Very loosely based on a true story, Hoosiers tells the tale of Norman Dale (played by Gene Hackman) who moves to small town Indiana to become the new high school boys basketball coach. He finds most of the town unwelcoming; especially after it is discovered he once struck a former student long ago at a former coaching job. The coach preaches defense to his shoestring team of 6 players while the town’s onlookers call for his head on a plate, only relenting when a star player stands up for the coach.
The town drunk Shooter (played by Dennis Hopper) is eventually hired as an assistant due to his unfathomable knowledge of the game, and even has to coach a few times as Norman gets ejected for his temper tantrums. As Shooter struggles with addiction and the shame he causes his son, a striking parallel of redemption underlines an impossible run in the Indiana state tournament that takes the team further than they ever thought possible.
Hoosiers is easily one of the better sports movies I’ve seen. It’s touching, dramatic, and uplifting, even if it is nothing much but a Hollywood story having little to do with any actual real life counterpart.
Hackman and Hopper are pretty wonderful in their roles, with Hopper getting a well deserved Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor (yet got no love for his explosive and exquisite turn as Frank Booth in Blue Velvet-released the same fall as Hoosiers in 1986…things that make you go “hmmm…”).
Though I will always hold a place in my heart for Blue Chips starring Nick Nolte and Shaquille O’Neal, Hoosiers is easily the best basketball movie I’ve seen and assuredly a classic that will live forever.
The survey says… a solid 4 stars out of 5.