It's madness out there and basketball fans would not have it any other way each March. As the NCAA Tournament gets going and the 64 best teams in the nation compete to be the best, Movie Fanatic takes a look at the movies that made the game invented in Springfield, Massachusetts and represented it best on the silver screen. In honor of March Madness, we present the top 10 basketball movies.
Will Ferrell plays an owner-player of a fictional ABA team seeking to make it in a league that is quickly changing in the 1970s. It may not be among Ferrell's best sports movies (Talladega Nights, anyone?), but Semi-Pro is still a solid comedy that also stars Woody Harrelson (who will be on this list again later) and Andre 3000 from Outkast, plus funnyman Will Arnett kills it as an alcoholic play-by-play announcer.
Sure this film may be a tribute to the 1970s in feel, music and the explosion of the game, but at its heart, it is a love letter to the game of basketball. Curious? Check out these Semi-Pro quotes for more!
9. The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh
I know, you're probably saying, "What?" The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh is honestly one of the first sports movies I remember catching on HBO and surprisingly, it holds up with time. It was the middle of the 1970s and astrology was all the rage. So, it's hardly a surprise that it found its way into a Hollywood movie, and a basketball film to boot.
The idea is that the Pittsburgh pro team is beyond help. The team owner hires an astrologer who tells her to fire everyone on the team and fill the roster with nothing but Pisces. Think they start winning? Want a true feel for this movie? Check out The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh poster and it's all there!
8. Love and Basketball
Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan bring romance to the basketball movie and score a three-pointer on so many levels with Love and Basketball. The two play Quincy and Monica, two L.A. kids who bond over basketball from the moment they meet in 1981 when each are 11.
Their balling skills only increase as their love and hate relationship intensifies. Just pop this in and watch the fireworks that are definitely rooted in the game, but are more truly attributed to the ultimate game of the heart... as proven in the Love and Basketball quotes.
7. Blue Chips
Nick Nolte stars as an NCAA Division I basketball coach who simply wants to win. He plays by the rules getting the best recruits in the land... or does he? Shaquille O'Neal made his big screen debut as a big-time recruit who holds the key to the entire feel of the movie. Sure, he may be one of the Blue Chips in terms of recruiting... but at what cost?
6. Hoop Dreams
We adore More Than a Game, and it's in our honorable mentions below. But there is something about Hoop Dreams that truly gets us every time we see it. Not everyone's Hoop Dreams come true. In fact, it's a wide majority that doesn't. This Oscar-nominated documentary looks at a group of promising teens who have basketball stars in their eyes. Just getting a college scholarship would be a dream achieved, and several do, but on the other hand... several others don't.
5. White Men Can’t Jump
Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson made such a fantastic pair onscreen in White Men Can't Jump, they worked like a point guard tossing up an alley-oop to a center slamming down the funny. The pair play a couple of Los Angeles street ballers coming from different backgrounds, yet both share a common goal. Any issues they have with each other are put aside once the game starts, and to watch these two on the court, it could remind us of a cinematic Larry Bird and Robert Parish.
4. Glory Road
You have to love a good true story sports movie and Glory Road is just that. The tale is of the 1966 Texas Western basketball team and how they grappled with being one of the first in the country to have an all African American starting five. The film works on so many levels, but there is no better theme than when we work together as one cohesive unit... there is no limit to our greatness. It is also one of star Josh Lucas' best roles as he emits these inspiring Glory Road quotes.
3. The Basketball Diaries
The Basketball Diaries is kind of an interesting use of basketball as a metaphor for so many other aspects of life. Leonardo DiCaprio announced his acting prowess to the world in the story of Jim Carroll and his journey from high school basketball star to drug addict which is tough to watch, but we wouldn't have it any other way. The movie also introduced us to a former rapper and the film instantly became one of the Top 10 Mark Wahlberg movies.
What is it about true life basketball that makes for good movies? Who knows, but with Hoosiers, the nation cheered for Gene Hackman and his group of Indiana high school kids who achieved the impossible by winning the state championship in a state that is just a little mad for the game of basketball.
Stand-out performances abound, especially from Dennis Hopper and his alcohol-addled father. Although after viewing the first time and learning how this one ends, it doesn't matter with further viewings. This is a movie one can watch again and again and again... and each time, tears will flow at the end.
1. He Got Game
Spike Lee took quite a chance casting real-life basketball player Ray Allen in the title role opposite Denzel Washington. If anyone can make a non-actor look weak it's the two-time Oscar winner. Yet, Allen raises his game in He Got Game and goes toe-to-toe with Washington in every scene. Allen is a high school basketball player who has colleges knocking down his door offering scholarships.
As if that wasn't enough to have to deal with, his father (Washington) gets out of jail and wants to resume a relationship with him. Allen's character is skeptical, thinking that dad is after him for his future earning potential in the NBA, just like all the hustlers, women and leeches that demand his attention every day.
Again, basketball is used as a metaphor for life as seen in the He Got Game quotes. There is something about this great game that when filmmakers use that plot tool, it is almost effortless. And when it comes to being the best, Movie Fanatic truly believes that He Got Game!
Honorary mentions: Space Jam, Coach Carter, Finding Forrester, and More Than a Game