When it comes to sports movies, there are quite a few basketball ones. Some are based on historical events, to the comedic relief variety, even some magical movies. There is a basketball movie for everyone. We recently did a documentaries piece similar to this, feel free to check that out via this link.
I will preface this before I begin: This list will be highly controversial because I am leaving a few off that seem to be consensus top 5 basketball movies. Everyone reading this will more than likely have a different top 5 than this. That being said, here are the top 5 basketball movies that you should watch.
5. White Men Can’t Jump
Coming in at the very bottom of my list is a movie that is surprisingly highly rated within the basketball movie review community, “White Men Can’t Jump”. The story is based on the loose cannon Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) who has found himself running away from an $8,000 debt he owes for not fixing a game he was supposed to. He and his girlfriend move to California as he hustles Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes) at the beginning of the movie.
The two form a relationship of both love and hate and hustle their way into winning street games that Billy craves to wager on. Throughout the movie, Billy’s character seemingly keeps missing the point that there is more to life than just hustling players out of money and ultimately figures out that it’s life hustling him. This movie, although at times seems a bit all over the place, is a decent movie that mixes basketball with some comedy and ultimately proves “Sometimes when you win you lose, and when you lose you win.”
4. Space Jam
When it comes to basketball movies, this may be the most Interesting basketball movie that was ever made. Mimicked after “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, being both part cartoon and live action, this will always be a classic movie that Michael Jordan somehow said yes to. Aliens stealing basketball powers from NBA players never seemed possible until 2020, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised with the 1996 movie actually being something that could happen in a year like this one.
Yes, the acting in Space Jam isn’t the top notch acting you’d see in anything up for an Oscar but who doesn’t love the idea of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Michael Jordan playing against The Monstars to get the NBA players their talents back? If you’ve never seen this, spend an hour and a half, be a kid again and enjoy.
3. Like Mike
This movie was another childhood classic of mine and has always made me look up along power lines just to see if there are any basketball shoes that may be worth risking my life for. Calvin Cambridge (Lil Bow Wow) is an orphan at a home in the outskirts of Los Angeles with a dream to one day play basketball. After a bully throws his new shoes over a power line, as Calvin goes to retrieve them, the line shocks him and the shoes but he gains the presumed basketball ability of Michael Jordan.
He wins a contest to go play a current NBA player Tracy Reynolds (Morris Chestnut) and beats him to earn a contract to play for the fictitious Los Angeles Knights. Throughout this fantasy basketball film, are some good reminders of hope, living your dreams and realizing there is more to life than the aspects of being a professional athlete. It’s a great movie to watch that basically shows us how improbable it is to be a NBA player, but is still entertaining to watch, even as an adult.
As a fan of comedy, I don’t think there will be a funnier basketball movie than Semi-Pro. Jackie Moon, played by Will Ferrell, is the owner/player/coach/recording artist of the failing Flint Tropics basketball team that has been told they will need to be in the top 4 of the current ABA league to receive a spot in the NBA, as a franchise. Going as far as trading a washing machine to another team in return for an aging veteran, this movie will have you laughing the entire way through.
It takes the workings of an actual franchise but spoofs them to such an extreme that if you know anything about how franchises normally operate, you will end up in pain from laughter for 2 hours straight. As the previous two movies have been more family friendly, this one is definitely not one that should be shown to children, by comparison, but is absolutely one you need to watch if you haven’t already.
1. Coach Carter
Numbers 5-2 in this list can in no way be in the same atmosphere as this one right here: Coach Carter. Coach Carter is based on the real life story of a Coach Ken Carter, a high school basketball coach who completely changed how Richmond High school’s basketball program operated in the late 1990’s, in California. Played by Samuel L. Jackson, the title character, Coach Carter, instills values outside of the court to improve the success on the court.
The movie portrays real life events, including the mid season forfeiture of a game due to Carter making players sign contracts that made them keep their GPA above a certain level. With a powerful performance by Samuel L. Jackson, this movie is a must watch for every basketball fan and is the best basketball movie, by far, for its ability to tell a story without having the cliches of most sports movies.