Playing sports teaches kids invaluable lessons about teamwork, practice, bravery, and determination. Truly great movies about youth sports not only echo these lessons; they also show how these skills help kids deal with other aspects of their lives, be it family, friends, and relationships. In so doing, these films go above and beyond the call of duty, offering insights and inspiration that we can shore up against whatever life throws our way.
Here is a countdown of the 15 greatest youth sports movies ever made:
15. The Karate Kid, 1984
Miyagi: Wax on, right hand. Wax off, left hand. Wax on, wax off. Breathe in through nose, out the mouth. Wax on, wax off. Don't forget to breathe, very important. Wax on, wax off. Wax on, wax off.
14. The Big Green, 1995
The Big Green is a timeless story of overcoming fear and learning to come together as a team to do something new.
Newt: I'm little, I'm low to the ground, I got power, I got moves! I'm your man!
13. Kicking & Screaming, 2005
While a lot of movies about kids' sports feature overly competitive coaches, Kicking & Screaming shows one normal suburban dad's descent into madness. It's a hilarious cautionary tale of what happens when parents lose sight of what is really important in youth sports.
Ref: Where do I know you from?
Phil: I've been your neighbor for the last seven years!
Ref: No, that ain't it.
Phil: That's definitely it!
Ref: I'll figure it out.
12. Bend It Like Beckham, 2002
Teenagers may often feel at odds with their parents, and that eternal struggle is at the heart of Bend It Like Beckham. More than just a film about soccer, it invites its viewers to question tradition and strive for their dreams, even if it requires considerable sacrifice.
Jess: Anyone can cook aloo gobi, but who can bend a ball like Beckham?
11. The Blind Side, 2009
Based on an incredible true story of the Tuohy family, The Blind Side is an amazing testament of what children can achieve when given unwavering love, acceptance, and opportunity. It also highlights the transformative power that sports can have for underprivileged youth.
Michael: Courage is a hard thing to figure. You can have courage based on a dumb idea or mistake, but you're not supposed to question adults, or your coach or your teacher, because they make the rules. Maybe they know best, but maybe they don't. It all depends on who you are, where you come from. Didn't at least one of the six hundred guys think about giving up, and joining with the other side? I mean, Valley of Death, that's pretty salty stuff. That's why courage it's tricky. Should you always do what others tell you to do? Sometimes you might not even know why you're doing something. I mean any fool can have courage. But honor, that's the real reason for you to either do something or you don't. It's who you are and maybe who you want to be. If you die trying for something important, then you have both honor and courage, and that's pretty good. I think that's what the writer was saying, that you should hope for courage and try for honor. And maybe even pray that the people telling you what to do have some, too.
10. Bad News Bears, 1976
Bad News Bears is hilarious and irreverent, but it also has a sobering theme at its core: Giving up can lead to regret, which can quickly spiral into a lifetime of pain. Even when things look bleak, quitting is rarely the best option.
Coach Buttermaker: This quitting thing, it's a hard habit to break once you start.
9. Air Bud, 1997
Out of all of the Air Bud movies, the original is the best. The main character might not be the best player, but through hard work and drawing inspiration from the furriest and most unlikely of sources, big things happen.
Mr. Willingham: Why are you taking my kid out for?
Arthur Chaney: Cause he's playin' like he's a one-man team.
Mr. Willingham: This boy is the team!
Arthur Chaney: Maybe he is to a worked-up father, but to me, he's a player who's got a whole lot to learn. Now, kindly take your seat, Mr. Willingham, and let me get back to coaching my team!
8. Ladybugs, 1992
Winning is nice, but doing so with integrity is crucial. In Ladybugs, times get desperate for the coach of a girls' soccer team, and he learns the hard way what happens when you choose to cheat.
Dave Mullen: You have five seconds to get Kimberly out of there. There's nothing to think about. Get her out of there.
Chester: Look, we're not in your office now. Out here, I call the shots.
Dave Mullen: Looks like I misjudged you, Chester. I guess you don't care about your future with this company.
Chester: Right now, all I care about is this team.
Dave Mullen: Chester, you've forgotten what's important to you.
Chester: I didn't forget. You forgot. What's more important? That strangers look up to you, or your own kid? Kimberly's playing today! And if it means my job, too bad.
Dave Mullen: Look, Chester, I just want to win today. I only want the best out there.
Chester: The best, the best. That's all I keep hearing. You want to be the best. Let me ask you this, what good is being the best if it brings out the worst in you?
7. Rookie Of The Year, 1993
Rookie Of The Year is the tale of a 12-year-old boy who suffers a fluke injury and comes out as a star baseball player — his biggest dream. While offering plenty of uplift, the film cautions us to be careful what we wish for, because the path to achieving impossible dreams can be a twisty one, studded setbacks.
Larry Fisher: Hey, kid! How'd you like to play for the Chicago Cubs?
Henry Rowengartner: Great! But I gotta ask my mom first.
6. Hoosiers, 1986
Basketball is life in Indiana; and that fact can come with some heavy responsibility for players and coaches. Hoosiers perfectly demonstrates the effects local sports can have on the community
Myra: You know, a basketball hero around here is treated like a god, er, uh, how can he ever find out what he can really do? I don't want this to be the high point of his life. I've seen them, the real sad ones. They sit around the rest of their lives talking about the glory days when they were seventeen years old.
Coach Dale: You know, most people would kill to be treated like a god, just for a few moments.
5. Rudy, 1993
Rudy is an unpopular kid trying to land a spot on a the football team. The film centers on his pursuit of this goal, driving home a message about the importance of tenacity but also compassion and acceptance. Ultimately, we're all on the same team.
Steele: I want Rudy to dress in my place, Coach. He deserves it.
Coach Devine: Don't be ridiculous! Georgia Tech is one of the top offensive teams in the country. You are an All-American and our Captain; act like it!
Steele: I believe I am.
4. Remember The Titans, 2000
There are countless movies about high school football, but Remember The Titans is in a class all its own. Through football, a group of teenagers is able to deal with desegregation and learn how to trust one another not only as teammates, but as friends.
Coach Boone: This is where they fought the battle of Gettysburg. Fifty thousand men died right here on this field, fighting the same fight that we're still fighting amongst ourselves today. This green field right here, painted red, bubblin' with blood of young boys. Smoke and hot lead pouring right through their bodies. Listen to their souls, men. "I killed my brother with malice in my heart." "Hatred destroyed my family." You listen, and you take a lesson from the dead. If we don't come together right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed, just like they were. I don't care if you like each other or not, but you will respect each other. And maybe... I don't know, maybe we'll learn to play this game like men.
3. The Sandlot, 1993
Everything about The Sandlot screams childhood: backyard baseball, trying to fit in with a new group of friends, an irrational fear of a crotchety neighbor, and the far more legitimate fear that parents are capable of murder when they find out what has been broken. It also reminds us that there are times when ingenuity, bravery, and teamwork can solve almost even the thorniest problems.
Ham Porter: You're killing me, Smalls!
2. The Mighty Ducks, 1992
Though the entire Mighty Ducks trilogy is pretty great, the original is the best in the franchise. A reluctant coach to a ragtag youth hockey team, Gordon Bombay learns as much about sportsmanship from his team as they do from him, and out of this hilarious and heartwarming relationship, the Ducks emerge an unlikely powerhouse bound for the state championships.
Gordon: I'll have you know, Peter, that the Duck is one of the most noble, agile and intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom.
Connie: But they're wimpy!
Guy: They don't even have teeth.
Gordon: Neither do hockey players! Have you guys ever seen a flock of ducks flying in perfect formation? It's beautiful. Pretty awesome the way they all stick together. Ducks never say die. Ever seen a duck fight? No way. Why? Because the other animals are afraid. They know that if they mess with one duck, they gotta deal with the whole flock. I'm proud to be a Duck, and I'd be proud to fly with any one of you. So how about it? Who's a Duck?
Fulton: I'll be a Duck.
Charlie: Yeah, me too.
1. Little Giants, 1994
This movie has it all: sibling rivalry, an underdog story, girl power, celebrity cameos, trick plays, young love, Devon Sawa and, of course, the great Rick Moranis. Little Giants taught us that as we strive for victory, we must never forget to stay true to ourselves — and to have fun! It's the quintessential film about youth sports, and Danny O'Shea is the kind of coach every kid should have.
Danny: Well, wait a second, guys. Who said you had to be good to play football? You play football because you want to. You play football because it's fun. You play football so you could pretend you're Joe Montana throwing a touchdown pass, or Emmitt Smith going for a long run. And even if those Cowboys are better than you guys, even if they beat you 99 times out of 100, that still leaves...
Tad: One time.
Zolteck: One time.
Junior: Yeah, one time!