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The Best Basketball Movies Of All Time

Updated on August 27, 2013

Any sports fan loves a good sports movie, and as a former basketball player I am always drawn to a really good basketball movie. The game of basketball has some really strong ties to modern pop culture, and therefore it is always a big player in the movie world. However, this also means that there are a lot of mainstream basketball movies that just aren't very good, but they appeal to many people. Here, I want to weed out some of the bad eggs and present what I feel are the best basketball movies of all time.

White Men Can't Jump (1992)

My personal favorite, and what I consider to be the best basketball movie ever made, is a comedy about a pair of basketball street hustlers, Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) and Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes). The pair meet by chance and form an unlikely and turbulent friendship, which is filled with gambling, trash talk and stupid decisions during their wild games of 2 on 2 street basketball. The film has a quirky charm to it, and is filled with some of the most hilarious one liners and trash talk in film history, in particular from Woody Harrelson's Billy Hoyle. The dialogue is often over the top, in a good way, but there is also some very subtle stuff that you don't pick up on and first, making this film utterly re-watchable You hear something new that makes you laugh every time. For any basketball fan, or just fans of good comedy in general, check out 'White Men Can't Jump.'

Hoosiers (1986)

A true basketball classic, 'Hoosiers' stars Gene Hackman as a down on his luck basketball coach who takes over the job at a small Indiana high school and is able to overcome a variety of obstacles on the way to success. In his way are a community who do not support him, players who don't trust him and an assistant coach who is a good man, but a recovering alcoholic. The story sets the bar for the underdog high school tale, and has some fantastic moments, including the classic 'Picket Fence.' One of the best basketball movies ever made, Hoosiers is a true American classic.

Blue Chips (1994)

In my opinion, this film is vastly underrated, and is a solid drama that just so happens to be built around the world of college basketball programs and their need to succeed. 'Blue Chips' stars Nick Nolte as the super hard nosed, Bobby Knight style coach of a team who were once prominent but are now struggling as the other programs around them use all sorts of recruiting tactics to get an edge. In an attempt to get back on track, Nolte looks to recruit three superstar 'blue chip' recruits, two of whom are played by real NBA stars Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal. Of course, these young men have seen what other programs will offer, and Nolte and those around him face the temptation of using similar tactics, or sticking to the straight and narrow. An often heartbreaking example of how the pressure to win can become too much for any man, no matter how strong, 'Blue Chips' is a hard hitting drama that also has some charm. Well worth a watch.

Love and Basketball (2000)

A surprisingly great movie is this romantic basketball drama about a man and woman who meet as young neighbors and grow up together around the game of basketball. Best friends, but initially assuming that friendship could never be romantic, we of course see the pair develop into something more. The film chronicles them as children, through high school, into college and then as grown adults and each stage of their lives is presented in fantastic fashion. The childhood scenes are charming and funny, the high school scenes have a ton of heart, while the college scenes highlight some of the real life drama that college basketball players face and how these things challenge the other aspects of their lives. A movie that is just really well put together, it is a fantastic romance movie, that blends love, basketball and drama seamlessly. Definitely one of the best basketball movies ever!

Space Jam (1996)

Ann all time children's classic, this movie was destined for nothing but greatness from the second it was conceived. It could have been absolutely horrible and it still would have been immensely popular, seeing as it stars the greatest basketball player and one of the worlds most famous sporting icons Michael Jordan. Oh and he happens to be starring alongside some of the most popular cartoon characters of all time, in the Looney Toons. The thing is, the movie really is great. Sure, it's a little silly, poorly acted and completely crazy at times. But it's half cartoon, and it's for kids! Your kids will love it, whether they like basketball or not. Plus there are one or two moments thrown in there that some of the kids may not pick up on, but the adults can get a kick out of. For example, look out for the fantastic Bill Murray cameo, and also the sneaky shot taken at Charles Barkley!

He Got Game (1998)

Starring Academy Award winner Denzel Washington and NBA star Ray Allen, this is one of Spike Lee's best films and one of my favorite basketball movies. Allen stars as Jesus Shuttlesworth who is a big name recruit that is being courted by multiple schools using some unsavory tactics. His father Jake (Washington) is in jail for the death of his mother, which was an accident that occurred during a bout of domestic violence. Jake is told by a guard that he will get a commuted sentence if he is able to get his son to join his alma mater, 'Big State' and he sets about trying to do this. Of course, it is not that simple, especially since his son still resents him greatly for the death of his mother. A fantastic father-son drama, this movie presents us with some of the tough realities of life in a very personal way that Spike Lee captures with great precision.

Coach Carter (2005)

This more recent basketball movie stars Samuel L Jackson, as the new coach of a basketball team at a rough inner city school. He moves his son with him, who also joins the team, and he immediately institutes some hard nosed changes to his team, both on and off the court, which does not also go over well with the local community. His team is an entertaining bunch of misfits, including a very young Channing Tatum, among many other recognizable faces, and they add a lot of entertainment to the film. While the film is a little cliché at times, and does overdo some of the hard nosed coach stuff, it is still very impactful and actually gets more and more so as the film goes on. The films later moments are it's best and what starts off a little cheesy does end up being extremely heartfelt and inspirational at times. The film also has some very funny moments, and is definitely an entertaining basketball movie for anyone and their families.


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    • profile image

      Pat Mills 

      3 years ago from East Chicago, Indiana

      I am also a fan of Semi-Pro, even though I stand in the minority on this film. It's a funny homage to the ABA. I also admire the documentary Hoop Dreams as Steve James follows two Chicago kids on the path that so few succeed in completing with a pro career.

    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Thanks for reading Elias!!

    • Elias Zanetti profile image

      Elias Zanetti 

      5 years ago from Athens, Greece

      Since basketball is my favorite sport I have seen some of the film you recommend. He Got Game and Hoosiers are really good movies while White Men Can't Jump is quite funny.

      Nice and interesting hub!


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