The Basketball Diaries (film)

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The Basketball Diaries is a 1995 American coming of age crime 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 Basketball Diaries
The Basketball Diaries Poster
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Scott Kalvert
Produced by Liz Heller
John Bard Manulis
Written by Jim Carroll
Bryan Goluboff (Screenplay)
Music by Graeme Revell
Cinematography David Phillips[1]
Edited by Dana Congdon
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date
  • April 21, 1995
Running time
104 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2.4 million[2]


The film is an adaptation of poet and memoirist Jim Carroll's (Leonardo DiCaprio) juvenile diaries chronicling 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 on the basketball court and the court becomes a metaphor for the world in his mind. A best friend, Bobby (Michael Imperioli), who is dying of leukemia, a coach ("Swifty") who takes unacceptable liberties with the boys on his team, teenage sexual angst, and an appetite for cocaine and heroin, all of which 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 cannot 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 (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, which ultimately ends with Jim's incarceration in Riker's Island for assault, robbery, resistance of arrest, and the possession of narcotics. After Jim spends months in prison, he gets released and changes his life around performing his poetry from his diaries about his life.



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]

No. Title Writer(s) Artist Length
1. "Catholic Boy" Jim Carroll Jim Carroll with Pearl Jam 3:05
2. "Devil's Toe" Jim Carroll Graeme Revell with Jim Carroll 0:56
3. "Down by the Water" P J Harvey P J Harvey 3:14
4. "What a Life!" Glyn "Bigga" Bush, Richard "DJ Dick" Whittingham, Rob McKenzie Rockers Hi-Fi 4:02
5. "I Am Alone" Jim Carroll Graeme Revell with Jim Carroll 1:33
6. "People Who Died" Jim Carroll, Brian Linsley, Steve Linsley, Terrell Winn, Wayne Woods The Jim Carroll Band 5:00
7. "Riders on the Storm" Jim Morrison, John Densmore, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek The Doors 6:56
8. "Dizzy" Ty Willman, Mari Ann Braeden, Danny K, Bob "Mink" Martin, Steve Ross Green Apple Quick Step 3:10
9. "It's Been Hard" Jim Carroll Graeme Revell with Jim Carroll 0:53
10. "Coming Right Along" Jon Auer, Ken Stringfellow The Posies 6:17
11. "Strawberry Wine" Salvadore Poe, Adam Flax Massive Internal Complications 3:59
12. "Star" Ian Astbury, Billy Duffy The Cult 5:00
13. "Dream Massacre"   Graeme Revell 1:23
14. "I've Been Down" Flea Flea 4:38
15. "Blind Dogs" Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil Soundgarden 4:40
Not featured on CD
No. Title Writer(s) Artist Length
1. "Dancing Barefoot" Patti Smith, Ivan Kral Johnette Napolitano  
2. "Watusi Latin Boogaloo" Joey Altruda The 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

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