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Hoop Dreams Reviews

Page 1 of 43

Super Reviewer

June 24, 2012
Two Chicago-area teens undergo a myriad of struggles as they hope to one day play in the NBA.
I remember when this film came out and Siskel and Ebert almost creamed themselves over it and had a collective apoplectic fit when it wasn't nominated for Best Documentary. Conflating themes of race, poverty, urban violence, parenting, education, and the illusory American Dream, Hoop Dreams offers a lot to chew on, making it understandable that professional critics would find it so riveting. I agree that it is an extraordinary film that has a profound and wide scope (though I wouldn't go so far as Hal Hinson who calls it "The most powerful movie about sports ever made"). And though Gates and Agee are occasionally unlikable, they are interesting, flawed and human in readily identifiable ways.
The one thing I didn't like was the "degree of embeddedness." It seemed like the documentarians checked in on their subject regularly, and thus we don't get to see some of the profound changes like the birth of Gates's kid or the histrionics of Agee's father.
Overall, even though nothing could live up to the hype that originally surrounded this film, Hoop Dreams is a profound portrait of American life and our pursuit of happiness, which often gets confused with the pursuit of money and fame.
Dan S

Super Reviewer

March 14, 2012
The best documentary ever made concerning two young boys in Chicago who dream of becoming pro basketball players some day, and how their lives intertwine and how each faces disappointment and life-altering decisions as they get older. Director Steve James has crafted a three-hour epic that blows by at a lightning speed pace, all while exploring every facet of these boys lives. Even more tragic is that fact that some of the family members in the movie have been murdered in street-related violence since this film was made. It is hands down one of the most depressing films I have seen, but one of the best in terms of detailing race, class, education, and the crazy expectations we put on phenoms from Day 1. Even if you do not like basketball, the film serves more of a microcosm of late 80's/early 90's culture in the city and how important the sport of basketball is, and how more important life and getting an education is in the end.
Graham J

Super Reviewer

October 30, 2011
A documentary that is about much more than basketball, this is filmmaking at it's finest.
Jay H

Super Reviewer

January 15, 2011
This film isn't really about "Hoop Dreams." It's about two teenagers growing up in urban Chicago facing a plethora of life challenges, one of which happens to be basketball. As we follow Agee and Gates through their high school years, we see them mature mentally and psychologically as they struggle through difficulties, from a father who can't seem to act like an adult to trying to get a high enough ACT score to obtain a scholarship.

The most striking thing about the film is that for tens of minutes at a time, you forget that you're watching a documentary, and it feels like not much more than another urban-kid-overcomes-life's-challenges film. That's not a good thing. The filmmakers have failed to continually remind the viewer that this is not a fictional film, resulting, at times, in an all-too-familiar plot structure.

The film's moments of brilliance, though, come when the viewer is abruptly reminded that this film isn't fake at all. A scene toward the end of the film features an 18-year-old Agee playing a game of street basketball with his father, who for much of the film refuses to act his age. Sure enough, when Agee easily handles his aged, trash-talking father, his father dons an unsportsmanlike attitude fit for an eighth grader. No writer could ever write a scene like that, no director could ever create the realism of the scene, and most notably, no actor could ever imitate the immaturity shown by this middle-aged man

It's a quality documentary, but the story it has to tell is, in many regards, unremarkable considering the many fictional films out there that tell a nearly identical story to this one.
Sophie B

Super Reviewer

October 3, 2009
I really enjoyed the story of this and liked how it followed the boys through a number of years through good and bad times. It showed how city kids only have one chance of getting out of poverty and that's by having a sporting talent which many children don't. The tough world of scholarships and the struggles faced by kids in need. I'm not a keen basketball player and I don't know much about the American school system so it was a bit confusing at times.
Michael S

Super Reviewer

March 1, 2007
Best documentary ever made.
Tim S

Super Reviewer

July 6, 2007
The BEST basketball movie ever made.
Aaron N

Super Reviewer

November 13, 2006
William Gates: People always say to me, "when you get to the NBA, don't forget about me." Well, I should've said back, "if I don't make it to the NBA, don't you forget about me."

Easily one of the best documentaries that I have seen.

This is a documentary about two inner city kids making their way through school, playing basketball, hoping to get recruited into a good college, and eventually make their way into the pros.

There is easily enough material just to show one of these kids, but this movie has two, and it is three hours of time, culled from more than 250 hours of footage.

We see these kids from when they are 12-13 all the way to when they are 18-19. We see them recruited into high school, What happens to them, what happens to their families, injuries, grades in school, college plans, various games and championships, other parts of their lives.

It is an absorbing work that has as much drama, tension, and plot dynamics as a regular movie.
John B

Super Reviewer

January 26, 2010
This likely inspired a number of basketball themed documentaries that continue to this day. Thankfully they have all been great. I never tire of this story and this film was the first one to introduce me to it.

Super Reviewer

September 6, 2009
Absorbing three-hour (never thought I'd write those two things in the same sentence) documentary about two teenagers & their hopes of becoming basketball champions. And you can look at Wikipedia to find out what happens next :-)

Super Reviewer

February 27, 2013
Hoop Dreams is sprawling, ambitious and surprisingly engaging, managing to endear its central subjects to the viewer in a way that's rare to see in documentary cinema, though its daunting length leads it to occasionally feel over-saturated.
Critique Threatt
Critique Threatt

Super Reviewer

January 4, 2012
"Hoop Dreams" is the greatest documentary film I have ever seen and the best of all time. The film is captivating, heartbreaking, exciting, powerful and most of all very moving. I was not only fascinated with Arthur Agee and William Gates but also with their families particularly Arthur's mother Sheila who is just as important as her son. There is a scene where she makes a hammerblow of a change in her life that that I've found so brilliant and so captivating, viewers will weep with real empathy and fascination. It is the best scene in the whole entire picture.

"Hoop Dreams" tells a lot more then just basketball but about real life. The film closely follows the two men's struggles and successes, their family's struggles and the passionate dedication these two men and their families go through. A film this good hits the heart and boy did this picture ever touched me more ways then one. I will never forget the experience after watching this masterpiece. Everyone especially filmgoers should go see this film immediately. You will absolutely not be disappointed.

Super Reviewer

July 5, 2008
Tim, you were right, I didn't notice the length at all. This is an engrossing film with brilliant pacing. I'd love to see a follow-up, a where are they now type thing.
Wu C

Super Reviewer

July 20, 2006
One of the best docs I've seen.
Christopher B

Super Reviewer

February 8, 2008
A documentary that plays like a really good drama. Watching the two boys grow up is fascinating and at times depressing but definitely essential viewing. An incredibly well made documentary.
Richard F

Super Reviewer

November 12, 2007
Not just a movie about basketball, this is a journey into the lives of two families and their hopes, dreams, and struggles with adversity. This amazing project spans several years, and exposes the way these kids are exploited as well as the harsh realities of inner-city life. Caveat is that it is almost 3 years long, which isn't necessarily a con considering the size of the project and the quality of the picture.
Tom S

Super Reviewer

November 11, 2007
It's praised as the greatest basketball movie of all time, but it could have been more. The access the filmmakers gained is incredible, but it could have been assembled with more flair.
December 29, 2012
Recently rewatched this gem with my wife. It's such a great story. The film follows two high school basketball players growing up in the south side of Chicago as they work towards being in the NBA. Definitely check this one out.
August 6, 2012
"Hoop Dreams" is impressive due to the simple fact that it chronicles the lives of two inner-city children through their teenage years. It brings attention to the many obstacles faced by children coming from low socio-economic means including violence, teen pregnancy, drugs, and an expectation of failure. I was prepared for most of these things but was surprised by the sometimes negative tone that high school sports were exploitative and over-prioritized by institutions. This film works because of empathy. Any movie-goer who has enjoyed academic or financial success can look at these kids who are in less-than-ideal circumstances and want them to succeed. It is interesting that this film can be so gripping without a "Rocky"-like storyline where the kid hits the game-winning shot at the buzzer (or at all for that matter). This is non-fiction and the success of the child is measured by personal growth, not by a buzzer-beater. Although it is definitely long-winded, it is also comprehensive and covers all aspects of the high school sports experience, including recruitment, injury, success, failure, being benched for being late, making parents proud, failing to meet your potential, etc. You definitely need to be a sports fan for this one to hold your interest. Even though it's a study of humanity, you have to understand sports as a motivating factor in order to relate to these families.
April 16, 2011
An eye-opening look at life in a poor inner-city neighborhood, and the hope (often a false hope) that basketball represents to the boys and their families who live in that neighborhood.
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