March Madness would have held its Final Four on April 4 and the national championship on April 6, so with a nod to fans looking to fill their screens with all the action and side stories that are always part of college basketball’s most renowned weekend, we continue our brackets of binge-worthy hoops movies. Our opening bracket of films based on real life—including, naturally, Bridgehampton and Killer Bees—was followed by all-star comedies and a lineup starring actual basketball stars, and comes down to the end with these eight movies that encompass the drama, buzzer-beaters and unlikely heroes that have always defined March Madness.
One of Hollywood’s most beloved underdog stories of all time, this 1986 gem will have you on your feet rooting for the Hickory Huskers—a tiny Indiana school on a quest for the 1952 state championship against all odds—and a superb cast of Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey and an Oscar-nominated Dennis Hopper. After the tears and the cheers, you’ll agree there has never been and never will be a better silver-screen baller than Jimmy Chitwood.
Love & Basketball
Quincy (Omar Epps) and Monica (Sanaa Lathan) are neighbors, lovers, fierce competitors and, above all, superstar players who share a passion for the game that gets tangled up with their passion for each other and the pursuit of the ultimate dream…but is that a lifetime of love or basketball glory?
“You’re the man now, dog!” Uttered in Sean Connery’s unmistakable voice, it became the most memorable moment from this 2000 tale of a prep school student and basketball player (Rob Brown) who forms a friendship with a very J.D. Salinger-ish author (Connery) and finds talents for writing and self-discovery that transform both men in clichéd but nonetheless moving ways.
A young Terrence Howard is just one of the high school players in this 1996 film who finds himself indebted to unlikely coach Rhea Pearlman, who teaches lessons about survival on and off the court. We leave it up to you to decide what’s better, the hoops or the soundtrack.
The Bard never wrote a play about basketball, at least that we know of, but this 2001 take on Othello suggests that he certainly could have, as on-court battles instead of the War of Cyprus supply the backdrop upon which to weave a tale of deception, race, class and the high costs of a hero’s tragic flaws.
Adam Sandler showed off his take-it-to-the-bank game in Grown Ups, but this 2019 thriller allowed him to truly show off his acting chops—the guy won an Independent Spirit Award as a jeweler and gambler whose life becomes a twists-and-turns tale of a rare gem, basketball wagering gone awry and Kevin Garnett.
One on One
Perhaps the worst-ever teaser line for a film—“There comes a time in life when love stops being a ball and starts being a woman”—is balanced out by one of the most memorable final lines of any hoops movie, delivered by Robby Benson (who also wrote the movie, years before he was the voice of the Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and a director of Friends) after some 96 minutes of Rocky-lite underdog fare.
The one and only Netflix release on this binge list is a 2018 entry that lays bare the pressures and hard-to-resist prizes that are constantly threatening to corrupt an eighth-grade basketball prodigy, whose entry into an elite prep school shows him that education and ethics are not always part of the game.