1951, Indiana. Having coached college basketball at the highest level many years ago, Norman Dale (Hackman) is hired as the new high school coach in the small town of Hickory despite his chequered past. As basketball is a way of life around there, the sceptical locals are initially opposed to Dale’s new methods and disciplinarian style, while the hiring of town drunk Shooter (Hooper) as assistant coach causes them to ask for his resignation. Slowly but surely though, Dale’s approach produces a winning streak which might take them all the way to the State Finals…
Often hailed as one of the best sports movie ever made, Hoosiers (or Best Shot, as it’s sometimes known) is a stirring, stand-up-and-cheer genre classic which is based loosely (key word) on a true story. Undeniably, it demonstrates nearly every well-worn sporting cliché known to man as the ragtag underdog team (tick) is gradually moulded by a tough-but-fair coach (tick) who begrudgingly wins everyone’s respect (tick) – but somehow director David Anspaugh gets away with it. So while we all know that everything is eventually going to hinge on that last big game (tick), it’s impossible not to get caught up in the journey (helped in no small part by Jerry Goldsmith’s rousing score). By the time it inevitably all comes down to that last big shot (tick), you’ll be willing the ball into the hoop.
Uplifting, heartfelt and nostalgic, there’s a satisfying balance between exciting (yet credible) court action and well-crafted human drama, as Hoosiers is ultimately about second chances and redemption. Anspaugh and writer Angelo Pizzo (who grew up with the real stories that the movie is based on) create a vivid sense of time and place, while Gene Hackman is magnificent as the volatile coach. Barbara Hershey’s part as the love interest isn’t quite so well developed (apparently some of her scenes were cut), but the team all get pass marks and Dennis Hopper was deservedly nominated for an Oscar as the sympathetic town boozer who knows the game inside out.
Often hailed as one of the best sports movie ever made, Hoosiers is a stirring, stand-up-and-cheer genre classic. Undeniably, it demonstrates nearly every well-worn sporting cliché known to man, but somehow gets away with it.