The Great Alaskan Race

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
The Great Alaskan Race Movie Poster Image
Intense but uneven historical drama showcases teamwork.
  • PG
  • 2019
  • 87 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

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

Positive Messages

Anything is possible when you have hope and courage. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The friendly town of Nome, Alaska, includes both Inuit and White residents, who all support each other and work together. Leonhard Seppala and the other mushers who must brave treacherous conditions to deliver the antitoxin demonstrate courage, perseverance, and teamwork.


A bear is slaughtered for revenge; the hunter is shown covered in blood, with knife in hand. A hunter uses a bow and arrow to kill an animal for food and its pelt. A musher explains in gruesome detail the consequences to sled dogs if they're forced to run when it's too hot or too cold -- and then takes them out in those conditions. A character shows he's in deep peril while out in a blizzard. Children die from a disease; others are shown suffering, near death.


A married couple affectionately kisses over good news.


Infrequent profanity includes "damn" and "hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brief smoking. A character takes a swig out of what appears to be beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Great Alaskan Race is a historical drama about the great serum run of 1925 that saved a village of Alaskan children from a deadly diphtheria outbreak. The story has been told before (Balto), but this movie focuses on the run's heroes: musher Leonhard Seppala (Brian Presley) and his dog, who covered more than half the terrain in the harshest conditions. Hunting with a bow and a gun is shown, and Seppala slaughters a bear and smears its blood on his face. Emotionally intense moments include the deaths of a young mother and children; remind modern-day kids who find that upsetting that diphtheria is now preventable with a vaccine. There's also historical smoking, brief drinking, and mild profanity ("damn," "hell"). The story clearly demonstrates how the  serum run's unlikely success was the result of true teamwork, which was only possible because of the mushers' bravery and perseverance. The town of Nome is depicted as a harmonious, multicultural community where going to church isn't a requirement but is definitely the heart of the town. Faith elements are authentic to the era, including Native American spiritualism.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byraising4warriors February 1, 2020

CAUTION; more death than reviews state

I was suprised at how much death was showed in this movie seeing that it was rated for ages 9 and up. Based upon the reviews and story plot given, we gave it a... Continue reading
Adult Written byFayers October 29, 2019

Fantastic Movie!

This is an outstanding movie of an amazing true story

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In THE GREAT ALASKAN RACE, a diphtheria outbreak endangers the lives of children in a remote village in Alaska. With his own daughter's life on the line, champion musher Leonhard Seppala (Brian Presley, who also directed, wrote, edited, and produced the film) volunteers to lead a team of sled dogs to transport life-saving medicine across dangerous terrain in the middle of winter. Facing harsh conditions -- including a blizzard -- Seppala and his dog, Togo, face possible death to travel the most treacherous part of the journey, covering 400 of the nearly 700 miles. The film is based on the true story of Alaska's great serum run of 1925.

Is it any good?

Presley's filmmaking debut lacks the sophistication to appeal to many adults, but the serum run of 1925 is a fantastic true story, and the movie has enough elements to keep kids captivated. One small but telling example: The actress who plays Seppala's daughter, Sigrid (Presley's own daughter, Emma), sports a front tooth that's half-grown back in. That's a small part of a kid's real life that has perhaps never made it the screen. And, of course, kids always connect to stories about amazing dogs, and movie canines don't get more heroic than Togo and his sled team. Plus, the relationship between "Sepp" and Sigrid is the driving force behind the mission's success, which might help kids feel a connection to a historical miracle. Other positive aspects of the story include the example of how leaders weighed the pros and cons of how to try to get the serum to the village.

That said, knowing that the film appears to be targeted at a family audience makes some of Presley's choices all the more confusing. It's unclear why it was so important for Sepp to kill a bear and drench himself in its blood (it doesn't match the description of the spirit animal believed to bring death). And it's a mystery why a musher would explain in gruesome detail the horrible death a husky will endure if run at certain temperatures ... just before choosing to run them in those same conditions. Puzzlingly, the identity of the narrator who speaks in first person is never explained, nor why he speaks only at the beginning of the film, never to be heard from or acknowledged again. Tweens likely won't notice those pesky details, although they'll definitely recognize that they watched a sad movie, even if the outcome is victorious.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Great Alaskan Race depicts life in Alaska in the 1920s. How have advances in technology, medicine, and transportation improved many people's lives since then?

  • How do Seppala and the other mushers demonstrate courage, perseverance, and teamwork? Could they have succeeded without those character strengths?

  • Would you call this a faith-based film? What do you think defines a faith-based film, as opposed to a movie that includes elements of faith? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love movies about heroic animals

Themes & Topics

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