The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend Movie Poster Image
Inspiring true sports story with bullies, discrimination.
  • G
  • 2008
  • 104 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Patience, persistence, and confidence are the keys to success, not only on the basketball court, but in life. Through words and example, this movie shows the hard work and reward inherent in dedicating one's self to being the best.

Positive Role Models & Representations

"Pistol" Pete Maravich is a focused and determined 12-year-old basketball player, undaunted by those who think he isn't good enough to start on his high school's varsity team. He unceasingly practices and believes without any doubt that his dreams will become reality. His father, Press Maravich, works hard to instill confidence in his son, and teaches his son and his players how the virtues he teaches on the basketball court -- dedication, hard work, persistence -- carry over into day-to-day life. Press also envisions the changes afoot in basketball and society, and actively encourages the desegregation of basketball.


Taunting and bullying. An older high school basketball player shoves a younger player against a gym wall and orders him to quit the team. Later, this same older player knocks a basketball out of the hands of the younger player in a high school hallway. At a malt shop, this same older player shoves the younger player, knocking him to the floor. During a game, an opposing player deliberately runs into "Pistol" Pete and sends him to the floor, unconscious.


The movie is set in South Carolina in 1959: some of the characters use racial slurs like "jungle bunnies" and "nigras," and use outdated terms like "colored." A young boy calls the older boy who bullies him, "butthead." While teaching his son a basketball drill, a father tells his son to stick his chest out, adding, "You don't want people to think you're light in your loafers."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A high school basketball coach smokes a cigar frequently. A coach holds a cigarette at a kitchen table.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend is based on a true sports story and is full of inspirational messages. Through words and example, the film shows the importance of patience, persistence, and dedication as the keys to victory, not only in basketball, but in life. There are a few instances of bullying between an older player and the lead character, but these scenes serve the higher message of not letting anything stand in the way of your dreams. Since the movie is set in 1959 South Carolina, one of the basketball coaches is never seen without a cigar, but more troubling for some will be the occasional racial slurs. While the "N" word is not used, other slurs (like "jungle bunny") are, as a way to show prevailing racial attitudes at the time.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydavidv1 December 19, 2014

The Pistol!

THE. BEST. FILM. EVER. This movie shows the father/son relationship between Pete Maravich and his father, Press.

download it on thepistolmovie. com
Teen, 14 years old Written byMark2017 November 8, 2017


No lie, Pete Maravich is my favorite NBA player. This film was alright, I thought. My biggest gripe is that it made Pete look like an only child, when in realit... Continue reading

What's the story?

Twelve-year-old Pete Maravich (Adam Guier) has just started high school in Clemson, South Carolina in 1959. Pete aspires to start on his school's varsity basketball team and to one day be a record-breaking pro player. His father Press (Nick Benedict) is the head coach at Clemson University, and continually instills in Pete the idea that confidence, persistence, and dedication will help him make his dreams come true. Pete incessantly practices the basketball drills taught to him by his father, and through hard work, "Pistol" Pete is finally given the opportunity to start and emerges as a star player on the team. In the process, he deals with hostile reactions to his showmanship from some of his teammates and coach. With "Pistol" setting scoring records, the team is poised to win the state championship, but in the segregated South, the tournament is limited to white teams only; when Press encourages his son's coach to play the best African-American high school team in the state, he is met with resistance, but Pete sees the opportunity as a chance to try and prove that his team really and truly is the best.

Is it any good?

This film adheres to the conventions of the underdog/coming-of-age sports movie while imparting through words and action the positive values needed to be a success not only in sports, but in life. Rather than focusing on Maravich's stellar career as a professional basketball player, this movie tells the story of Maravich's first year on his high school varsity team, and the challenges and difficulties he had to overcome as the youngest starter on a team.

The result is a testament to the values of confidence, dedication, and persistence put into action. Pete's father preaches these values; Pete practices them, with incredible results. For those who have seen many sports movies like these, there isn't anything new phere, but for those who remember Maravich's career as a pro, or for younger basketball players with dreams of their own, this is an enjoyable movie that shows the challenges everyone must face when trying to be the best.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about "comeback kid" sports movies. What similarities do you see between this movie and other "comeback kid" sports movies?

  • What are the lessons the dad teaches to his son? What have your parents instilled in you?

  • How does this film reflect the realities of segregation in 1959 South Carolina?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sports

Themes & Topics

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