Best Basketball Movies Of All Time: Top 5 Hoops Films Most Recommended By Fans

Basketball has become a global game. Tens of millions of people across the world have become basketball fans. To tap into this fandom, Hollywood has created a number of basketball-related movies that can have you rolling on the floor laughing or tugging at your heartstrings. StudyFinds has done the leg work for you to find the best basketball movies.

Many sports movies, from “Rocky” to “Rudy,” are inspirational and very pleasing and comforting to people watching. A recent study has revealed which factors make feel-good movies so appealing. Researchers find it is a combination of humor, a classic happy ending, and the pursuit of self-discovery or true love for the main character.

Sitting down to a feel-good movie is a great idea because what we watch actually impacts our mood, according to new research. A poll of 2,000 U.S. adults with streaming subscriptions finds that 51 percent think what they watch has the power to change their mood for the rest of the day. Another 49 percent can’t watch movies or shows that deal with heavy or stressful topics unless they’re “in the right mood.” Overall, 81 percent say their mood influences what they watch and the average person can feel the emotional impact of what they watch for up to two hours afterwards.

Are you looking for something to watch tonight? Thanks to online experts, StudyFinds has compiled a list of the top five best basketball movies. Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below.

two people eating popcorn and watching a movie
Two people watching TV (Photo by on Pexels)

The List: Best Basketball Movies, According to Experts


1. “He Got Game” (1998)

Starring Oscar-award winning actor Denzel Washington and former NBA All-Star Ray Allen, Spike Lee’s “He Got Game” was the critics’ top choice. “This Spike Lee Joint wraps every affliction and temptation for a No. 1 high school basketball prospect into the final week of his college commitment. The inspired choice to cast Ray Allen as Coney Island sensation Jesus Shuttlesworth works its best near the film’s climax during a one-on-one session with his domineering father, Jake (Denzel Washignton),” writes Esquire. “The governor has granted him parole from his murder sentence to persuade Jesus to play for Big State University, culling the demons of their family history. It remains a disappointingly relevant movie, showing glimpses of LaVar Ball, corrupted recruiting and the NCAA’s nefarious economic culture.”

"He Got Game" (1998)
“He Got Game” (1998)

“Though not without its flaws, He Got Game finds Spike Lee near the top of his game, combining trenchant commentary with his signature visuals and a strong performance from Denzel Washington,” notes Rotten Tomatoes.

Complex calls “He Got Game” one of Lee’s “strongest joints.” “Telling the story of Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen) and his strict father, Jake (Denzel Washington), the film follows Jesus—the No. 1 high school prospect in the nation—as he tries to decide where to play big-time basketball without anyone reliable to guide him through the process. He Got Game isn’t afraid to tread into the shadier territories of recruiting, father-son relationships, and the importance of athletics in America as we see Jesus constantly at odds with those trying to influence him one way or another.”

2. “White Men Can’t Jump” (1992)

Starring Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson, “White Men Can’t Jump” became an instant classic. “White Men Can’t Jump is a funny film that combines an unlikely pair of ballers that ‘hustle’ unsuspecting victims,” writes Bleacher Report. “Both Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) and Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes) form a tandem and effectively win lots of cash in pick-up games all over Los Angeles. The on-going joke is that all the competitors facing Hoyle in basketball assume he’s terrible because of the color of his skin. What they don’t know is that he was a former college basketball player. Deane understands his basketball skill and their formed partnership becomes very successful out on the streets of L.A. This comedy more than anything centers around friendship brought on by basketball between two people from dissimilar backgrounds trying to make a living. The humor in this movie is really great and it’s accompanied by some good basketball displayed by both Harrelson and Snipes.”

"White Men Can't Jump" (1992)
“White Men Can’t Jump” (1992)

“White Men Can’t Jump is more about the hustle than the game itself. Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) is a former college basketball player with a gambling problem that has landed him in trouble with the mob,” notes IGN. “He tries to make a living by hustling fellow streetballers that assume he can’t play because he looks like a goofy white dude. This lifestyle leads him to lose money to another hustler named Sidney (Wesley Snipes) and they end up teaming up to win even more money. Although the film is largely about a talented basketball player who can’t stop gambling, it’s also a story about friendship and overcoming racial stereotypes.”

USA Today says Snipes’ and Harrelson’s “incandescent star chemistry” fueled the 1992 comedy. “The movie tackles relationships and race but allows for serious fun, as in the iconic scene in which Harrelson tries to dunk. As a great man once said, ‘It’s hard work being this good.'”

3. “Love & Basketball” (2000)

“Love & Basketball” is the second Spike Lee production to make the list. “The reputation of Gina Prince Bythewood’s brilliant romance has only grown over time,” writes Parade. “Love & Basketball explores complex themes with humor and passion in a story about childhood friends falling in love while aspiring to be professional athletes. Starring Omar Epps, Sanaa Lathan, Dennis Haysbert and Alfre Woodard.”

"Love & Basketball" (2000)
“Love & Basketball” (2000)

“A Spike Lee joint that tells the story of two childhood friends Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps),” notes Collider. “Both are big basketball stars and both are trying to use their skills to get into college. The story takes a look at their lives through four quarters (like a basketball game) from childhood all the way past college. The film and the soundtrack are beloved by many and Gina Prince-Bythewood won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay.”

Men’s Health says “Love & Basketball” would be like “if Romeo and Juliet never drank poison and instead played basketball.” “Basketball is a team sport built around the intensity of back-and-forth duels of individuals, a fact Love & Basketball figuratively and literally uses to tell a love story of two people going for the same goal of happiness in sometimes conflicting manners. Whether it’s a game of strip basketball on a dorm room door basket or an iconic one-on-one game for someone’s heart, few films have ever told a love story and basketball tale without sacrificing the integrity of either.”

4. “Hoosiers” (1987)

“Hoosiers,” starring Gene Hackman, told the story of how a small Indiana high school basketball team captured the town’s love and attention. “David Anspaugh directed this classic drama about a small-town high school team in Indiana that way, way overachieves thanks to their inspirational new coach, Norman Dale, played to perfection by Gene Hackman,” writes A.V. Club. “The basketball scenes feel real because several actual ballers costar in the film. The great character actor Chelcie Ross chews the scenery, which is saying something since Dennis Hopper delivers an Oscar-nominated performance as the town’s requisite drunken superfan. Hoosiers feels lived in and genuine, from the performances to the cinematography to the typically masterful Jerry Goldsmith score. Anspaugh later directed the more commercial and significantly more rah-rah football saga Rudy, but Hoosiers ranks as the better movie.”

"Hoosiers" (1987)
“Hoosiers” (1987)

“It will forever be the quintessential Indiana basketball movie. Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) ruffles feathers as Hickory’s new basketball coach instilling the fundamentals of the game,” says Esquire. “The small farm town’s best player, Jimmy Chitwood, holds out playing but eventually joins the team so long as Dale stays, and the seven-man unit surges towards its championship goals. Hoosiers set the blueprint for the classic motivational speech—if you play hard, you’re winners, regardless of the scoreboard—followed by a locker room power clap featured on video boards across every professional sports venue. Among its many contributions, the movie gave new meaning to carrying measuring tape inside large arenas.”

Complex calls the film “one of the greatest sports movies of all time.” “Set in one of basketball’s cradle states, the film tells the story of a small town in Indiana and how its high school goes on to win a state title against all odds. Featuring a stunning performance by Gene Hackman in a starring role as the team’s coach, Hoosiers is richly detailed and real to life, as it spares no expense in making sure that every obstacle that the team must overcome is examined. Whether it’s overbearing parents, gossip, or otherwise, Hoosiers shows how our greatest battles in sports often happen before we even step foot on the court.”

5. “Hoop Dreams” (1994)

“Hoop Dreams,” the only documentary to make the list, filmed the lives of two Black teenagers from Chicago — William Gates and Arthur Agee — who traveled 90 minutes each day to attend a high-end basketball program at a white suburban school. The documentary was shot over the course of five years. “One of the most critically acclaimed documentaries of all time, Hoop Dreams is a rich, complex, heartbreaking, and ultimately deeply rewarding film that uses high school hoops as a jumping-off point to explore issues of race, class, and education in modern America,” writes Rotten Tomatoes.

"Hoop Dreams" (1994)
“Hoop Dreams” (1994)

“This marvelous documentary chronicles lives of two inner city teenagers from the south side of Chicago. Both Arthur Agee and William Gates have the dream of making it professionally in basketball, no matter what,” explains Bleacher Report. “A dichotomy exists which includes one of the players going to a wealthy private school (Gates). The other player (Agee) was unable to financially stay in the same private school, so out of necessity he enrolls in his local public high school. Each player dealt with big time obstacles along the way (poor grades, drug-addict parents, family deaths, serious injuries) in their journeys to becoming big time successes playing basketball. This film beautifully personifies the harsh underbelly of society and depicts the urban class and the importance of basketball in these inner-city communities.”

USA Today calls it “one of the best documentaries ever made.” “The film spectacularly uses the story of two black teens in Chicago, William Gates and Arthur Agee, and their pie-in-the-sky goals of playing in the NBA to highlight issues of class, race and education in America.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links.

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About the Author

Matt Higgins

Matt Higgins worked in national and local news for 15 years. He started out as an overnight production assistant at Fox News Radio in 2007 and ended in 2021 as the Digital Managing Editor at CBS Philadelphia. Following his news career, he spent one year in the automotive industry as a Digital Platforms Content Specialist contractor with Subaru of America and is currently a freelance writer and editor for StudyFinds. Matt believes in facts, science and Philadelphia sports teams crushing his soul.

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