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10 Classic Basketball Movies That Score Big

  • Glory Road (2006)
    Moviestore Collection/Alamy

    Fan-tastic Films

    If your NCAA tournament bracket is busted early or your alma mater missed the dance or was one and done, don’t despair. We picked 10 basketball movies that can entertain your hoops fix no matter how your picks pan out.

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  • Hoosiers (1987)
    Orion Pictures/ Courtesy Everett Collection

    Hoosiers (1986)

    The story of the small-town team that stormed its way to the Indiana high school basketball state championship in 1952 just turned 30. It’s full of wonderful moments and performances by Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey and Dennis Hopper, who earned an Oscar nomination as Shooter, the sad, besotted former local star turned assistant coach. Hackman, as comeback coach Norman Dale, inspired would-be March Cinderellas forever by measuring the distance to the foul line and the height of the rim before the title game at cavernous Hinkle Fieldhouse: “Ten feet,” the coach says to his wide-eyed team of underdogs, “I think you’ll find it’s the exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory.”

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  • Hoop Dreams (1994)
    Fine Line Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Hoop Dreams (1994)

    Documentarian Steve James originally set out to make a 30-minute TV program about high school basketball recruiting. Instead, after five years of filming and more than 250 hours of footage, he ended up making one of the most acclaimed film documentaries ever. James followed two heralded Chicago high school players, Arthur Agee and William Gates, from their grade-school days through their college recruitments. There is hope, heartbreak and an unforgettable snapshot of an American city in decay. Roger Ebert named it the best movie of the 1990s: “It’s one of the best films about American life that I have ever seen.”

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  • The Basketball Diaries (1995)
    Everett Collection

    The Basketball Diaries (1995)

    A pre-Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio laces on the high-tops in this coming-of-age drama based on the gritty memoir by author Jim Carroll. On-court action is incidental to the story of Carroll’s descent into drug addiction and crime. The movie is now probably best remembered as the first time DiCaprio, just 20 at the time of its release, proved he could carry a movie as a leading man. Watch for a young Mark Wahlberg in one of his first movie roles, too.

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  • Coach Carter (2005)
    Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Coach Carter (2005)

    If your coach shouted at you like Samuel L. Jackson, you’d probably listen to him, right? In Coach Carter, Jackson is impeccably cast as real-life high school hoops coach Ken Carter, who made waves at a northern California high school in 1999 when he benched his entire team, which was undefeated at the time, due to academic and discipline issues. The movie’s director, Thomas Carter, was among the stars of the seminal 1970s basketball TV series The White Shadow.

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  • Glory Road (2006)
    Moviestore Collection/Alamy

    Glory Road (2006)

    Years before anyone referred to it as March Madness, Texas Western College shocked the college basketball world by winning the 1966 NCAA Championship with an all-black starting lineup, the first time that had happened in the sport’s history. This inspiring true story stars Josh Lucas as Texas Western head coach Don Haskins, who faced withering criticism about his team’s composition from the then mostly white sport.

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  • Space Jam (1996)
    Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection

    Space Jam (1996)

    Michael Jordan, Bill Murray and the Looney Tunes characters in a movie about an intergalactic all-star hoops game — what could possibly go wrong? It turns out, not much. The movie may not make a lot of sense, but it’s a wild ride, made tons of money, and in the 20 years since its release it’s become a touchstone for the generation who saw it as kids. One of them grew up to be LeBron James, and rumor has it the King himself has designs on someday starring in Space Jam 2.

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  • Teen Wolf (1985)
    AF Archive/Alamy

    Teen Wolf (1985)

    A little animal aggression has always been an advantage on the basketball court, but this teen comedy takes it to an extreme. Michael J. Fox stars as high school kid Scott, the best player on his school’s terrible hoops team, whose fortunes change for the better when he — wait for it — becomes a werewolf. With a sweet jump shot, of course. The movie spawned an MTV show that is currently in its sixth season.

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  • Along Came Polly (2001)
    Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Along Came Polly (2004)

    OK, so this romantic comedy that stars Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston isn’t really a basketball movie. But it qualifies for this list thanks to one unforgettable hoops scene, in which Stiller’s Reuben partners up with best friend Sandy, played by a rotund, sweat-drenched Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in an ungainly, uncomfortable 2-on-2 pickup game on a Manhattan playground that makes weekend warriors wince even as they can totally relate.

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  • He Got Game (1998)
    Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

    He Got Game (1998)

    Noted hoops fan Spike Lee wrote and directed this film, which points an unblinking, cynical lens at the seedy underside of big-time college basketball. The movie centers on a stunning performance by Denzel Washington, who plays an ex-con released early from state prison on the condition that he convince his star basketball-playing son to come play for “Big State” university. Real-life NBA star Ray Allen played the son, the aptly named Jesus Shuttlesworth.

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  • White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
    20th Century Fox/Courtesy Everett Collection

    White Men Can’t Jump (1992)

    A buddy comedy set in the legendary Los Angeles streetball scene, it’s the rare movie with a title that became a cultural catchphrase. Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson have great comic chemistry as a black-and-white on-court odd couple who hustle their way around the best pickup games in the city. Whether either of them can jump (or shoot, or pass) becomes incidental — their best weapon is the trash talk they spout toward opponents, which spins into a hilarious symphony of insults, good-natured and otherwise.

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  • Retta as Ruby Hill, Christina Hendricks as Beth Boland, Mae Whitman as Annie Marks

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    There's more great television to watch besides college basketball and these great basketball movies. Check out our huge spring TV season preview and discover what to watch now and where to find the best shows on network TV or streaming TV, and start watching now!

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