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10 Basketball Movies That Score Big

Make the most of March Madness with these classic docs and dramas

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Orion Pictures/ Courtesy Everett Collection

With March Madness upon us (and the Ben Affleck–Matt Damon Nike movie Air coming on April 5), it’s high time to binge on features and documentaries about basketball. Here are some recent hits and slam-dunk classics to watch.

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The Redeem Team (2022)

With a wealth of exciting on-court and behind-the-scenes footage, this superb documentary tells the inspiring story of how American Olympic team stars LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and company set out to win at the 2008 Olympics after Team USA’s humiliating defeat at the 2004 games. It’s a tale of individual talents who triumph through teamwork.

Watch it: The Redeem Team, on Netflix

Don’t miss this: Watch Kobe Bryant make history in the documentary The Legend of the 81-Point Game, free on AARP Members Only Access through May 16.

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 250-plus hours of footage, he made one of the most acclaimed film documentaries ever. He followed two heralded Chicago high school players, Arthur Agee and William Gates, from grade school through college recruitment. There is hope, heartbreak and an unforgettable snapshot of an American city in decay. Roger Ebert named it the best movie of the 1990s and hailed it as “one of the best films about American life that I have ever seen.”

Watch it: Hoop Dreams, on HBO Max, Apple TV+, Prime Video

Hoosiers (1986)

The story of a small-town team that storms its way to the 1952 Indiana high school basketball state championship is 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.”

Watch it: Hoosiers, on Apple TV+, HBO Max, Google Play

The Last Dance (2020)

It’s a docuseries, but think of it as a 10-part movie about the Chicago Bulls, their wildly dramatic 1997–98 season, and their towering, powerful, highly sensitive star player, Michael Jordan. Boasting unprecedented access, thrilling footage and a wealth of psychological insights , this is one of the greatest documentaries about any sport, ever.

Watch it: The Last Dance, on Netflix 



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Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals (2010)

They first met at the 1979 NCAA Championships. Larry Bird was the “hick from French Lick” playing for Indiana State; Michigan State’s Earvin Johnson seemed to possess an effortless grace on the court. The next year they would enter the NBA, redefine the sport and spark an East-West rivalry between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. Narrated by Liev Schreiber and featuring interviews with both legends, this is a giddy, glorious snapshot of the moment when the NBA came of age.

Watch it: Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, on HBO Max, Hulu

Don’t miss this: 6 Ways Magic Johnson Changed Basketball — and So Much More 

Coach Carter (2005)

If your coach shouted at you like Samuel L. Jackson, you’d probably listen, right? Jackson is impeccably cast as real-life 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 disciplinary issues.

Watch it: Coach Carter, on Paramount+, Prime Video

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Glory Road (2006)

Texas Western College shocked the college basketball world by winning the 1966 NCAA Championship with an all-Black starting lineup, a first in the sport’s history. Josh Lucas stars as Texas Western head coach Don Haskins, who faced withering criticism about his team’s composition from the then mostly white sport.

Watch it: Glory Road, on Disney+, Prime Video

He Got Game (1998)

Hoops fan Spike Lee wrote and directed this unblinking, cynical take on the seedy underside of big-time college basketball. The movie centers on a stunning performance by Denzel Washington as an ex-con sprung early from prison on the condition that he convince his son Jesus Shuttleworth (real-life NBA star Ray Allen), the top-ranked high school hoops player in the country, to play for Big State University. Denzel can actually play, and the cool soundtrack features Aaron Copland and Public Enemy.

Watch it: He Got Game, on Disney+, Prime Video, Apple TV+

White Men Can’t Jump (1992)

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

Watch it: White Men Can’t Jump, on Hulu, Prime Video, Tubi

Blue Chips (1994)

Written by Ron Shelton, who played minor-league baseball and wrote and directed Bull Durham, Blue Chips shows the darker side of college basketball recruiting — without ever letting up on the gas when it comes to on-court action. It’s part morality tale, part ESPN highlight reel, with Nick Nolte as a grizzled NCAA coach in the Bobby Knight mold who bends the rules to save his job. Shaquille O’Neal, Larry Bird and Penny Hardaway chip in to give it some authenticity.

Watch it: Blue Chips, on Prime Video, Apple TV+, Hulu

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