There have been some iconic basketball films over the years, since the original spacejam starring Michael Jordan to the new spacejam starring LeBron James. However, spoiler alert, neither of these Looney Tune-inspired movies make the list.
Sometimes a basketball movie involves a love story or comedy, but the most frequent genre is drama. A lot of directors, producers, etc, have worked out that balance perfectly, with the newly released hustle quite rightly receiving high acclaim for its ability to entertain, make you laugh and make you cry.
There are some very surprising absentees as we base the list purely on Rotten Tomatoes ratings. We have not included any films that have less than 40 reviews on the website and we have also omitted those listed as a documentaries.
Planet Sport gives you the ten greatest basketball films of all time…
10) Uncle Drew (60%)
Starring Brooklyn Nets point guard and one-time NBA champion Kyrie Irving, Uncle Drew sneaks into our top ten.
Dax (Lil Rel Howery) stumbles upon the legend that is Uncle Drew as he looks to turn his fortunes around after losing his basketball team to his longtime rival. The pair round up Drew’s old team-mates to prove they still have enough in the tank to win the Rucker Classic streetball tournament in Harlem.
8=) OR (64%)
Called “an uneven experiment that doesn’t quite succeed”, EITHER moves William Shakespeare’s Othello onto the basketball court.
Starring Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett and Julie Stiles, Phifer’s character (Odin) is convinced by his friend Hugo (Hartnett) that his girlfriend Desi (Stiles) is cheating on him, but it all roots from Hugo’s jealousy of the talented basketball player that is Odin.
8=) Coach Carter (64%)
This legendary film starring Samuel L Jackson as coach Ken Carter follows the story of Richmond High School as Carter’s no-nonsense coaching style turns their basketball fortunes around.
A story that pulls on the heartstrings as Carter doesn’t just look to improve their on-court abilities, but also the students’ grades.
7) Finding Forrest (74%)
James Bond himself, Sean Connery plays Forrester who develops a unique friendship with Jamal (Rob Brown), a terrific scholar-athlete.
The basketball star must choose between a life hooping or writing after Forrester, an eccentric novelist, realizes the potential Jamal has as a writer.
6) White Men Can’t Jump (77%)
Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes star in this 1992 comedy basketball film.
Woody’s character, Billy Hoyle, takes to the streets to hustle players who underestimate his skill on the court, and after getting one over Sidney Deane (Snipes) they work as a duo to con people all across Los Angeles.
5) I Got Game (81%)
Coming in at 81 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, the 1998 film starring legendary actor Denzel Washington is fifth on this list.
Directed by New York Knicks superfan, Spike Lee, Washington’s character (Jake Shuttleworth) is imprisoned, leaving his son Jesus – played by former Boston Celtics and Miami Heat shooting guard Ray Allen – to fend for himself on the outside.
Jesus is a promising basketball player and Jake is offered a week of parole and is promised a shortened sentence if he convinces his son to attend the governor’s alma mater.
4) The Way Back (84%)
Ben Affleck stars as Jack Cunningham in this 2020 drama.
After getting divorced and struggling with alcoholism, Jack – a former basketball star who walked away from the game – is given a new lease of life as he becomes the head coach for his alma mater.
3) Love & Basketball (86%)
Number three on our list has a very solid 86 per cent rating and is the only romance to appear here.
Quincy’s (Omar Epps) father Zeke (Dennis Haysbert) plays for the Los Angeles Clippers and is described as a “born leader”.
Quincy and Monica (Sanaa Lathan) are childhood friends aspiring to make it in the game, but begin to fall for each other. However, their individual goals threaten to pull them apart.
1=) Hoosiers (91%)
This legendary basketball film released in 1986 stars Gene Hackman, who plays failed college coach Norman Dale. Like Affleck’s character in The WayBackDale is given a shot at redemption when he is hired to lead a basketball program at a high school in Indiana.
Dale struggles to build a winning team and is criticized for his temper and choice of assistant coach, who has a reputation for being an alcoholic.
1=) Hustle (91%)
The newest film on the list has the joint-strongest rating of any basketball movie.
Produced by LeBron James and starring Adam Sandler – who also produced the film – his character Stanley Sugarman plays a scout for the Philadelphia 76ers who stumbles upon Spaniard Bo Cruz, who is played by NBA player Juancho Hernangomez, and the pair develop a terrific relationship off and on the court.
After taking a huge chance on Cruz, Sugarman does all he can to get the big man into the big league. Starring a number of NBA stars playing themselves, hustle merits its place on top of this list, even if it is shared with hoosiers.
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