There are a multitude of documentaries available to watch on Netflix instant streaming, but a few among the crowd stand out specifically as real gems. “Hoop Dreams” is one of those stand outs. Directed by Steve James, this 1994 documentary is a classic of the genre and a prime example of a seriously cinematic nonfiction film.


The film centers on William Gates and Arthur Agee, two high school basketball players who dream of making it to the NBA. Through simply following them with a camera, James is able to bring their story to life in a way that is provocative and entertaining. While he will certainly make plenty of more films, he may never make one to match the success of this film.


James is a veteran who has been making films since the 1980s. While he has made many impressive documentaries, such “Head Games” and “The Interrupters,” “Hoop Dreams” is clearly his defining film. None of his other work is as ambitious, poignant, engaging, entertaining, or well-made.


While it was famously not nominated for Best Documentary feature at the 67th Academy Awards, “Hoop Dreams” is not without its diehard fans — one of whom was the great film critic Roger Ebert. Of the film, Ebert wrote, “a film like ‘Hoop Dreams’ is what 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.” Ebert would go on to name “Hoop Dreams” the best film of the 1990s.


With a 171-minute running time, “Hoop Dreams” is long, considering it is a documentary. It can be difficult to allocate that much time to watching a movie, but in this case you will surely not regret it.


Have you seen “Hoop Dreams?” What did you think? Let me know in the comments below and find me on Twitter @TuckerPoikonen