STUD.
Bull Durham Quotes:
"I've tried 'em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of baseball"
"Relax, all right? Don't try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls it's more democratic"
"Sometimes you win, sometime you lose, and sometimes it rains"
3. Major League, 1989
Major League I and II are hilarious, easily the most entertaining baseball movies to just throw on in the background while sitting around with some buddies (we are going to pretend the third one never happened).
What's interesting about Major League is how it shows baseball from every angle of the game. For example, Moneyball is shown through the vantage point of the front office. The Rookie is shown from the vantage point of a single player. But Major League has everything. It shows the view point of the fans (those laugh out loud funny bleacher bums), the owner (who's only real interest is making money), the broadcaster (who's always drunk), the manager (who has to make cuts in Spring Training), and the dynamic between the players (plenty of locker room scenes).
Lastly, Major League doesn't take baseball (or itself) too seriously, which makes it fun. The movie highlights some of the more outrageous parts of baseball, such as how superstitious players can be (evidenced by Pedro Cerrano's belief in Jobu).
Major League Quotes:
"Come on Dorn, get in front of the damn ball! Don't give me this ole' bullshit!"
"Let's cut through the crap, Vaughn. I only got one thing to say to you: strike this mother fucker out"
"Juuuussst a bit outside"
2. Moneyball, 2011
Moneyball is the only movie from my lifetime to make this list. It's really hard to make a good sports movie these days. I mentioned before how Bull Durham is the type of movie that doesn't get made anymore, but it's pretty surprising Moneyball got made in 2011. A movie about the inefficiencies small market baseball teams were using in the early 2000s? And they got Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, and Robin Wright to all be in it? And it got nominated for six academy awards? I don't know, that's pretty crazy to think about.
Let's be clear about something though. This isn't the story of the 2002 Oakland Athletics. This is the story of the beginning of the analytics movement in professional sports. The spirit of the movie was about thinking differently, trying something new, and not overlooking guys who don't "look the part". There were other baseball teams doing what Billy Beane and the A's were doing in 2002, they just so happened to be the case study for the book that was written. It's arguably the most important sports book ever written because the success of this team led to the acceptance of more and more advanced stats in not just baseball but basketball, football, etc. as well.
Now there are some flaws with this movie from a baseball perspective, such as why does Beane fly all the way to Cleveland in the beginning of the movie just to discuss a Ricardo Rincon trade? The movie is also pretty offensive to scouts and the best run organizations in baseball will tell you the ideal way to evaluate players is a mix of scouting and analytics. Also, neither the movie nor the book mention the fact that this "group of misfits" that the A's were painted out to be also had the help of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito (who won the Cy Young that year). They also had Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada (who won MVP). In a weird way though I'm alright with this. Like I said, this isn't the story of the 2002 A's. It's a story about innovation and it's the best baseball movie of the past 20 years.
"It's hard not to be romantic about baseball"
"We want you at first base"
"I've only ever played catcher"
"It's not that hard, Scott. Tell 'em Wash"
"It's incredibly hard"
"There are rich teams and there are poor teams. Then, there's 50 feet of crap. And then there's us".
1. The Sandlot, 1993
What sticks out to me most about The Sandlot is how re watchable it is. This is a move made in 1993...about the 1960s...that's incredibly enjoyable in 2017, whether it's your first time seeing it or your 20th. There's a reason for this. At it's core The Sandlot is about childhood and that's relatable regardless of the era in which you grew up. Sure it's about baseball, but it's also about friendship, summertime, and being a kid.
Smalls as the protagonist is perfect. Let's be honest, we were all Smalls. He's the everyman trying to fit in to a new group. And he's surrounded by this incredible supporting cast that make up his new friends. The characters all had their own quirks (Ham, Squints, Yeah-Yeah) which made them feel like a real group of friends. And then there was Benny the Jet. In most movies Benny would be the protagonist. The hero. But in The Sandlot he's just Smalls' friend and someone he (we) can look up to. Benny was perfect. He was so athletic and the whole group knew he was too good for them, but Benny was such a great guy and therefore stood by his squad.
This movie really hits the concept of summer right on the nail. There's the pool scene, the Fourth of July fireworks scene, and countless trips to the baseball field. That's what summer is about as a kid. There's no school and therefore we didn't have a care in the world. I love how the movie is narrated by an adult Smalls. He's looking back on this one perfect summer and now that he's grown up he can appreciate it. This works because when we (the audience) watch the movie as adults we can appreciate our own childhood and be reminded of the simpler times. The Sandlot is the best baseball movie of all time, and also one of the best movies of all time.
The Sandlot Quotes:
"Remember kid, there's heroes and there's legends: Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Follow your heart kid, and you can never go wrong".
"You're killin' me Smalls!"
Lastly, and most importantly, Wendy Peffercorn was fucking BAE growing up. Enough said.