Snapshots of Childhood: The Twenty Best Kid’s Sports Movies (5-1)
As fans of sports we are naturally drawn to sports movies. There are the classics that everybody loves, Rocky, Caddyshack, Bull Durham, etc., and then there are those sports movies that aren’t actually any good, but since you watched them when you were little you still love them tremendously. I’ve taken it upon myself to list those movies that were favorites of The Rookies staff when we were kids.
[Note: I guess I haven't made it clear, but the cutoff for these movies is the year the first of us went to Kindergarten, 1992, so any movies made before that time will not be on the list.]
20. Slam Dunk Ernest (1995)
19. Ladybugs (1992)
18. Eddie (1996)
17. Brink (1998)
16. Celtic Pride (1996)
15. The Mighty Ducks (1992)
14. Air Bud (1997)
13. The Sixth Man (1997)
12. Angels in the Outfield (1994)
11. The Big Green (1994)
10. Happy Gilmore (1996)
9. Alley Cats Strike! (2000)
8. BASEketball (1998)
7. Space Jam (1996)
6. Little Giants (1994)
And now, the Top 5:
5. Little Big League (1994)
When this movie came out I was a seven year old Twins fan and I so desperately wanted to be Billy Heywood. What kid wouldn’t want to own and manage their favorite team? Sure it wouldn’t be easy. As Billy Heywood finds out ballplayers, and really guys in general, can be a bunch of pricks. But really, it’s not absurd that a kid could manage a baseball team, it is the American League after all, but what is ridiculous is that Timothy Busfield is a star athlete.
On the other hand, if Chuck Knoblockhead Sr. were ever to pass away, I definitely wouldn’t mind my mom marrying him. This movie is a little different in that Minnesota doesn’t win in the end. Even as a Twins fan I can’t complain though, because of my massive mancrush (boycrush?) on 1990s Ken Griffey Jr. If my team had to be beaten in some fashion, Griffey robbing our star player of a game winning home run has to be the coolest.
4. Cool Runnings (1993)
Based on the true story of the 1988 Jamaican Bobsled Team, Cool Runnings stars John Candy as Coach Irv Blitzer, a dirty cheater that moved to Jamaica to smoke weed all the time, or so I assume. His job is to mold a ragtag group of sprinters who failed to qualify for the Olympics into the greatest bobsledding team the world has ever seen. Okay, so that wasn’t going to happen, but just qualifying for the Games and beating the hell out of some East Germans was pretty good. Yes the movie does contain a plethora of Jamaican stereotypes and Doug E. Doug is his usual annoying self, but if you don’t tear up a little bit as the team carries their sled across the finish line, after crashing during the final run, as one of the greatest slow claps ever occurs, then you are a fucking robot, a robot that has been specifically programmed to be a jerk.
3. Rookie of the Year (1993)
Little Big League showed us how awesome it was to own and coach your favorite team, but Rookie of the Year kicks it up a notch by having 12 year old Henry Rowengartner actually play for his. Young Henry’s tendons have healed a little too tight and now he can throw a hundred miles per hour. Sure he doesn’t have any off-speed pitches and he throws the ball dead straight, nobody can hit him! The film features Gary Busey in the role he was born to play, a mentor for young kids. With Chet Steadman’s help Henry is able to pitch the Cubs into playoff contention that all comes down to one last game against the Mets. Luckily for Henry the umpires don’t seem to know the rules and he’s able to balk his way out of a late inning jam, that includes one of the best hitters in the game swinging and missing on a softball pitch. The ending to this glorious film is an absolutely brutal blow to Cubs fans as Rowengartner is shown wearing a World Series Champions ring, something that could only have occurred in this work of fiction.
2. The Sandlot (1993)
Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez is the coolest kid’s movie character of all-time. Really, what more do I have to say then that? He’s kind, sensitive and the most gifted athlete since Bo Jackson. I mean, he can actually make Smalls look like a decent player by intentionally hitting a ball into his glove from like 200 feet away. Of course, the movie revolves around the fact that Smalls doesn’t know who Babe Ruth is, takes an autographed baseball from his stepfather’s trophy room, and somehow manages to hit a homerun into the yard of a demon dog. I will say that the nerd in me really loves the elaborate plans the kids come up with to try and get the ball back, but none of them our successful. In the end, Benny just says fuck it, puts on his PF Flyers and goes after the ball himself leading to an epic chase scene culminating in an appearance by the great James Earl Jones. This movie has everything, good dialogue, fantastic camaraderie through sports and an interesting storyline, but it’s still not the greatest kids movie of the nineties.
1. D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994)
Here it is, number one, the greatest movie of all-time, D2: The Mighty Ducks. D2 has an impeccable cast featuring Emilio Estevez, Joshua Jackson and the third appearance on this list of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, not to mention the reuniting of The Sandlot veterans Brandon Adams (Jesse Hall) and Mike Vitar (Luis Mendoza). In the first movie the Ducks have to overcome douchebag suburban Minnesotans, in this installment they have to defeat the greatest hockey power in the teenage world, Iceland. As I have argued in the past because the Junior Goodwill Games only allow 13 players to dress for games, including two goaltenders, the Ducks unique ability to never be tired and always outplay their opponent in the third period make them the perfect team to represent America. Of course, they needed a little help, and the newcomers all brought something to the table. Portman teamed up with Fulton to create the Bash Brothers. Kenny Wu was a vast improvement over Tammy Duncan. Dwayne was a ridiculous caricature of a cowboy, and managed to get a penalty for roping which is somehow only a minor. Julie “The Cat” Gaffney was one of the first crushes for a young Chuck Knoblockhead. Also, you know, she was way better than Goldberg. Luis had the most absurd flaw of any kid’s movie athlete ever. Not being able to stop in the second grade is embarrassing; in eighth it makes you wonder if he still wet the bed. Of course, the other addition was Russ Tyler and his fantastic knuckle puck. A shot that became so ubiquitous amongst hockey players my age, even though it never worked, they had to ban it from practices. Put this all together and you get a movie that I am proud to say I’ve seen over fifty times. Okay, “proud” is probably the wrong word, but this movie is funny, stupid, and leaves you joyfully singing “We Are the Champions.” What more could you ask for? I could write another couple thousand words about D2, but I’ll spare you for now, so let me just leave you with this Little Known Fact: The Godfather Part II, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and D2: The Mighty Ducks are the only three sequels to win an Oscar for Best Picture.