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
Written byJim Carroll
Bryan Goluboff (Screenplay)
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 coming-of-age drama film directed by Scott Kalvert, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Lorraine Bracco, James Madio, and Mark Wahlberg. The film is an adaptation of Jim Carroll's autobiographical work of the same name, telling the story of Carroll's teenage years as a promising high school basketball player and writer who developed an addiction to heroin with his misguided friends.


The film is an adaptation of poet and memoirist Jim Carroll's juvenile diaries chronicling his kaleidoscopic free-fall into the harrowing world of drug addiction. The role of Jim is played by Leonardo DiCaprio. As a member of a seemingly unbeatable high school basketball squad, Jim's life centers on his friends and the basketball court; the court becomes a metaphor for the world in his mind. Bobby (Michael Imperioli), a best friend who is dying of leukemia; a coach ("Swifty", played by Bruno Kirby) who makes sexual advances to Jim; and an appetite for cocaine and heroin begin to encroach on young Jim's dream of becoming a basketball star. After Bobby succumbs to his illness, Jim tries heroin for the first time and quickly becomes hooked.

After Jim is suspended from school due to playing a basketball game while under the influence of drugs, he drops out. Soon, the dark streets of New York become a refuge from Jim's mother's mounting concern for her son. It is revealed that Jim’s mother threw him out of their apartment for cursing her out over his drug usage. The only escape that Jim has from the reality of the streets is heroin, for which he steals, robs, and prostitutes himself. Only with the help of Reggie (Ernie Hudson), an older neighborhood friend with whom Jim "picked up a game" now and then, he is able to begin the long journey back to sanity after going into detox. Ultimately, Jim's mother has him arrested when he shows up at her home high and demands money. The journey ends with Jim's incarceration in Riker's Island for four crimes: assault, robbery, resistance of arrest, and possession of narcotics. After Jim spends months in prison and ceases his drug use, he gets released, changes his life, and performs poetry drawn from his diaries.



The film currently holds a 46% "Rotten" rating at the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.[3] Roger Ebert gave two stars out of four, concluding, "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."[4]


After the 1997 Heath High School shooting, activist Jack Thompson brought this film into a $33 million lawsuit in 1999 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 14-year-old Michael Carneal to shoot members of a prayer group. The case was dismissed in 2001.[5][6]

The film became controversial in the aftermath of the Columbine High School massacre and the Heath High School shooting, when critics noted similarities between these shooting attacks and a dream sequence in the film in which the protagonist wears a black trenchcoat and shoots six classmates in his school classroom. The film has been specifically named in lawsuits brought by the relatives of murder victims.[7][8][9][10]


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.[11]

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. ^
  3. ^ "The Basketball Diaries". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Basketball Diaries". Chicago Sun-Times.
  5. ^ Chalk, Andy (2007-07-07). "Legally Insane: A History of Jack Thompson's Antics". The Escapist. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  6. ^ AP (April 13, 1999), Media Companies Are Sued in Kentucky Shooting, The New York Times
  7. ^ Carter, Nick (1999-05-06). "Linking of 'Basketball Diaries,' Columbine Shootings Upsets Author". Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  8. ^ "Moral Panics and Violence in the Media" Archived 2010-11-18 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  9. ^ "Media Companies Are Sued in Kentucky Shooting". Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  10. ^ Sink, Mandy (2002-03-06). "National Briefing: Rockies; COLORADO: COLUMBINE LAWSUIT DISMISSED". Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  11. ^ The Basketball Diaries at AllMusic

External links[edit]