10 Best Basketball Movies of All Time
10. Rebound: The Legend of Earl “The Goat” Manigault (1996)
Unlike baseball and other sports, the film industry has a produced a relatively low number of basketball movies. A few of them have been great, but the majority have been somewhere between good and mediocre. Here are the 10 best.
This HBO television movie tells the story of the late Earl Manigault, a street basketball legend who never reached his full potential because of substance abuse. Don Cheadle gives a raw performance as “The Goat,” and on a side note, Kevin Garnett plays a young Wilt Chamberlain.
9. One on One (1977)
Robby Benson plays a small-town kid trying to make it in the big-time world of college basketball. This was one of the first movies to explore corruption and misguided priorities in college sports.
8. Cornbread, Earl and Me (1975)
Like many films from the 1970s, this story of the police shooting of an African-American basketball star has not aged well, but still packs a heck of a punch in today’s world.
7. Space Jam (1996)
The highest-grossing movie on this list is a fun mash-up of NBA players and Looney Tunes characters, as Michael Jordan teams up with Bugs Bunny to save pro basketball. Its soundtrack also gave us R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”
6. Coach Carter (2005)
Samuel L. Jackson gives a tour de force performance as Ken Carter, a high school coach who suspended his team’s undefeated season when the players did not honor their academic contracts. Thomas Carter, who played Hayward on the 1978-81 TV drama The White Shadow, directed the film.
5. He Got Game (1998)
Denzel Washington plays a prison inmate who is paroled for a week to persuade his basketball prospect son (Ray Allen) to sign with the governor’s alma mater in exchange for a reduced sentence. Written and directed by Spike Lee, this movie does not follow the typical conventions of a sports film.
4. Love & Basketball (2000)
Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan have great chemistry as two basketball stars that come of age together and fall in love. Love & Basketball does not offer any real surprises, but does everything else very well.
3. White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
This film makes this list on its one-liners alone, but the characters are so deep and rich that Stanley Kubrick considered it to be one of his favorite films. I’m not kidding.
2. Hoop Dreams (1994)
Filmmaker Steve James followed two teenage basketball players, Arthur Agee and Williams Gates, for five years. The result was 250 hours of footage edited down to one of the greatest documentaries ever made.
1. Hoosiers (1986)
Great script. Great cast. Great score. Great locations. Unbelievable emotion. This is simply the best basketball movie ever made. Period.
— Compiled by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.