How Good Are Baseball Movies with Kevin Costner?

Michael Claunch

Kevin Costner had fantastic acting and directing career and portrayed many different characters through the decades, winning two Academy Awards in the process. Several of his most memorable roles came in movies about baseball, where he displayed an impressive ability to play the sport in the roles of current and former professional players. This is why Costner is a favorite of numerous baseball fans, who are often wondering – “did Kevin Costner play baseball in high school?”, or he is simply an actor who can easily fit into a role of an athlete.

It could be argued that no other actor in Hollywood is equally identified with the sport of baseball, or equally prolific with movies from this genre. This article will try to answer some interesting questions about baseball movies involving Costner and tip the readers which of them deserve to be watched.

How many baseball movies with Kevin Costner are there?

It may sound difficult to believe, but Kevin Costner has starred in as many as 5 big production films in which baseball is one of the main subjects. He first appeared in a baseball-related flick in 1982, with a brief role in the 1982 film titled Chasing Dreams. His most famous baseball movie was Field of Dreams (1989) which was both commercially successful and critically acclaimed, while his role in Bull Durham (1988) was very well received as well. These two movies have very different plots, but they have in common that Costner portrays characters that are completely obsessed with baseball and keep faith even in the face of long odds.

Bull Durham (1988) Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins. Courtesy of Orion Pictures

In his later career, Costner had another two performances portraying baseball players, including in For the Love of the Game (1999) and The Upside of Anger (2005). Unfortunately, neither of those works could recreate the magic of his smashing hits from the late 80s, in part because aging Costner didn’t look as convincing on a baseball field as in his younger days. His fans still consider those films an important part of his opus, but their overall quality and Costner’s characters’ appeal are significantly diminished. It can be argued that Costner was typecast for those titles precisely because his previous baseball movies were such blockbusters.

What is Kevin Costner’s connection with baseball?

It is no accident that Costner was cast as a baseball player in so many movies since he has a lifelong admiration for the sport and has played it in his youth. Not only did Kevin Costner play baseball in high school, but he also excelled in football and basketball despite being short in stature. After finishing high school and enrolling at Cal State Fullerton, Costner attempted to play on the college team, but couldn’t make the roster as a walk-on player.

As an adult, Costner remained a baseball fan and has a close friendship with many people inside the sport. He even owned an independent baseball team for a while, named Fielders in honor of his film. To this day, he remains involved with MLB and college baseball from time to time, so he is definitely proud to be associated with this sport. On the other hand, his experience on the field and his closeness to the game doubtlessly helped him prepare for the roles of baseball players or enthusiasts. It’s much easier to act when you are expected to do something in front of a camera that you have been doing out of pleasure for your entire life.

What is the best baseball movie featuring Kevin Costner?

From all the baseball movies with Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams stands out for its creative premise and elite execution. In this film, Costner is a farmer who builds a baseball diamond in the middle of a corn field after hearing a mysterious voice. His seemingly futile effort is rewarded when the apparitions of Shoeless Joe Jackson and his Black Sox teammates visit the field, fulfilling the voice’s promise that ‘if you build it, they will come’. The film infuses a little bit of sweet fantasy into a sports movie and entices baseball fans to keep dreaming regardless of what anyone else thinks. Those qualities earned the film an Oscar nomination for Best Film and made it a timeless classic that still resonates very loudly.

Field of Dreams (1989) Ray Liotta on the left, Kevin Costner on the right. Courtesy of Universal Pictures

However, true baseball diehards are even fonder of Costner’s work in Bull Durham. This mostly realistic portrayal of a player spending his career in the minor league system is one of the best depictions of the hard work and drama that occur behind the stage. There is also a romantic component, with Susan Sarandon as a baseball groupie that is driving the conflict between Costner’s character and his younger teammate. The film is extremely popular even today and is frequently included on the various top lists of best sports movies of all times. It received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and is often praised for the veracity of baseball scenes.

Is Kevin Costner the ultimate baseball actor?

Costner is not the only big-name actor to appear in a baseball-themed movie – this is a long list that includes Charlie Sheen (Major League), Brad Pitt (Moneyball), and Robert Redford (The Natural). However, he remains far more associated with baseball than any of the aforementioned stars, due both to the number of sports movies he appeared in and his public display of baseball fandom. No other actor has remained so proudly faithful to his favorite sport for so long.

On the other hand, it’s worth remembering that both critically acclaimed movies about baseball with Kevin Costner were produced in the late 80s, at the height of his career. That’s why you shouldn’t automatically assume that every baseball film with Kevin Costner will make a great impression on you. Of course, for many baseball fans, it’s enough to know that the film includes a few scenes that take place at a baseball stadium, so if you belong to this cohort, you might enjoy binge-watching all five Costner films from this niche.

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