Style - Kicks and Gear / May 27, 2010 / 1:30 pm

Top 10 Best Basketball Movies Of All-Time

With so many corny and over-directed basketball films out there, we figured it was time to put together a rundown of all the best hoop flicks. No criteria needed here; just good action and solid story lines. Here are the 10 best films you need to see as a basketball/movie fan.

10. Hoosiers
SUMMARY: I’m not even that much of a fan of this movie, but felt I had to throw it on the list. It’s like having a best player ever argument without naming Oscar Robertson or having a best emcee ever discussion without mentioning LL Cool J. Everyone loves this movie. But, it’s so corny I can’t really watch it. I’m assuming that’s why most people love it. Yet, I can’t hate the story because it became the basis for most sports movies made after it. And Gene Hackman is fantastic in it. He gives some great speeches.
BEST SCENE: When Dennis Hopper, “Shooter”, takes over the lead chair on the bench. That was straight comedy. He didn’t even have to say anything.

9. Air Up There
SUMMARY: This was one of my favorite hoop movies until I was like 12. Every time I watched it, I thought I was watching the Hakeem Olajuwon story. The basketball footage is pretty weak and some scenes are just boring. The scene where they are cutting stomachs as a sign of being in their African tribe is kind of nasty. But, for the most part, I liked it. It may lack some replay value, but it’s entertaining for what it’s worth.
BEST SCENE: When Kevin Bacon uses the Jimmy Dolan Shake-N-Bake on the cocky recruit at the beginning of the film. I always feel like I’m watching Scott Skiles or something.

8. Sunset Park
SUMMARY: An underrated gem. This was one of the first of the Coach Carter type of basketball movies. Does that make it any better? Probably. Fredro Starr does a decent job in his character, as does Terrence Howard as Spaceman, while everyone else is just average. The biggest criticism of this one is its predictability. Also, many of the problems and themes taken on are pretty bland and very stereotypical. Still, it makes for good entertainment and deserves a spot on this list instead of the films that followed in it’s footsteps.
BEST SCENE: When Rhea Perlman‘s character tells Starr to pull up his pants and take off his hat inside. I don’t know why, but it’s hilarious all-around.

7. Love & Basketball
SUMMARY: One of the more popular basketball flicks because it connects with males and females of all ages. Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan may not be ball players, but the film does a very good job of at least presenting them as that. It’s also cool to follow them throughout their careers from start to finish and see how it’s not always the most talented who make it. It loses points though because of the finish: probably one of the corniest I’ve seen in a while. So I can’t put it any higher despite the popularity.
BEST SCENE: I guess Epps balling in high school, but that wasn’t anything special. This just proves the somewhat bland style of this one.

6. Passing Glory
SUMMARY: Actually, I haven’t watched this movie in a minute. But, I do remember it was always one of my favorites. Very few people know about this gem and it’s a wonder why not. Andre Braugher plays a priest from up north who ventures down into the Deep South during the civil rights movement and finds himself in the middle of a basketball firestorm. The basketball action is very good throughout, especially towards the end. Even though some of the film is cliché, it does touch on a lot of important and deep topics.
BEST SCENE: When Braugher’s all-black team shows up during the city championship celebration to let everyone know that title doesn’t mean anything until the all-white champs beat them.

5. Finding Forrester
SUMMARY: Another film where the basketball action was solid for the most part because Rob Brown seems like he’s actually nice on the court. What makes this movie different than most of the others on here is that basketball is just a part of the backdrop. Watching it, it’s obvious Brown’s character is a ball player at heart, but the scenes concentrate on his other endeavors. He’s not made out to be a pro. Because of this, the film’s plot is very good, yet never loses that attitude. In terms of realness and authenticity, this is one of the top 2-3 on this list.
BEST SCENE: Near the conclusion, Sean Connery puts a professor on blast that questioned Brown’s character’s writing prowess. Ill.

4. White Men Can’t Jump
SUMMARY: It actually took me awhile to finally watch this. Yet, the first scene had me hooked. In fact, most of the basketball scenes mix Woody Harrelson‘s goofiness with Wesley Snipes‘ cockiness pretty well and it makes for good theater. Overall, it’s just a comedy that becomes even better when you think about Harrelson hustling people in basketball. But, is it true Snipes was dunking on a seven-foot hoop during the shooting of the film? That’s terrible. At least put it at like 9.
BEST SCENE: “I’m going to get my gun”… or any scene with Rosie Perez.

3. Above the Rim
SUMMARY: Criminally underrated. Most people don’t seem to ever give credit to this movie because of one Tupac Shakur and some of its subject matter. But Pac is totally believable, just as some of the tournament action is undeniable unbelievable. Still, this is probably the only film on this list that can get away with behind the back wrap-around passes leading to 360s and showing the same scoring clips from different angles. And it gets bonus points for a ridiculous soundtrack.
BEST SCENE: Duane Martin killing Bernie Mac in the playground. The head fake move that leaves Mac on his stomach works…I’ve used it.

2. Blue Chips
SUMMARY: Another classic film that got it right: get actual ball players to play ball players. Nick Nolte is fantastically bad as a typical, overbearing college coach, making the movie more believable with his every move. Similar to He Got Game, this film perfectly weaves in the corruption in amateur sports. It doesn’t let that override the film to the point where it isn’t realistic. Still, watching Butch McRae always makes me sad.
BEST SCENE: Nolte watching McRae destroy people in some tiny, 1945 church gym. First time I saw this scene, I rewound it more than a couple of times.

1. He Got Game
SUMMARY: Honestly, no other hoop flick deserves this spot. Denzel Washington. Spike Lee. Jesus. All three of these guys played their parts perfectly; Ray Allen may have had a few stiff moments, but also delivered some classic quotes. It perfectly mixes the temptations and accolades of what it means to be the best player in the country. Also, having actual NBA dudes gives it an authentic feel. This movie creates a sense of time perfectly with the XIIIs (“so you got the new Jordans I see?”) and all of the fawning of the country’s best college coaches.
BEST SCENE: The final one-on-one scene between Jesus and his father where Jesus literally locks him up and sends him back to jail. Cold-blooded, Ray.

Coming up next… Top 10 Best Basketball Documentaries Of All-Time.

What do you think?

Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DIMEMag.

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  • http://diaryofatiredblackman.wordpress.com/ Cal

    Good list, I’d move Sunset Park up a few slots and Above the Rim and Shuttlesworth are tied in my opinion at the top.

  • Soopa

    As a real life Billy Hoyle i gotta go with “White Men Cant Jump”. You nailed the top 4.


    How about “Rebound: The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault”?
    If not familier with it check it out it rounds out my personal top5.

  • malik

    wait, no space jam?
    and god rosie perez was so hot in white men can’t jump.

  • atticusmitch

    Jesus is always number one…always…

  • B-Rad

    HOW DID YOU FORGET SPACE JAM!?!?!?!?!? Finding Forrester made it but not Space Jam?! WTF!

  • http://www.cheehee.com jeffco

    I think I really like this list because you put Above The Rim where it should be. My fav basketball movie is White Men Can’t Jump but i’m not complaining. Good list.

  • atticusmitch

    and by Jesus I mean Denzel

  • http://dimemag.com Sean Sweeney

    Soopa: I had Rebound in there, but figured people would be HEATED with no Hoosiers. I would take Rebound over Hoosiers all day, but had to show love to that classic.

    ..And those of you complaining about Space Jam, Money is the man, but I wouldn’t rate it above any of the ones I put on there…

  • alex “Robocop” murphy

    Semi-Pro. How can you forget about Will Ferrell?

  • Ian

    no rebound the legend of earl

  • drizzle

    Basketball Diaries was always one of my favorites. However, it wouldn’t bump any on this list

  • KnicksFan84

    I HATE to say it but Space Jam HAS to be on this list and at least in the top 5. It may not have appealed to adults now but back then, EVERYBODY believed they could fly!


    He Got Game and WMCJ are the only ones worth mentioning. sports movies in general are always kinda crappy. Space Jam was fucking awfull, im glad it didnt make the list. But yeh………. yo mommas an astronaut.

  • Antouan

    What about SPACEJAM??? haha

  • Tbeezy

    Anyone familiar with the underground movie Heaven is a playground. I used to love that movie as a kid. Blue Chips was filmed in my high school gym. It was awesome watching all those players play in our 5,000 seat gym. They left up some of the dolphin logos after shooting. I was about 12 years old and was at the peak of my heaven is a playground fandom and saw one of the actors walking around the gym when they were filming blue chips. I said what’s up and he ended up sitting with me and watching the entire game. The filming was just an actual basketball game until the very end when they set up the last seen where shaq catches the game winning alley oop.

  • junior

    GLORY ROAD… how is it not on the list

  • nawlage

    i kinda thought he got game was stupid..
    horrible acting, and the ending was retarded, denzel threw a ball over the wall and ray caught it in a gym. wtf..

  • lord pancake sauce

    he got game , no question. spike is the man and my hometown hero Travis Best plays sip…Springfield, Ma!!

  • http://dimemag.com edub

    you missed Hoop Dreams…one of the best movies in ’94.

  • dsflkjdsfa

    what, no love for the 6th man? lol

  • Bizz

    Was Coach Carter that bad of a movie to not make this list?

  • layzie


  • jacob

    I agree with junior… Glory Road needs to be on the list. Also worth mentioning is Pistol: The birth of a Legend, about Pistol Pete Maravich’s highschool days. I think its just as good, if not better, than Hoosiers. Even though Hoosiers is a classic.

  • Petur

    Pretty spot on with this list. The best scene from Above the Rim was when Shep was practicing alone without the ball and the young guns drive by and laugh.

  • Derik

    no Slam Dunk Ernest!? I love that movie when i was a kid…. lol

  • NTstateOFmind

    Heaven is a Playground?!?!?

  • Celts Fan

    I disagree w/ a lotta stuff on here, but give the article a HUUUGE thumbs up just for Hoosiers being where it is. that movie is over-rated as hell. It’s a chick-flick designed as a sports movie. You shouldn’t try to appeal to 50 year old white women when making a sports movie. good call on that.

    gotta say though, I think Space Jam and Hoop Dreams had to be there somewhere and, as a kid of the 80’s, I wouldn’t have been upset w/ a Teen Wolf siting either….

  • BiG_RoB_n_cali

    Check out Hurricane Season with Forrest Whitaker, Taraji P. Henson and BowWow

  • BiG_RoB_n_cali

    And what about Coach Carter dude!

  • D1Coach

    All I got to say is…Dr. J in “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh”…

  • http://dimemag.com Sean Sweeney

    Damn, my apologies on Heaven Is a Playground. Completely forgot to include that one and I own it! No clue how that happened.

    And I obviously didn’t forget Hoop Dreams. Check back here tomorrow for the 10 Best Hoop Documentaries. It’s in there…

    And I like Coach Carter and Glory Road, but not as much as the ones on this top 10.

  • e

    soul in the hole booger was a genius with the ball and charles jones was throwing down crazy dunks, the fish that saved pittsburg, cornbread earl and me,rebound, hoop dreams, the telfair documentary was dope lebrons was also but i didnt expect them to be listed

  • stillanetsfan

    tough to have a list like this without spacejam or glory road on it

  • sh!tfaced

    10. Celtic Pride
    9. Slam Dunk Ernest
    8. Rebound
    7. Teen Wolf
    6. The 6th Man

    5. Air Bud
    – a dog who can play like ball and can act waaay better than Shaq.

    4. Juwanna Mann
    – The Allegorical True Story of John Amaechi..?

    3. Space Jam
    – MJ, Bugs Bunny, Bill Murray, Tweety & Larry Bird. Need I say more?

    2. Eddie
    – Whoopie, Rick Fox, John Salley, Dwayne Schintzius and the late Malik Sealy playing for the Knicks. I bet this is Eddy Curry’s favorite movie.

    1. Like Mike & Like Mike 2 (tie)
    – A movie about shoes that makes you play like MJ when you where them. Pure utter shit. Every kid’s day dream made into a movie. How fucking imaginative.

  • Brown

    Glory Road is my favorite. Coach Carter was good too. I’d take off Love & Basketball and Finding Forrester and replace it with those two.

  • john

    6 – Glory Road

    5 – Coach Carter

    4 – Blue Chips

    3 – Space Jam

    2 – White Man Cant Jump

    1 – He got Game

    Thats my top 6 list.

  • AZ

    THE SUPER……Aww shit

  • s.bucketz

    for what its worth…Little Giants is the greatest sports movie of all time…ever
    i heard its up for an academy award this year in that very category

  • flegman

    Forget Paris!!!

    Ref Billy Crystal

    waving off Charles’ game winner
    throwing out Kareem in his farewell game, ROTFL
    T-ing up Isiah for laughing, like Joey T-d Duncan… :-D


  • nawlage

    hahaha little giants..
    fuck that, how bout- the big green
    that was the sheeeeeit.

  • http://dimemag.com Sean Sweeney

    Air Bud anyone??

  • nisizzle

    wait….. no space jam OR Coach Carter?! wtf step your game up guys

  • Halo

    The Fish That Saves Pittsburgh with Dr. J. The soundtrack also has a Lords of the Underground sample on it. Sean do your homework my man. The sports guy at ESPN would be pissed son.


  • APE

    How is MY GIANT not on this list.

    Gheorghe Muresan acted the shit out of that movie man.

  • star_bury

    Best scene in Blue Chips?

    1) The Cooz hitting a bunch of free throws in a row, including the last one left handed…at 65 years old.

    2) “Neon, try not to step on the children.”

  • Steve L.

    How can you not have Hoop Dreams?? Top 3 or 4 easy.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Aron Phillips

    @ flegman

    Forget Paris is a classic. Plus, Eddie has amazing NBA cameos.

  • datdood

    I like the teen wolf shout out…

    personally i like the basketball scene in 3 ninjas. if you havent seen it, it is hilarious. A MUST SEE!!!


  • kudos

    #1 Glory Road

    Coach Carter??? tha hell?! movie was wack.

  • the cynic

    Space Jam has Bill Murrey, these other movies don’t

  • BiG_RoB_n_cali

    White Man Cant Jump gets my vote lol!

  • Vinny

    Fast Break with Bernard King-old school movie!

  • Robmo35

    Come on Slam Dunk Ernest. I believe Zo is In it

  • Simon

    @Tbeezy, if you haven’t already done so, check out the book for Heaven is a Playground

  • sh!tfaced

    The Amazing Grace & Chuck

    Alex English wasn’t bad either…

  • LorasBaller

    HOOP DREAMS #1 best basketball movie ever…Above the Rim should be on there!

  • LorasBaller

    Meant to say Rebound should be on there…

  • Claw

    I’d move Hoosiers to #2 and knock Blue Chips down to #100 (acting was horrible).

    You want to go old school how about “One on One” with Robbie Benson, kid from small town going to large college program. That was pretty solid for the time.

    What was the one with Gabe for Welcome Back Kotter where he got a bunch of street ballers to play at a college (including a chick?).

  • Badger

    I stopped reading when you ranked Air Up There ahead of Hoosiers.

  • Vinny

    @claw- fast break

  • B

    If you’re into asian cinema, then there’s an awesome movie called Mui Thai Basketball – yes bball with kickboxing. Sorta along the lines of shaolin soccer….

  • That’s What’s Up



  • That’s What’s Up

    @ 61 – I’m into Asian cinema….

    Those girls are nasty, Nasty, NASTY !!!!

  • southboy103

    How the hell yall leave out Hoop Dreams??????????????????????????

  • http://getyourishbusted.net Chicagorilla

    WTF? Hoop Dreams is easliy the Number 1 basketball movie of all time and should at least be top 3. Also Coach Carter was the shit and actually had actors that could hoop. Get it together man

  • http://Www.dimemag.com Smitty

    He got game worst ending ever !!!!!! White men n above the rim were the truth!
    How about kazaam ??

  • http://getyourishbusted.net Chicagorilla

    Wait glory Road wasn’t on there either? Dude, you should never make a list again. Glory Road was one of the Realist movies period, let alone great basketball movie

  • http://www.myspace.com/40sand9s Loc

    This list is rugged,

    Rebound should be on it!
    hoosiers should definitely move up,
    Air up There was AWFFFULLLLL.

    Whats next? EDDIE???

  • Billy Sunday

    Shut your anorexic, malnutrition, tape worm having, overdose, Dick Gregory, Bahamian diet drinking ass up!

  • Ck Jess

    Yea white men cant jump is basically the funniest movie ever so that gotta be number one and id put he got game #2 “what is this a masons convention !? Brick! i want you and your sister out of my house ” lmaoo i love that movie good ol’ woody (no john amaechi)

  • shak33

    coach carter
    glory road
    if u consider doc as a real movie then
    hoop dreams
    and my fav (through the fire) is real good

  • Silk

    They killed Cornbred!!! Cornbred, Earl & Me for honorable mention

  • 3ple2ble (aka solomon)

    someone edit the list and put coach carter in there… this is travesty…

  • bigger_daddy

    sorry dime but i gona go with shitfaced’s list

  • http://dimemag.com Sean Sweeney

    Reading is fundamental. Hoop Dreams is a documentary hence why it isn’t on this list.

    And I’m sorry, but Hoosiers is just a bad movie. It’s a classic, but that’s as far as I can go with it. Jimmy Chitwood doesn’t do it for me.

    Coach Carter is really not that good. Glory Road is a little better…

  • PDaddy

    How about ‘Crossover’ with Hot Sauce in it? … just kidding..lol..it sucked bad.

  • Guest

    what happen to Glory Road and Coach Carter?

  • miller126

    Rebound: The Legend of Earl “The Goat Manigault” Shit is raw! Is an inspirational sports drama, a talented but drug-addicted basketball player cleans up his act and devotes his life to teaching Harlem children to play the game. Starring Don Cheadle and James Earl Jones. Had this film on VHS back in the day, I believe ’96. Hoopheads need to check this joint out.


  • Nyeme

    I’d have to go:

    1. Hoosiers – Jimmy Chitwood? One of the few movies where they breathed, slept, ate AND sh!t basketball. Of course its cheesy though, but still the basis for every basketball movie

    2. Above the Rim – classic cause Duane Martin can really ball and it shows the modern day struggles of a ball player trying to juggle the 2-styles.

    3. Heaven is a Playground (love this movie but not sure how many people saw it)

    4. White Men Can’t Jump – classic comedy, but Wesley Snipes isn’t really that good

    5. Finding Forrester – he was a ball player at heart but there was still more to him

    6. Glory Road

    7. Blue Chips – they only had like 2 basketball games, but real ballplayers so…

    8. Sunset Park

    9. Fast Break as a throwback

    10. Eddie – just too many NBA Players not to be mentioned

    I consider He Got Game a movie about a basketball player, but not a basketball movie. He played one game, then played his pops but the movie like 3hrs long so…Actually it consider it like Forget Paris; a movie about a NBA ref…both didn’t have much balance

  • James

    Best scene from He Got Game is when he visits the college with the white girls

  • themba

    ‘Heaven is a playground’ should make the list.

  • Kevin

    My god, how could you leave out “Rebound: The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault”???

    Have you even seen this movie????


  • thedoc

    Hoosiers #10?? Come on. It should be #1 no question. It’s by far the best quality movie. Maybe a little too “white bread” perhaps for Dime? And I agree with the poster that recommended “One on One”. Good movie.

  • Tim

    Space Jam did get its own Jordan colorway…..Just sayin’

  • Mark

    What about Coach Carter? I think that was a pretty good movie

  • Mark Ramos

    For me. The #1 is xoaxh carter

  • Daniel Dustin Manaligod

    You know what they should do they should make a list of the best basketball anime/ manga series since of all time since basketball is popular in Japan

  • Tahrell Moor

    I agree, I would’ve love to cee Glory Road up there….