Basketball owes its success as a spectator sport to the fact that a miraculous shot at the end of the game can change everything in a single instant. It’s a sense of drama that few sports can duplicate. It’s a safe bet that any basketball movie will feature a miracle shot at its climax, a desperation heave that is still in the air while the game clock crosses the threshold to absolute zero. But miraculous shots aren’t just limited to films like Hoosiers and Space Jam. In honor of the Redeem Team’s inevitable march to a gold medal, here are the top five miraculous shots in movies that aren’t primarily about basketball.
5. American History X
“Honey, it’s game point”
Director Tony Kaye does an impressive job of making the Neo-Nazis look sympathetic in this basketball game. Down 8-6 in a game to 11, skinhead Derek (Ed Norton) takes on a calculated challenge and proposes a simple bet: blacks against whites, and whichever race wins the game obtains the exclusive rights to the Venice Beach basketball courts. While he’s no Isiah Thomas, Derek’s basketball skills are plausible for a pickup game with the exception of his finishing dunk, a reverse jam that would be a miracle for the 6’0” Norton to perform in real life.
4. Teen Wolf
“Shoot it, fat boy!”
Oh, sure, you’re saying. The asshole skinny writer thinks it’s amazing that a fat kid can successfully do anything remotely athletic. But weight has nothing to do with it – it’s a question of coordination. It was a spectacular that the Beavers managed to come back from 20 points down against Mick McAllister and the Dragons after Scott Howard convinced the team they could win without Teen Wolf. And it was amazing that Scott managed to drain his final free throws with Mick standing illegally under the basket, his menacing glare enhanced by an amount of mascara that is as much of an eighties timestamp as the “MCMLXXXV” printed on the film stock. But the true miracle was that Chubby (yes, that’s how his character is listed in imdb – a role that actor Mark Holton reprised in Teen Wolf Too) managed to drain both a simple “jump” shot and a hook shot. Hell, it’s a miracle that the ball even stayed inside the gym after Chubby hurled it up. Have a look at the end of the clip as he takes down a defensive rebound – he shows about as much grace and dexterity as an offensive lineman trying to pick up a bowling ball that just fell into a puddle of axle grease.
3. Cocoon: The Return
The character Bernie, played by celebrated actor Jack Gilford, held out on joining the Anterean Glowing Disembodied Beings, since they refused to include a wife-resurrection clause in their original contract offer. In the second film, when his original crew was challenged by a group of snot-nosed punks who refused to get off their lawn basketball court, he patiently watches the game from the center of the court until needed, when he casually drains an underhand shot to put the game away.
2. One Crazy Summer
Cartoonist “Hoops” McCann (John Cusack) has spent the entire movie displaying his ineptitude at directing objects through hoops and has consistently shown his fear of all things that float. But after Cassandra (Demi Moore) gives him the right kind of experience on a boat, Hoops is suffused with a new kind of confidence, and throws up a clutch basket, from twenty feet below a four-inch hoop to get his team back into the regatta. The director of this film, “Savage” Steve Holland, showed extraordinary clairvoyance by casting a young Jeremy Piven as an insufferable douchebag who spends most of his screen time with the sleeves of a sweater knotted around his neck. My family once had a French exchange student stay with us who did the exact same thing. God, I fucking hated that fuck. Suck on this (points to junk), Benoit.
1. Alien Resurrection
“Believe it or not.”
What makes this shot truly extraordinary, and an easy pick for the number one slot is that Sigourney Weaver actually managed to make this shot in real life. After tussling with a crew of mercenary space pirates and tossing a loogie of acidic blood onto the floor of the gym, Ripley tosses up a blind shot from three-point range while walking away from the basket. And, to the amazement of every member of the cast and crew, including herself (and particularly Ron Perlman, who almost ruined the take by breaking character), her shot falls perfectly through the hoop. It’s an unbelievable basket, one that few players short of Larry Bird himself could have duplicated.
UPDATE: Dave Medsker is right about Escape from LA belonging on this list.Â I’ve added Snake Plissken’s one-handed, full-court shot that preserves his own life and wins him the love of the crowd in a post-apocalyptic LA below. If I’d thought of it beforehand, I’d probably have ranked it number 2.
Honorable Mention: Escape from LA
“This town loves a winner…”