Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

Time to vote: What's the greatest baseball movie ever made?

On Sunday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will give out its annual awards to the best films of the past year. Yes, that's right, it's Oscars season.

There are no baseball movies nominated this year, but the sport has a rich and storied history in cinema -- from mainstream blockbusters to cult classics, biopics to outlandish fantasies. But which baseball movie is the best ever? That's where you come in.

Read the descriptions below, and then cast your vote in this bracket. The first round has ended. Vote for Round 2 right here.

 

 

The movies:

Field of Dreams (1989)

Stars: Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones

Box office gross: $84.4 million

Rotten Tomatoes score: 86 %

One-line summary: An Iowan farmer plows over his crops when a strange voice tells him to build a baseball field for the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Why it's the best baseball movie ever: This is the only baseball film to be played in marathon fashion on cable television on Fathers Day, and that's because baseball is the foundation of the relationship between fathers and sons. "Field of Dreams" romanticizes America's pastime and literary history while offering its own addition to the cultural lexicon with, "If you build it, he will come." Plus, it's got the two best things that any original American tale can have: Baseball and time travel.

 

Fever Pitch (2005)

Stars: Jimmy Fallon, Drew Barrymore

Box office gross: $42M

Rotten Tomatoes score: 65%

One-line plot summary: The tale of a man who must choose between the two loves of his life: Drew Barrymore and the Boston Red Sox.

Why it's the best baseball movie ever: The original ending, in which the team's failure teaches Fallon's character about life, had to be rewritten during filming when Boston broke the Curse of the Bambino and won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. That's right: The 2004 Red Sox had an ending that was too Hollywood even for Hollywood.

 

The Bad News Bears (1976)

Stars: Walter Matthau, Tatum O'Neal

Box Office Gross: $32.2 million

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

One-line plot summary: A broken-down ex-Minor Leaguer tries to whip a Little League team full of athletic disasters into championship shape.

What it's the best baseball movie ever: Most sports movies want to warm your heart. Not this one. There's a child named "Lupus" who is covered in snot for most of the movie. The team is sponsored by a bail bondsman! This isn't starry-eyed and sentimental; it's foul-mouthed and frenzied and no one really learns any lessons about humility or what it means to overcome. But it's also hilarious. Losing with grace can be nice, but it's way more fun to lose and then come up with a bunch of hilarious insults for the winners. 

 

Eight Men Out (1988)

Stars: John Cusack, Clifton James, Christopher Lloyd, Charlie Sheen

Box office gross: $5.7 million

Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%

One-line plot summary: A retelling of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal, in which the team accepted bribes to throw the World Series.

Why it's the best baseball movie ever: "Eight Men Out" is one of the most nuanced and grounded baseball movies ever made. It takes a deeply polarizing subject and never tips its hand, casting the Black Sox as men reluctantly pushed to an extreme action and giving humanity to all of its characters. But make no mistake: It's also a baseball movie, opening with a ballpark panorama sweeping from fans to players to sportswriters -- and ending with a gut punch that gets at what the game means to us, and how we respond to it.

 

Rookie of the Year (1993)

Stars: Thomas Ian Nicholas, Gary Busey, Albert Hall

Box office gross: $53.6M

Rotten Tomatoes score: 39%

One-line plot summary: A freak broken arm allows a 12-year-old boy to throw 100 mph, sign with the Cubs and lead them to the World Series.

Why it's the best baseball movie ever: Rookie of the Year dials into everyone's ultimate baseball dream as a kid: That someone could be signed out of the stands and lead an MLB team (the Cubs!) to the World Series.

 

The Sandlot (1993)

Stars: Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar

Box office gross: $33.8 million

Rotten Tomatoes score: 57%

One-line plot summary: A kid uses his step-dad's Babe Ruth-signed ball to play pickup baseball and gets his friends into a big pickle.

Why it's the best baseball movie ever: If you grew up in the '90s and were to openly admit that you've never seen The Sandlot, you'd be met with the same dropped jaws and blank stares that Smalls saw when he first confessed he hadn't heard of Babe Ruth. It's impossible to watch this movie and not feel the sudden urge to blow off all of your obligations, round up the gang and go play some pickup ball in the ol' neighborhood. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die … and this film will echo through eternity.

 

Major League (1989)

MajorLeague.gif

Stars: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen, Rene Russo, Wesley Snipes

Box office gross: $49.8 million

Rotten Tomatoes score: 82%

One-line plot summary: The Cleveland Indians' owner puts together an intentionally terrible roster as a ploy to move the team ... until they start winning.

Why it's the best baseball movie ever: Major League is very much a product of its time -- it's an 80s comedy starring Charlie Sheen. But it is great at what it does, and it nails the baseball side of things more than you might remember: A powerful slugger who can't field? A speedster who can't hit? A flamethrower with no control? All still commonplace in MLB today. Let's not discount Major League's cultural contributions, either. Ricky Vaughn's haircut is still inspiring copycats and Bob Uecker's "Just a bit outside" is among the all-time most quoted lines from a baseball movie. Plus, who doesn't love a story about a team designed to lose but winning anyway?

 

Angels in the Outfield (1994)

Stars: Danny Glover, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd

Box office gross: $50.2 million

Rotten Tomatoes score: 35%

One-line plot summary: After a young fan prays for the cellar-dwelling Angels to make the World Series, some actual angels try to make it happen.

Why it's the best baseball movie ever: For a children's movie, "Angels in the Outfield" isn't afraid to tackle the tough subjects - mortality, the afterlife, even mid-'90s fashion. But the film still manages to keep things light, thanks in large part to an awesome cast, including Christopher Lloyd going Peak Camp as the head angel. Besides, any team featuring a young Adrien Brody and Matthew McConaughey is a team you can root for.

 

A League of Their Own (1992)

LeagueOfTheirOwn.gif

Stars: Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Rosie O'Donnell, Madonna

Box Office Gross: $107.5 million

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%

One-line plot summary: During World War II, two sisters join the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and try to take home a championship, despite their own personal rivalry.

Why it's the best baseball movie ever: Is there crying in baseball? No! There isn't! And you know who taught you that? Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan in "A League of Their Own." The film combines the sweetness of an underdog story with an epic swing dance number starring Madonna. Girl's got moves, on the field and off.

 

The Pride of the Yankees (1942)

PrideOfTheYankees.jpg

Stars: Gary Cooper, Theresa Wright, Babe Ruth (!!)

Box Office Gross: No reliable records 

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

One-line plot summary: This is a tearjerker of a biopic about Lou Gehrig, the people who loved him and his struggle with ALS. 

Why it's the best baseball movie ever: It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards. 11! Gary Cooper's powerhouse performance will wring tears and Babe Ruth plays himself with the verve you'd expect from a man who sings "Happy Birthday" to himself.

 

The Natural (1984)

Stars: Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger

Box office gross: $48M

Rotten Tomatoes score: 81%

One-line plot summary: After appearing to have his career cut short, Roy Hobbs, a mythic, baseball-playing superhero who's better at life than all of us, perseveres to do incredible things on the field.

Why it's the best baseball movie ever: Wonderboy. A chiseled, mid-career Robert Redford. One of the greatest scenes in film history. The Natural mixes the magic, folklore and drama of baseball life both on and off the field into an Oscar-nominated epic. Now excuse me while I go listen to the soundtrack and swing my softball bat around in my living room.

 

42 (2013)

Stars: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Christopher Meloni

Box office gross: $95 million

Rotten Tomatoes score: 79%

One-line plot summary: Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. 

Why it's the best baseball movie ever: Jackie Robinson isn't just a baseball hero, but an American icon who stands for the social progress of an entire nation. 42 took on that dual challenge of making a biopic about an idolized public figure that also needed realistic on-field baseball scenes, and executed it remarkably. Chadwick Boseman shined displaying Robinson's personal courage as well as his Hall of Fame dynamism on the field. 42's unflinching depiction of the racism Robinson faced, particularly its portrayal of Phillies manager Ben Chapman, is only one reason that its importance goes far beyond the box office.

 

Moneyball (2011)

Stars: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt

Box office gross: $75.6M

Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

One-line plot summary: Iconoclastic Athletics GM Billy Beane embraces sabermetrics as a last-ditch attempt to build a contender in Oakland.

Why it's the best baseball movie ever: This movie accomplishes the impossible task of taking an abstract mathematical concept and turning it into a beautiful narrative tale. Critics of sabermetrics claim they remove the humanity from our game, but Moneyball is a deft argument for the contrary: The numbers reveal the imperfect talent of Scott Hatteberg, Chad Bradford and even Beane himself -- and what's more human than imperfection?

 

Little Big League (1994)

Stars: Luke Edwards, Timothy Busfield, Dennis Farina, John Ashton

Box office gross: $12.2 million 

Rotten Tomatoes score: 33%

One-line plot summary: When his grandfather dies, a young boy inherits ownership of the Minnesota Twins -- later becoming the team's manager, too.

Why it's the best baseball movie ever: I'd imagine that most baseball fans grew up dreaming of becoming big league players. I can't imagine many of them dreamed of becoming big league managers. And yet, this film is arguably the highlight of '90s baseball cinema. Not only do you have the "Can you imagine?" fun of a kid in charge, but Little Big League gleefully plays with the idea -- picture the Twins helping Billy Heywood with his math homework. Not to mention that perhaps no other film can match this one for the sheer number of MLB cameos: Ken Griffey Jr, Randy Johnson, Carlos Baerga, Lou Pinella, Rafael Palmeiro and about a dozen more players and coaches all show up.

 

Bull Durham (1988)

Durham.gif

Stars: Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins

Box office gross: $50.9 million

Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%

One-line plot summary: Minor League veteran catcher Crash Davis gets sent down to the Class A Durham Bulls to mentor heralded pitcher Ebby "Nuke" Laloosh.

Why it's the best baseball movie ever: Even if you've never seen it, you've probably got at least a few one-liners rattling around in your brain: "He hit the bull!"; "Rose goes in the front, big guy"; "When you speak of me, speak well." But what truly separates "Bull Durham" is the glimpse it offers of the daily grind of professional baseball, from a meeting on the mound to just how to handle an interview.

It's a movie with something for everyone -- comedy, romance, even a little bit of poetry -- and it does all of it well. Besides, I think we can all agree that "Throw groundballs, they're more democratic," is advice for everyone to live by.

 

Soul of the Game (1996)

SoulOfTheGame.jpg

Stars: Blair Underwood, Delroy Lindo, Mykelti Williamson

Box office gross: N/A (Made for HBO)

Rotten Tomatoes score: 67%

One-line plot summary: Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson compete to be the first African-American player in MLB, but the league seems more excited about the younger Jackie Robinson.

Why it's the best baseball movie ever: We're all familiar with the story of Jackie Robinson, but here we see it from a different perspective: The older Negro Leagues players who Robinson surpassed. It's a unique look at one of the most important stories in sports history, and one which provides added context and depth to our understanding of the Negro Leagues and what they represented.