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Best Basketball Movies

This past Thursday, the NBA draft was held in Brooklyn, allowing for the next wave of stars to be congratulated for their achievements thus far.  And that got me thinking, what are some of the best basketball movies of all-time?  There’s certainly been some classics over the years, but which films rank as the best of the best?

#5: Space Jam (1996)

This film can be viewed primarily as a guilty pleasure.  Michael Jordan and Bill Murray with Loony Tunes characters?  Count me in!

Although the film doesn’t reach the heights of other films to combine animated characters with humans (such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit), there’s a lot of campy fun to have here.  The enjoyment typically revolves around the classic characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.  However, there’s some fun little moments from the humans that any basketball enthusiasts will enjoy.  The best of which may Charles Barkley exclaiming that he and a lot of other basketball stars suck after their talents are stripped away by the Monstars.

However, Space Jam hasn’t really aged well…at all.  Those who are old enough to have watched it in their younger days unabashedly love this film and have many “memberberries” for the movie.  Those who try to watch it out may feel as if it’s incredibly cheesy and dated, causing the legacy of the film to decline every year.

But for as long as their are people on Earth, there will always be a strong cult following for Space Jam.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 37%

Metacritic Score: 59

MovieBabble Score: C+

best basketball movies

image via The Independent

#4: Love and Basketball (2000)

Love and Basketball is a sweet, if not what somewhat forgettable, look at how career paths can alter relationships.  There’s a comparison to be had here with La La Land.  Our two main characters, played by Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps, must decide whether to follow their dreams or stay together.

At the center of the story is a really sweet relationship between Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan.  Although neither of them look like they’ve ever played basketball before, their relationship is fully realized and develops nicely over their young lives.

The best scene may be where Lathan and Epps play each one-on-one in the night, leading to a satisyingly emotional ending where they forgive each other for past issues.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 82%

Metacritic Score: 70

MovieBabble Score: B+

best basketball movies

image via Plugged In

#3: Hoosiers (1986)

Gene Hackman powers this underdog story into an instant classic.  You follow Hackman from start to finish as a coach with a checkered past that begins to turn his life around.

The film, which was nominated for two Oscars, does what many other films have failed to do by capturing the sport of basketball with a sense of realism.  The best moment of the film may be the final game in the finals seconds where the camera work allows for the moment to breath.  We can see the players make cuts and set screens on other players.  Very little do we actually get to watch basketball in a manner that seems realistic.  Basketball films in general are very challenging to make since it’s difficult to edit around actors who aren’t the most skilled players.  This fact gives Hoosiers a leg up on many other efforts.

Although Hoosiers is now fairly cliche, it’s still an enjoyable ride that’s rewarding in the end.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 88%

Metacritic Score: 76

MovieBabble Score: A-

best basketball movies

image via Blu-ray.com

#2: White Men Can’t Jump (1992)

This zany, regularly hilarious comedy stands out as the rare sports comedy that actually works.

We follow the exploits of Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrleson) and Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes) as Hoyle goes around town hustling black basketball players with the notion that he’s not athletic enough to beat them.  Deane takes full advantage as his “hype man.”

Where White Men Can’t Jump really excels is in the smaller moments.  There’s a moment where Snipes and Harrelson are having a shooting competition and Snipes nails a shot and holds his follow through for a solid two minutes after the shot goes in.  There’s so many little funny bits that make this film so memorable.  The relationship between Snipes and Harrelson is so funny that the film easily wins you over by the end.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 76%

Metacritic Score: N/A

MovieBabble Score: A-

best basketball movies

image via ShortList Magazine

#1: He Got Game (1998)

Ray Allen may not be the best actor in the world.  However, the former star allows for He Got Game to have a leg up on all other basketball movie.  It’s rather refreshing to have a great basketball player in a film.  Spike Lee may be a little much for a lot of audiences.  But, he correctly pairs the great Denzel Washington with Ray Allen to allow for a palpable relationship that worth seeing the movie.

He Got Game is about much more than basketball, however.  It perfectly captures the issues that an inner city kid has to face as he comes in contact with success from sports.  To improve the movie even more, it has a wonderful realization of the issue that unfortunately occurs way to often with promising athletes: the troubled father coming back into the situation to possibly capitalize off his son.

When it’s all said and done, He Got Game ranks as one of Spike Lee’s best films, while ranking as one of the best basketball movies ever.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 80%

Metacritic Score: 63

MovieBabble Score: A-

best basketball movies

image via Blu-ray.com

Thanks for reading!  What are some of your favorite basketball movies?  Comment down below!

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to subscribe to MovieBabble via email.

What movie topic should I discuss next?  Whether it be old or new, the choice is up to you!

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Nick Kush

A current college student, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society. You can follow Nick at the official MovieBabble Twitter account @MovieBabble_

26 Responses

  1. sara myler says:

    Love and Basketball really really a heart touching movies.

  2. I am happy to see that other people are interested in basketball movies! I really like how the list was put together, and I agree with the order.

  3. TMH says:

    Brought back some good cinematic memories, though I’d probably nudge Hoosiers a little higher. My favorite line: “Although neither of them look like they’ve ever played basketball before…” So often the case in Hollywood, eh?

    • Nick Kush says:

      You got that right! I was probably a little too young to fully appreciate Hoosiers, but I totally understand your preference!

  4. Basketball Diaries, Top flight acting and based on a true story

    • Nick Kush says:

      That’s another good one! I’ll have to check it out again I haven’t seen it in awhile.

  5. aaronpkahle says:

    As far as b-ball goes, White Men Can’t Jump is my #1 for comedy but Hoosiers is tops for drama. A few not on the list that are solid films would be Blue Chips, Love and Basketball, Above the Rim (phenomenal soundtrack), Sunset Park, and Rebound: The Legend of Earl “The Goat” Manigualt” (wonderful performance by Don Cheadle in this HBO film). Hoop Dreams is also a fantastic documentary about the trials and tribulations of trying to make it to the NBA.

    • Nick Kush says:

      Love and Basketball is #4 on the list! I need to check out Hoop Dreams I’ve heard good things!

      • aaronpkahle says:

        One of the best sports documentaries ever, hands down. It’s long but well worth the running time.

      • Nick Kush says:

        Length never bothers me if it’s good. My favorite sports documentary is OJ: Made in America and that’s eight hours long! lol

  6. Rick Elia says:

    I loved Hoosiers. When he says “My team’s on the floor” and plays with only four players he’s fulfilling the fantasy of countless coaches over the years.

  7. Slammin’ list! How about an Honorable Mention to MJ Fox’s Teen Wolf?

  8. notdonner says:

    Love Hoosiers, but Glory Road didn’t make the list? Awww

    • Nick Kush says:

      That was a tough one to leave off! I have a soft spot for both Glory Road and Coach Carter. Maybe one day I’ll expand the list to top 10!

  9. Jason says:

    Definitely has to be Space Jam for my pick. Looney Tune characters and so many various pro basketball stars throughout the film. Plus, the best line of the movie “Larry not white….Larry’s clear”…haha!

    • Nick Kush says:

      LOL I love that line! Space Jam is certainly great, I worry that the next generation won’t have the same affinity for it as we do.

  10. Damien Riley says:

    All great reviews. Hoosiers is my pick of the litter.

    • Nick Kush says:

      Can’t argue with that choice! If you asked me my list next week it might be completely different!

      • Damien Riley says:

        Gene Hackman is really an under-recognized actor, in a general sense most people don’t know who he is in 2017. So many films I love by him. Hoosiers is one of the first I really connected with.

      • Nick Kush says:

        Have you agree with you there! It’s just too difficult to get people to watch older movies these days.

      • Damien Riley says:

        Yes. And I am learning the value of challenging my attention span as well! My friend Rob (Movierob? you may know his site?) recommended Treasure of the Sierra Madre to me on a podcast, (1948), and I hung in there for an amazing experience!

      • Nick Kush says:

        It’s a great one! I need to revisit it it’s been a little while!

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