Christian Movie Interviews, News and Reviews

4 Things to Know about The Last Champion, the Inspiring Family Film about Second Chances

4 Things to Know about <em>The Last Champion</em>, the Inspiring Family Film about Second Chances

John Wright is a quiet and pensive ex-Olympian who can’t let go of his past.

An all-state wrestler in high school and an All-American in college, John was poised to become one of the greatest wrestlers in history when he claimed Olympic gold as a young man, only to have his medal stripped following a drug test.

That was years ago, but John still hasn’t forgiven himself. In fact, he’s rarely visited the small town that made him famous.

But his mother recently died, and John now must return to his hometown to sort through her belongings and to tend to her ranch.

It’s a visit that will force John to confront his mistakes and the people who never forgave him. Not surprisingly, it’s a visit that John dreads.

The new film The Last Champion (PG), now on home video, follows Wright as he faces his past mistakes while searching for a new purpose in life. Eventually, he encounters an old romantic interest, Elizabeth, and is given the opportunity to coach the high school wrestling team. Yet John soon faces an ethical dilemma that tests his values.

Will he find redemption in his old town?

The film stars Cole Hauser (Yellowstone) as Wright, Annika Marks (Waco) as Elizabeth, Peter Onorati (This Is Us) as a high school coach, and Hallie Todd (Lizzy McGuire) as a wrestler’s parent.

Here are four things you should know about the film:

Photo courtesy: ©House Media

The Last Champion still

1. It's Faith-Focused

The Last Champion isn’t a faith-based film in the same genre as Courageous or War Room, but it nevertheless has more faith content than most films. John’s friend, Elizabeth, is the daughter of a minister (Pastor Barnes) who reaches out to him when others in the community are rejecting him. On one occasion – Christmas morning – Pastor Barnes and Elizabeth take John a gift basket. On another occasion, John and Pastor Barnes sit alone in the church sanctuary, discussing the past and the future. Together, the father-daughter duo are the feet and hands of Christ that John so desperately needs.

This faith-focused plot culminates when John, Pastor Barnes and dozens of church members gather in the sanctuary to discuss how they can assist three children whose mother abandoned them.

Still, the faith content isn’t overt. The faith themes are strong enough to attract fans of faith-based movies – but not so strong that it will repel moviegoers who rarely watch such films.

Photo courtesy: ©House Media

The town of Garfield in the Last Champion

2. It’s One of the Best Family Films of the Year

The Last Champion originally was scheduled to be released in theaters before the pandemic forced filmmakers to send it straight to home video. That’s a win for fans of family-friendly movies, because it’s one of the best titles in that genre for 2020.

Hauser is outstanding in the lead role. Onorati, Sean H. Scully (who plays a wrestler), Marks and Todd are also impressive. The cast doesn’t have a weak link.

The Last Champion is a gritty, uplifting film with an entertaining and original plot that has plenty of surprises (including one or two jaw-droppers).

Todd co-wrote it with her husband, Glenn Withrow. He directed it.

“We started brainstorming this at the very end of 2011. And we wrote it in 2012,” Todd told Crosswalk. “... We were very drawn to doing an inspirational drama – something that could lift people's spirits and provide a hopeful message.”

The movie’s message, Todd said, is timely.

“Everybody is kind of broken right now,” she said. “This is a movie about community, and forgiveness and love. It’s a message for the time.”

Photo courtesy: ©House Media

The Last Champion

3. It Promotes Second Chances

The Last Champion is one of the year’s most uplifting because it promotes a redemptive message everyone can embrace. All of us need a second chance. All of us are sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy.

Years after being stripped of a gold medal during an international scandal, John returns to the small town he embarrassed. And while a few people still haven’t forgiven him, most have moved on. Eventually, John realizes he must learn to leave the past in the past and stop living life with regret.

“Suffering the consequences of your actions doesn’t mean that your life is through,” the pastor tells him. “God forgives.”

John learns to live life with a new purpose that involves coaching boys’ wrestling. He also discovers love.

The average moviegoer likely has not suffered such a high-profile scandal, but everyone has made mistakes they regret. Further, everyone likely has a “John” in their life – that is, someone who is always regretting the past and needs to hear encouragement and to learn about God’s love.

Photo courtesy: ©House Media

The Last Champion still

4. Its Sports Scenes Are Some of the Best-Ever

Sports films are abundant, but few of them capture the joy, surprise, intensity and exuberance that takes place in real-life sports. Unfortunately, the sports scenes in most sports films – even the scenes in the big-budget Disney movies – seem fake.

Thankfully, the sports scenes in The Last Champion seem realistic. The wrestling action is intense. The crowd scenes appear legit, too. This realism is aided by a broadcasting crew that includes legendary Iowa coach Dan Gable, Olympic champion Randy Lewis and wrestling broadcaster Jason Bryant. Together, they explain the rules of wrestling for those of us who are novices. (And if you hate sports: The wrestling action only involves the final minutes of the film.)

The film’s director was a high school wrestler.

“He was very passionate about the sport,” Todd told Crosswalk, referencing Withrow. “He'd always wanted to do a movie that depicted wrestling the way he experienced it.”

For families needing a pick-me-up story, The Last Champion is worth a watch.


The Last Champion is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and a brief scene of violence. (Content warnings: A teenage boy is beaten up and bloodied in the middle of a street at night. Coarse language includes OMG, 2; and a--, 2. The film includes no sexuality.)

Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5.

Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5.

Photo courtesy: ©House Media

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.