Film: The Basketball Diaries

The Basketball Diaries is a 1995 film based on the book of the same name by Jim Carroll, it depicts Jim's life growing up in New York City as a 16-year-old with his group of best friends. Mostly being hoodlums and delinquents already, Jim gets introduced to drugs and eventually gets kicked out of high school as he starts to spiral down. He quickly finds himself estranged from his friends, begging his mother for money, and living on the streets offering himself up at times just to score more drugs. By the end, he manages to start regaining control of his life upon meeting a man named Reggie, who helps him through his withdrawals and leads Jim back from the brink of death.

Features a rather star studded cast including early roles for Leonardo DiCaprio as Jim Carroll, Mark Wahlberg as Mickey, Juliette Lewis as Diane Moody, James Madio as Pedro, and Michael Imperioli as Bobby. Also included Ernie Hudson as Reggie.


Tropes used include:

  • Blondes Are Evil: It's a blond woman who not only introduces Jim to drugs but takes his virginity as well in the same scene.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Not quite a boarding school, but the Catholic high school they attend features a caning scene almost immediately in the film, with threats of a repeat the next day.
  • Cue the Rain: The boys are shown playing an impromptu game of basketball in the rain, complete with Jim hanging off the rim, only to rhetorically ask if he's ever talked about the first time he did heroin.
  • Descent into Addiction: Jim becomes addicted to cocaine and heroin over the course of the film.
  • Disappeared Dad: Jim is being raised by a single mother during the movie.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Arguably a 1990s equivalent to Requiem for a Dream aimed at teenagers and young adults.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: It's unclear whether Diane's an actual hooker, but she tries to help keep Jim alive with places to sleep when he starts living on the street.
  • Raised Catholic: The start and first half the film heavily reflect the Catholicism religion in relation to Jim and his friends.
  • Red Filter of Doom: When Jim first takes drugs, as he's writing in his notebook next to the sleeping blonde, the screen is notably bathed in a red tint to offer this effect of the drugs' immediate hold on him.
  • Unreliable Voiceover: As Jim continues to narrate throughout the film, it becomes clear this was after his redemption and thus makes the events tinged with some uncertainty as to whether they are slightly polished to avoid reliving too many harsh moments such as what happened to Bobby.