In the film, Beane (Brad Pitt) and assistant GM Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), faced with the franchise's limited budget for players, build a team of undervalued talent by taking a sophisticated sabermetric approach towards scouting and analyzing players. Columbia Pictures bought the rights to Lewis's book in 2004.
Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane is upset by his team's loss to the New York Yankees in the 2001 postseason. With the impending departure of star players Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Jason Isringhausen to free agency, Beane needs to assemble a competitive team for 2002, but must overcome Oakland's limited payroll.
During a visit to the Cleveland Indians, Beane meets Peter Brand, a young Yale economics graduate with radical ideas about how to assess players' value. Beane tests Brand's theory by asking whether he would have drafted him (out of high school), Beane having been a Major League player before becoming general manager. Though scouts considered Beane a phenomenal prospect, his career in the Major Leagues was disappointing. Brand admits that he would not have drafted him until the ninth round and surmised that Beane would probably have accepted a college scholarship instead. Impressed, Beane hires Brand to be the Athletics assistant general manager.
Oakland scouts are first dismissive and then hostile towards Brand's non-traditional sabermetric approach to scouting players. Grady Fuson aggressively confronts Beane, and is fired. Grady then takes to the radio airwaves to question the team's future. Rather than relying on the scouts' experience and intuition, Brand selects players based almost exclusively on their on-base percentage (OBP). Beane signs the ones Brand suggests, such as unorthodox submarine pitcher Chad Bradford, past-his-prime outfielder David Justice, and an injured catcher, Scott Hatteberg. Beane also faces opposition from Art Howe, the Athletics' manager, who does not agree with the new philosophy. Howe disregards Beane's and Brand's strategy and plays a lineup he prefers.
Early in the season, the Athletics fare poorly, leading critics to dismiss the new method as a failure. Beane convinces the owner to stay the course. He trades away the lone traditional first baseman, Carlos Peña, to force Howe to use Hatteberg at that position, threatening to make similar deals if Howe won't cooperate. The A's win 19 consecutive games, tying for the longest winning streak in American League history. Beane's young daughter implores him to go to a game against the Kansas City Royals, where Oakland is already leading 11–0 after the third inning and appears set to win a record-breaking 20th game in a row. Like many baseball players, Beane is superstitious and avoids games in progress, but upon hearing how well the game is going on the radio, he decides to go. Beane arrives in the fourth inning, only to watch the team falter and eventually allow the Royals to even the score at 11. Finally, the A's do win, on a walk-off home run by Hatteberg.
After celebrating that, however, the A's again lose in the postseason, this time to the Minnesota Twins. Beane is disappointed, believing nothing short of a championship should be considered a success. He is contacted by the owner of the Boston Red Sox, who realizes that the sabermetric model is the future of baseball. Beane declines an opportunity to be GM of the Red Sox, despite the $12.5 million salary, which would have made him the highest-paid general manager in sports history. He returns to Oakland, while an epilogue reveals that two years later, the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, using the model pioneered by the Athletics.Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics
Jonah Hill as Peter Brand (based on Paul DePodesta), Beane's assistant general manager
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Art Howe, the manager of the Oakland Athletics
Chris Pratt as Scott Hatteberg, A's first baseman
Casey Bond as Chad Bradford, A's submarine relief pitcher
Stephen Bishop as David Justice, A's outfielder
Royce Clayton as Miguel Tejada, A's shortstop
David Hutchison as John Mabry, A's utility player
Nick Porrazzo as Jeremy Giambi, A's outfielder
Robin Wright as Sharon, Beane's ex-wife and mother of Casey
Kerris Dorsey as Casey Beane
Ken Medlock as Grady Fuson, head scout of the Oakland Athletics
Nick Searcy as Matt Keough
Jack McGee as John Poloni, scout for the Oakland Athletics
Brent Jennings as Ron Washington, coach of the Oakland Athletics
Peter Brand is a composite character partly based on former A's assistant to the general manager Paul DePodesta, who did not want his name used in the film.
Robert Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, makes an uncredited cameo appearance as former A's owner Stephen Schott.
Spike Jonze has a small uncredited role as Alán, Sharon's spouse.
Musician Joe Satriani appears as himself, performing "The Star-Spangled Banner" on electric guitar.
Arliss Howard briefly appears as John W. Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox.
Stand-up comedian Demetri Martin was originally intended to play Paul DePodesta. After some rewriting, the character of Peter Brand was invented to replace DePodesta, and Jonah Hill was cast.
Oakland A's players David Justice and Scott Hatteberg were signed to play themselves in the film, but ultimately were portrayed by Stephen Bishop and Chris Pratt, respectively.
Stephen Bishop, who plays David Justice, is a former professional baseball player. Bishop and Justice were both members of the Atlanta Braves organization in 1993.
Royce Clayton, who plays Miguel Tejada, is also a former professional baseball player.
Stan Chervin developed the initial drafts of the screenplay after Columbia Pictures bought rights to Lewis's book in 2004. It was filmed in Los Angeles, California. Once Brad Pitt committed to the project in 2007, Chervin dropped out. Steve Zaillian was signed to write a second screenplay, and David Frankel was signed to direct. Steven Soderbergh was subsequently signed to replace Frankel. Demetri Martin was cast to portray the role of Paul DePodesta, Beane's top assistant. Former Athletics Scott Hatteberg and David Justice were slated to play themselves in the movie. When asked how the film would dramatize and make entertaining a book about statistics, Soderbergh said:
I think we have a way in, making it visual and making it funny. I want it to be really funny and entertaining, and I want you to not realize how much information is being thrown at you because you're having fun. We've found a couple of ideas on how to bust the form a bit, in order for all that information to reach you in a way that's a little oblique.
On June 19, 2009, days before filming was set to begin, Sony put the picture on hold. Soderbergh's plan for the film called for elements considered non-traditional for a sports movie, such as interviews with real-life players. Soderbergh was dismissed and ultimately replaced by Bennett Miller. Aaron Sorkin wrote a third version of the screenplay.
Miller hired Ken Medlock, a former minor league baseball player and actor who plays scout Grady Fuson, as a technical advisor. Medlock invited professional scout Artie Harris to lend Medlock credibility. Harris, himself a self-styled "old-fashioned scout", subsequently auditioned for and obtained a role in the film as a scout who typically disregards sabermetrics. Baseball figures, including scout Phil Pote and baseball coaches and managers George Vranau and Barry Moss, were cast in supporting roles.
With Martin no longer involved, Jonah Hill was cast to play DePodesta. However, feeling the character was becoming fictional, DePodesta requested his name not be used but continued to assist the filmmakers. Hill's role was transformed into a composite character, named Peter Brand.
Filming began in July 2010. Filming locations included Fenway Park, the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, Dodger Stadium and Blair Field, while studio shooting took place at Sony's Culver City studios. During principal photography scenes featuring Kathryn Morris as Beane's second wife were shot; none made it to the final cut.
While mostly accurate, the film alters history at points. In the film, Carlos Peña is Oakland's starting first baseman from Opening Day until he was traded to the Detroit Tigers in early July. In fact, while Peña did start at first base during April and May, he lost that position to Scott Hatteberg on June 1, and was playing for Oakland's AAA team when he was traded. Early in the film, it is suggested that right-handed pitcher Chad Bradford (Bond) was picked up by Oakland at the urging of Peter Brand (Hill). Bradford stops Beane (Pitt) in the clubhouse on Opening Day to thank him for the opportunity, a moment that clearly indicates that Bradford is just starting his stint with the A's. In fact, Bradford pitched for Oakland the previous season after being traded to the A's from the Chicago White Sox on December 7, 2000. Bradford, during the 2001 season, was mainly used as a late reliever and set-up man. It is also mentioned that Jeremy Giambi was chosen to be one of the three players, along with Scott Hatteberg and David Justice, to replace his brother, Jason, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen in the 2002 lineup, when in fact he was picked up in 2000 and was part of the famous "flip play" in the 2001 ALDS vs. the New York Yankees.
David Haglund of Slate and Jonah Keri of Grantland have both criticized the film, and the book it is based upon, for glossing over key young talent acquired through the draft and signed internationally. Specifically, they have argued that the book ignores the pitching trio of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito, as well as position players such as Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada, all of whom were discovered via traditional scouting methodology and were key contributors to the success of the 2002 Athletics. In 2002, Barry Zito received the AL Cy Young Award and Miguel Tejada received the AL MVP Award.
Former Oakland A's manager Art Howe (Hoffman) has spoken out publicly about his disapproval of how he was portrayed in the film. The story shows Howe as a stubborn manager who, contrary to Beane's wishes, refused to use Bradford out of the bullpen or to start Hatteberg at first base. In fact, Bradford was used regularly out of the bullpen in early 2002, just as he had been in 2001, when he logged 75 innings primarily as a late reliever or set-up man for Billy Koch, the A's primary closer. Scott Hatteberg has also stated publicly that Howe was portrayed inaccurately. He is quoted in an interview as saying, "Art Howe was a huge supporter of mine. I never got the impression from him that I was not his first choice." Later in the interview, Hatteberg mentions that "there was that turbulent relationship" between Howe and Beane.
The song "The Show" by Lenka was anachronistically covered by Kerris Dorsey as it was actually released in 2008, six years following the film's events.Theme from New York, New York – Written by Fred Ebb and John Kander
The Mighty Rio Grande – Performed by This Will Destroy You
The Show – Performed by Kerris Dorsey
Don't Stop Believin' – Performed by Journey
Mony Mony – Performed by Billy Idol
The Star-Spangled Banner – Arranged and Performed by Joe Satriani
Bounce To This – Performed by D.J. Laz
Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker) – Performed by Parliament
It Would Be Like This – Written by Mychael Danna
Moneyball premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2011 and was released theatrically on September 23, 2011 by Columbia Pictures. The film was also released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 10, 2012 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Moneyball grossed $75.6 million in the United States and Canada and $34.6 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $110.2 million, against a production budget of $50 million.
The film grossed $19.5 million from 2,993 theaters in its opening weekend, finishing second at the box office behind the 3D re-release of The Lion King. In its second weekend it grossed $12 million (a drop of only 38.3%), again finishing second.
Moneyball received critical acclaim, with Pitt's performance receiving strong praise. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an approval rating of 94% based on 244 reviews, with an average rating of 8/10. The site's critical consensus states, "Director Bennett Miller, along with Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, take a niche subject and turn it into a sharp, funny, and touching portrait worthy of baseball lore". On Metacritic, the film has a score of 87 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
Richard Roeper gave Moneyball a grade of an "A", saying that the film was a "geek-stats book turned into a movie with a lot of heart". Former Green Bay Packers vice president Andrew Brandt stated that the film "persuasively exposed front office tension between competing scouting applications: the old school "eye-balling" of players and newer models of data-driven statistical analysis ... Moneyball—both the book and the movie—will become a time capsule for the business of sports".
The film appeared on the following critics' top ten lists for the best films of 2011: