Top 10 Sports Movies for Kids Since 1990
These are the movies that defined my childhood and I'm sure I do not stand alone in that.
The movies that were magical to watch during a sleepover while snaking on greasy pizza and other junk food.
They brought a smile to an adult's eye, reminiscing the time when he or she was once so young.
Regardless of the true or fictitious nature, many of the story lines of these movies were greater than the actual sport depicted, teaching valuable life lessons such as teamwork, integrity, perseverance, and most notably, the importance of having a dream.
Simply put, these were the movies that were fun to watch over and over again, giving your that warm feeling inside by the time the credits rolled.
I have put together a list of the top 10 sports movies since 1990 aimed at a kids' audience. The determining factor of what made a movie for kids was the PG rating.
I also made my choices based on the uniqueness of the plot, humor factor, life lessons learned, and overall influence on kids.
I wanted to make sure that I had a variety of movies and not just a list of good movies that spewed the same idea in a different context.
I also made sure that the PG rating in these movies did not dictate the recommended age group of the viewers.
They are for people of all ages; enjoyable for the entire family with no regard to age.
Without further ado, here is my list of the top 10 sports movies for kids since 1990.
10. Little Giants (1994)
The story with the most common of sports plots: a group of rag-tag kids and their fight against the better but meaner team.
The Little Giants focuses on the relationship between Kevin O'Shea, a former football star and Heisman Trophy winner, and his younger brother Danny O'Shea who lived in his brother's shadow.
After Kevin hand picks a pee wee football team of only the most talented players of Urbania, Danny forms his own team with the rejected kids.
In an attempt to upstage his brother for the first time in his life, Danny challenges Kevin's Cowboys against his Little Giants fueled by major bets that could change their lives.
Of course, we know the outcome of the "final game" before it even starts.
Little Giants is one of Disney's better underdog stories because of the surprisingly good quality of humor, great one-liners, and interesting characters who show that faith and having fun are the most important tools to success in the sports world.
In short, it's one of those movies you pop in your out-dated VCR when you want a cliche yet totally enjoyable sports movie.
9. Space Jam (1996)
"You've never seen anything like it" says the trailer.
How true, which is why Space Jam has made this list.
The actual plot wasn't anything superb: the bad Toons want to kidnap the good Toons to make theme park Moron Mountain more fun.
What entails is a challenge from the good Toons to play a basketball game for their rights...and the kidnapping of the recently retired Michael Jordan to save them from toon slavery.
I remember when this movie came out and thought how cool it was that my favorite animated characters could appear side-by-side with real actors.
What this movie did well was use those animated characters– and animation in general– in a way to add to the plot by not losing sight of our favorite Looney Toons' unique characters.
Even with one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game at center stage, the Looney Toons were the stars of the movie and brought that humor that made them a staple in our childhood.
In terms of the basketball, although it wasn't a real game, it was fun to watch because we were watching something never seen before.
It definitely did stick with a more traditional underdog theme, but there were flashes of different with the "Michael's Secret Stuff" to boost the good Toon's morale.
With a tag like that, you would expect immediate victory though the imminent placebo effect, but the team starts to crumble just before the climax of the movie.
When it comes to entertainment, it's awesome to see predictable Disney be at least a little unpredictable and show that it takes real heart and fight to win.
Space Jam was such a unique idea that was very well executed and an incredible success that will surely be memorable for all who were able to experience it.
8. Rookie of the Year (1993)
Rookie of the Year represents every kids dream.
An average 12-year-old goes from being a fan of the local pro team to the star rookie.
Rookie of the Year is about Henry Rowengartner and the accident that triggered a series of events, taking him from the bench warmer of his little league team to the starting pitcher of the Chicago Cubs.
A little unrealistic, sure, but the character development throughout the movie makes up for any unrealistic plot.
When Henry becomes this larger-than-life star athlete in no time, his fame takes a large toll on his relationship with his friends.
A fun aspect that I thought really worked was Henry's relationship with injury-ridden and aged former starting pitcher Chet Steadman, Henry's idol.
I feel it nicely demonstrated what veterans go through when a young phenom suddenly becomes the center of attention.
Of course, this is one of those movies that has quotes you know will be sticking around for a while.
Rookie of the Year, while obviously capturing the baseball story, has equally solid plot lines that don't include baseball.
This includes the increased drama between Henry and his friends when he becomes famous, Henry's dealings with his crush, Becky, the love triangle between Henry's mom, her boyfriend, and Chet, the list goes on.
Sounds like a well-rounded movie, which it is.
One last thing...
Did he just say funky butt-lovin'?
7. Gracie (2007)
Before I say anything about the movie, I want to point out that Gracie is PG-13 which technically breaks my PG-only rule. However, I am making an exception with Gracie.
Why? It's that good.
I know many people are probably scratching their heads at this choice. Many people probably haven't even heard of Gracie because it wasn't widely released in theaters.
Gracie is based on the true story of Elisabeth Shue, the girl who defied a system in 1978 New Jersey.
Following her star soccer player brother Johnny's death in a car accident, Gracie attempts to take his place on the boy's varsity soccer team with the hopes of healing her torn soul and getting some much desired attention from her father.
In terms of movies about the girl trying to make the boy's sports team, Gracie comes out on top.
Similar to Rookie of the Year, this movie is more than the intense work outs prior to the try outs. It's about Gracie's fight against the school board to join the team what lengths she and her family would reach to be a part of the team.
But what makes this story truly unique is the theme of growth from tragedy.
Gracie undergoes a rebellious stage following Johnny's death that was fabulously illustrated, showing just how desperate Gracie was in getting some attention from her family.
This is ultimately highlighted by the rocky relationship between Gracie and her father.
Gracie is a realistic as they get and is one of the few movies focusing on a girl's athletic endeavors that was enjoyable to watch.
6. The Rookie (2002)
So many movies are about young, upcoming athletes en route to achieving their dreams.
What about the ones who are passed their prime and make a comeback?
The Rookie definitely takes the cake in that area.
Jim Morris, a high school science teacher, fell short of his dream of playing in the MLB after a shoulder injury.
After losing a wage with his high school team that meant a professional tryout if the high school team won districts, Morris realized that his advanced age of 35 was not as much of a story as the incredible speed of his pitching.
In the end, Morris only spent two seasons in the MLB with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but his unexpected comeback proved to all that there is no age limit when it comes to fulfilling your dreams.
Unlike any of the other stories, Morris had a settled lifestyle, a wife, two kids, and a career.
But it clearly wasn't enough for him.
Doing what Morris did takes a different kind of character, one that we don't often hear about in real life, let alone the movies.
As far as the logistics of the film, I didn't have anything to complain about. In true Disney fashion, it's a simple movie that relies on the characters and plot.
What I really enjoyed was the focus on Morris' high school coaching job; it showed just how much of an influence he had on the younger people and that they took his word seriously when he backed up his "follow your dreams" speeches with actions of his own.
It really shows that the older you get, the more important it is to be that good example because more people are watching you.
Overall, the Rookie is a different twist to a kid's movie because its focus is on a grown man who seemed to be beyond the point of achieving any kind of dream.
I feel it's important to proclaim to the world, especially kids, that dreams don't end when you reach a certain age.
5. The Mighty Ducks Trilogy (1992, 1994, 1996)
With this trilogy came a hockey surge in the U.S. and for a good reason.
QUACK QUACK QUACK!
The Mighty Ducks Trilogy follows a group of amateur hockey players as they go from an awful team to one that finds formation under former district attorney Gordon Bombay.
The team goes from working to beat their local rival team (coached by Bombay's ex midget coach) to representing USA in the Junior Goodwill Games to attending a private high school on full scholarship as the new junior varsity hockey team.
There was something magical about the Ducks and everyone wished that Charlie Conway and Adam Banks and even Goldberg were real players.
The NHL even named a professional team after them, originally the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim but currently the Anaheim Ducks.
The Mighty Ducks Trilogy is just as much about the players on the Ducks as it is about the coaches which is what makes this trilogy one for the ages.
They're truly about the entire team, even down to the Hans, Bombay's Norwegian friend who sharpens skates.
To boot, everything about these movies was enjoyable: Bombay's unique practice drills, the Bash Brothers, off-ice shenanigans, and of course, the team cheer.
The Ducks Trilogy honestly doesn't bring many new things to the table, but each movie was executed so well, balancing the humor with fabulous hockey scenes and genuine character development, especially in Conway, that this could go down as one of Disney's best fictitious sports movies.
4. Remember the Titans (2000)
When we talk about movies that are beyond the sport itself, Remember the Titans will always be among the favorites and most loved.
Set in the prejudice-torn Virginia city of Alexandria in 1971, Remember the Titans retells the story of a racially mixed high school, T.C. Williams, and its football team.
Football was a way of life in Virginia, so when the all-white high school team integrated with the black high school to for T.C. Williams, tempers flared on the newly integrated team and in the community.
Under the direction of the recently hired Coach Herman Boone, he, along with former Coach Bill Yoast try to find a way to battle the racism coursing in Alexandria while piecing together a football team that can win rather than kill each other on the field.
As a native of the Northern Virginia area, Remember the Titans is a story that hits home for me because I know many people who attended T.C Williams those first years.
Because of the strong focus on battling racism, I feel that the best moments of the movie have little to do with football: Coach Boone's speech to the players at the Gettysburg Battlefield, a place where Americans fought "the same battle we fight here today."
And then there's the "left side, strong side" moment during practice between players Gerry Bertier and Julius Campbell where they finally put away their differences, symbolizing the coming together of the team.
However, Remember the Titans is without its major errors, simple ones that could have been avoided like renaming the Groveton Tigers to the Lions.
And according to students in attendance of T.C. Williams, players were often misrepresented in the movie as were some of the rivalries within the team.
Inaccuracies aside, Remember the Titans is an inspirational story about a football team, united under a love that looked beyond skin color, that brought together an entire community once filled with hatred toward those who "didn't belong."
Most importantly, it teaches that the language of sports runs deeper than any kind of prejudice.
3. Rudy (1993)
As children, many of us are told the cliché to follow our dreams.
The story of Rudy shows us exactly why.
Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger had the lifelong dream of playing for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish but found constant rejection because his grades weren't high enough and his football skills weren't good enough.
That didn't stop Rudy as he fought for an acceptance to the university, and eventually, the chance to suit up for his last game of the season.
The amount of fight Rudy displays from start to finish is truly remarkable and demonstrates that anything is possible if you want it bad enough and will do the work to achieve it.
What's so impressive about this story is seeing what Rudy went through, from a steel mill job to watching his best friend die in the mill from an explosion to overcoming his dyslexia with constant tutoring to the constant rejections from Notre Dame to his position on the practice squad that left him beat up after practices.
It's a mouthful.
And it all accumulated into one moment: Rudy dressing for one game and taking part in the final kickoff and last play of game, which included Rudy sacking Georgia Tech's quarterback.
The idea of doing so much just to play a few dozen seconds of a football game seems ludicrous, but what Rudy managed to do throughout the ordeal was inspire the rest of the team by doing whatever it took to achieve his dream of playing for the Irish.
It all came to a close when Rudy, the guy with average grades and no impressive football skill, was carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates, players who were on scholarship and would go on to further football careers.
Isn't it funny how that worked out?
The end of the film notes that no other Notre Dame player has been carried off the field since then, nor do I see it happening anytime soon.
I think all parents should share Rudy with their children because it teaches one of the most valuable lessons in life: we may not find success in life, but having a good attitude and character will take you so much farther than any kind of accomplishment.
2. Miracle (2004)
This is the greatest moment in sports history.
A group of talented college hockey players lead by the gritty Herb Brooks set out to do the impossible by attempting to beat the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid.
Similar to Rudy, everyone told Brooks and the rest of the players that it couldn't be done. There was far too much skill, chemistry, and swagger on the Soviets and a team of amateurs together for the better part of eight months would not be able to reach the level required to beat the Soviets.
What followed was a grueling training season that demanded 100 percent from the players and nothing less.
Throughout the movie, the audience experiences Brooks' antagonistic mentality that was so brilliantly used to bring the hockey team–full of players from rival schools like Boston University and Minnesota–together, knowing that his team would only have a chance by playing a style of constant attack, creativity, and chemistry.
As the movie progresses, we watch as a group of young boys morph into a team that understands that "the name on the front [of a jersey] is more important than the one on the back," from the most intense scene of the movie when Brooks punishes the hockey team with Herbies (suicides) after a lackluster effort against the Swedes months before the opening ceremonies.
The best part about Miracle is that it's a very accurate (though not perfect) adaptation of the actual events, from the characters to the Soviet game.
The fact that there was very little Hollywood had to do to dramatize certain events for the movie says a lot about the actual events.
Speaking of actual events, I really appreciated the inclusion of current events throughout the movie. I'm referring to the Soviets' invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iranian students' takeover of the American embassy.
All of these played huge roles in the hunger within America to beat the Russians in the Olympics, despite not knowing much about hockey in the first place.
This made the Soviet game more than a hockey game to many.
I also applaud Disney in not using recognizable faces on the U.S. team because it gave the audience the same feel America had during the Olympics: that a group of nobodies were accomplishing the impossible by taking on the best hockey team in the world.
Miracle is chock-full of memorable moments including the Herbies scene I mentioned, Brooks' speech before the Soviets game, and of course, Al Michaels' call of the final seconds of the game, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"
If none of those scenes made the hairs on your arms stand on end, then I don't know what would.
Miracle is Disney's sports masterpiece that is enjoyable during the on and off Olympic season because of the realistic portrayal of doing the impossible.
It is the best sports film of the 21st century.
1. The Sandlot (1993)
Nothing beats the Sandlot, and this is coming from someone who doesn't even like baseball.
It seems almost crazy to put this movie first. The previously listed movies have to do with proving yourself or winning the impossible game.
This does neither.
The Sandlot is about the shenanigans of a group of boys, the focus on the slightly geeky Scotty Smalls, in the 1960s.
Smalls, who knows very little about baseball, hits a home run after borrowing his step-dad's baseball that was signed by Babe Ruth.
Retrieving the baseball proves to be a daunting task since it is stuck in Mr. Myrtle's yard, whose dog, "The Beast," is rumored to have eaten a kid.
There isn't a hidden message in the Sandlot; it's truly about this group of kids and their friendship through America's favorite pastime.
It's one of those movies that takes you back to when you were a kid and all that mattered was having fun without a care of the future, even if it meant doing stupid things once in a while.
And all of those moments are included in the Sandlot, especially the stupid moments like Squints kissing hot lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn and the gang eating chewing tobacco before riding a carnival ride.
Then there's the face-off against the bullies, included one of the greatest delivered lines from Ham Porter to Phillips, "You play ball like a GIRL!"
And then there's the moments of destiny, including when Benny Rodriguez takes a swing while at bat during a regular pick-up game and pulverizes the baseball into two pieces.
Despite taking place in the 60's, the Sandlot represents everyone's childhood.
This makes the story so much more relatable because very few of us are going to have the opportunity to go the Olympics or make a miraculous sports comeback after retiring.
The Sandlot seems to be one of those movies everyone watches and everyone quotes in large chunks (Porter/Phillips fights, the s'mores scene, descriptions of Babe Ruth) because it's pure entertainment, no matter what age.
I can't close this list off without the movie's signature quote:
THE GREAT BAMBIIIIIIIINOOOOO!