The 20 Best Basketball Movies of All-Time

A look back at some of hoops' finest films

Warner Bros

The NBA off-season typically spans three to four months, often resulting in severe basketball withdrawals. During that time, basketball addicts will use any and everything to help ease their hoops anxiety. While basketball movies are popular year-round, the off-season tends to be when hoops films are most watched. 

As with any movie genre, there will always be a debate centered around what films are considered the greatest. Here at ONE37pm, we decided to get in on the action. This is our ranking of the top 20 basketball movies of all time.

20. ‘Juwanna Mann’

Okay, so this one right here is an editor's choice, but it’s too good to be ignored.

The plot of Juwanna Mann is just as wild as the title itself. The film centers around the story of Jamal ‘Juwanna Mann’ Jeffries, a basketball star who gets kicked out of the league for a ridiculous on-court stunt. Juwanna Mann then decides to solve his problem by pretending to be a woman in order to try out for a women’s basketball team (which is obviously a well thought out idea). Juwanna Mann has many twists and turns, keeping viewers entertained and laughing from start to finish. The movie is currently available on Amazon Prime.

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19. ‘Celtic Pride’

Even the most casual hoops fans are familiar with the legendary history of the Boston Celtics. This 1996 comedy stars Daniel Stern and Dan Akroyd as a couple of die-hard Celtics fans desperate for a Game 7 win against the Utah Jazz. In turn, the two come up with a plan to kidnap Utah’s best player Lewis Scott (portrayed by Damon Wayans). We won’t spoil the movie, but the plan goes about as well as one would expect. You can also catch this classic on Amazon Prime.

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18. ‘The 6th Man’

Starring Marlon Wayans, The 6th Man tells the story of basketball brothers Kenny and Antoine Tyler, who are on scholarships at the University of Washington. However, tragedy befalls the Tyler family when Kenny succumbs to a fatal heart attack while playing. Antoine decides to keep playing basketball, but not without his brother's help (who returns as a ghost). While the movie initially received poor reviews, it has since gone on to be appreciated in the basketball community. You can find The 6th Man on YouTube Movies.

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17. ‘The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend’

Ah, the great ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich. Portrayed by Adam Guier, the film encapsulates the legend that is ‘Pistol Pete.’ The film chronicles Maravich’s life starting with his humble beginnings in South Carolina, all the way to his untimely demise in 1988. Known for his flair and finesse, Maravich quickly became one of the most renowned basketball players of all time. The movie can be watched via PureFlix.

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16. ‘The Basketball Diaries’

A young Leonardo DiCaprio leads the way in this 1995 poignant basketball film. Unlike some of the other basketball movies, The Basketball Diaries strays away from the comedy element of sports films instead focusing on more serious topics such as drug addiction and crime. While basketball is a way out for many, this story is the complete opposite. If you haven’t already seen The Basketball Diaries, you can watch it through Amazon Prime.

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15. ‘Like Mike’

If you grew up in the early 2000s, then you probably remember just how big Bow Wow (then known as Lil’ Bow Wow) was to tweens and teens across the world. With multiple successful singles under his belt, the young rapper made his debut as a lead actor in the 2002 film Like Mike. The movie follows the journey of Calvin Cambridge, a fourteen-year-old who inherits ‘Jordan-like’ basketball skills after lacing up in a pair of sneakers struck by lightning. The film also starred Morris Chestnut and featured cameos from Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, and more. Like Mike is available through a number of platforms including Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

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14. ‘Semi-Pro’

You can never go wrong with a Will Ferrell movie. You can also never go wrong with Will Ferrell in your starting lineup. Starring as Jackie Moon, Ferrell brings comedy and adventure as he tries to change the fate of a fictional team, the Flint Tropics, he recently purchased. While the initial ratings were relatively poor, the movie has since become a fan favorite. You can now watch Semi-Pro on HBO Max.

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13. ‘The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh’

Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving was a trendsetter both on and off the court. One of the most popular players to ever play in the NBA, it was only natural that United Artists would tap Erving to star as basketball standout Moses Guthrie in the film The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. The movie highlights the story of the atrocious Pittsburgh Pythons basketball squad. In need of a miracle, the waterboy (played by James Bond III) comes up with an idea to form a team consisting only of players whose Zodiac sign is Pisces. The film is widely considered a basketball classic and can be found on iTunes, YouTube Movies, and other streaming platforms.

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12. ‘Teen Wolf’

You can’t talk about classic basketball films without mentioning Teen Wolf. Released in 1985, the film starred Michael J. Fox as a basketball-playing teen werewolf determined to break the status quo through unconventional methods. A true ‘underdog’ tale, Teen Wolf, takes you through many different emotions while bringing awareness to the fact that we all need to quit being so judgmental of one another. You can catch Teen Wolf for free on YouTube Movies.

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11. ‘Cornbread, Earl and Me

When high school basketball star Nathaniel ‘Cornbread’ Hamilton (portrayed by NBA player Jamaal Wilkes) is killed by police in a case of mistaken identity, an African-American community has to come together to fight against a broken system. Unfortunately, many of these events still ring true today, making this a must-watch film. The movie also starred a young Lawrence Fishburne giving an early glimpse at what was to come for the budding actor. Cornbread, Earl and Me can now be seen on YouTube.

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10. ‘Coach Carter’

Starring Samuel L. Jackson as Coach Carter, this film is widely recognized as being one of the greatest basketball movies ever produced. The film focuses on Carter returning to his old high-school as the new head coach of the basketball team. The team instantly improves under his tutelage, but when the athletes' grades begin to suffer, Carter shuts down their championship season. A movie full of tough love and pain, Coach Carter received praise from critics and even earned Jackson the ‘NAACP Image Award for Best Actor.’ Coach Carter is currently on Amazon Prime.

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9. ‘Space Jam’

In terms of cultural impact, Space Jam might be the most prominent on this list.

Even non-basketball fans are familiar with the film, and its continued relevance qualifies the movie as a ‘cult classic.’ As you all probably know, Space Jam stars Michael Jordan as he teams up with the Looney Tunes to fight the evil Monstars. With a sequel starring LeBron James coming out next Summer, you can relive the original on Amazon Prime.

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8. ‘Love and Basketball’

A basketball love story, Love and Basketball centers around the relationship between USC collegiate players Quincy McCall (Omar Epps) and Monica Wright (Sanaa Lathan). Directed by Gina Prince-Blythewood, the film highlights how sports can also play a role in deteriorating relationships. Love and Basketball remains a popular film with regular television airings. If you don’t want to wait for the next T.V. showing, you can always catch the film through YouTube Movies.

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7. ‘Above The Rim’

Starring Duane Martin and the late Tupac Shakur, Above The Rim is another sports film with a strong fanbase. In 1994, Tupac was one of the most popular musicians in the world, and like many other successful artists, he was slowly beginning to crossover into film as well. Above The Rim is also known for its soundtrack, giving the movie that iconic 90s Hip-Hop vibe that we all know and love. The film is available via multiple streaming channels, including Hulu and HBO Max.

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6. ‘Glory Road’

Glory Road centers around Don Haskins (portrayed by Josh Lucas), the new head coach of the Texas Miners. Taking place in the Deep South in 1966, the first-year coach suffers a backlash from local conservatives when he makes the decision to build his team based on talent as opposed to race. As the team climbs to success, the racial tension increases, putting the Miners in a tough situation. Despite receiving average reviews from critics, Glory Road continues to receive a positive response from fans. You can watch the film on Disney+.

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5. ‘White Men Can’t Jump’

A timeless classic, White Men Can’t Jump is a 1992 film led by Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes, and Rosie Perez. The movie focuses on a street hustler named Billy Hoyle (Harrelson), who hustles by betting on African-American players underestimating his game. In doing so, Hoyle meets his con-artist match Sidney Deane (Snipes), who comes up with the idea to become partners. The film grossed over $90 million at the box office upon its release, a perfect blend of hoops and comedy. For those that want to experience the early 90s again, White Men Can’t Jump is available on Amazon.

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4. ‘Blue Chips’

This 1994 film details just exactly how ‘tricky’ the NCAA can be. The movie follows the tale of Pete Bell (played by Nick Nolte), as he is faced with the task of immediately improving his team. His main objective is to land high school stars Neon Boudeaux (Shaquille O’Neal), Butch McCrae (Penny Hardaway), and Ricky Roe (Matt Nover), but the only way to do so is through an illegal payout. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out whether or not Coach Bell takes the bait. You can do so through Amazon Prime.

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3. ‘Hoop Dreams’

While this is a documentary, the film still ranks as potentially one of the best basketball documentaries ever. Hoop Dreams follows two prospects, Arthur Agee and William Gates, as they try to follow their dreams of becoming NBA superstars. The documentary was shot over the course of five years and gives a detailed look at the challenges that high school hoopers face when aiming for a professional career. Hoop Dreams wound up scoring an Oscar nomination for ‘Best Film Editing,’ while also winning the 1996 Peabody Award. You can check out the documentary on Amazon Prime and Hulu.

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2. ‘Hoosiers’

When you combine a notoriously mean head coach with an assistant coach who is an alcoholic, there will certainly be ups and downs. Hoosiers is a tale of failed college coach Norman Dale (played by Gene Hackman), looking for a second chance. Along the way, Dale teams up with assistant coach Shooter (portrayed by Dennis Hopper), and the two struggle with leaving their negative qualities behind while coaching the team. Hoosiers is a captivating film with a strong message: You can always get a second chance. Speaking of second chances, if you haven’t seen Hoosiers yet, you can watch the movie Hulu and Starz.

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1. ‘He Got Game’

While we know Ray Allen as an NBA champion and Hall of Famer, we also recognize him as one of the most well-known sports characters of all time: Jesus Shuttlesworth. Before becoming a champion, Allen showcased his acting chops in the 1998 Spike Lee film He Got Game. The movie also stars Denzel Washington as Jesus Shuttlesworth’s father Jake. 

In the film, Jake (who is serving a prison sentence for accidentally killing his wife) is granted week-long parole to convince Jesus to attend the governor's alma mater. If successful, Jake will in turn receive time off his sentence. Over two decades later, He Got Game is still acknowledged as an ageless hoops staple. The movie can be watched via Hulu.

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Sports and film always have (and likely always will) go hand in hand. While there are plenty of other basketball movies that could have made this list, these are the ones we felt belonged in the top 20. Whether you agree or disagree with the rankings, these films are still excellent bodies of work that should be passed down through generations. With the new NBA season looming, now would be a great time to experience the joy of these movies again.

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