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critics consensus

One of the most critically acclaimed documentaries of all time, Hoop Dreams is a rich, complex, heartbreaking, and ultimately deeply rewarding film that uses high school hoops as a jumping-off point to explore issues of race, class, and education in modern America. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

Every school day, African-American teenagers William Gates and Arthur Agee travel 90 minutes each way from inner-city Chicago to St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois, a predominately white suburban school well-known for the excellence of its basketball program. Gates and Agee dream of NBA stardom, and with the support of their close-knit families, they battle the social and physical obstacles that stand in their way. This acclaimed documentary was shot over the course of five years.

Cast & Crew

Steve James
Narrator
William Gates
Arthur Agee
Steve James
Director
Steve James
Writer
Gordon Quinn
Executive Producer
Catherine Allan
Executive Producer
Steve James
Producer
Ben Sidran
Original Music
Peter Gilbert
Cinematographer
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Critic Reviews for Hoop Dreams

All Critics (60) | Top Critics (20) | Fresh (59) | Rotten (1)

Audience Reviews for Hoop Dreams

  • Apr 15, 2016
    Hampered by being too long and not focused enough.
    Marcus W Super Reviewer
  • Jul 16, 2014
    Hoop Dreams doesn't treat its documentary material like a traditional documentary would. Though they're there, the interview sound bites aren't excessive, and the film doesn't bother overloading the audience with facts and statistics. Rather, Hoop Dreams presents its subject in the most real way possible, following these people and letting us see their struggle to get a strong sense of who they are. This leads to Hoop Dreams not only being one of the most absorbing documentaries ever produced, but also one of the most absorbing films period for its ability to make you care for the subject manner and people in a way that even most fictional films fail to do.
    Joey T Super Reviewer
  • Feb 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.
    Isaac H Super Reviewer
  • Jun 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, <i>Hoop Dreams</I> 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, <i>Hoop Dreams</i> is a profound portrait of American life and our pursuit of happiness, which often gets confused with the pursuit of money and fame.
    Jim H Super Reviewer

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