The Basketball Diaries (film)

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The Basketball Diaries
The Basketball Diaries Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byScott Kalvert
Produced byLiz Heller
John Bard Manulis
Screenplay byBryan Goluboff
Based onThe Basketball Diaries
by Jim Carroll
Music byGraeme Revell
CinematographyDavid Phillips[1]
Edited byDana Congdon
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release date
  • January 27, 1995 (1995-01-27) (Sundance)
  • April 21, 1995 (1995-04-21) (United States)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.4 million[2]

The Basketball Diaries is a 1995 American biographical crime drama film[3] directed by Scott Kalvert, written by Bryan Goluboff,[4] and produced by Liz Heller and John Bard Manulis.[5] The film is based on an autobiographical novel by the same name written by Jim Carroll. It tells the story of Carroll's teenage years as a promising high school basketball player and writer who develops an addiction to heroin.[6] Distributed by New Line Cinema,[7] The Basketball Diaries stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Carroll, along with Bruno KirbyLorraine Bracco, Ernie Hudson, Patrick McGawJames Madio, Michael Imperioli and Mark Wahlberg in supporting roles.[8]

The world premiere of The Basketball Diaries occurred at the Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 1995.[9] The film was widely released in theaters on April 21, 1995.[10] It received mixed reviews.[11][12] The film grossed $2.4 million at the box office.[13]


Teenager Jim Carroll is a drug and sex addicted basketball player who regularly gets into mischief with his friends Pedro, Mickey and Neutron. Jim visits his best friend, Bobby, in the hospital. Bobby is dying of leukemia, and Jim takes him to a strip show. Jim later masturbates on the rooftop of his apartment building. Jim keeps a journal, which he regularly writes in. After playing basketball with their friend Reggie, Jim and his friends jump from a cliff into the Harlem River below. That night, Jim and Neutron visit a house of prostitution; while there, Jim tries cocaine for the first time. Bobby later dies and the friends attend his funeral. Following the funeral, Jim and his friends go to the basketball court and reminisce about Bobby's life. Depressed over Bobby's death, Jim begins to use heroin.

At basketball practice, Jim's coach Swifty sees Jim in the bathroom, gropes him, and offers to pay him for sex. Jim refuses and pushes Swifty headfirst into a wall. Jim imagines shooting his classmates. The next day, before a game, Jim, Pedro, and Mickey take pills from Pedro's hat, hoping they are uppers. Neutron refuses the pills and confronts Jim about his growing drug habit. The pills are downers, and they cause the boys to perform disastrously during the game. A teacher tells Jim and Mickey that they are suspended for a week, and Swifty tells Jim he will never play basketball for his school again. Jim and Mickey quit the team and drop out of school, while Neutron stays.

Jim's mother finds the pills he has been using. They argue, and Jim's mother kicks him out of the house. Pedro tells Jim and Mickey about a man to whom he is meant to deliver a car. After the three boys steal the car, they go to the man to deliver it; however, the illegally parked car is towed away. Later, Jim, Mickey, and Pedro break into a candy shop and open the cash register, only to find coins inside. Mickey also finds a gun, which he takes. Hearing sirens, Jim and Mickey escape, but Pedro is arrested. Jim passes out in the snow high on heroin. Reggie finds Jim and takes him to his apartment, where he forces him to detox.

Back on the street, Jim is desperate for drugs. He resorts to prostituting himself at a public restroom. Later, Jim and Mickey buy heroin from a drug dealer, but discover that the dealer ripped them off. Enraged, Mickey chases the dealer across the city with the stolen gun and corners him on the roof of an apartment building. Demanding his money back, Mickey accidentally pushes the dealer off the roof to his death. Mickey tries to escape, but is beaten up by a gang and then arrested; he is later tried as an adult and convicted. After escaping, Jim goes to his mother's apartment and begs to be let in. She refuses and then calls the police. Jim is arrested, convicted, and sentenced to six months' incarceration at Rikers Island for assault, robbery, resisting arrest, and possession of narcotics. He gets clean while in jail.

Jim approaches a stage door to give a poetry reading. He encounters Pedro, who has been released from reform school. Pedro offers him a bag of drugs, which Jim refuses. Jim recites his work before an audience and receives applause.



On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 46% based on 39 reviews and with an average rating of 5.06/10. The websites critical consensus states "In spite of its young leading man's heroic efforts to hold it all together, a muddled message prevents The Basketball Diaries from compelling as a cautionary tale." [14]

Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four. Ebert remarked: "At the end, Jim is seen going in through a 'stage door' and then we hear him telling the story of his descent and recovery. We can't tell if this is supposed to be genuine testimony or a performance. That's the problem with the whole movie."[15]


The film became controversial in the aftermath of the 1997 Heath High School shooting and the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Critics noted similarities between those shooting attacks and a dream sequence in the film in which the protagonist wears a black trenchcoat and shoots six students in his school classroom. The film has been named in lawsuits brought by the relatives of murder victims.[16][17][18][19] In 1999, activist Jack Thompson filed a $33 million lawsuit claiming that the film's plot (along with two internet pornography sites, several computer game companies, and makers and distributors of the 1994 film Natural Born Killers) caused the Heath High School shooting. The case was dismissed in 2001.[20][21]


The Basketball Diaries soundtrack was released in 1995 by PolyGram to accompany the film, featuring songs from Pearl Jam and PJ Harvey. AllMusic rated it three stars out of five.[22]

1."Catholic Boy"Jim CarrollJim Carroll with Pearl Jam3:05
2."Devil's Toe"Jim CarrollGraeme Revell with Jim Carroll0:56
3."Down by the Water"P J HarveyP J Harvey3:14
4."What a Life!"Glyn "Bigga" Bush, Richard "DJ Dick" Whittingham, Rob McKenzieRockers Hi-Fi4:02
5."I Am Alone"Jim CarrollGraeme Revell with Jim Carroll1:33
6."People Who Died"Jim Carroll, Brian Linsley, Steve Linsley, Terrell Winn, Wayne WoodsThe Jim Carroll Band5:00
7."Riders on the Storm"Jim Morrison, John Densmore, Robby Krieger, Ray ManzarekThe Doors6:56
8."Dizzy"Ty Willman, Mari Ann Braeden, Danny K, Bob "Mink" Martin, Steve RossGreen Apple Quick Step3:10
9."It's Been Hard"Jim CarrollGraeme Revell with Jim Carroll0:53
10."Coming Right Along"Jon Auer, Ken StringfellowThe Posies6:17
11."Strawberry Wine"Salvadore Poe, Adam FlaxMassive Internal Complications3:59
12."Star"Ian Astbury, Billy DuffyThe Cult5:00
13."Dream Massacre" Graeme Revell1:23
14."I've Been Down"FleaFlea4:38
15."Blind Dogs"Chris Cornell, Kim ThayilSoundgarden4:40
Not featured on CD
1."Dancing Barefoot"Patti Smith, Ivan KralJohnette Napolitano 
2."Watusi Latin Boogaloo"Joey AltrudaThe Joey Altruda Latin Explosion 


  1. ^ Levy, Dani (2017-02-23). "David Phillips, 'The Basketball Diaries' Cinematographer, Dies at 60". Variety. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  2. ^ "The Basketball Diaries (1995) - Box Office Mojo".
  3. ^ "Mark Wahlberg posts 'throwback' video of himself and teenage Leonardo DiCaprio". July 18, 2019.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Basketball Diaries Movie Review (1995) | Roger Ebert".
  5. ^ McCarthy, Todd; McCarthy, Todd (January 30, 1995). "The Basketball Diaries".
  6. ^ "ON LOCATION : Sex, Drugs, Pick and Roll : Jim Carroll's cult favorite 'The Basketball Diaries' is finally making it to the screen. It seems everyone wanted to star. Leonardo DiCaprio made the cut". Los Angeles Times. July 24, 1994.
  8. ^ "The Basketball Diaries (1995) - IMDb" – via
  9. ^ "The Basketball Diaries (1995) - IMDb" – via
  10. ^ "The Basketball Diaries (1995)" – via
  11. ^ "Scott Kalvert, Director, Dead At 49".
  12. ^ "Home movies". Arkansas Online. April 30, 2010.
  13. ^ "Leonardo DiCaprio: All Films Considered". Metacritic.
  14. ^ "The Basketball Diaries". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Basketball Diaries". Chicago Sun-Times.
  16. ^ Carter, Nick (1999-05-06). "Linking of 'Basketball Diaries,' Columbine Shootings Upsets Author". Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  17. ^ "Moral Panics and Violence in the Media" Archived 2010-11-18 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  18. ^ "Media Companies Are Sued in Kentucky Shooting". Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  19. ^ Sink, Mandy (2002-03-06). "National Briefing: Rockies; COLORADO: COLUMBINE LAWSUIT DISMISSED". Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  20. ^ Chalk, Andy (2007-07-07). "Legally Insane: A History of Jack Thompson's Antics". The Escapist. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  21. ^ AP (April 13, 1999), Media Companies Are Sued in Kentucky Shooting, The New York Times
  22. ^ The Basketball Diaries at AllMusic

External links[edit]