Sports in Film: The Best and Worst Basketball Movies of All-Time

Matt HomdisCorrespondent IFebruary 29, 2008

"My practices aren’t designed for your enjoyment."

-Coach Normand Dale, Hoosiers (1986)

With the release of Will Ferrell new comedy Semi-Pro, dealing with the antics of the Flint Tropics in the crazy days of the ABA, I began thinking about all the basketball movies I have seen throughout my life.

Sports movies have always been hit and miss with the American public, from the great Oscar-winning Rocky, to the plain mess of The Game Plan.

What follows is my list for the five best and worst basketball movies of all-time.

Fifth Worst

Air Bud, 1997

To be a fly on that wall when this movie was pitched.

People love dogs. People love basketball. Let's make a movie!

Though a nice way to keep your kids busy on a snowy Saturday afternoon, sitting through this movie with an IQ over 50 is pure torture. By the end of the movie, you wish that mean owner had put Bud out of his misery.

Fifth Best

Basketball Diaries, 1995

Though not strictly a basketball movie, Leonardo DiCaprio's chilling performance of junkie Jim Carroll, and his addiction to heroin and the sport he loves, is a must see movie for any fans of the struggles teens face today.

Fourth Worst

Teen Wolf, 1985

Once again, not really a basketball movie, but the moviemakers made it a point to show Michael J. Fox's werewolf agilities on the basketball court. With very amateurish basketball action, the dunks are not to be missed for the best laughs in the film. It's a shame they weren't intended to be funny.

Fourth Best

Blue Chips, 1994

A very gritty look at college recruitment. Nick Nolte stars as a coach who struggles to win while trying to stick to his values while other teams circumvent the rules by paying players.

Also, it features a very young Shaquille O'Neal in what would be his best performance in a feature.

Third Worst

Eddie, 1996

Whoopi Goldberg as an NBA coach? How's that for a great rental on a Friday night?

With forced laughter and uninspired performances, this is a movie that is more interesting to watch to spot the pro players who appear in cameos, notably that great thespian, Greg Ostertag.

Third Best

White Men Can't Jump, 1992

A huge hit in its day, this movie has aged well. The story of hustlers is one that resonates well with movie goers.

Rosie Perez had a great debut as an inspiring Jeopardy contestant, but the real attraction of this movie is the interaction between Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson as street ballers trying to make a buck. Was quite a shock to see that Woody Boyd from Cheers actually had game.

2nd Worst:

Celtic Pride, 1996

Any movie offering a starring role to the old Boston Garden should be an instant classic, but this reviling attempt at comedy starring Dan Aykroyd and Damon Wayans is an offense to anyone who enjoys the game of basketball.

Boston Celtic fans might be crazy, but even they stayed away from this wasted 90 minutes.

2nd Best:

Hoosiers, 1986

Loosely based on the true-life story of the 1954 Milan High School's unexpected run in the Indiana State Championships, Gene Hackman commands the screen as a coach with a spotty past who is offered one last chance at the dance by a small, rural community.

The realism of the action on the court, along with great supporting roles for the likes of Dennis Hopper and Barbara Hershey, makes this one not only a great basketball movie, but a film classic.


Juwanna Mann, 2002

Proving the trend that comedy and basketball rarely mix, Miguel Nunez stars as a fallen NBA player who must dress up in drag to play in the WNBA.

While having Vivica A. Fox in a movie is always a plus, the weird lesbian love story is in insult to the gay women playing in the league, and to ball fans in general.


Hoop Dreams, 1994

This documentary follows the story of two young, inner-city black basketball players who are recruited to play in a predominantly white private school.

What started as a film on the dreams of Williams Gates and Arthur Agee turns into a study of the effects of race, class, and economic divisions in the American landscape.

While both never attained the NBA, they should be applauded for giving us a glimpse in what is the story of millions of young black men in the United States of America.


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