The 5th Quarter

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The 5th Quarter Movie Poster Image
Football tearjerker may be too intense for younger viewers.
  • PG
  • 2011
  • 97 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

This movie shows the power of determination, prayer, faith, and teamwork -- within families, friends, and football teams -- as a family grieves over the untimely death of their teenage son due to reckless driving. This film also shows the profoundly positive impact organ donation has, not only on those who need and receive organs but also for those families who donate the organs of lost loved ones.

Positive Role Models & Representations

In their own ways, each member of the Abbate family attempts to work through the pain and loss they feel over the untimely death of 15-year-old Luke Abbate. Together and individually, they find the inner strength to work through their sorrow. Older brother Jon Abbate, a linebacker for Wake Forest University, uses the pain of the loss of his younger brother as motivation to overcome his own grief and to "play for two," leading Wake Forest to the best record they've ever had.


After a car accident, teenagers are shown injured and bleeding. One of the boys is shown in a hospital bed, bleeding and unconscious.


Tame insinuations about a teenage girl "wanting" a teen boy "in every way."


"S--t," "ass."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters are shown drinking beer, wine, and tequila. Drunk characters -- including a college student -- act intoxicated but suffer the consequences of their actions in the form of peers showing concern and telling them to stop. A college student and football player turns to drinking in the aftermath of his younger brother's death but is shown by his friends and a personal trainer that drinking will not ease his suffering.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The 5th Quarter is a true story about a family and football team who come together in the aftermath of the tragic death of a 15-year-old boy due to reckless teenage driving. Although it's ultimately an inspirational story, much of the first half of the movie shows the emotional devastation experienced by a family after the death of a loved one: scenes in the hospital and at the funeral and subsequent scenes in which family members try to cope with their loss. These scenes might be a bit much for younger or more sensitive viewers. There also is some profanity ("s--t") and alcohol abuse, although the movie makes it clear that drinking to forget one's problems isn't effective. Overall the movie shows the power of family, faith, friendship, and football to help ease the tremendous difficulty of untimely death, and the film also shows the positive benefits of organ donation -- not only for the recipients of the needed organs but also for the families who agree to donate the organs of their beloved deceased.

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What's the story?

On a ride home from school, 15-year-old Luke Abbate dies in a car accident after the reckless teen driver loses control of his vehicle. His family -- including Luke's older brother, Jon, who plays linebacker for Wake Forest -- is devastated. As the Abbates try to work through their profound sorrow, Jon starts drinking more and more and thinks about quitting football. But after he meets and starts working with an inspiring personal trainer who tells him to "play for two," Jon finds motivation to continue playing football and to work harder than he ever has before. He inspires his team and the fans, all of whom remember Luke by calling the fourth quarter of every game the "fifth quarter" in honor of Luke's No. 5 football jersey. The fans and players start to believe that it's Luke who's helping the team win in dramatic fashion in the fourth quarter, leading Wake Forest to the best season they've ever had, and the Abbates learn to celebrate and honor Luke's life not only on the football field but also by helping to raise awareness of the consequences of reckless teenage driving and the benefits of organ donation to those who so desperately need it.

Is it any good?

THE 5TH QUARTER is a very good movie for older kids looking for an inspirational true story. The film pulls no punches with the intense grief a family endures in the aftermath of the tragic and untimely death of their 15-year-old son and brother. It manages to integrate faith without being heavy-handed, shows the stages of grief in many permutations, and shows the transformative powers of football and community, both on and off the field.

It isn't the greatest sports movie out there, but it does manage to convey the miracle achieved when the Wake Forest Demon Deacon football team rallied around the memory and spirit of Luke Abbate and found victories the likes of which they had never seen, especially from a football team picked to be last in the ACC that year. The emotional intensity the family experiences might be a bit much for younger or more sensitive viewers, but the purpose for this intensity is never lost on the filmmakers and the actors.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies in which sports and athletics play a prominent part. How is this movie similar to and different from other sports films?

  • How are faith and religion presented in this movie?

  • At the end of the movie, before the credits, there is mention of the Luke Abbate 5th Quarter Foundation, a foundation dedicated to raising awareness of the dangers of reckless teenage driving and the benefits of organ donation. How did the movie itself raise awareness of both of these things?

Movie details

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For kids who love sports

Themes & Topics

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