10 Best Kids Sports Movies: The Definitive List
They don’t have to make sense.
The plots don’t need to obey the laws of physics, the actual rules of the game being portrayed or even common sense.
It’s where chimpanzees can play hockey and 12-year-olds can throw 100 mph fastballs. Where aliens can harness Patrick Ewing’s talent, Golden Retrievers play point guard and the good guys always win.
Who doesn’t love a good children’s sports movie?
Take a walk down memory lane with 10 of the greatest kid's sports movies ever made.
10. Air Bud (1997)
Josh Framm is a shy, 12-year-old boy who reluctantly tries out for his middle school’s basketball team. After the loss of his father, he finds a Golden Retriever named Buddy and immediately bonds with the dog.
Enter Framm in the biggest moment of his young life. His team made it all the way to the championship game, and he knows that the pressure is on. When the team struggles early on, Josh looks at his dog Buddy in the stands for support. That’s when he makes a sudden realization: There’s no rule that says dogs can’t play in his middle school basketball league.
Buddy suits up and, as expected, leads the team to a come from behind victory.
Morale of the story: Dogs are typically better basketball players than your average middle school boy.
9. Angels in the Outfield (1994)
Roger and J.P. are two kids who never miss a home game for their favorite team, the California Angels. When the Angels continue to struggle on the field, Roger struggles to find a way to help the team break out of their slump.
At the next home game, Roger has vivid, interactive hallucinations of guardian angels assisting the baseball Angels. The boy tells the general manager that angels from above, that only Roger can see, are ready and willing to help his team win games. All they have to do is believe.
That’s exactly what they do. Long story short, the Angels turn their season around with their new found help and clinch the divisional pennant.
Morale of the story: Even God cheats a little bit.
8. The Rookie (2002)
The Rookie is a film chronicling the real-life story of 35-year-old MLB rookie Jim Morris. In a few short years, Morris went from coaching a high school baseball team to pitching for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
It’s definitely aims to be a heartwarming movie by examining the power of determination on the road to following impossible dreams.
Although it’s paced a bit slow over 127 minutes, the Rookie remains a truly authentic and enjoyable movie.
Morale of the story: It’s never too late to suddenly decide to become a professional pitcher.
7. The Big Green (1995)
In this Steve Guttenberg classic, a ragtag group of misfit kids are rallied together by their teacher, Ms. Montgomery, to compete in a soccer league in Texas.
Montgomery is dismayed to learn that her students have the lowest test scores in the entire state. So what does she do? She sends the students out to the soccer field.
The team bands together and makes their way to the championship, where they will face an undefeated Knights squad from Austin. After one or two training montages, the game comes down to a dramatic shootout where the smallest and least athletic member of the team brings it home for the Big Green.
Oh, and the students record the highest test scores in the state.
Morale of the story: Soccer improves test scores.
6. Cool Runnings (1993)
Cool Runnings is loosely based on the true story of the 1988 Jamaican Olympic Bobsled team. Four men from Jamaica practice their hearts out to qualify as bobsledders for the Calgary Olympics. Fortunately, they find an inexperienced coach in Irv Blitzer, a former Olympic athlete disqualified for cheating.
When you watch the movie, it’s hard not to root for the unlikely team to get the gold.
What’s refreshing about this movie is that, in the end, they don’t actually win. They fail to qualify for a medal, but they still show fierce determination to finish the race with dignity.
Morale of the story: Bobsledding is a sport.
5. Little Giants (1994)
Two rival pee-wee football teams square off against each other in this 1994 classic starring Rick Moranis.
Both the Giants and the Cowboys are local teams in Urbania, Texas. The only problem is that Ed O’Neill declares there is only room for one team in town.
Unfortunately, the Giants look like they don’t stand a chance. The other team is bigger, faster and more coordinated than anyone on their roster. In typical sports movie formula, the Giants went out and found their ringer in QB phenom and total dreamboat Junior Floyd.
He immediately turns the team around. In the end, the Giants work together as a team to take a stand against their bully rivals.
Morale of the story: You got to have a ringer.
4. Rookie of the Year (1993)
Henry Rowengartner isn’t your average 12-year-old boy. After breaking his arm while trying to catch a fly ball, Henry’s dream of playing professional baseball is starting to fade.
In an exciting twist, the fracture helped transform Henry’s arm into a fastball machine. The Chicago Cubs had a nose for real potential. They put the wheels in motion and signed the youngest player in MLB history, ever, by a lot.
Playing professional baseball didn’t stop Henry from being a kid though, as mom still made sure that he did his homework after his practices at Wrigley Field.
Naturally, his newfound talent disappears in the middle of the big game. So Henry develops an elaborate trick play that outsmarts the opposing team and wins the game for Chicago.
Morale of the story: This is what the Cubs have to do to actually win games.
3. Space Jam (1996)
In this gem, Michael Jordan teams up with the group of cartoon characters that kidnapped him to help win a basketball game against a posse of angry, but tiny, aliens.
Unfortunately, the aliens didn’t play fair as these Monstars stole for themselves the talent from some of the greatest athletes in NBA history, as well as from Muggsy Bogues and Shawn Bradley.
The Looney Toons refuse to let Jordan leave their world and head back to Earth to retrieve his lucky shorts. Bugs and Daffy break into Jordan’s house in the middle of the night and interact with his children.
Jordan, one of three humans present (Bill Murray and Newman from Seinfeld also suited up), had a dominant game and scored most of his team’s points. The game ends with a dramatic Stretch Armstrong-esque 75 ft. dunk that results in a win for the Looney Toons.
Morale of the story: If you ever get kidnapped by cartoon characters, just go with it.
2. The Sandlot (1993)
This 1993 film detailed the lives of a group of young baseball players as they enjoyed another hot, Utah summer in 1962. Scotty Smalls and his friends spent those months playing games of pickup baseball in a small field they affectionately refer to as “The Sandlot."
As much about growing up as it is about baseball, the Sandlot creates feelings of nostalgia for childhood friendship and passion for the game of baseball.
Along the way, the kids do their best to try to kiss girls, vomit on rollercoasters, lose Babe Ruth memorabilia and battle a giant dog-beast. And as Smalls looks down on Benny rounding the bases from his press box perch, you can’t help but feel good.
Morale of the story: Don’t let children near your sports memorabilia.
1. The Mighty Ducks (1992)
Gordon Bombay is a down on his luck, recent DUI recipient who is ordered by the city of Minneapolis to coach a pee-wee hockey team as a form of community service.
Unfortunately, the team isn’t much of a team. They have no equipment, nowhere to practice and don’t seem too interested in playing at all. Coach Bombay, once a hockey player himself, desperately seeks revenge against his estranged former pee-wee coach, and pushes the Ducks through training montages and on to victory.
By the end of the movie, the team is a well-oiled machine. With the signature “Flying V” formation and some raw determination, the Ducks win the big game at the last second. Coach Bombay later goes on to sleep with one of his player’s mothers and relive his glory days with an utterly futile minor league tryout.
The winning squad mainly consisted of brooding captain Charlie Conway, wise guy Les Averman, future bash brother Fulton Reed, quick center Jesse Hall and local idiot Goldberg.
In no time at all, just two sequels later, the same core team was representing the United States in the Junior Olympics.
Morale of the story: The only rational punishment for drunk driving is to coach a kid’s hockey team.