The Basketball Diaries (film)

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The Basketball Diaries
Theatrical release poster
Directed byScott Kalvert
Screenplay byBryan Goluboff
Based onThe Basketball Diaries
by Jim Carroll
Produced byLiz Heller
John Bard Manulis
CinematographyDavid Phillips
Edited byDana Congdon
Music byGraeme Revell
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release dates
  • 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[1]

The Basketball Diaries is a 1995 American biographical crime drama film[2] directed by Scott Kalvert[3][4] and 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.[5] Distributed by New Line Cinema,[6] 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.[7]

The Basketball Diaries premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 1995.[8] The film was widely released in theaters on April 21, 1995, to mixed reviews and grossed $2.4 million at the box office.[9][10][11][12]


Teenager Jim Carroll is a drug-addicted high school basketball player who regularly gets into mischief with his friends Pedro, Mickey, and Neutron on the streets of New York City and at school. Outside of basketball, Jim shows an artistic interest in writing; keeping his work in his journal while expressing his thoughts and creating poetry.

Jim's best friend, Bobby, is dying of leukemia. Jim frequently visits him in the hospital. Later, after a trip to a strip show cut short by an annoyed Bobby, he dies, and Jim and his friends attend his funeral days later. 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 showers when he takes a short break to get high, where he then gropes him, and offers to pay him for sex. Jim refuses and pushes Swifty headfirst into a wall. As Jim's frustrations with school and life grow over time, he 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 habit. The pills are downers, and they cause the boys to perform disastrously during the game. Father McNulty, who notices the boys engaging in drug use, tells Jim and Mickey that they are suspended for a week, while Swifty tells Jim that he is now banned from playing basketball for his school again. Jim and Mickey, in response, resign from the team and drop out of school, while Neutron stays on.

After exposing his stash of drugs, Jim's religious mother disowns him and exiles a depressed Jim out of their apartment. Jim, Mickey, and Pedro from then on only live for their next score as homeless addicts; one later excursion has them break into a candy shop for money. Mickey finds a gun in the cash register and takes it. Hearing sirens, Jim and Mickey escape, but Pedro, too high and hungover to realize the situation, is left behind and arrested. Jim continues a desperate life of shady dealings and getting high with Mickey, and by the coming winter, passes out in the snow high on heroin. Jim's friend Reggie, who sympathizes with Jim over his predicament having been in a similar situation, finds him, takes him to his apartment, and forces him to detox, but Jim relapses.

Back on the street, Jim is desperate for more drugs and resorts to prostituting himself at a public restroom. Later, Jim and Mickey buy heroin, but discover that the dealer ripped them off. Enraged, Mickey corners the dealer on the roof of an apartment building. He accidentally pushes him off the roof to his death. Mickey tries to escape, but is beaten by a gang and then arrested; he is later tried as an adult and convicted. After escaping, with nowhere else to go, Jim returns to his mother’s apartment. After she refuses to give money for Jim and reporting him to the police, he breaks down into crying before he gets dragged away by police. Jim is arrested, convicted, and sentenced to six months' incarceration at Rikers Island for assault, robbery, resisting arrest, and possession of narcotics. There, he spends the time in jail getting clean.

Six months later, 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 later recites his work before an audience and receives applause.



On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 47% based on 43 reviews and with an average rating of 5.3/10. 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."[9] Metacritic gave the movie a score of 46 based in 19 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[13]

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."[3]


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 (Leonardo DiCaprio) 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.[14][15][16][17] 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.[18][19]


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.[20]

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 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Basketball Diaries (1995)". Box Office Mojo.
  2. ^ "Mark Wahlberg posts 'throwback' video of himself and teenage Leonardo DiCaprio". Irish Examiner. Cork. July 18, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Ebert, Roger. "The Basketball Diaries Movie Review (1995)". Chicago Sun-Times – via
  4. ^ McCarthy, Todd (January 30, 1995). "The Basketball Diaries". Variety.
  5. ^ Marin, Rick (July 24, 1994). "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. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  6. ^ Johnson, Malcolm (April 21, 1995). "DiCaprio's Acting Rings True, But Grim 'Diaries' Feels Phony". Hartford Courant.
  7. ^ "The Basketball Diaries (1995): Full Cast and Crew". IMDb.
  8. ^ "The Basketball Diaries (1995): Release Info". IMDb.
  9. ^ a b "The Basketball Diaries (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  10. ^ Couch, Aaron (March 7, 2014). "Scott Kalvert, 'Basketball Diaries' Director, Dies at 49". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  11. ^ Martin, Philip (April 30, 2010). "Home movies". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Little Rock.
  12. ^ "Leonardo DiCaprio: All Films Considered". Metacritic.
  13. ^ "The Basketball Diaries Reviews". Metacritic.
  14. ^ Carter, Nick (May 6, 1999). "Linking of 'Basketball Diaries,' Columbine Shootings Upsets Author". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved June 20, 2020 – via
  15. ^ "Moral Panics and Violence in the Media" Archived 2010-11-18 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  16. ^ "Media Companies Are Sued in Kentucky Shooting". The New York Times. April 13, 1999.
  17. ^ Sink, Mindy (March 6, 2002). "National Briefing: Rockies; COLORADO: COLUMBINE LAWSUIT DISMISSED". The New York Times.
  18. ^ Chalk, Andy (July 7, 2007). "Legally Insane: A History of Jack Thompson's Antics". The Escapist. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  19. ^ "Media Companies Are Sued in Kentucky Shooting". The New York Times. Associated Press. April 13, 1999.
  20. ^ The Basketball Diaries at AllMusic

External links[edit]