Jeff Haws’ Top 10 List

One of the downsides for The List crew during the spring is when the weather cools down for a few days like this.

You know we love nothing more than our high school sports, but we’re way too wimpy to sit out at high school baseball games or track meets if it’s below 60.

So where’s a high school sports nut to turn when the wind chill drives him inside, so he doesn’t have to break his coat back out of winter storage? Why, to the movies, of course.

Hollywood loves them some high school sports too, and they’ve shown it by making movies about it, far more times than you probably think.

And with the Atlanta Film Festival going on this week, we thought it was the perfect time for a high school sports film festival of our own.

After many hours of staring at the screen and far too many tubs of popcorn to count, here’s our critic’s list of the top 10 high school sports movies ever:

10. Above the Rim (1994)

Featuring gone-too-soon Tupac and Bernie Mac, this was a bit dark at times, but we can dig that down at The List. Duane Martin played a young high school basketball star from a poor neighborhood, who was trying to make the most of his talents. He gets seduced into playing for the team run by drug dealer Birdie (played by Tupac), and things get complicated.

9. Remember the Titans (2000)

When suburban Virginia’s high schools are integrated in 1971, Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) goes from football coach of the black school to coaching the newly integrated T.C. Williams High team. The story talks about that first year of the team, and the dramatic events surrounding it. Yes, it’s based on a true story, which can’t hurt. Also features a young Ryan Gosling in only his second film.

8. Varsity Blues (1999)

Hollywood just loves stuff about Texas football, and who doesn’t? The not-as-good predecessor to Friday Night Lights, this movie looks at a powerhouse football program with a loudmouth coach (Jon Voight) and an underdog backup quarterback (James Van Der Beek) forced onto the field due to injury.

7. Coach Carter (2005)

If Samuel Jackson was your basketball coach, you just know you’d win ball games, don’t you? That’s somewhat the premise of this one, which follows this inner-city team as Jackson’s coach Carter takes over a disorganized group of kids and gets them playing together on the court and getting focused in the classroom while they fight for a state title.

6. He Got Game (1998)

Who knew Miami Heat veteran Ray Allen could act? He was pretty darn great in this Spike Lee film about Jesus Shuttlesworth (Allen), the top high school basketball prospect in the country, and his dad (Washington), a convict who can have his prison sentence reduced by the judge if he can convince his son to play at Big State University.

5. Finding Forrester (2000)

Not only is Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown) a high school basketball star, but he also has a love of reading and writing (see why we like this one?). So when he finds the reclusive and kind of creepy William Forrester (Sean Connery), a writing guru in his own right, he arranges to work with him to improve his writing, while basketball is still what gets Jamal noticed by most.

4. The Basketball Diaries (1995)

Dark, dark, dark. And very good too. Before Leonardo DiCaprio became every teenage girl’s favorite loverboy in Titanic, he was a drug-using high school basketball player (DiCaprio) whose life nearly falls apart in a spiral of addiction. This movie isn’t for the faint of heart or those who just want to enjoy some hoops, but it is quite the eye opener.

3. Friday Night Lights (2004)

Before The Greatest TV Show of All Time (It’s true) came one of the great movies, which came after the great book, which probably followed a scintillating pamphlet or two. Most of you know the story – Odessa, Texas. Permian High. The star player gets injured in the season opener, and the team has to adjust, amid a football-obsessed town. We could just keep watching this one over and over.

2. Hoop Dreams (1994)

One of the best documentaries ever. Yes, ever. And not just because it’s largely about high school sports. It follows two high school basketball players from inner-city Chicago, both seeking future NBA stardom. The film tracks their lives from eighth grade through their first year of college, and it’s an amazing look at inner-city life, race, heartbreak, failure, success and struggle. If you ever wanted to walk a mile in the shoes of prep stars, this is the film for that.

1. Hoosiers (1986)

Do we really have to tell any of you about this one? Or why it’s No. 1? We’re pretty sure you saw this one coming. Sorry for not shocking you. Yeah, this one’s nearly perfect, following the small Indiana high school making it all the way to the basketball finals when the state only had one playoff bracket for all sizes of schools. Gene Hackman is awesome. Dennis Hopper is great too. If you somehow haven’t seen it in the past 27 years, we at The List pity you and require you to watch it right now.

Now we want to know what you think. What are your favorite high school sports movies? Were there any we missed? Can we just call Hoosiers the best movie ever and leave it at that? Let us know in the comments here or on Twitter at @ajcprepsports.

4 comments Add your comment


March 20th, 2013
9:10 pm

One-on-One with Robbie Benson was my favorite hoops movie growing up in the 70’s-80’s! “………red hot poker, I can play anywhere I want!”

Hubert Green

March 20th, 2013
11:19 pm

One of the great little known ironies of tiny Milan HS is that they had made the Final Four the year before, and the best players in that region decided to get together for their senior year and win it all. So moving to better your chances at winning has been going on a long time.


March 22nd, 2013
1:06 am

All The Right Moves about high school football in a Pennsylvania coal town.
Vision Quest with Matthew Modine as a high school wrestler.
Radio, based on a true story about high school football at T.L. Hanna High School in South Carolina.

Just a few off the top of my head that deserve consideration.


March 22nd, 2013
10:45 am

I think it was a Pennsylvania steel town actually….