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10 Best Basketball Movies, Ranked by Tomatometer

The Rotten Tomatoes starting lineup for the best basketball movies of all time includes inspiring documentaries (Hoop Dreams), legendary underdog tales (Hoosiers), 1990s streetball classics (He Got GameWhite Men Can’t Jump), and behind-the-scenes stories (AirHigh-Flying Bird) that reveal the business beyond the ball. The top 10 basketball movies are all Certified Fresh, meaning they were all slam dunks with critics.

Hoop Dreams and The Heart of the Game are both documentaries, following high schoolers (the former set in Chicago, the latter featuring an all-girls team in Seattle) as they pursue their ambition on the court. Hustle and The Way Back are comeback stories both on and off screen: Adam Sandler and Ben Affleck get to show off their dramatic chops as coaches after releasing a string of movies not taken seriously by critics. Affleck has a particular affection for basketball, as he released the crowd-pleasing Air in 2023. Air is similar to High-Flying Bird in that they both delve into some of the most legendary business deals in professional basketball.

Love & Basketball, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, blends romance and sports together, tracking a young athlete’s growth across high school, college and beyond. From the same year as Love & Basketball, 2000’s Finding Forrester sees director Gus Van Sant working the same gameplan that made Good Will Hunting a success. And He Got Game and White Men Can’t Jump hook in that ’90s edge, with Spike Lee, Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes, and Woody Harrelson all performing at the height of their powers.

Hoop Dreams

#1 Hoop Dreams (1994)

Critics Consensus: One of the most critically acclaimed documentaries of all time, Hoop Dreams is a rich, complex, heartbreaking, and ultimately deeply rewarding film that uses high school hoops as a jumping-off point to explore issues of race, class, and education in modern America.

Synopsis: Every school day, African-American teenagers William Gates and Arthur Agee travel 90 minutes each way from inner-city Chicago to St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois, a predominately white suburban school well-known for the excellence of its basketball program. Gates and Agee dream of NBA stardom, and with the support of their close-knit families, they battle the social and physical obstacles that stand in their way. This acclaimed documentary was shot over the course of five years.

Starring: Steve JamesWilliam GatesArthur AgeeSheila Agee

Directed By: Steve James


#2 Hustle (2022)

Critics Consensus: Hustle doesn't have any fancy moves, but it doesn't need them -- Adam Sandler's everyman charm makes this easy layup fun to watch.

Synopsis: Stanley Sugerman's (Adam Sandler) love for basketball is unparalleled, but the travel weary Philadelphia 76ers scout who has higher ambitions of being a coach remains stuck on the road looking for the next unknown talent. His search around the world leads him to Spain, when he discovers Bo Cruz (NBA player Juancho Hernangómez), an incredible streetball player with a troubled past. Stanley and Bo connect on and off the court, with their passion for the game and as loving family men who want to prove they can win, in basketball and in life. With the support of Stanley's wife, Teresa (Queen Latifah), can the underdogs come out on top?

Starring: Adam SandlerJuancho HernangomezQueen LatifahBen Foster

Directed By: Jeremiah Zagar


#3 Air (2023)

Critics Consensus: A fact-based drama that no one will dunk on, Air aims to dramatize events that changed the sports world forever -- and hits almost nothing but net.

Synopsis: From award-winning director Ben Affleck, AIR reveals the unbelievable game-changing partnership between a then-rookie Michael Jordan and Nike's fledgling basketball division which revolutionized the world of sports and contemporary culture with the Air Jordan brand. This moving story follows the career-defining gamble of an unconventional team with everything on the line, the uncompromising vision of a mother who knows the worth of her son’s immense talent, and the basketball phenom who would become the greatest of all time.

Starring: Matt DamonBen AffleckJason BatemanViola Davis

Directed By: Ben Affleck


#4 Hoosiers (1986)

Critics Consensus: It may adhere to the sports underdog formula, but Hoosiers has been made with such loving craft, and features such excellent performances, that it's hard to resist.

Synopsis: Failed college coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) gets a chance at redemption when he is hired to direct the basketball program at a high school in a tiny Indiana town. After a teacher (Barbara Hershey) persuades star player Jimmy Chitwood to quit and focus on his long-neglected studies, Dale struggles to develop a winning team in the face of community criticism for his temper and his unconventional choice of assistant coach: Shooter (Dennis Hopper), a notorious alcoholic.

Starring: Gene HackmanBarbara HersheyDennis HopperSheb Wooley

Directed By: David Anspaugh

High Flying Bird

#5 High Flying Bird (2019)

Critics Consensus: High Flying Bird takes a thoughtful and engrossing look at professional sports that sees Steven Soderbergh continuing to test the limits of new filmmaking technology.

Synopsis: A sports agent pitches a controversial business opportunity to a rookie basketball player during a lockout.

Starring: André HollandZazie BeetzBill DukeSonja Sohn

Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

The Heart of the Game

#6 The Heart of the Game (2005)

Critics Consensus: This group of high school girls and their eccentric basketball coach easily win your heart with their unusual humanity and dynamism.

Synopsis: Filmed over a period of seven years, director Ward Serrill profiles Bill Resler, a university professor who coaches a basketball team comprised of high-school girls. Darnellia Russell, one of the team's few black players, also comes into focus as she struggles to stay on the team despite major obstacles.

Starring: Ludacris

Directed By: Ward Serrill

Love & Basketball

#7 Love & Basketball (2000)

Critics Consensus: Confident directing and acting deliver an insightful look at young athletes.

Synopsis: Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) are two childhood friends who both aspire to be professional basketball players. Quincy, whose father, Zeke (Dennis Haysbert), plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, is a natural talent and a born leader. Monica is ferociously competitive but sometimes becomes overly emotional on the court. Over the years, the two begin to fall for each other, but their separate paths to basketball stardom threaten to pull them apart.

Starring: Sanaa LathanOmar EppsAlfre WoodardDennis Haysbert

Directed By: Gina Prince-Bythewood

The Way Back

#8 The Way Back (2020)

Critics Consensus: The Way Back's occasionally frustrating treatment of a formulaic story is often outweighed by Ben Affleck's outstanding work in the central role.

Synopsis: Jack Cunningham was a high school basketball superstar who suddenly walked away from the game for unknown reasons. Years later, he's now stuck in a meaningless job and struggling with alcoholism -- the very thing that ruined his marriage and his hope for a better life. But Jack soon gets a shot at redemption when he becomes the basketball coach for his alma mater, a program that has fallen on hard times since his teenage glory days.

Starring: Ben AffleckAl MadrigalJanina GavankarJeremy Radin

Directed By: Gavin O'Connor

He Got Game

#9 He Got Game (1998)

Critics Consensus: Though not without its flaws, He Got Game finds Spike Lee near the top of his game, combining trenchant commentary with his signature visuals and a strong performance from Denzel Washington.

Synopsis: Jake Shuttleworth (Denzel Washington) has spent the last six years in prison after accidentally killing his wife during a violent domestic dispute, leaving his son, star basketball prospect Jesus Shuttleworth (Ray Allen), to fend for himself. One day, the prison warden (Ned Beatty) approaches Jake with an unusual offer: He'll be given a week of parole to convince Jesus to attend the governor's alma mater, with the promise of a shortened sentence if he succeeds.

Starring: Denzel WashingtonRay AllenMilla JovovichRosario Dawson

Directed By: Spike Lee

White Men Can't Jump

#10 White Men Can't Jump (1992)

Critics Consensus: White Men Can't Jump provides a fresh take on the sports comedy genre, with a clever script and a charismatic trio of leads.

Synopsis: Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) is a white basketball hustler who banks on black players underestimating his skills on the court. When he pulls one over on Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes), his victim sees a lucrative opportunity, and they become partners in the con game, plying their trade across the courts of Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Billy has to keep one step ahead of mobsters, to whom he owes money, while staying on the good side of his "Jeopardy!"-obsessed, motormouth wife (Rosie Perez).

Starring: Wesley SnipesWoody HarrelsonRosie PerezTyra Ferrell

Directed By: Ron Shelton

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