Films about sports are adept at delivering some solid life lessons about dedication, pride, and teamwork, which is exactly the kind of entertainment that’s perfect when it comes to teaching even the littlest viewers some very grown-up stuff, all in a fun package worth cheering about. As the Olympics start Feb. 6, which films are guaranteed to send your kiddos running towards the closest court, field, or rink? We’ve got some ideas. By Kate Erbland
The Mighty Ducks
Hockey may seem hard – all those big pads, all that ice skating, all that cold air – but the ever-popular Mighty Ducks franchise makes the winter sport seem like so much fun that the pros far outweigh the cons. Amusing, sweet, inspirational, and just plain entertaining, it's is the gold medal winner of kiddie sports films (and adults who enjoy the comedic stylings of Emilio Estevez).
Rookie of the Year
While baseball was voted out of the Olympics in 2005, the sport was an Olympic entry for a long time. It was also an Olympic sport when Rookie of the Year was made back in 1993. The film stars Thomas Ian Nicholas as a Little Leaguer who breaks an arm, only to have it heal up in jaw-dropping fashion, landing him in the Major Leagues at age 12. Sure, it sounds nuts, but there’s no better film to pump up your own Little League star.
The Bad News Bears
A classic in the down-on-his-luck coach and team of misfits genre of sports films, the 1976 feature (and, yes, you can also watch the 2005 remake for a lesser experience) may sound by the numbers, but the film is still highly entertaining and more than just a little sassy. It’s also the perfect film to show to any underachieving tot athlete or kiddo team to inspire them to succeed, at least when it comes to having fun on the field.
Packed with now-recognizable stars (from Dennis Quaid to Daniel Stern to Jackie Earle Haley), Breaking Away is one of the finest sports films ever made, a testament to the power athletic pride has on even the most shiftless of young people. While it’s a solid pick for the teen set, the Peter Yates film is still rated a family-friendly PG, ensuring that the cycling drama is a good option for everyone even when it gets a bit more gritty.
Is your kid interested in more offbeat sports? Are you worried about letting them loose on something with wheels? Cool Runnings addresses such issues with both big-time humor (it stars the late, great John Candy) and a heartwarming true story of Olympic glory. Cue this one up before this year’s Games, and bobsledding will soon become everyone’s favorite event to watch.
Bend It Like Beckham
A compelling pick for the rebel in your family, the 2002 film amusingly and sensitively portrays one girl's struggle to break out of the traditional expectations of her family to succeed at her chosen sport. Starlets Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley have both gone on to bigger things, but this soccer-centric dramedy is one of their best works, sure to get your kids kicking.
Perhaps the perfect sports film to show your family this season – based on a true story, Miracle tells the tale of the ragtag 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, an organization that started their quest for glory with zero hope of beating the all-star, all-super Russian team. Led by a fearless coach, Miracle is highly inspirational, deeply emotional, and really nothing short of rousing. Get ready to buy some sticks and skates after watching.
Another classic of the unlikely coach and messy team style of sports films, the 1986 drama is deeply inspiring to both kids and adults. Gene Hackman stars as Coach Norman Dale, a man with his own problems, who is tasked with leading a small town team with few prospects and even less hope. We probably don’t need to tell you how the film ends, but no matter how expected the outcome might be, it’s still a slam dunk every time you see it.
A League of Their Own
Sure, baseball is no longer an Olympic sport, and women’s baseball was never an eligible event, but Penny Marshall’s 1992 gem is still inspiring in a wholly Olympics-sized way. A fictionalized account of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the film delivers both history and hysterics, inspiring on many levels while also pitching home great performances and big laughs.
If great sports films find the sweet spot when it comes to overcoming odds, this 1978 romantic drama deserves a gold medal. Lynn-Holly Johnson plays a young ice skater on the verge of breaking out who is felled by a horrible accident that leaves her blind. What does she do? She learns to skate again – still blind! More: Our favorite winter-sports movies