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The Basketball Diaries Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 3.0

    out of 100

    Mixed or average reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 50

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    The movie is unconvincing. 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.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune John Petrakis

    It's more of a pastiche, a montage of brutality, a slow descent into Dante's Inferno until we reach the subbasement of a boy's soul. [21 Apr 1995]

  • 67

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    It's an energetic, watchable mess.

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  • 88

    out of 100

    ReelViews James Berardinelli

    The tale related here isn't all that original, but the honest presentation lends impact to a wrenching scenario.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 15+

Stark tale of teen drug abuse and delinquency.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this story is a gritty look a group of teenage friends as they succumb to drug addiction, and as such is probably only appropriate for the most emotionally mature teenagers. Early in the film, the friends are deeply affected by the untimely death (due to leukemia) of their pal Bobby. Obscene language is the norm rather than the exception as are scenes of violence, including muggings and robberies perpetrated by the main characters. Men routinely offer money to Carroll for sex, including his coach. While there are ultimately consequences for these behaviors, scenes depicting the highs of cocaine and heroin use do convey a sense of elation and excitement. One such drug-induced dream has the trenchcoat-clad protagonist shooting his classmates –- a scene much discussed in the wake of Columbine. The total effect of the film is shown to be the source of the real life Carroll's later success. Also, the presence of DiCaprio and Wahlberg make this film one likely to pique the interest of teens.

  • Families can talk about how, even before the drug abuse gets out of control for Carroll and his friends, they show little respect for authority in school or at home. How does this set them on their path? How does the death of Bobby seem to contribute to the friends' increasingly negative behaviors? Why do they indulge themselves in the drugs that they have seen destroy others around them? Does Carroll's eventual rehabilitation and subsequent success make his earlier actions forgivable?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: Lots of bad behavior on display.

What to watch for
  • violence false5

    Violence: Includes infamous school shooting fantasy scene.

  • sex false5

    Sex: Multiple scenes involving prostitution.

  • language false5

    Language: Very strong language.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false5

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Lots, although there are definite consequences for use.