Kevin Costner’s Must-See Sports Classic Is Streaming Right Now

Kevin Costner's classic sports flick Bull Durham is streaming on Max.

By Robert Scucci | Published

kevin costner tim robbins
Tim Robbins and Kevin Costner in Bull Durham (1988)

Can you really call yourself a fan of baseball movies if you haven’t yet seen 1988’s Bull Durham? If you haven’t had the chance to see this Kevin Costner (Yellowstone) sports classic, you can find it streaming on Max. Ron Shelton’s directorial debut about the minor leagues was an instant classic upon its release, and in 2023 it still holds up as one of the greatest sports movies ever made.

Kevin Costner’s Bull Durham is one of those sports movies that has a little bit of everything. There’s baseball humor, a love triangle, and a classic underdog story that is often associated with the genre. Thanks to Shelton’s screenplay, Costner’s performance, expert pacing, and comedic timing, Bull Durham is a wonderful two hours (give or take) of cinema.

Bull Durham is about a veteran minor league catcher who is tasked with training the Durham Bulls’ rookie pitcher named Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh (Tim Robbins). Nuke hasn’t quite learned how to harness his natural talent and truly play the game of baseball to his full potential. Kevin Costner’s Lawrence “Crash” Davis gets right to work in teaching Nuke how to channel his energy (and his ego), so he can have a shot at the big leagues.

In baseball, the pitcher is typically considered to be the star of the show, but Kevin Costner’s portrayal of Crash in Bull Durham shows us how it’s oftentimes the catcher who needs to be calling the shots. Having played for the major league for “the 21 greatest days” of his life, Crash has aspirations of his own, but uses his own talent and knowledge of the game to give Nuke the tough love he needs to be one of the greats.

Susan Sarandon and Kevin Costner in Bull Durham (1988)

Speaking of tough love, the romantic through line of Bull Durham is what keeps the tensions running high in the form of a love triangle between Crash, Nuke, and Susan Sarandon’s Annie Savoy. Annie is a “baseball groupie” who has the tendency to court a new lover every season, and she expresses her interest in Nuke early on in the film. But it’s the chemistry between Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon that really hits it out of the park.

Bull Durham brings us a young Kevin Costner at his most ambitious and charismatic, and clearly, it worked. On its opening weekend, Bull Durham raked in $5 million at the box office, and went on to pull in $50.8 million, earning back over five times its estimated production budget of $9 million.

As for its critical reception, Bull Durham has a near-perfect 97 percent critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, and also boasts an audience score of 82 percent. In hindsight, it makes perfect sense that Kevin Costner would go on to star in Field of Dreams only a year later. Costner wasn’t originally the top draft pick for Field of Dreams because director Phil Alden Robinson didn’t think he’d be interested in another baseball film, but he ended up landing the lead role after helping out with the production in the early development stages.

Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins in Bull Durham (1988)

Bull Durham was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and two Golden Globe Awards for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy and for Best Original Song. Though Kevin Costner didn’t bring in any nominations himself for his lead role, Ron Shelton did take home a number of awards for Best Screenplay.

There were initially talks of a Bull Durham sequel, but Ron Shelton couldn’t think of a way to continue the story in an engaging way. Shelton said that it was “not a simple fable to continue with.” In the case of this Kevin Costner film, it’s apparent that the one-and-done treatment was all that this romantic comedy sports film needed.

It’s safe to say that a sequel could have potentially hurt Bull Durham’s legacy if it wasn’t well-received. In other words, why risk a swing and a miss on a sequel when Bull Durham was already a grand slam?