Movies which centre their stories on competitive sports will always find an eager audience at the cinema. They are often filled with drama, heart-stopping action, and perfectly capture the ever swinging emotional pendulum of hope and fear.
And whether the sports are played in a high school gym or a stadium filled with thousands and millions more watching on at home, the conflict and fortitude necessary to win against the odds will always resonate with us. This is exactly what excites sports fans too, with the online sports betting community at an all-time high with NBA odds being constantly updated.
Here we celebrate the some inspirational Basketball movies.
Few documentaries have captured the rawness of hope better than Steve James and Frederick Marx’s Hoop Dreams. Originally planned as a half hour PBS special on two African-American Chicago high schoolers as they chase their dreams of playing professional basketball, the team ended up with 250 hours of footage after five years chronicling the lives of William Gates and Arthur Agee.
Despite a famous Oscars snub it played to rave reviews on the festival circuit and was inducted into the Nation Film Registry in 2005. Here the action on the court was given dramatic resonance when set against the harsh reality of life away from the sport. The film was as much a social commentary on the vast distance between the boys’ poverty-stricken background and their dreams of a life in the big leagues. After 25 years the film retains its power to enthrall, and remains a classic of the genre.
1985 was the year of the Fox. Michael J. was everywhere that summer, with Back to the Future emblazoning its pitch-perfect script and energetic characters onto a generation of would-be time travelers. Though less successful the second film the actor led that year, Rod Daniel’s Teen Wolf, had a similar tactic of marrying an age-old concept (in this case – man becoming a werewolf) with a knowingly awkward coming-of-age tale.
It has many wonderful moments, and our hearts still bloom when he finally SEES Boof, but it is the action on the Basketball court which provides the perfect analogy for finding his inner strength. Just don’t search on YouTube for the flasher in the end credits.Q
Perhaps one of the most well known films built around the sport, Space Jam made great waves when it was released for the blending of animation and live action. It also didn’t hurt that Michael Jordan was a major player in the film. For UK audiences this is a bit like David Beckham teaming up with Dennis the Menace and Gnasher as they tried to win the World Cup on Mars. Not a bad idea actually.
Perhaps best known now for the fact that it was one of the earliest films to have its own place on the information superhighway. It was discovered recently that the website still exists and every now and then social media fills up with people marveling at the virtual time capsule. ?Seriously – check out those frames. Brings a tear to the eye.
As for the film it’s a fun jaunt, and while Bugs and the Looney Toons cast don’t quite maintain the charm of earlier years, there’s enough nonsense to entertain.
Sandwiched between their phenomenal success with South Park and the world-stomping runaway hoorah! of The Book of Mormon, Trey Parker and Matt Stone took on the sports comedy genre, and true to their nature – they made it completely their own. Directed by Airplane legend David Zucker, the film starred Parker and Stone alongside women of the moment Yasmin Bleeth and Jenny McCarthy. Screen legends Ernest Borgnine and Robert Vaughn also took a turn in the story of a couple of Basketball players who invent their own particular mix of Basket-and Base Ball.
It’s an uneven affair, with Parker and Stone making the most of, rarely for them – material they did not write themselves, and it’s a fun peek at a world in which even the oddest of sports packs in the crowds every game.
White Men Can’t Jump
Ron Shelton’s canny 1992 comedy teamed up the physical belligerence and smart mouth of Wesley Snipes’ Sidney Deane with a cocksure hustler played by a fresh from Cheers Woody Harrelson. In short, the running scam from Harrelson’s Billy Hoyle is that he pretends to be terrible at Basketball and hustles money from unsuspecting players. When Deane sees what’s going on he decides to get in on the con. Hilarity, emotional discovery and mobster hijnx ensue.
Woody Harrelson would return to the court on screen in 2008’s Semi-Pro alongside Will Ferrell and Andre Benjamin for the story of a one-hit wonder who buys a Basketball team just as the ABA is about to merge with the NBA. It’s far less compelling than Ron Shelton’s film, and much less satisfying. If you’re a fan of the sport or Harrelson however throw a little double bill party. Treat yourself.