Iron Will



Coming-of-age tale for older kids and teens.
  • Review Date: March 1, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1994
  • Running Time: 109 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Meant to entertain rather than educate.

Positive messages

Courage, determination, and loyalty to family. Historical setting and Native American customs are featured elements.

Positive role models

The teen hero's determination to follow his dream, and his unwillingness to give up in the face of tremendous danger, is inspirational.

Violence & scariness

A dog is seriously injured in a dog fight. Several competitors are injured during the sled race, one after being attacked by another. The teenage hero witnesses his father's death. He's also threatened by an older character, and has to endure physical hardships.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this snowy coming-of-age film shows the teen hero confronting dangerous obstacles on the way to accomplishing his dream. While the heartwarming theme is excellent, sensitive children should be shielded from this film. In it, Will's father dies and Will is taunted by adults. There's also a graphic dog fight scene. Eight-year-olds who are mature enough will be rewarded with an excellent film. Parents may want to discuss the film's disturbing elements with younger kids after viewing. It may be hard to get adolescents to watch, but teens who give this story a try will thrill to the youthful main character's courage.

What's the story?

IRON WILL follows the adventures of 17-year-old Will Stoneman (Mackenzie Astin), who, after his father dies, competes in a grueling dog sled race to save the family farm. Set in snowy, beautifully photographed wilderness, Iron Will is an action-packed adventure with heart and soul. Young Will Stoneman's determination to follow his dream, and his unwillingness to give up in the face of tremendous danger, is inspirational. In addition, his commitment to honoring his father and preserving his family's way of life is an admirable contrast to much of what's commonly offered pre-teen and teen audiences.

Is it any good?


The performances in Iron Will are uniformly excellent. Oscar winner Kevin Spacey is a snappy, sarcastic presence as the veteran reporter who sees Will as his ticket to fame and fortune. Mackenzie Astin has a sweet but never sappy earnestness as Will. Supporting characters, from the grizzled competitors to the wealthy financiers (including David Ogden Stiers), who sponsor the race, fill out the cast nicely. The sled dogs are beautiful, and the stunts are wildly exciting and well staged.

Like many Disney releases, Iron Will contains moments that may disturb sensitive viewers. Will's father's death, and the idea that an adult would taunt and threaten a kid, are difficult concepts. Parents are urged to view this film along with their kids. One 8-year-old boy felt the film was "sad, but really exciting," and loved the animals. Although there are scary moments and the road is a little rough, Will's journey is well worth taking.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Will's courage and how each family member has used courage in his or her own life.

  • What is your favorite dog movie? How does this one compare?

  • Why do you think there are so many movies featuring heroic dogs?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 1, 1994
DVD release date:April 23, 2003
Cast:August Schellenberg, Kevin Spacey, Mackenzie Astin
Director:Charles Haid
Studio:Walt Disney Pictures
Character strengths:Courage, Integrity, Perseverance
Run time:109 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byfritzsky April 9, 2008
Teen, 13 years old Written bycheacky3 June 12, 2009

a good movie

This is a good movie. If you like sled dog racing, then you should watch it. But if you are an emotional person that can't stand looking at hurt animals, then you shouldn't watch it.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Kid, 7 years old August 4, 2014

Bad Review

I would much prefer to play video games. I was forced to watch this because my sister was watching it. I think the move was bad because it did not have enough adventure.


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