The Nine Best Baseball Movies Ever

Picture this scenario: A ragtag bunch of misfit baseball players have done the unthinkable and transformed themselves into an efficient and unstoppable team. Despite all logic and reason, they've beaten the odds and overcome expectations to earn a slice of championship glory.

Sounds familiar, right? Like maybe we're talking about the unexpected roller coaster ride that the Arizona Diamondbacks took last season to the National League West pennant? Nope, we were referencing the plotlines of many of the classic flicks that make up our list of the best baseball movies.

The fact that the D-Backs unlikely success last year mimicked the worst-to-first stories of, say, The Bad News Bears or Major League just reinforces the fact that these film's awesome status.

In honor of the new season of MLB, here's our rundown of the nine best baseball movies ever.

9. Bad News Bears (1976)
The Rundown: Walter Mathau stars as broken-down boozehound Morris Buttermaker who coaches an unlikely little league team filled with misfits, miscreants, and booger-eating spazzes all the way to the championship game.
Why it's one of the best: Pretty much the model for every sports film that followed involving a gang of loveable losers who band together and overcome the odds to find their way to victory. It's one of Mathau's quintessential roles of his lengthy career, and -- being a product of the mid-70s -- is also deliciously un-P.C. and filled with coarse and crude language, which you'd never see in a modern children's movie.
Memorable quote: "This quitting thing, it's a hard habit to break once you start."

8. The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
The Rundown:
The true story of New York Yankees baseman Lou Gehrig and his untimely retirement from baseball due to a crippling disease is the subject in this black and white Hollywood classic. The biopic follows Gehrig (who is magnificently played by the great Gary Cooper) from his early days through his time with the Bronx Bombers, ending with his epic speech at Yankee Stadium.
Why it's one of the best:
Even the most ardent anti-Yankees fans are bound the shed a tear after watching this two-hour sentimental depiction of Gehrig's tragic tale. It also stars a slew of baseball legends playing themselves, including the late great Babe Ruth.
Memorable quote:
"Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."

7. Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)
The Rundown: Speaking of tearjerkers, you'd be hard-pressed to not get misty watching this heart-wrenching bromantic tale of pitcher Henry Wiggen (played by Law & Order alumni Michael Moriarty) and his friendship with the dim-witted catcher named Bruce Pearson (played by Robert Deniro), who's terminally ill. The pair strike up an unusual friendship in the midst of playing for the fictional New York Mammoths and impart plenty of life lessons as they tug at the heartstrings.
Why it's one of the best: Deniro is (unsurprisingly) in rare form in one of his earliest roles, which came along shortly before he became an acting god in films like Mean Streets and The Godfather: Part II.
Memorable quote: "Power plus brains is the difference between somebody and nobody."

6. Eight Men Out (1988)
The Rundown: The heroic rise and tragic fall of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and the rest of the 1919 Chicago White Sox -- who will forever be notorious in baseball lore due to their involvement with fixing the World Series from that year -- is depicted in director John Sayles' historical retelling of the Black Sox scandal.
Why it's one of the best: Sayles is a renowned auteur and created a captivating film that dramatizes one of the more landmark events in baseball history. John Cusack is equally excellent in his angsty portrayal of Jackson.
Memorable quote:
"Say it ain't so, Joe. Say it ain't so."

5. Bull Durham (1988)
The Rundown: Kevin Costner plays Crash Davis, a salty and world-weary catcher in the bush leagues of baseball who's tasked with taming wild rookie pitcher Ebby "Nuke" LaLoosh (played by a puppy-faced Tim Robbins) who has the potential of being a major star in the big leagues, if only he can learn some control. Both players are mired in a love triangle with Annie Savoy, a metaphysics-espousing New Agey baseball groupie.
Why it's one of the best: The late-1980s was Costner's "baseball period" as the actor did both this flick and Field of Dreams around the same time. While both are excellent flicks, but we're more partial to this one, as its less about the spirituality of baseball and is instead a humorous looks at the dreary life of being stuck the minors. Plus, Costner has never been as cool as he is here as Crash.
Memorable quote: "From what I hear, you couldn't hit water if you fell out of a fucking boat."

4. Moneyball (2011)
The Rundown: Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's semi-successful campaign of using number-crunching and aging players to level the playing field in baseball was dramatized last year by Hollywood, with Brad Pitt starring as Beane.
Why it's one of the best: While you might as well call the flick Sabremetrics: The Movie, its has plenty of appear beyond just baseball nerds. Pitt's acting is as excellent as ever and director Bennett Miller crafts an engaging and entertaining look into the mechanics of the game.
Memorable quote: "How can you not get romantic about baseball?"

3. The Sandlot (1993)
The Rundown: Scotty Smalls is a young kid moving into a strange new neighborhood one summer. While watching a pick-up-game at the titular sandlot, he gets his chance, and the local baseball stud takes a liking to him and tries to teach him everything he knows. What transpires is a summer filled with baseball with a small group of friends.
Why it's one of the best: Its the best of those heart-warming baseball movies, except nowhere near as cloying as Field of Dreams, illustrating how much fun the game can be if you're a kid. Ostensibly a children's film, its also plenty appealing to adults.
Memorable quote: "Let me tell you something kid; Everybody gets one chance to do something great. Most people never take the chance, either because they're too scared, or they don't recognize it when it spits on their shoes."

2. Major League
The Rundown:
The ailing Cleveland Indians franchise hasn't won a pennant in more than four decades and its new owner hopes to relocate the team to warmer climes in Florida, but only if game attendance reaches an all-time low. As such, the worst team imaginable is recruited for the upcoming season. And - suprise, surprise - they manage to turn things around.
Why it's one of the best:
Where do we start? Charlie Sheen is fantastic as bad boy pitcher Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn (and was reportedly on the juice during filming, resulting in some realistic thowing), as is Dennis Haysbert and Wesley Snipes. Baseball legend Bob Ueker provides huge laughs in a career-defining performance as Cleveland's play-by-play announced ("Juuuuuuuust a bit outside") and the athletic action is both captivating and realistic.
Memorable quote:
"Is very bad to steal Jobu's rum. Is very bad."

1. The Natural
The Rundown: A story about fictional wunderkind slugger Roy Hobbs and his beloved bat Wonderboy, Barry Levinson's feel-good adaptation of Bernard Malamud's 1952 novel is one of the all-time great sports movies. It traces Hobbs' life from the tender age of 14 where he fashions his his bat from an oak tree hit by lightning to his career as a major league ball player for the New York Knights.
Why it's one of the best: Redford is pitch-perfect as Hobbs, exuding corn-fed charm as he flashes his million dollar smile. Its also quite the epic movie, concluding with the rousing climax where stadium lights explode and sparks rain down.
Memorable quote: "It took me sixteen years to get here. You play me, and I'll give ya the best I got."

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.