Documentaries I Like: "Hoop Dreams"


"Hoop Dreams" is a landmark American documentary, released in 1994 to broad acclaim at Sundance. It follows the story of Chicago high school students who dream of becoming professional basketball players -- and there are enough ups and downs to fill nearly three hours (171 minutes) of film. You can now watch it, in its entirety, online at Hulu -- for free. No signup required, though you do have to sit through occasional brief ads. (Be sure to click "Watch Hi-Res" at right, after the ad finishes playing, for the best video and audio quality.)

"Hoop Dreams" is widely considered one of the best documentaries of the 1990s (Roger Ebert went so far as to declare it "best film" of the 1990s, and has been a tireless proponent), although it wasn't nominated for the Best Documentary Academy Award. (It did win for Best Film Editing, however, and led to changes in how the Academy votes on documentaries in general.) Here's a snippet from Roger Ebert's original review of the film:

A film like "Hoop Dreams" is what the movies are for. It takes us, shakes us, and make us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself. "Hoop Dreams" is, on one level, a documentary about two African-American kids named William Gates and Arthur Agee, from Chicago's inner city, who are gifted basketball players and dream of someday starring in the NBA. On another level, it is about much larger subjects: about ambition, competition, race and class in our society. About our value structures. And about the daily lives of people like the Agee and Gates families, who are usually invisible in the mass media, but have a determination and resiliency that is a cause for hope.

Read the rest of Ebert's 1994 review or just sit back and enjoy the film. Note that it's rated PG-13 for strong language and some content related to drug use. If you're still not convinced that this is the documentary for you, here's the trailer: