The weather is finally starting to thaw, the crocuses are poking up their colorful heads, and Major League Baseball season is upon us once again, on March 30. On opening day, everyone’s team is in first place, and hope springs eternal in Mudville. To help get you in the mood for the 2023 season, we cobbled together our pennant-winning list of 12 great baseball movies you can stream at home while you’re waiting for the home-plate ump to shout: Play ball!
Bull Durham (1988)
Before he was a director of timeless sports comedies such as Tin Cup and White Men Can't Jump, Ron Shelton was an infielder in the Baltimore Orioles’ minor-league system. So if anyone knows the truth of what it's like to toil in obscurity waiting for the call up to “The Show,” it's him. That hard-earned wisdom and eye for detail come through in every scene of this hilarious and eloquent love letter to America's pastime. Susan Sarandon's sensual, sage-like Annie Savoy supports her beloved team, the Durham Bulls, by having an affair with a different player every season. She's as much a mentor as a lover. But whom will she fall for this season? Will it be Kevin Costner's Crash Davis, a down-on-his-luck onetime major leaguer playing out the string in the bush leagues? Or will it be Tim Robbins’ Nuke Laloosh, the talented, loose-cannon rookie fireballer? Why not both?
This one lies a little below the radar, which makes it ripe for discovery for baseball fans who've already cycled through the more celebrated titles on this list. Algenis Perez Soto leaps off the screen as a 19-year-old pitching phenom in the Dominican Republic — an impoverished country where dreams of major league stardom are as plentiful as sugar cane. Nicknamed “Sugar” after the sweetness of the fastballs that whip from his arm, he earns a spot on a Class A team in Iowa only to discover that dreams rarely hold up in reality. Part sports saga, part immigrant tale, Sugar is an unexpected change-up of a film that shows us that the only thing that truly matters is a player's love of the game.
The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976)
Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones and Richard Pryor headline this Bicentennial year classic about a barnstorming baseball team in the last days of the Negro Leagues. Tired of being treated as second-class citizens, Williams's Bingo Long forms his own team and travels to take on minor league white teams while adding a dash of Harlem Globetrotters-esque flash and style. Bingo Long doesn't shy away from tackling the third-rail issues of racism and segregation. But it also isn't afraid to leaven its message with heart, camaraderie and laughs.
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Based the Michael Lewis bestseller that's become a Father's Day staple over the past decade, director David Fincher's underdog story chronicles the outside-the-box thinking of the small-market, small-payroll Oakland A's in the early 2000s as they followed a new approach to cobbling together a winning team on the cheap based on statistics and gut intuition. Brad Pitt is excellent and understated as the team's maverick general manager, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman is winningly crotchety as the team's manager, and Jonah Hill shines as the young front-office brainiac who cherishes math above all. As for Aaron Sorkin's script, it's pure hardball poetry.