Hoop Dreams - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Hoop Dreams Reviews

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April 9, 2015
It's hard to write praise about a film like "Hoop Dreams" that has already been hailed a masterpiece by almost every mainstream critic and documentarian out there, especially one that had such a large place in the heart of Roger Ebert, my all-time favorite critic.

But Steve James' documentary is a great movie, a powerful study of youth, race, pop culture, education, society and identity in Chicago in the early 90s that makes no effort to manipulate its subjects into its own vision, instead showing them for who they are, people with hopes and dreams, flaws and virtues, and aspirations and fears just like everyone else their age, though the two subjects - basketball players William Gates and Arthur Agee - have a little bit more heart to them than the average Joe.

Watching this three hour odyssey through the high school lives of two teenagers was at the same time eye-opening and cathartic for me, introducing me to a way of life wholly different to mine yet relatable in many ways. The film explores the boys' family and home life, relationships with friends and teachers, and plans for the future. Basketball is of course the focus of their aspirations, and is central to the film's energy, but the film never feels like a film aimed solely at basketball fans, capturing the spirit of the game and using it to say something profound about its place within society and that society itself.

"Hoop Dreams", while edited to Academy Award-nominated precision, feels modest and subtle, and never throws anything into our faces. Steve James' style is clearly to make his subjects comfortable, as there is never one of those a-ha moments where someone pleads for the camera to be turned off or says that the documentary is stupid, misleading or a waste of time. Every person in the film is themselves in this film, and so no one ever really feels like the bad guy even though there are two clear protagonists. That said, there are some scenes where the relationships between the boys and their families (especially the fathers) come across as broken, especially with Arthur's father, who seems to push his broken basketball dreams on his son, only to leave, become a drug addict, go to jail, and come back to bask in the limelight just when his son is hitting his stride.

This is a vital documentary and certainly one of the best ever made. For its monumental running time, it's never boring and every scene adds something to the film. It's like "Boyhood" in that it has us grow over a few hours with a few people living complex and interesting lives, though it's an even more personal and affecting film. I'm not sure if I'd call it better, but this isn't really a film that needs to be compared to anything else. On the surface it seems like one of those "I could do that" modest TV documentaries, but it's much more than that, a totally unique and enthralling project.
October 16, 2011
Arguably the greatest American documentary ever made, and certainly one of the most ambitious; a work of astonishing literary depth and breadth, covering a multitude of subjects and themes with insight and care while also working as riveting entertainment.
½ March 31, 2015
It's great and sobering.
March 27, 2015
Finally. I understand what all the fuss was about.
January 19, 2015
A documentary that everyone should make a point to watch. It's free on netfix instant so get on it!
December 12, 2014
Watched in my high school English 12 class.
December 3, 2014
Probably the best sports documentary ever made. I was completely engrossed by it, and I hate basketball.
November 28, 2014
Two truly inspirational and humbling stories that continue even 20 years after the film's making.
October 17, 2014
A Hard look at Black America!

....that god damn solo jazz sax!!!!
½ September 21, 2014
Not exactly what I expected after all the Roger Ebert hype from the 90s. I missed this documentary in its time and I think that's when it played best. Now, 20 years later, it just doesn't hold up as well. The filmmaking feels pretty amateur and the story just isn't that compelling. It's not bad by any means, but too many better documentaries have come out to tell better stories over the past 20 years.
July 27, 2014
A very thorough and extensive documentary on two hopeful basketball stars from inner city Chicago. It follows the two players over their middle school n high school basketball careers as well as their home life, school, n environment. Documentary made following the games easy n interesting to a non basketball fan. I also liked how they interviewed many people and did this documentary over so many years to really give a full picture. I read a book kinda about the same thing but on an Indian reservation n how athletics are seemingly only option for them to get out of their bad upbringing. hThe one coach I think contributed to the downfall of gates career by not letting him heal long enuff n pushing him too far. Both athletes wind up with kind of the same fate despite going thru very different school systems-getting scholarships, getting gfs pregnant young, not making it into pro but playing basketball in college, having someone in their family murdered etc...I'm glad that despite not making it pro both did well for themselves considering where they grew up and obstacles they faced. In a way it is a bit of a failing I think how everyone is only concerned with their game n not their academics or emotional well being. So much pressure at a young age. Goes to show that sometimes real stories are more interesting than fiction. I don't agree that this is the best documentary ever but it certainly is engaging, I didn't like narrators voice.
July 1, 2014
Best documentary ever, no doubt about it. You will cry.
July 1, 2014
At 2 hr 51 mins Hoop Dreams Shines perfectly.
July 1, 2014
Utterly fascinating and moving. One of the most essential Documentaries in the film industry.
June 29, 2014
My favourite movie critic Roger Ebert called Hoop Dreams one of the great movie-going experiences of his lifetime and the best film of the 1990s. The film is so much more than basketball.
June 7, 2014
It's not as perfect as its reputation suggests, but is certainly a remarkable work. Despite what must have been a lot of editing, and more than a few unlikely omissions, the story mostly seems to tell itself. There's no real surprises, but the details are fascinating, and the presentation sympathetic rather than sensationalist.
September 21, 2012
This movie is amazing!!!!!
June 1, 2014
What an achievement this is. The film records two young kids trying to achieve their NBA dream. It captures their lives. It shows one kid's struggle with his father leaving and doing drugs, struggle with being robbed by a school and having to play catch up academically, and the struggle of his family being so poor they sometimes can't pay the electricity bill. It shows the down from how hard life is but shows the happiness they get once their on the court. In the end it shows how much they have matured, saying if that they don't make it to the NBA, they still have much they can do with their lives.
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