Everyone has a favorite sports movie. What’s yours?
Chances are, whatever it happens to be, it came out of the 1990s. Why? Because this was a decade defined by some of the very best sports films in the history of Hollywood.
Here are my picks for the
Best Kids Sports Movies Of The 90s
Little Giants (1994)
An often overlooked family film finds two very different brothers battling it out on the field… as pee-wee football coaches. Unfortunately, one team is a little more “stacked” than that other and thus the story quickly turns into the rise of the underdog.
The idea is interesting enough but the interesting duo of Rick Moranis and Ed O’Neill as the 2 brothers ensure the acting and comedic timing is spot on and well-paced.
While the plot is a little unoriginal and thin, the two strong leads are enough to carry the movie through making it a fun pick for any younger football fans out there. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon
Angels In The Outfield (1994)
This Disney classic from director William Dear hit the big screen less than a month before the Major League Baseball strike of 1994, and focuses on the struggling California Angels getting some much-needed divine assistance.
A remake of the 1951 flick of the same name, it features an all-star cast that includes Danny Glover, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd, Adrien Brody, and a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a role that still steals hearts to this very day!
Angels In The Outfield went on to gross over $50-Million domestically and even spawned two made-for-TV sequels.
While not a huge hit with critics, this one taught an entire generation of youth to believe in the impossible and to never stop holding out hope for a miracle.
Rookie Of The Year (1993)
There was no shortage of baseball movies throughout the early part of the 1990s, and this comedic flick from Daniel Stern was one of my personal favorites growing up!
Rookie Of The Year centers around Henry Rowengartner, an unskilled little leaguer who soon finds himself stepping up to the mound as a player of the struggling Chicago Cubs after an injury enables him to throw a ball with incredible force.
Starring Thomas Ian Nicholas, Gary Busey, Dan Hedaya, Amy Morton, Albert Hall, Daniel Stern, and an uncredited John Candy, the movie would gross over $55-Million domestically and was even praised by Roger Ebert as “…pure wish fulfillment, 40 years after I needed it.”
At a time when every kid seemed to dream about playing in the Major Leagues, Rookie Of The Year took that wish and turned it into a perfect feel-good flick that had us believing – if but for just a moment, that anything was possible.
The Waterboy (1998)
You had to know this one was going to be on the list! The comedy is headlined by Adam Sandler and focuses on the sheltered yet loveable Bobby Boucher Jr., whose wicked tackle takes him off the sidelines and earns him a spot on the South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs football team.
It’s pure Sandler cinema at its very best, goofy and over the top with a heart of gold that helped cement the SNL alum as a comedic force at the box office for a good many years to follow.
Also starring Kathy Bates, Fairuza Balk, Henry Winkler, Jerry Reed, Blake Clark, and Rob Schneider, The Waterboy was extremely profitable with over $186-Million worldwide.
Granted, this Frank Coraci flick isn’t for everyone. However, there is no denying that watching those numerous bone-crunching hits over the course of the film’s 90-minute runtime never gets old!
Cool Runnings (1993)
Jon Turteltaub directs this Disney classic, which is loosely based on the true story of the Jamaica national bobsleigh team’s debut during the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Starring Leon Robinson, Doug E. Doug, Rawle D. Lewis, Malik Yoba, and John Candy, it hit theatres on October 1st, 1993, and went on to gross over $154-Million worldwide.
Praised as a sweet-natured, high-spirited comedy, Cool Runnings celebrates genuine sportsmanship with a wholesome, hilarious narrative that is both fun and inspirational! Plus, can modern society even have a serious conversation about bobsleighing without at least mentioning this early 90s family classic? I think not!
As if the movie isn’t great enough on its own, the soundtrack for Cool Runnings also went on to become quite popular. This thanks in no small part to Jimmy Cliff’s cover of I Can See Clearly Now, which reached the Top 40 as a single in Canada, France, The United Kingdom, and The United States respectively.
The Sandlot (1993)
This coming of age comedy from David Mickey Evans follows a group of young baseball players during the summer of 1962.
Released to the big screen in April of 1993, The Sandlot may have only grossed just a little over $34-Million worldwide, but has gone on to become one of the most quoted and beloved cult films of all time.
Featuring a cast that includes Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Karen Allen, Denis Leary, and James Earl Jones, the movie has been praised for its strong fundamentals, genuinely sweet nature, and overall sincerity.
It may not be the most exciting, or even the most fun entry on the list, but it is certainly guaranteed to give you a big ‘ol dose of the feels by the time the end credits roll.
You’re Killing Me, Smalls!
A League Of Their Own (1992)
There’s No Crying In Baseball!
Hailing from director Penny Marshall, this comedic sports drama features an all-star cast and tells a fictionalized account of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
Starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty, Jon Lovitz, David Strathairn, Garry Marshall, and Bill Pullman, A League Of Their Own was well received by critics, who praised the cast for their strong performances and the film’s accurate portrayal of early 40s society amidst the climate of the second world war.
While it was never able to reach the top spot at the box office, the movie had pretty decent success with over $132-Million in ticket sales.
On December 19th, 2012, A League Of Their Own was preserved as part of the United States National Film Registry. It also received a special 20th anniversary edition Blu-Ray that same year, while special screenings also took place at the National Baseball Hall Of Fame.
In addition, forty-seven former players of the AAGPBL reunited in New York City to celebrate the film, while others made a special appearance at Bosse Field in Indiana where many of the movie’s game scenes were filmed.
The Mighty Ducks Trilogy (1992 – 1996)
If there was a more popular sports film franchise to come out of the 1990s than The Mighty Ducks, I certainly never saw it.
Hailing from Walt Disney, the movies revolve around a Twin Cities ice hockey team, composed of young kids that stick together throughout various challenges.
While not loved by critics, audiences could not get enough. This not only resulted in a trilogy of popular films, but also a Saturday morning cartoon and a new series recently released through Disney Plus.
Starring Emilio Estevez, Joshua Jackson, Elden Henson, Vincent Larusso, Ty O’Neal, and Ian Ziering among others, The Mighty Ducks movies have gone on to become beloved cult classics.
Financially successful in every sense of the word, the franchise is even credited with the birth of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim professional hockey team in 1993.
Introducing an entire generation of fans to such over the top concepts as The Flying V and The Knuckle Puck, The Mighty Ducks taught us all what it meant to come together as a team and is still held by many as the very best hockey film franchise to come out of Hollywood almost thirty years later! Proving once and for all that The Mouse House knew exactly what it was doing long before getting its hands on blockbuster IPs like Star Wars and Marvel!
Space Jam (1996)
Yeah, like you didn’t know this one was going to be at the top of the list!
A hybrid of live-action and animation, the high-flying flick sees the Looney Tunes recruiting Michael Jordan to help them win a basketball game against a team of hostile aliens who’ve stolen the talents from some of the biggest names in the NBA.
Lose that game, and Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Taz, Tweety, and the rest will soon find themselves the main attraction in an intergalactic theme park.
Joe Pytka directs a stellar cast of actors and athletes that includes Michael Jordan, Billy West, Charles Barkley, Wayne Knight, Theresa Randle, Bill Murray, Danny DeVito, Larry Johnson, Kath Soucie, Muggsy Bogues, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, and Larry Bird.
It may not have been a huge hit with the critics, but the movie went on to gross over $250-Million worldwide and even spawned a sequel starring LeBron James and an animated television cross-over with Teen Titans Go!
Add to that a toe-tapping soundtrack of some of the most memorable jams in Hollywood history and you’ve got a fun-filled flick that continues to delight audiences more than twenty-five years later!
It’s fantastical fun right out of the gate, and still remains a rainy day favorite of this writer – whose love of both basketball and all things Bugs Bunny was sent into overdrive when this award-winning spectacle first landed at the box office back in the Fall of 1996!
Some Sports Flicks For The Bigger “Kids”
Powerful and inspiring, this biographical sports film from David Anspaugh recounts the life of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger – a young man who’d hoped to play football at the University of Notre Dame despite a fair number of hard roadblocks.
Debuting at the closing night gala of the Toronto International Film Festival in the Fall of 1993, Rudy would go on to garner high praise from critics and is even now considered to be one of the most inspirational films in the history of cinema by the American Film Institute.
Sean Astin plays the title role alongside a cast that includes Ned Beatty, Charles S. Dutton, Lili Taylor, and Robert Prosky. It was shot on campus at Notre Dame and even featured supporting roles from both Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn in their first official film roles.
Rudy is everything a sports movie should be!
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Show Me The Money! This 1996 sports film from director Cameron Crowe is inspired by sports agent Leigh Steinberg, who acted as a technical consultant during the 1993 NFL Free Agency.
Starring Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., Renée Zellweger, Jerry O’Connell, Bonnie Hunt, and Regina King, the movie was a commercial and critical success that resulted in it being one of the highest grossing flicks of 1996.
Jerry Maguire brought in over $273-Million worldwide against a $50-Million budget and was nominated for a total of five Academy Awards. Both Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. would win awards for their roles in the film and even former Green Bay Packers vice president Andrew Brandt praised the movie for its accurate portrayal of the cutthroat nature of the agent business. Especially the lengths to which agents will go to retain or pilfer clients.