"“Worthless” to Mighty Warriors"

Content: -2 Discretion advised for adults.

What You Need To Know:

12 MIGHTY ORPHANS is based on the true story of Rusty Russell, a teacher and football coach. Rusty leads a team of orphans to the Texas state football championship during the Great Depression in the 1930s. A war hero and orphan himself, Rusty begins work at an orphanage that doesn’t have enough students, a football field or even shoes to wear. Rusty is unwavering in his hope, determination and fatherly care. When the school’s sadistic headmaster, a rival coach and a crooked politician team up to put an end to the football team, it may be too much to overcome.

12 MIGHTY ORPHANS is an outstanding, uplifting movie about triumph over great obstacles. It tells an inspiring true story, with excellent performances and superb production values. The movie has a great deal of redemptive Christian content, including mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and the power of hope and love. Sadly, though, it also contains excessive foul language, some teenage drinking, boys spying on girls, a character trying to overcome an alcohol problem, and some abuse-related violence. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for 12 MIGHTY ORPHANS.


(CCC, BBB, LLL, VV, S, N, AA, D, M):

Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Strong Christian, redemptive, moral worldview stresses mercy, forgiveness, love of neighbor, compassion, and the power of hope and love, plus an image of the Virgin Mary hangs on an orphanage wall and Catholic nuns are present in a scene

Foul Language:
About 44 obscenities and one profanity

Abuse-related violence when a sadistic headmaster beats a boy (mostly off-screen) unconscious, a student beats the headmaster in defense of a fellow student, boys punch each other, some war-related violence in a flashback, football-related violence, and mother slaps her son in the face three times

A few lewd sexual comments, and boys spy on girls in their bedroom

Boy’s towel falls off revealing brief rear nudity and some upper male nudity

Alcohol Use:
A main character is alcohol dependent, but it is rebuked and corrected, and there’s some teenage drinking and hangovers

Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
Some smoking tobacco, but no drugs;

Miscellaneous Immorality:
Cruel comments are made about orphans, and headmaster is abusive and deceitful.

More Detail:

12 MIGHTY ORPHANS is based on the true soul-stirring triumph of Rusty Russell, a teacher and football coach, who leads a high school team of orphans to a Texas state football championship during the Great Depression in the 1930s, giving hope to an entire weary nation. 12 MIGHTY ORPHANS is an outstanding, uplifting, inspiring movie, with strong Christian, moral elements stressing mercy, hope, forgiveness, and love, but the PG-13 movie is marred by lots of foul language and some other issues, including teenage drinking and boys spying on girls.

Rusty, and his wife, Juanita, take teaching jobs at the Masonic Home for Orphans in Fort Worth, Texas. Together with their two children, the orphanage becomes their new home. Hope is scarce for any average American at this time in history. For the orphan, hope is an unknown. A former orphan himself, as well as a war hero, Rusty begins his journey at the orphanage with a simple desire to “make a real difference.” Fortified with the heart of a hero, Rusty plans to give his all to teach Math and Science, as well inspire and give dignity and self-respect to the boys through coaching the game of football. He doesn’t shrink from the challenge, even after he discovers the orphanage does not have enough students, a football field, or even shoes for the orphans to compete. Juanita commits to the role of teaching the female orphans English and Music.

Rusty maintains his optimism with the help of his Assistant Coach, Doc Hall, played by Martin Sheen. Doc Hall is a generous school doctor who has a heart of gold but struggles with a drinking problem. The physical, emotional and material needs of 150 orphans is overwhelming. The situation is exasperated by a sadistic headmaster, Frank Wynn, who seems bent on punishing the orphans for their very existence. Rusty must beat the system and lift the orphans up when the system is in place in order to keep the orphans down.

Rusty secures his new football recruits by offering an alternative to working the fields. He asks the boys to play on the field instead. Most of the boys are relatively small in stature and know nothing about football. One exception is a very large “toughest son of a gun,” a boy named Hardy Brown. Rusty and Doc Hall are dedicated to train all the boys from the ground up. Brown fights Rusty every step of the way. Rusty sees an opportunity to help Brown and the other boys conquer the demons of their past by teaching them that there is hope. “Without hope,” Rusty explains, “fear and anger, they’ll dominate you through violence.” The coach wins the trust of the boys slowly and steadily, through his unwavering hope, determination, and fatherly care.

Things take a sudden turn for the worse when Rusty interrupts the headmaster beating one of his students. Rusty commands him in front of the other students to stop hitting the boy. By challenging Wynn’s authority, the new coach makes his job a whole lot harder. The headmaster does everything in his power to dismantle the football team, including enforcing rigorous academic requirements for the boys to continue their eligibility to play on the team. Rusty sees them through the academic challenge by teaching them and telling them they are not like everyone else, they are better, because they have something to prove. The team makes it to their first game. A new obstacle presents itself. Stuck in the “survival mode” of orphan life, the boys fight each other on the field. The internal failure and dissension of the team is on display for all to see. Can the mighty orphans learn the skills they need to act as a team?

Meanwhile, the team is further threatened after Headmaster Wynn discovers that the more the boys play football, the less they can be available for free labor and his profit. With the help of a relative in a high-ranking political position and a coach of a rival team, Wynn plots to put an end to the orphan football team for good.

Pushing forward against insurmountable odds, and under the leadership of their faithful coach and advocate, the boys begin to play a great game of football. Rusty teaches them some new football formations and strategies that change the game of football forever. The coach’s style, and the grit of his winning team, earn recognition from the press. Fans flock to watch the orphan team. The Masonic team becomes the hope of a battered nation, the underdog, and even drawing the attention of the President of the United States.

However, a final blow executed by Headmaster Wynn, with the help of a system that seeks to prevent a group of orphans from making it to the Texas state championships, may be more than any of them can overcome.

12 MIGHTY ORPHANS is an outstanding, uplifting movie about triumph over pain and great obstacles through the powerful gift of hope. It tells a wonderfully inspiring true story, with excellent performances by Martin Sheen as Doc Hall and Luke Wilson as Rusty Russell. The cinematography and realistic production design and costumes are superb. The movie has a strong Christian, moral worldview stressing mercy, forgiveness, love, and hope. Sadly, though, it contains excessive foul language, some teenage drinking, boys spying on girls, a character who has an alcohol problem but overcomes it, and some abuse-related violence. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for 12 MIGHTY ORPHANS.