We’re nearly to the Ides of March, a time when we think of a lot of different things. But if you’re like me, it’s the time you start getting pumped for the greatest tournament in sports. Yes, I’m talking about March Madness!
Thanks to a little thing like a worldwide pandemic we didn’t get the tournament in 2020, but it’s on track to return for 2021. I always enjoy the ride, even if I don’t closely monitor college basketball throughout the season. It’s about seeing people rise and overcome the odds to win. You want to see that 13 seed make it to the Sweet 16. We all love a good underdog story! As you prep for the tournament, which kicks off March 18, here’s a few under dog basketball films to get you hyped!
About: This one, starring Gene Hackman, is the quintessential film in this genre. It features a coach (Hackman) looking for a second chance who takes over an Indiana high school team in the 1950s. His hard methods and rough edges don’t win him any friends initially, but he turns them into winners. This is a feel-good story and a classic. If you’re only going to watch one off this list, Hoosiers is the one.
Blue Chips (1994)
About: Nick Nolte stars as a successful and gruff college basketball coach who has hit a rough patch. After a losing season, he hits the recruiting trail hard to get back to a National Championship Game. The film features real-life NBA players like Shaq and Penny Hardaway, and real-life college coaches like Bobby Knight. This one, from Ron Shelton who has given us several good sports films, tackles some tough issues with recruiting and money under-the-table in college sports. The themes resonate, but this isn’t my favorite. In some ways, I think the ending is anti-climactic.
Coach Carter (2005)
About: This one is based on a true story and centers on Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson), who returns to his alma matter to help revive the basketball program. But his larger concern is helping these high school players develop the skills needed to live successful and productive lives. Despite his team being one of the best in California, Carter beings cancelling practice and games when his players don’t thrive academically. That earns him the wrath of the community, but in the end teaches his kids an important life-long lesson. This tugs at the heartstrings sometimes and showcases Channing Tatum’s basketball skills, but it’s just OK.
Glory Road (2006)
About: This is another one based on a true story, setting the action in El Paso, Texas, as a former girls high school basketball coach, Don Haskins (Josh Lucas), who pushes progress on the court and in the world by recruiting and starting a number of black players, including starting all black players in the National Championship game against Adolf Rupp (Jon Voight) and powerhouse Kentucky. This is another one that is about history and more than the game. Lucas is solid, as are the players, especially Derek Luke. This one has its moments.
The Way Back (2020)
About: This is the newest film on the list and was one of the few movies to get a release prior to the pandemic last year. Ben Affleck takes the lead as an alcoholic former player who is recovering from the implosion of his life by pouring his time and talent into coaching at his former high school. Affleck gives a good performance and is the best reason to check out this film. It’s an under-rated offering, and one that’s worth checking out for those that missed it last year.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a proud member of the Drive-In Podcast Network.