Usually, if you’re home sick, there’s some kind of sporting event to watch to take your mind off of how you’re feeling. But we’re in uncharted territory right now: we’re all stuck inside for the foreseeable future, hopefully healthy, but there are no new sporting events to keep us company during these long days and nights.
There’s never been a time quite like this. Television was still decades away from being invented when the 1918 influenza pandemic hit, and thanks in part to President Roosevelt, baseball was still played during World War II. This is, pardon the pun, a brand new ballgame, or lack thereof.
Originally, this was going to be one master list. But upon realizing just how vast the sports cinematic universe is, I decided to divvy it up into comedies, dramas and tearjerkers, documentaries, and this first one, family films!
So to help us all distract our way through this time, here’s an alphabetized list compiled with the help of my faithful Twitter followers, of the best sports films to watch (and where to watch them) together as a family, or if you just want to feel young at heart, while we wait and pray for life and sports to return!
PS: Most of these movies have at least one sequel, so if your kids are a fan, the fun doesn’t have to stop at just one!
Starting strong with the ultimate combo: sports and dogs, because it is my firm belief that dogs make everything at least 600% better. In Air Bud, a shy and lonely young boy named Josh, who has just moved across the country with his mom and sister after the death of their father, meets an abandoned dog who he names Buddy. He soon discovers that Buddy is able to play basketball. Hijinks and heartwarming basketball moments ensue.
Bonus: if your kids like this one, which is pretty much guaranteed, there are multiple sequels and a spinoff series about Buddy’s children!
Watch it on: Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu
bad news bears
Walter Matthau plays a grumpy old former professional ballplayer agrees to coach a Little League team. Tatum O’Neal costars as a feisty young pitcher who helps him turn the team around.
Watch it on: YouTube, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, Hulu, Sling TV
bend it like beckham
This was one of my family’s favorite movies when I was a kid. My dad taped it from the TV onto a VHS tape, and we probably watched it a hundred times! It’s the story of a young Indian teen who idolizes David Beckham and loves soccer, but her family doesn’t want her to play. Also look for a young Kiera Knightley as her best friend, Jules!
Watch it on: YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Sling TV
Henry & Me
There’s a surprising lack of animated sports films, but Henry & Me is a special one about a young boy and a magical adventure with the New York Yankees.
Watch it on: Amazon, iTunes, Tubi, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu
Who among us hasn’t tried the iconic crane pose on the beach? Karate Kid has all the makings of a classic 80s sports movie: rivalry, mentorship, and the love of a beautiful woman.
There’s also a remake starring Will Smith’s son, if you’d rather watch that. I do not recommend it.
Watch it on: Philo, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Amazon
Little Big League
A young boy inherits the Minnesota Twins from his grandfather and makes himself manager!
Watch it on: Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, YouTube, Amazon, iTunes
Rookie of the year
12-year-old Henry breaks his arm, and when it heals, he can suddenly throw 100-mph, and the Chicago Cubs come calling!
Watch it on: Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Disney+
A classic 90s Mary-Kate and Ashley made-for-TV film about soccer-playing twin sisters who, you probably guessed it, trade places!
Watch it on: Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Hulu
The best basketball movie of all time. If you don’t like it, you’re probably from Moron Mountain. End of discussion.
Watch it on: Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes
The mighty ducks
Lawyer Gordon Bombay has to coach hockey as his community service after a DUI, and you guessed it, the team is a perennial loser. Bombay, a veteran of the same league, attempts to turn the team around and lead them to victory.
Watch it on: YouTube, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, Hulu
Possibly the most iconic kids baseball movie of all time, the Sandlot tells the story of a boy who’s new in town befriending a group of baseball loving youngsters who play… you guessed it, sandlot ball. Set in the summer of 1962, the kids have all kinds of adventures and learn important life lessons along the way.
Watch it on: Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu
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Air Up There, Angels in the Outfield, and Slapshot! Oh wait, no Slapshot