Hoop Dreams

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.

98%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 57

93%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 12,579
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Movie Info

This documentary about the aspirations of high-school basketball players from inner city Chicago won awards from the Sundance film festival, the New York Film Critics Circle, and the Academy Award (Oscar) for best editing. Two young men are followed during their entire high-school career, beginning with their participation in playground games and ending with their being recruited by colleges. The obstacles these young men face include parental drug addiction, family poverty, and inner-city violence, as well as the usual obstacles that arise in competition, including physical injuries. While each aspires to leave the ghetto, there are many reasons to suppose they may not be able to, despite each beating the odds against them by winning college scholarships.

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Critic Reviews for Hoop Dreams

All Critics (57) | Top Critics (16) | Fresh (56) | Rotten (1)

  • The film is rich in backstage tension, from Agee's bad grades to Gates's knee injuries, while the glaring social inequality is reflected in the violent fathers and criminal friends who populate the outskirts of the tale.

    Oct 28, 2019 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

    Kevin Maher

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • Perhaps James's biggest achievement is his unshowy emphasis on the poetry of basketball itself: the jump shot, the slam-dunk, ecstatic physical expressions of pure transcendental success.

    Oct 25, 2019 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • It's about three hours long. But it moves like Isiah, fast and smooth, and it's over in a heartbreak.

    Aug 3, 2008 | Full Review…
  • Hoop Dreams has shown us that the rules of the game are stacked against kids like Gates and Agee. Even better, it shows us how they fight back, with the inside moves of hope.

    Mar 31, 2008 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Newsweek
    Top Critic
  • A heady dose of the American dream and the American nightmare combined -- a numbing investigation of how one point on an exam or one basket or turnover in a game can make all the difference in a family's fortunes.

    Mar 21, 2007 | Full Review…
  • A prodigious achievement that conveys the fabric of modern American life, aspirations and incidentally, sports, in close-up and at length, Hoop Dreams is a documentary slam dunk.

    Mar 21, 2007

    Todd McCarthy

    Variety
    Top Critic

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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