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Film / Hoosiers

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Hoosiers is a 1986 film about Indiana high school basketball, directed by David Anspaugh and starring Gene Hackman.

Hackman stars as Norman Dale, a former big-time college basketball coach who comes to tiny Hickory, Indiana in 1951 to coach Hickory High's very tiny basketball team. Dale must overcome his own troubled past, win over the skeptical Hickory townsfolk, and get his players to believe in themselves. In his spare time he romances a schoolteacher played by Barbara Hershey. Dennis Hopper co-stars as Shooter Flatch, a former Hickory High basketball star turned alcoholic hobo, who starts on a redemption quest of his own when he becomes one of Dale's coaches.


This film provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Jimmy Chitwood, who will hit just about any shot you ask him to make. The town is very concerned about getting Jimmy to play, as Jimmy has said he won't be playing basketball for the upcoming season.
  • The Alcoholic: Shooter is an unshaven, unkempt alcoholic mess.
  • Ate His Gun: Averted off-screen. After Shooter fell off the proverbial wagon hard one night, during which time he'd humiliated Coach Dale and the entire Hickory team during an important game of theirs, he was later found by his son and Coach Dale, unconscious in a field somewhere with his rifle, having apparently passed out before he could use it on himself. They take him to the hospital to dry out, where he recovers, earning his son's respect for the first time in the process.
  • Bait-and-Switch: At the first meeting between Dale and the men of the town, the town pastor assumes that Coach Dale is a God-fearing Christian man who will teach his boys good values—then he asks if Dale will use a zone defense or play man-to-man.
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  • Big Game: For the state championship!
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Coach Dale has settled for a job at rinky-dink Hickory because he was run out of college basketball for punching one of his players.
  • David vs. Goliath: Discussed. Quoted verbatim, in fact: "... and David put his hand in the bag and took out a stone and flung it, and it struck the Philistine in the head, and he fell to the ground. Amen."
  • Down on the Farm: Small town Indiana, populated by nothing but farmers.
  • Down to the Last Play: "I'll make it." (The real game actually did end in a buzzer-beater shot to win the title.)
  • Everytown, America: Small town Indiana, populated by simple rural folk who really love the high school basketball team.
  • Glory Days: Shooter was once a high school basketball star. The memory haunts him, at least when he compares it to the wreck his life has become.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Count how many shots Jimmy Chitwood takes, and how many of them he makes, over the course of the movie.
    • What's even more improbable? The scene where Jimmy shoots basket after basket while Coach Dale talks to him was shot in one take.
    • And then he misses the final shot of the scene after Coach has finished, foreshadowing that maybe the talk got to him.
  • Market-Based Title: Released in the UK as Best Shot.
  • Opposing Sports Team: Averted. South Bend Central appears to be a perfectly sportsmanlike team.
  • The Quiet One: Jimmy Chitwood says hardly anything over the course of the film other than his short "I reckon it's time for me to start playing ball" speech at the town meeting, and "I'll make it" at the end when they're talking about who should take the last shot.
  • Redemption Quest: For the disgraced Norman Dale.
    • Shooter too, for his whole wasted life, as well as for disgracing his son.
  • Rousing Speech:
    • The "winners" speech gets the Slow Clap of approval from the team.
    • A short and subdued one that shows what a master Coach Dale is at motivating his team. The Hickory kids walk into the arena in Indianapolis and are awed by the sheer size of the place, and how it dwarfs their little gym. Coach Dale then whips out a tape measure and demonstrates that the dimensions of the court are exactly the same as the ones for their court back in Hickory.
  • Serious Business: The people of Hickory really, REALLY care about the high school basketball team. They have town meetings about the team.
  • Slow Clap: From the kids after Coach Dale gives his "winners" speech.
  • Truth in Television: As cliche as they seem, the final two minutes in the State Championship game are pretty much what happened in real life. The winning shot was hit by a guy named Bobby Plump, who later became one of the leading figures fighting against class basketball in Indiana.
  • Two First Names: Norman Dale.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Hickory High didn't, at least.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Inspired by the Milan Indians team that won the Indiana high school basketball championship in 1954. However, much was changed and fictionalized for the movie, starting with the name of the town. The real coach was 26 years old and in his second season with the team. The real championship was not quite as shocking: Milan made the semifinals the year before. However, Milan was even then a rather small school, and Muncie Central was a large, integrated, traditional basketball power.
    • Not that this has stopped the town from adoring the movie despite the massive changes. After all, their town was the basis of a movie with a major Hollywood star. Milan's Dairy Queen has a movie poster signed by the '54 Indians team members and any time the movie gets a new release on home media it's going to be sold at the town's grocery store with a prominent display.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Buddy and Whit quit the team in a scene that shows Coach Dale will brook no nonsense from his players. Whit later apologizes and rejoins the team. Buddy later is back on the team too, but we never see how or when he returns.
  • You Are in Command Now: Dale gets himself taken out of one game, challenging Shooter to step up into the role of coach. After a little fumbling, he does, with some support from his son.

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