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Hoop Dreams
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Hoop Dreams More at IMDbPro »

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45 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

Documentary film-making at its best

9/10
Author: M T (mark_kevintaylor@hotmail.com) from United Kingdom
30 November 2004

It runs for three hours but it feels much less, such is the power that this documentary holds. Absorbing, you get sucked in and the film has this grip on you.

If Reality TV is your thing, I'd seriously give this film a go, then you can stop watching Reality TV and start to recognise, understand and prioritise real-world situations that actually matter, like racism, poverty, drug abuse, peer pressure and well, dreams.

You'll fall in love with the characters, and there's even a bad-guy for us to boo. You can sometimes question the manipulative techniques on display, but the film is actually not as guilty as some, the makers have a genuine affection for their subjects and do as much as they can within the rules of documentary to help them out without compromising their objectivity.

Be that as it may, this film should be compulsory viewing for many younger audiences, as it shows you exactly how real life differs from the garbage that passes for representation of youth on TV and in film today.

I really can't say enough about the need for more films like this, the fact that the Academy Awards were changed because of the strength of this film goes some way to showing you exactly how powerful it is.

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36 out of 44 people found the following review useful:

As Dick Vitale would say, "AWESOME, BABY!"

10/10
Author: snowboarderbo from Las Vegas....baby!
18 May 2005

Ten years after I first saw this film, based on the mention that Siskel & Ebert made on their show, I am still blown away by it.

A good case could be made for this being the best motion picture of all time. It is simply amazing. The characters (if I can call them that) in the film will astound you with their depth, and this movie will suck you right in... if not to the Cabrini Green projects, at least into the lives of these 2 young men and their families. You will cheer for them, feel their pain, their sadness, their triumphs... and their determination to achieve something better for themselves and their loved ones.

I bought the DVD the day it was released, and can give high praise to the good folks at the Criterion Collection. The accompanying booklet contains 3 excellent essays/articles as well as a complete list of the people in the film. The extras on the DVD are well worth watching, escpecially the commentary from Arthur & William.

To Frederick Marx, Peter Gilbert, and Steve James: Great job, guys. Your dedication to this project, and your understanding of the subject matter (that it was about more than mere basketball, from the beginning) have made a truly excellent film. Thank you.

To Arthur Agee & William Gates: You are both exemplary men, and the example of your lives, your perseverance, your awareness of yourselves and the world you live in, should serve as role models for all of us, regardless of age, color, or income. You are both heroes of mine, and have been for more than 10 years.

To the Agee & Gates families: Thank you for allowing these filmmakers access to your lives for so many years. I have wept at your hardships, and screamed joyously at your triumphs. Your dedication and love for each other is nothing short of inspirational.

If you are reading this and you have not seen this film, PLEASE go get a copy and watch it. You will not have wasted a single minute of your life by having done so.

A truly awesome film.

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26 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

A true testament to the encroaching world of pro sports

10/10
Author: Agent10 from Tucson, AZ
9 May 2002

This film simply exemplifies the reason why I hate most Oscar voters. This movie didn't even get a nomination, and it was one of the most successful documentaries ever! This especially exhibits the encroachment of coaches, family and other parties when it comes to the well being of inner city kids, who just happen to be good basketball players. Considering the state of pro basketball now, this kind of shows how the downward cycle of basketball was seeking lower standards. Sometimes funny, often times sad and poignant, this film is easily one of the best documentaries of all time.

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22 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

10/10

10/10
Author: desperateliving from Canada
16 September 2003

The filmmakers here show an admirable dedication to their art and to the underprivileged, spending five years tracking two kids, Arthur and William, and their dreams of basketball stardom. The two subjects and their families are simple and somewhat naive, in an endearing way. Their struggles, sometimes unflattering, are put forth for us to relate to, and we all can. Of course this is about two kids and their love for basketball, and about the "road to" that takes place as they try to get there, but it's really about the way people in near-poverty live, the education system and its downfalls, the manipulation of organized sports and tendency for people to try and achieve their goals through others (Arthur's father, William's brother), and the situation between blacks and whites in America. In one scene, Arthur laments being around mainly white kids for the first time in his life, and says it'll be difficult but he'll manage. That kind of relaxed confidence is so rewarding to watch. The film has endless insights into the black urban experience. Of course not every family in the ghetto is in a position where a father is a criminal and drug user, but when two kids in the same story are in that situation, it's got to be somewhat prevalent.

It's the kind of movie that's sustaining, and there are so many transcendent, revealing moments that stand out: Arthur's mother, such an inspirational woman to watch, as she gets her nurse certification; Arthur's family talking to another family in a cafeteria, with his mother high-fiving an elderly white lady; the descent into and path out of drug addiction; and a scene where the man who recruits these boys says that sometimes he has doubts about himself when he sees the pain that's a part of these kids' lives. Spike Lee makes a brief appearance giving a speech to the kids, and his pessimism is the only sore spot in the film.

We don't have to work for any of this, we don't have to question it. There's nothing to clean away before we can get to the real thing. This is the real thing. A curious moment, however, is one scene where Arthur's mother explains to us at one point she had her electricity cut off, which suggests that the crew wasn't there to film that period. But the next scene has her walking in the dark with a lamp, that seems like an undeclared "reenactment" of something they missed, for editing purposes. But the criticism of manipulation in documentaries is tired. Yes, the possibility of tricking an audience into believing something with a documentary is greater, but unless it's political in some respect it doesn't matter. Documentaries are supposed to be presented how the filmmaker sees fit. With no license, we'd have 350-hour documentaries.

At one moment near the end, William's coach says goodbye to him and as he walks out his coach mentions that that's the system: one goes out, another comes in. It feels like we're saying bye to a member of the family. This is a life-affirming experience, a family that should be visited again. 10/10

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26 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

My favorite film of all time!

10/10
Author: Cobbler from Venice Beach, CA.
15 December 1999

This gets my vote for the best movie of all time!! I know, it sounds crazy to say that about a documentary, but to me, this film has more drama, truth, realism & emotion than a thousand Hollywood movies put together. I've seen it over 30 times, and it never ceases to gladden my heart to see Arthur & William's story. The scene where Arthur's mom receives her diploma from nursing school has to be one of my all time favorites. For me, this is one of the rare three-hour movies that I never wanted to end. 10/10.

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16 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

One Of The Better Documentaries You'll Ever See

8/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
21 March 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

At three hours, this is a long but interesting documentary about two Chicago-area high school basketball stars, William Gates and Arthur Agee, who try to make something from their basketball talents.

Both athletes, of course, dream of becoming pro players some day. There are hundreds of similar tales each season - of great players, mostly black - who don't make it through college or even to college despite their enormous talents and one can get idea of some of the obstacles by watching these two guys.

Gates is recruited by St. Joe's, a powerhouse Catholic School which claims Isaiah Thmas as it most famous cage alumnus. There, Gates plays for a typically gung-ho coach and has a lot of ups and downs, both on and off the court. However, he's a lot more mature than the other subject of the documentary: Agee.

Agee also is recruited by the private school but can't pay the tuition and is kicked out in his sophomore year. He then returns to his neighborhood public school and eventually becomes a star.

Gates graduates and goes on to Marquette while Agee attends a junior college. From that point, a summary at the end of the film brings you up-to-date on what happened to the kids.

Thus, almost all of the three hours is devoted to these kids form junior high through high school. The families and friends of these athletes are interesting and the film really documents the different lifestyles between blacks and whites in the USA.

It's a fascinating picture for people of any race. For non-blacks, it shows them a window into a whole different world. This film is obviously not just to highlight basketball players but to show life as it exists with a lot of poor black families: the good and the bad, the achievements and the big mistakes. I enjoyed it just as much the second time as the first. It's one of the better documentaries I've ever seen, so don't let the length of it discourage you.

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20 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

A real, human drama

10/10
Author: dee.reid from United States
10 May 2005

"Hoop Dreams" is a film about real life, because that is what it's exactly about, real life. I feel that I must put a stronger emphasis on the word "real" to get my point across. This isn't some hokey, Hollywood drama about living out a dream, but is about two aspiring young athletes rising out of the dredges of the Chicago ghetto life and into the flash and glitter of the NBA.

Though I'm not a hardcore sports fan, nor am I really into movies about sports, but I really admire basketball, as I feel it has a kind of grace and natural balance that's lacking in most other sports this vigorous. That is why I like some of the film's exhilarating on-court action that is interspersed evenly with the human drama.

Directed by Steve James and produced by Frederick Marx and Peter Gilbert, "Hoop Dreams" originally began as a 30-minute documentary about rising ballplayers, but the filmmakers quickly saw that 30 minutes was just too narrow a scope for their story. This realization came when they witnessed two teens, William Gates and Arthur Agee, as they both try to join the NBA, much like their idol Isiah Thomas.

In total, 250+ hours of footage was gathered over the course of a five-year period and then edited into an engaging 171-minute documentary, following the two teens (from ages 14-18), as they attend expensive Catholic schools, go through the rigorous on-court training, meet the demands of their coaches, and live out their dreams. (Director Spike Lee also appears at a training camp and gives some of the aspiring players some less-than-inspiring advice about what their skills mean to the people at the top of the ladder.)

We watch as their poignant, real-life struggles unfold on the screen, and watch as time after time they get stonewalled by the system of bureaucracy and racism that's meant to be especially hard on two young black boys from the ghetto. They have difficulty with making decent grades, financial issues, preparing for the ACT, sports-related injuries, and must contend with problems at home as well, including trouble with family matters (Arthur's relationship with his father is especially touching and sad; William welcomes a new addition to his family while still in high school).

For years, success stories, such as "Hoop Dreams," have dominated Hollywood cinema and have won over legions of audiences, but we've never seen anything like this. Gates and Agee are both bright-eyed and ambitious that they're embarking on something that's historically significant to their lives and community.

This is the best movie about basketball and reality I've seen yet because of the simple fact that it's real; no scripts, no phony Hollywood theatrics, just "real" action, drama, and emotions.

10/10

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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

A superb supporting "cast" powers this excellent film

9/10
Author: 0rganism from Portland, Oregon
24 August 2004

"Hoop Dreams" brilliantly follows multiple parallel stories, bringing the viewer into the lives of two families of inner-city kids looking for a chance at the "big time", their ticket out of the ghetto. Although the main focus is on William Gates and Arthur Agee, their "supporting cast" is equally enthralling. From William's jaded brother Curtis, sublimating his own basketball aspirations to the reality of his blue-collar mailroom job, to Arthur's indomitable mom Sheila, doing the impossible every day as she keeps her troubled family together, there are a thousand reasons to cheer, laugh, cry, and rage packed throughout this amazing, inspirational, cautionary documentary.

By examining not only the players but also their families and environments, we are given a clearer view of their aspirations and motivations, what they plan to achieve and what they wish to avoid.

I will not summarize or elaborate further. If you have not seen this movie, put it on the short list. 9/10.

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13 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Objective and Quiet, but Powerful Statement to Represent Disadvantaged Youth in Urban America

8/10
Author: jazzest (jazzest_jazzest@hotmail.com) from Chiba City, Japan
11 March 2004

"Basketball is a ticket out of ghetto." (William Gates)

"... nobody cares about you. You're a black, you're a young male... The only reason why you're here [Nike training camp] is so you can make their team win. And if the team wins these schools get a lot of money." (Spike Lee)

These phrases, which have persisted as common knowledge among the African-American community during last several decades, have become familiar to the non-hyphenated Americans in the 90s, thanks to the films such as Boyz N the Hood and He Got Game. Among them, Hoop Dreams, a documentary that follows two black youths during a five-year period, is the most objective and the most quiet, but the most powerful statement to represent the disadvantaged youth in urban America.

The film reveals the pattern they follow. Being deluded by the luxurious surface of pro sports, they neglect education and then ending up going nowhere. The community suffers the vicious cycle and their feelings that the system exploits them remain.

Kudos to the filmmakers for their insane amount of work. They must have gone through numerous negotiations to attend and film various scenes, such as family's private events, classrooms, academic counseling, recruiting sessions with college coaches, and surgery operation rooms.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Dreamin'

10/10
Author: raimi3 from Scottsdale, AZ
24 November 2005

I love this movie. Back in 98 I had the unexpected pleasure of catching it on PBS. At first I casually watched it, having heard of it upon its release a few years earlier. Not too far into the three hour running time, I found myself going from casual onlooker to absolutely hooked.

The story is amazing in its scope. Four years of high school and some brief college material are documented here. We hop on board the lives of two high school basketball stars from Chicago, all but consumed with the desire to play in the NBA. Both boys are similar in some ways, and yet very different.

As their story unfolds, you become very aware at how real this story is for many young athletes. All Hollywood clichés are left in the dust and the truth only a documentary can muster pulls us along for what seems like a film that is strangely too short. Three hours have never gone by so quick.

Your heart will cheer, break, and then cheer again for these two great kids as they struggle with their dreams of reaching the ultimate level, as well as their struggle to just find a way through their daily lives. I won't do you the disservice of giving away anything. Just sit down and watch a great movie, and find out for yourself. Good Stuff!

10/10

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