Over the years, there have been dozens upon dozens of basketball movies and documentaries that cover all sides of the court. You have your inspirational feel-good stories about the underdog team lacking in star power, the tales of redemption and new beginnings of former players, and then you have wacky sports comedies that defy logic and reason. But with as many streaming services and places to rent movies as there are teams in the NBA, finding your favorite basketball movie is no easy task.
Well, that's where I come in with this curated list of some of the best basketball movies and where you can find them to stream and rent. Below are 15 great movies that feature stories both on and off the court. So lace up your shoes, put on your sweatband, and get ready for some of the best basketball movies streaming on a number of platforms that are perfect for sports fans and movie lovers alike.
The Redeem Team (2022)
Heading into the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the US Men’s Basketball Team had a huge chip on its shoulder. Just four years earlier, at the 2004 Summer Games, the traditionally dominant squad of NBA all-stars was forced to settle for a bronze medal. With some new additions to the team, and a more fierce attitude and playing style, the late Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and other players set out to make up for the lackluster performance in Athens. The 2022 Netflix documentary, The Redeem Team, chronicles the team, their formation, and their shot at redemption on the global stage.
38 At The Garden (2022)
Seemingly overnight, in early 2012, a relatively unknown Taiwanese-American point guard named Jeremy Lin, who went undrafted just two years earlier, became an international sensation following a magical night when he led the New York Knicks to a resounding victory with 38 points at the most famous arena in the world: Madison Square Garden. The 2022 HBO documentary, 38 at the Garden, explores Lin’s life leading up to that monumental night he outscored Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, and the “Linsanity” phenomenon that followed. In addition to covering his on-court successes, the documentary film also explores the cultural impact of Lin’s run and how it gave Asian-Americans a new idol.
The Way Back (2020)
Director Gavin O’Connor has gone on the record saying The Way Back isn’t really a sports movie, and instead more of a character study, but the emotionally-raw 2020 drama starring Ben Affleck as a basketball coach struggling with addiction and his past mistakes, is too good not to mention. In the movie, Affleck plays Jack Cunningham, a former star basketball player who agrees to coach his old high school. Over the course of the movie, the broken-down man experiences a series of ups and downs as he tries to get himself, and his team, back to the glory days.
Untold: Malice At The Palace (2021)
There were few bigger sports scandals in the early 2000s than the notorious “Malice at the Palace,” the November 2004 brawl between Indianapolis Pacers players, and players and fans of the Detroit Pistons. The 2021 Netflix documentary, Untold: Malice at the Palace, breaks down what led to an incident that saw players and fans fighting on the court and in the stands while millions watched on TV in disbelief, as well as what came of the melee.
Making a list of the best basketball movies without including Hoosiers would be a criminal disservice to this Oscar-nominated sports classic about a ragtag high school basketball team who won the Indiana state championship in 1954. Starring Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper (RIP), Hoosiers has often been called your father's favorite basketball film, so if you're anything like me, you've seen bits and pieces of this iconic underdog story hundreds of times at this point. Nearly 40 years after its initial release, Hoosiers remains a classic sports movie.
He Got Game (1998)
Over the course of his career, Denzel Washington has worked with director Spike Lee on four different productions, including Lee's 1998 joint He Got Game. Centered around a former convict Jack Shuttlesworth (Washington) who's trying to form a connection with his son, Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen), who aspires to reach the NBA, the film explores the tattered father-son relationship both on and off the court. Often considered one of the vintage Denzel movies, this late-90s love letter to basketball and tale of redemption is definitely one to watch when you're missing basketball.
White Men Can't Jump (1992)
There is just something about the 1992 street basketball hustle story that is White Men Can’t Jump; something fresh, raw, and exciting. From the first time Woody Harrelson’s Billy Hoyle crosses paths with Wesley Snipes' Sidney Deane until the final big-money game, the 30-year-old basketball flick is just perfect. Lacking the glitz, glamour, and traditional basketball courts found in most iconic basketball stories, White Men Can't Jump captures the struggles of being a down on your luck hustler just trying to make it by playing the game you love. It all features some of the most athletic basketball scenes in all of cinema. No wonder the movie is being remade.
Love & Basketball (2000)
With a cast that includes Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps, Love & Basketball tells the story of two childhood friends turned lovers whose relationship becomes strained as both become stars in their respective basketball leagues. Far more personal than most entries on this list, this 2000 romantic drama doesn't hold back on plays with your emotions better than most love or sports movies out there. Regarded as one of the best basketball movies to ever be shown in theaters, Love & Basketball has it all.
Blue Chips (1994)
It's no secret that there's a great deal of corruption surrounding college athletics. It seems like we can't go a year without learning about a star athlete receiving gifts or cold hard cash to play for certain programs. No movie has touched on that better than the 1994 drama Blue Chips, which centers around the tough decisions basketball coach Pete Bell (Nick Nolte) makes in order to recruit three top-tier talents played by Shaquille O'Neal, Penny Hardaway, and Matt Nover. This tense thriller of a sports movie has only become more relevant in the years following its release, and will continue to do so until the NCAA finds a way to compensate its athletes.
Glory Road (2006)
Glory Road is one of the quintessential 2000s biographical sports dramas much in the vein of Remember The Titans and The Rookie. It has some pretty decent basketball action, is based on a true story, and has so much emotion and drama that you don't even care that it has a predictable ending. Starring Josh Lucas as Don Haskins, the film centers around the first all African-American college basketball team as they prepare to take on the top-ranked team in the country. This is a classic Disney sports movie and will make you laugh, cry, and jump with joy.
Coach Carter (2005)
Just as inspirational as Glory Road but not as family-friendly, the 2005 basketball drama Coach Carter centers around the no-nonsense philosophy of Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson), who locks his entire team out of their school's gymnasium after their grades begin to suffer during a winning streak. Even though he's criticized by essentially everyone associated with the players and the school's program, Coach Carter stays true to his principles and doesn't back down to teach everyone a lesson.
Teen Wolf (1985)
Long before the MTV series Teen Wolf came and went after six seasons, the movie on which it was based accidentally became one of the best basketball movies of the 1980s. Released just one month after star Michael J. Fox became a pop culture icon for his role in Back To The Future, Teen Wolf tells the story of Scott Howard (Fox), a nerdy high school student who learns that being a werewolf runs in the family. But where does basketball come in, you ask? Well, after transforming into a radical and bodacious werewolf, Scott becomes quite the excellent basketball player, even if a little unorthodox. In this classic tale of losing oneself to fame, Scott quickly loses touch with the nerdy, yet sincere person he was before he was riding atop moving vehicles, hogging the ball on the court, and starring in the school play.
Space Jam (1996)
Released more than a quarter-century ago, the insane pairing of Michael Jordan and Looney Tunes in Space Jam is still something that is talked about in 2022. Upon its release, the 1996 live-action/animation hybrid featured Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, and Bugs Bunny, who could be considered the greatest character in the history of cartoons, and some ridiculous basketball. Add a cast that includes some of the biggest NBA stars of the time losing their powers, Bill Murray randomly being friends with Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, and Danny DeVito playing an evil alien businessman, and you have a wonky, absurd movie, and I love it.
Hoop Dreams (1994)
Hoop Dreams is a documentary that follows two star high school basketball players — Arthur Agee and William Gates — as they chase their dreams and work towards getting drafted in the NBA. Winner of the Audience Award at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival and nominated for an Oscar, this epic documentary is just as riveting and beloved as it was more than a quarter century ago. Throughout this nearly three-hour documentary, viewers watch as two talented, yet underprivileged inner-city Chicago high school athletes experience all the highs and lows of the sport they care so deeply about and hope that they're able to achieve their dreams and make it to the NBA. And, you know it’s good when the late Roger Ebert was so high on the documentary.
Above The Rim (1994)
Featuring a remarkable cast that includes Tupac Shakur, Marlon Wayans, Bernie Mac, Leon Robinson, and Duane Martin, Above The Rim follows the life of high school basketball standout Kyle Lee Watson (Martin) as he finds himself at the crossroads leading up to a street-top basketball tournament. Forced to decide between playing for local drug dealer Birdie (Shakur) or his respected coach Mike Rollins (David Bailey), Kyle's decision has the potential to have a long term impact on those closest to him. From the waxed courts of the high school gym to the rough pavement of the playground court, Above The Rim features some of the most exciting basketball scenes from the 1990s.
Stream Above the Rim on Netflix.
Rent/Buy Above the Rim on Amazon.
These are just a little more than a dozen of the best basketball movies, as we didn’t even touch on some of the big docuseries like The Last Dance or the HBO docudrama series, Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.