by Pat Wright

With all of this “Hoop” la about basketball lately, it made me wonder what are the top 10 basketball films of all time?

Here’s my list. You’ll never believe who is #1!


White Men Can't Jump (1992) - IMDb10 White Men Can’t Jump

Black and white basketball hustlers join forces to double their chances of winning money on the street courts and in a basketball tournament.

Director: Ron Shelton

Writer: Ron Shelton

Stars: Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Rosie Perez

Fun fact: Bob Lanier, retired Detriot Piston’s Center was hired to serve as basketball coach.  Woody Harrelson, who had played some basketball in high school, thought he had some moves and accepted an invite to play one-on-one with Lanier. Harrelson later described it as “the most embarrassing fifteen minutes of my life.”



He Got Game' (1998): Spike Lee Gets Mellow | Express Elevator to Hell9 He Got Game (1998)

Jesus Shuttlesworth is the most sought-after high school basketball prospect in the nation.  Jesus’ dream to make it big in professional basketball are overshadowed by his father, Jake, who is spending his life in prison for killing Jesus’ mother.

Director: Spike Lee

Writer: Spike Lee

Stars: Denzel Washington, Milla Jovovich, Ray Allen

Fun Fact: This was Spike Lee’s first film to open at number one at the U.S. box office and the first major motion picture written and directed by Spike Lee not to have a performance from him in it.


Space Jam: A New Legacy - Wikipedia8 Space Jam (1996)

In a desperate attempt to win a basketball match and earn their freedom, the Looney Tunes seek the aid of retired basketball champion, Michael Jordan.

Bugs Bunny and his Looney Tunes gang are being held on the amusement park planet Moron Mountain. The short Looney Tune team agrees to a competition to determine their freedom. Taking advantage of their puny and stubby legged foes, the evil gang selects basketball for the surest chance of winning. In desperation, Bugs Bunny calls on the aid of Michael Jordan, to help them have a chance at winning their freedom.

Director: Joe Pytka

Writers: Leo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick, Timothy Harris

Stars: Michael Jordan Wayne Knight, Theresa Randle

Fun Fact: To keep Michael Jordan happy while filming, Warner Bros. built him an actual basketball court on the set, so he could use it whenever he could on breaks.


The Absent-Minded Professor - Wikipedia7 The Absent-Minded Professor (1961)

Though not thought of as a basketball film, what list would be complete without this golden oldie? Fred MacMurray stars as a bumbling professor who accidently invents flying rubber, or “Flubber”, an incredible material that gains energy every time it strikes a hard surface. It allows for the invention of shoes that basketball players wear to jump to amazing heights to the delight of the audience. Despite the success, no one is interested in the material except for Alonzo Hawk, a corrupt businessman who wants to steal the material for himself.

Director: Robert Stevenson

Writers: Bill Walsh (screenplay), Samuel W. Taylor (based on a story by)

Stars: Fred MacMurray, Nancy Olson, Keenan Wynn

Fun Fact: “Time” Magazine printed the “Disney” special effects department’s recipe for Flubber, as used in the movie. It read as follows: “To one pound of saltwater taffy add one heaping tablespoon polyurethane foam, one cake crumbled yeast. Mix till smooth, and allow to rise. Then pour into a saucepan over one cup of cracked rice with one cup of water. Add topping of molasses. Boil till lid lifts and says ‘Qurlp’.”


Why We Keep Returning to 'Love and Basketball' 20 Years Later - The Ringer6 Love & Basketball (2000)

In 1981, Monica moves in next door to Quincy. They’re both 11, and both want to play in the NBA. While growing up they are highly competitive. As high school ends, they come together as a couple, with both of them playing ball at USC. In less than a year, Quincy’s relationship with his father takes an ugly turn, and it leads to a break up with Monica. Some years later, their pro careers at a crossroads, they meet again. This time for a final game of one-on-one with high stakes.

Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Writer: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Stars: Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps, Glenndon Chatman

Fun Fact:  Gina Prince-Bythewood said in an interview “I saw over 700 people for female lead: actors ballplayers, people who had never acted before in their life. We needed to have someone with believable basketball skills. It finally came down to Sanaa Lathan (actor)and Niesha Butler, a star basketball player.)  I put Sanaa with a basketball coach for two months and Niesha with an acting coach.”


The Way Back (2020) - IMDb5 The Way Back (2020)

Back in high school, Jack Cunningham had everything going for him. A basketball phenom, he could have punched his ticket to college or even the pros, but, instead, he chose to walk away from the game, forfeiting his future. Jack’s glory days are long gone…but, as it turns out, not forgotten. Years later, he gets the chance to take back his life when he is asked to coach the struggling basketball team at his alma mater. Jack reluctantly accepts, surprising no one more than himself, and as the boys start to come together as a team and win, he may get his last shot at redemption.

Director: Gavin O’Connor

Writer: Brad Ingelsby

Stars: Ben Affleck, Al Madrigal, Janina Gavankar

Fun Fact: “Ben Affleck got out of rehab the day we started shooting the movie” according to director Gavin O’Connor. Affleck stated that he went through similar struggles as the main character and he thought that would help him do a better job.


The Heart of the Game - Wikipedia4 The Heart of the Game (2005)

Filmed over a period of seven years, director Ward Serrill profiles Bill Resler, a university professor who coaches a basketball team comprised of high-school girls. Darnellia Russell, one of the team’s few black players, also comes into focus as she struggles to stay on the team despite major obstacles. A film that makes you want to stand up and cheer!

Director: Ward Serrill

Writer: Ward Serrill

Stars: Darnellia Russell, Bill Resler, Ludacris

Fun Fact: Director Ward Serrill followed the Roosevelt Roughriders girls’ basketball team for six seasons as he captured their story on film.  Now THAT is commitment! The Other Dream Team [DVD] : Sarunas Marciulionis, Arvydas  Sabonis, David Remnick, Jim Lampley, Bill Walton, Mickey Hart, Marius A.  Markevicius: Movies & TV3 The Other Dream Team

This is the incredible story of the 1992 Lithuanian basketball team, whose athletes struggled under Soviet rule, became symbols of Lithuania’s independence movement, and – with help from the Grateful Dead – triumphed at the Barcelona Olympics. Basketball fans and non-basketball fans alike will find this film inspirational!

Director: Marius A. Markevicius

Writers: Marius A. MarkeviciusJon Weinbach

Stars: Sarunas MarciulionisArvydas SabonisRimas Kurtinaitis

Fun Fact: a Sundance Film Festival selection in 2012.


Hoosiers (1986) - IMDb2 Hoosiers (1986)

Based on the true story of a small-town Indiana team that made the state finals in 1954, this movie chronicles the attempts of a coach with a spotty past, and the town’s basketball-loving drunk train a small town high school basketball team to become a top contender for the championship.


Director: David Anspaugh

Writer: Angelo Pizzo

Stars Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey, Dennis Hopper

Fun Fact: For the scene where Dennis Hopper stumbles onto the court drunk during the sectional game, Hopper wanted a 10-second notice before the director called action. He spun around for 10 seconds, allowing him to stagger onto the court and appear drunk. He remembered James Dean in Giant (1956) asking George Stevens for 30 seconds so he could spin around to better feel the inebriation.


Hoop Dreams: where are they now? | Kartemquin Films1 Hoop Dreams (1994)

This documentary follows two inner-city Chicago residents, Arthur Agee and William Gates, as they follow their dreams of becoming basketball superstars. Beginning at the start of their high school years, and ending almost 5 years later, as they start college, we watch the boys mature into men, still retaining their “Hoop Dreams”.

Director: Steve James

Writers: Steve James, Frederick Marx

Stars: William Gates, Arthur Agee, Emma Gates

Fun Fact: Hoop Dreams won the Audience Award at 1994 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar in the category Best Documentary.


Well, there you have it. My top 10 Basketball films of all time.

Did I miss one? Or does your list differ?