Top 100 Movies Of The 1990's: #58 Hoop Dreams

Box Office: $7.8 Million

Oscar Nominations: Best Editing

Oscar Wins: None

MovieRankings.Net: Not Ranked

Available To Stream: Amazon Prime

Watching Hoop Dreams in 2023 is a very different experience than it was when it came out. You know watching this that these specific dreams won't work out. Unless you are aware of the documentary, you have never heard of Arthur Agee and William Gates. The dreams they speak of in the documentary are about the making the NBA and being the next Isiah Thomas. But as the three hour documentary plays on, the hopes you have for these kids is that they just can have a nice life.

That both Arthur and William made it to good colleges and seemingly are doing well now is a huge success story when you see where they started from. There are so many heartbreaking twists and turns in this documentary. William being right at the doorstep of being one of the best high school players in the country before knee problems slow him down. Arthur's Dad Bo trying to escape drug addiction but being unable to do so. The reveal that 16 year old William has a daughter is hard to see as you know that will make his life so much more difficult and his dreams harder to reach.

Fine Line. Shutterstock Images.

Steve James did a brilliant job directing these stories. The shots of inner-city early 1990's Chicago are bleak and depressing. But it provides great context for what these kids are dealing with on a daily basis. To have to have a three hour round trip just to go to school seems cruel. It's even worse when Arthur has to get pulled out of his private school because his parents can't afford the tuition.

Both Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel had this as their favorite movie of 1994 which is really saying something. Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption and Forrest Gump all came out that year. Ebert even had it as his favorite film of the decade. His review of the movie might be the best film critique I've ever read. It's no surprise he's our greatest film critic.

SOURCE - We learn, for example, of how their extended families pull together to help give kids a chance. How if one family member is going through a period of trouble (Arthur's father is fighting a drug problem), others seem to rise to periods of strength. How if some family members are unemployed, or if the lights get turned off, there is also somehow an uncle with a big back yard, just right for a family celebration. We see how the strong black church structure provides support and encouragement - how it is rooted in reality, accepts people as they are, and believes in redemption.

I obviously agree that this is a great documentary but it's not even my favorite documentary of the decade. I put Ken Burns' Baseball and The Civil War ahead of it. But those don't count for this list as they weren't released in theaters. Having them on PBS allows for so much more time to tell a sweeping epic. Hoop Dreams has a longer run time than most movies but the brilliant editing never leaves you bored. Among feature length documentaries, it doesn't get much better than Hoop Dreams for me.

The greatest thing a documentary can do is show you somewhere that is very different than your own but by the end, you have compassion and some microscopic level of understanding the challenges that people can face. Reality shows are edited and created to pass judgement on the people involved. There's usually a competition aspect so you are built to root for or against someone. With Hoop Dreams, there is obviously editing involved but I feel like you're getting an honest portrayal of these kids and the supportive and destructive lives that surround them. 

58. Hoop Dreams

59. Go

60. The Firm

61. Magnolia

62. The Talented Mr. Ripley

63. Tommy Boy

64. The Usual Suspects

65. In The Line Of Fire

66. My Cousin Vinny

67. Awakenings

68. JFK

69. Toy Story

70. Home Alone

71. Jerry Maguire

72. Titanic

73. Billy Madison

74. Apollo 13

75. Braveheart

76. Edward Scissorhands

77. Cape Fear

78. The River Wild

79. What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

80. 12 Monkeys

81. Stir Of Echoes

82. Mission: Impossible

83. Total Recall

84. Quiz Show

85. For Love Of The Game

86. Being John Malkovich

87. Men In Black

88. Scream

89. Alive

90. Three Kings

91. Glengarry Glen Ross

92. Die Hard With A Vengeance

93. The Blair Witch Project

94. Twister

95. Dirty Work

96. Election

97. Tremors

98. Any Given Sunday

99. The Wedding Singer

100. Clerks