Basketball is a fast-moving sport that’s just as exciting to watch on the big screen as it is to watch on the small screen. Basketball is also a popular sport in general, particularly in the United States, so the top 10 best basketball movies and many others will already have a large, built-in audience who will want to take a look. Basketball’s complex history as a sport has certainly informed the genre, and led basketball films to differ from other varieties of sports films in ways that extend far beyond the difference in the focal point.
10. The Basketball Diaries
Many of the top 10 best basketball movies have been used to explore controversial subject matter. The Basketball Diaries, with its depictions of dramatic violence and drug use, only became more controversial after its release date, in the political climate of the late 1990s. The Basketball Diaries today has probably found a new audience amongst fans of Leonardo DiCaprio, who want to see all of his work and his development as a fine actor. Fans of the Sopranos will also recognize Lorraine Bracco as Mrs. Carroll. Mark Wahlberg may still be the standout amongst this great cast.
9. Sunset Park
Sunset Park is something of a lesser-known gem today, which fans of basketball films should definitely check out for its performances and for its unique take on the genre. Sunset Park is a rare example of one of the top 10 best basketball movies where the coach is essentially the main protagonist, and she is challenging the perceptions of her players as much as her own. Rhea Perlman does a great job in the role of the coach in a somewhat unexpected part for her. The developing bond between her and her players makes for a very engaging story.
8. The Red Sneakers
The top 10 best basketball movies need not limit themselves to complete realism. The Red Sneakers does indeed feature red sneakers, or in this case, sneakers that can essentially bestow the wearer with super-powered basketball skills. The Red Sneakers makes for a good family film, and is certainly a well made example from the genre for all audiences.
7. Finding Forrester
Finding Forrester manages to combine a huge number of elements together and make them all work. Few of the top 10 best basketball movies feature a young basketball star befriending an older, reclusive famous writer. The interaction between the two characters is interested and adds some more complexity to a story that is all about overcoming other people’s expectations for you, which is a key theme in almost all sports films.
6. Coach Carter
Many teen films delve into the conflict between academics and sports, but Coach Carter takes it in a very unfamiliar direction. The real Coach Carter gave his champion basketball players an ultimatum with regards to their scholastic results: he wasn’t going to let them play unless they got higher grades. Coach Carter the film dramatizes the story and its aftermath with everyone involved. Samuel L. Jackson is absolutely unforgettable as the Coach Ken Carter of the title.
5. He Got Game
Director Spike Lee and superstar Denzel Washington unite in He Got Game to make one of the top 10 best basketball movies of all time. He Got Game has much more to it than the overwhelming majority of sports films in general and basketball films in particular. Spike Lee’s reputation as a much more experimental director comes through, and the viewer is left with something that stands out from a legion of superficially similar films. Ray Allen’s good performance was a pleasant surprise, given the common perception that professional athletes and people with similar skills don’t have acting chops. Denzel Washington’s nomination for a Best Actor Oscar speaks for itself.
Independently made basketball films are relatively rare, and yet the subgenre has already produced some great films. Streetballers had a very limited release, but it has already earned its place amongst the top 10 best basketball movies. The role that basketball can play in the culture of many urban people is explored within the film, as is the way that basketball can be a way for people in a difficult situation to find some sort of an escape. The interplay between the two main characters makes for some good interpersonal work, and adds a huge amount of emotional resonance that is often lacking in films that focus on sports.
3. Love and Basketball
Romance elements and sports elements can combine surprisingly well on film. Films all over the spectrum usually have some romantic elements, but they can be more prominent and essential to the plot in some stories. Seeing long-term couples and long-term relationships between people is relatively rare on film, so Love and Basketball sets itself apart from other films just on the basis of its romantic content. The setup of the film also allows it to explore the journeys of both a male and female athlete. The struggles of female athletes do not get depicted as often as the struggles of male athletes, and the two are rarely seen in juxtaposition with one another. Exploring the balance between one’s professional goals and one’s relationships is something many people can identify with, even if they are not pursuing careers in professional sports themselves.
2. One on One
Fans of the films of the 1970s will have no doubt heard of One on One, and it has become something of a classic within sports films in general. Sports make for a good subject for coming-of-age stories like this one, given the level of time and effort they require and their natural progression. Annette O’Toole and Robby Benson each give memorable performances and make this film a standout across genres.
Hoosiers has struck a chord with generations of people in a way that many sports films do not. The themes of atonement and personality development give the film a special emotional touch. The praise for Dennis Hopper’s performance and Jerry Goldsmith’s musical score were certainly well earned. Gene Hackman‘s performance as the coach Norman Dale is one of the most memorable in his long career, and helps garner the film’s respectability even among the top 10 best basketball movies of all time.