The Basketball Diaries

  • Review Date: July 25, 2005
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1995
  • Running Time: 102 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Stark tale of teen drug abuse and delinquency.
  • Review Date: July 25, 2005
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1995
  • Running Time: 102 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Lots of bad behavior on display.


Includes infamous school shooting fantasy scene.


Multiple scenes involving prostitution.


Very strong language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Lots, although there are definite consequences for use.

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.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

BASKETBALL DIARIES traces a fictionalized account of New York actor/writer/musician Jim Carroll's (Leonardo DiCaprio) coming of age. Forsaking his chance at earning a college scholarship based on his basketball talent, Carroll and his friends begin with petty crimes used to finance cheap highs like huffing. Soon they are conducting muggings, break-ins, and car robberies to get the money to score heroin.

Is it any good?


Basketball Diaries is a kitchen sink melodrama. DiCaprio's performance is his among his best, pulling no punches while conveying the relentless thirst of a junkie. Aided by a strong supporting cast, including Mark Wahlberg as his closest junkie pal Mickey and Lorraine Bracco as his mother, DiCaprio is able to create empathy for a character that seems to lose all sense of morality very early on in the film.

While the young characters do lack moral compasses, the film itself does not. There are very clear consequences for the teens resulting from their poor decision-making. In some sense this makes the film a potent moral allegory for older teens, warning them of the dangers of drug abuse and crime. However, it can also come across as heavy-handed, and cynical teens may find the film a bit too much like a stern lecture to take the points seriously. DiCaprio's performance does lessen the chance of this, but at times, it also has the unintended effect of making the wretched life of a junkie seem almost attractive. After all, with his later reputation as a club-going womanizer in tow, Jim Carroll may just seem like an unlucky version of the actor himself.

Families can talk about...

  • 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 21, 1995
DVD release date:June 30, 1998
Cast:Leonardo DiCaprio, Lorraine Bracco, Mark Wahlberg
Director:Scott Kalvert
Studio:New Line
Run time:102 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:graphic depiction of drug addiction with related strong violence, sexuality and language.

This review of The Basketball Diaries was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written bybballdiaries April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age


this movie is sooo good, lots of ppl are sceptical about this movie because of the sexual content and drug use and violence,but this movie does not glorify any of thoes things wat so ever...although sometimes hard to watch , i reccomend all parents showong it to there TEENAGE kids
Teen, 13 years old Written byKatieDiCaprio January 22, 2012

Brilliant, touching and entertaining!

I watched this last year when I was 12, mostly because of DiCaprio, (he's my favorite actor), it is an AMAZING movie and will stay with me forever, it's entertaining but also has a sort of a painful, sad side in some scenes because he's just throwing away his life! I would say watch this before showing it to your (13 years or younger) child as it is obviously filled with drugs, sex and violence but saying that it is quite educational. 10+10!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 17 years old Written byoctober1985 July 12, 2009
It's a great film about a teenager with a drug addiction. It could be used to put off kids who want to try drugs. However there is violence, swearing and sexual content, plus a scene where Di Caprio fantasises about shooting up the school. I saw it when I was 14 and was fine with it.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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