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The Basketball Diaries (1995)

R  |   |  Biography, Crime, Drama  |  21 April 1995 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 74,669 users   Metascore: 46/100
Reviews: 152 user | 39 critic | 19 from Metacritic.com

Film adaptation of street tough Jim Carroll's epistle about his kaleidoscopic free fall into the harrowing world of drug addiction. As a member of a seemingly unbeatable high school ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Marilyn Sokol ...
Roy Cooper ...
Construction Worker (as Vinnie Pastore)
Jimmy Papiris ...
Nick Gaetani ...
Bobo (as Alexander Gaberman)
Tommy (as Ben Jorgensen)


Film adaptation of street tough Jim Carroll's epistle about his kaleidoscopic free fall into the harrowing world of drug addiction. As a member of a seemingly unbeatable high school basketball squad, Jim's life centers around the basketball court and the court becomes a metaphor for the world in his mind. A best friend who is dying of leukemia, a coach ("Swifty") who takes unacceptable liberties with the boys on his team, teenage sexual angst, and an unhealthy appetite for heroin -- all of these begin to encroach on young Jim's dream of becoming a basketball star. Soon, the dark streets of New York become a refuge from his mother's mounting concern for her son. He can't go home and his only escape from the reality of the streets is heroin for which he steals, robs and prostitutes himself. Only with the help of Reggie, an older neighborhood friend with whom Jim "picked up a game" now and then, is he able to begin the long journey back to sanity. Written by Mark Fleetwood <mfleetwo@mail.coin.missouri.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Every punk on the block says it's not going to happen to them... but it does. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for graphic depiction of drug addiction with related strong violence,sexuality and language | See all certifications »

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Official Sites:



Release Date:

21 April 1995 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Basketball Diaries  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$2,424,439 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Stephen Lang was offered the role of Jim's Basketball Coach named Swifty in the script. Lang declined citing the misrepresentation of the book in the script. The part was subsequently toned down as a result. See more »


At the beginning of the movie, just after the by was beaten by the Father. They walked towards the door to leave dressed in their school uniforms and when they got to the other side of the door, they were are dressed in street clothes. See more »


Mickey: I'll tell you what, if our school was this nice I would go there more than once a week.
See more »


Featured in Beyond Clueless (2014) See more »


Catholic Boy
Written by Jim Carroll
Performed by Jim Carroll with Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam appears courtesy of Epic Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Another heroin-addict diary...
22 August 2004 | by (Spain) – See all my reviews

When you've watched plenty of movies based on some drug-addict life story you can't help compare them... I mean, the story is always the same: a guy begins having drugs for fun, or because he's boring, or just because he's young and wants to try new experiences, then he gets hooked, starts to rob or to prostitute himself, and eventually ends up in prison. That's what we see in Christiane F., El Pico, Trainspotting, Drugstore Cowboy... There may be differences in the form, and in the characters, but the content is always the same.

The dinstictive feature of Basketball Diaries is that the main character actually exists: Jim Carroll, a writer-singer-performer born in NYC in the 50's. And this is supposed to be his autobiography (or the cinema adaptation of some diaries he wrote when he was a teenager, heroin-addicted). Because of that, Basketball D. is more poetic than the rest of the movies I named before, the voice over of DiCaprio's character is present all along the film, telling us about his thoughts (rather nihilistic's) , with a style near to Burroughs or Jack Kerouac, urban poetry, tough and without ornament. Maybe that's the strong point of Basketball Diaries, because movies such as Christiane F. or El Pico recreates much better what it means to be a drug-addict, they're much more explicit, more dirty, much harder...

DiCaprio's performance deserves a new paragraph, 'cause it's simply astonishing. His best performance EVER, plenty of different shades. As he did in Gilbert Grape or This Boy's Life, he shows us how versatile he can be. If only he'd choose better the films he works in.

My rate: 7/10

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