on March 28, 2003
From the opening scenes of this film--majestic shots of a car traveling the rural midwest on a crisp autumn morning--HOOSIERS serves notice to the viewer that he or she is in for a wonderful movie experience. Set in a tiny Indiana town half a century ago, HOOSIERS captures the look and feel of rural Americana, of a hardworking people with a single commonality: their love for basketball. The pure innocence of this film, innocence long lost over the subsequent decades, is magical.
Gene Hackman portrays Coach Norman Dale, an outsider who comes to basketball-crazy Hickory, Indiana, to coach the high school team. Haunted by mistakes made in his past, Dale is eager for the second chance he has been given. Immediately, his no-nonsense, stress-the-fundamentals coaching philosophy puts him at odds with the town, yet Dale refuses to compromise his principles. He survives--barely--a petition for his ouster, and the rest of the movie warmly portrays the town of Hickory and its high school basketball team coming together, a team that makes a magical run through the Indiana State Tournament.
Barbara Hershey as Myra Fleener, Hickory's assistant principal, and Sheb Wooley as superintendent/principal Cletus--the man who hires Dale--are solid. Yet Dennis Hopper gives the best performance as Wilbur "Shooter" Flatch. Shooter, a former great player himself and father of one of the boys on Coach Dale's team, is the town drunk; despite his alcoholism, his knowledge of the game is immense, and Dale enlists his aid. The reformation of this character--the feeling and depth that Hopper gives this role--is exceptional.
Director David Anspaugh gives us a sensational "feel good" movie, augmented by Jerry Goldsmith's powerful musical score. HOOSIERS tells a beautiful story, so magical in its depiction you'll be cheering from your chair. Highly recommended.
on February 11, 2000
It is purely coincidental that the backdrop for this movie happens to be high school basketball or sports of any kind: This is a genuinely great movie, leaving the audience feeling good about themselves and willing to search for a second chance at success in life, no matter how great the failure. A one-word description of the movie? REDEMPTION. This theme runs throughout, i.e., a second chance...for the town drunk, for the coach, for the wannabe assistant coach, for the old-maid school teacher, for the team, for Jimmy Chitwood, for the drunk's son, for Strap, for the town, for the principal, for the players who quit, for the equipment manager, for the school bus...with the movie on video, you now have a second chance to watch and enjoy this great movie! It is worth the redemption price! If you already have seen it, after reading this review you may see it through a different perspective; if you have not seen it, I know you will thoroughly enjoy it, over and over again. Hoosiers is not just my favorite sports movie, it is my favorite movie of all time. The movie truly is about redemption, about people failing and being given a second chance. Some handle it better than others, but it cuts a true slice out of life in the 1950s and the 2000s! We should all get that kind of second chance! The best part is, we do. Those who succeeded in Hoosiers accepted their second chance and made something of it. I watch this movie any time that life hands me a setback or any time that I fail or fall. It is a better pick-me-up than any anti-depressant. So, wipe your slate clean and watch Hoosiers again for the first time!
Maybe it's because we're the smallest state west of the Alleghenies or maybe we just have this thing about Indiana, but Hoosiers (and we can't understand why that term is a perjorative for some people) have an inordinate pride in their home state.
So, small wonder that the movie Hoosiers is a staple in every Indiana video collection.
This is your classic David vs. Goliath tale based on a true story that's at the core of Indiana basketball mythology - the magic year back in the early 1950s (can't remember the exact season) in which tiny Milan (pronounced MILE-un, not like the city in Italy) in southern Indiana went all the way to the Indiana State High School Basketball Finals and emerged state champ.
I grew up in small town Indiana in the '50s. The characters, the places, the fervor surrounding the local basketball team are instantly recognizable and dead-on. These are my people and my places and the filmmakers got it exactly right.
The opening scenes showing Gene Hackman driving through the Indiana countryside probably don't mean much to folks from outside Indiana and the midwest, but they almost bring a tear to my eye.
As a side note, there's a little white country church where Hackman pauses to get his bearings. It stood at a crossroads in Boone County just northwest of Indianapolis. It was one of several churches that went up in flames in the late 1990s at the hands of a church arsonist. It's part of the local lore.
As far as the characters go, Hackman did a credible job, but the real star of this film is Dennis Hopper. Barbara Hershey's character is an unwanted digression from the plot line and adds nothing of value to the film.
And how many people realize the heart attack-prone principal of Hickory High, Sheb Wooley, is the guy who had a hit in the late '50s with the novelty record "One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater?"
Also, for those with home theater sound systems, the Dolby Surround Sound on the DVD is spectacular. The stereo imaging really makes the picture come alive.
If you like small town stories where the underdog triumphs, this is your kind of movie. You don't have to be from Indiana to love Hoosiers.
on December 3, 2005
I was born in Gary, Indiana in 1953, the year before tiny Milan High captured the Indiana State High School Basketball Championship. As most boys who grew up in Indiana, this Cinderella tale was a familiar one to me -- and the true story this film was based on.
Last year, in preparation of attending the NCAA Women's Final Four in Indianapolis with my 11-year-old daughter, I purchased this Collector's Edition DVD to share with her. Although today I live a world away in the heart of Silicon Valley, I will forever remember the part of my childhood that was Hoosier Hysteria.
Of what it was like to play in the annual state tourney, when every school, no matter how big or small, was thrown together into the same fire and born again every March whether their regular-season record was 25-0 or 0-25. Single elimination, do or die, winner take all.
The excitement and hype leading up to the opening games of the first-round Sectional ... of the pride and joy that engulfed the entire communities of the 64 winners who advanced to the Regional ... and then, for a god-like 16 teams, the Semistate ... and ultimately, the originally named Final Four. I can't begin to describe it for you, but this film comes close, really close.
My daughter has played basketball since she was in the third grade, and competes today on a traveling AAU team. She is 10 times the player I ever was at her age, but it is impossible for her to imagine a world without women professional athletes, cell phones or the Internet. And whenever I would tell her about what basketball was -- and still is -- like in Indiana, she would roll her eyes.
Fortunately, I had this film to show her. And a few months later, she experienced the real thing, making the pilgrimage with me down the two-lane backroad blacktops to Milan, where we met the caretaker of the 1954 Milan Museum, Roselyn McKittrick, and later that day, dined with Bobby Plump himself, known as Bobby Chitwood in the film.
I have a photograph of my daughter wearing a red Hickory High -- the fictional school in the film representing Milan -- jersey, holding the ball that Bobby arched high into the Butler Fieldhouse sky that fine and glorious day more than 50 years ago and into history.
This is a rare film in that it somehow captures that special time, that place, that joy. How and why does not matter, only that it does. The tears that falll whenever I watch it are proof enough of that.
This Collector's Edition compliments the original release by including recent interviews with Bobby, the two writer-producers who (as did I) attended Indiana University in the early 1970s, some deleted scenes that shed new light on the storyline, even a glorious B&W archived copy of the 1954 state championship game in its entirety.
A beautiful moment in time captured in a truly beautiful film.
Or, as my daughter later remarked to me, "You know Dad, basketball really is different in Indiana."
As I have a daughter who plays division one, women's college basketball, I confess to being a big fan of the game. I love hoop films, so I jumped at the opportunity to watch this one, having heard that it is a great film. Well for once, the word out on the street is on the money.
This is a superlative film, beautifully directed by David Anspaugh, about a great basketball coach whose initial coaching career was derailed by his Achilles heel. It is a story about the effect that one can have on the lives of others. It is a story about being given a second chance. It is a story about hope. It is a story about redemption. It is a story about community. It is a story about overcoming all odds. Quite simply, it is a film that will not fail to capture the viewer, heart and soul.
The setting for the film is the nineteen fifties and appears to be based upon a true story. Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) has a skeleton in his closet and is given a second chance at coaching. Buried deep in the cornfields of Indiana is the small town of Hickory, which has a very small high school with a basketball team called the Hickory Hucksters. Coach Dale takes this team and tries to ensure that the players are all grounded in the fundamentals of the game, as their idea of basketball had been just to point and shoot. He wants to make it a team of which all can be proud. His hardline approach meets some initial resistance that causes his best player to leave the team, but even he eventually returns to the fold. This is not, however, just a film about a basketball team's struggle to make it to the state championship.
This being a small town, Coach Dale, as an outsider, runs into some small town politics that threaten to run him out of town. Cooler heads prevail, and he is given his chance to be all he can be. While what he does with the team is remarkable, it is his interaction with others in the town that is even more so. He begins a relationship with the high school's assistant principal, Myra Fleener (Barbara Hershey), and brings some passion into her otherwise lackluster existence. He takes Wilbur 'Shooter' Flatch (Dennis Hopper), the town drunk and estranged father to one of the team's key players, under his wing and gives him a new lease on life. Along the way, Coach Dale even manages to give the town a basketball team of which it can be proud. He and the team put the town on the map. How they do it is the crux of the movie.
Gene Hackman is simply sensational as the coach, a man who wants his life back and is given a second chance to grab for the brass ring. He infuses his character with a toughness and, simultaneously, a tenderness that makes him three dimensional. Dennis Hopper gives a truly remarkable performance as the drunk who finds his way out of the bottle long enough to take stock of himself. When Coach Hackman, seeing that he has a lot of knowledge of basketball, extends him a helping hand and affords him an opportunity to regain his self-respect and repair his relationship with his son, he responds in a way he had never thought possible. Hopper gives a performance of a lifetime, infusing his character with just the right amount of pathos, vulnerability, and hope. His is truly a bravura performance. Barbara Hershey, as always, gives an excellent performance, impressing upon the viewer the internal conflicts with which her character is struggling. The rest of the supporting cast contribute with fine performances, as well.
This is a great film on many levels and one that is well worth having in one's personal collection. Bravo!
on March 6, 1999
Fine acting performances by Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper are highlights of Hoosiers - a story about a small Indiana High School basketball team of the 1950's and its efforts to win a state championship). In Indiana, there is only one state champion rather than having several based on size of the school so this makes the competition even more fascinating. While officially a fictional story, the success of the team does have a real-life Indiana counterpart as far as the team's progress goes, so the ending is, for all intents and purposes, a real life one. While most of the attention for fine acting goes to Hackman and Hopper, it is the little things that make the movie special. Small town politics are captured extremely well, even when they are only part of the background of some scenes. It is one of those movies you can watch over and over and catch new details each time. Highly recommended.
Hoosiers is a great, feel good movie that champions the fact that if you work hard and believe in yourself, anything is possible. Based on a true story, Hoosiers is about an extremely small town Indiana high school boy's basketball team that goes on to win the Indiana high school championship, beating the big city schools along the way. Gene Hackman stars as the coach of the Hickory High team. He is a mysterious stranger, with a dark past. But he knows how to coach basketball and he gets the boys to believe in themselves. Dennis Hopper scored a major comeback triumph in his career (he got a Best Supporting Actor nomination for the role) as the alcoholic assistant coach who is also the father of one of the boys on the team. The movie is full of cliches, but the kids and Mr. Hackman are so good, you can forgive them for it. The speech that Mr. Hackman gives before the big game will send chills up your spine everytime you hear it. Hoosiers is a real winner.
Movies don't get much better than this.
Here is a formula for creating a movie that will leave a lasting impression:
1. Start with a tremendous script based on a true story. (This script is actually about the 1954 Indiana basketball championship title pitting a small school (Milan) against a huge school (Muncie)).
2. Add a true star like Gene Hackman to shoulder the film. (Hackman dominates this film with his forceful personality and range of affect).
3. Add a great supporting cast, such as Barbara Hershey and Dennis Hopper. (The love story between Hershey and Hackman is so sweet, and the relationship between Hackman's character and Hopper's is also redemptive).
4. Add in human drama to all the characters. (All the players, coaches, teachers, and townsfolks are real right down to their souls!)
5. Add in a musical score that will both make you cry and jump for joy. (Jerry Goldsmith absolutely NAILS this tremendous soundtrack - you will want to purchase the soundtrack for your listening pleasure!)
6. And finally, have a great screen adaptation and direction that keeps a sharp focus on moving the film forward to its ultra-exciting conclusion.
Mix all six attributes together, and Voila!, you now have a film that in my estimation is arguably one of the top-five sports films of all-time.
This is a MUST-SEE. It appeals to all ages and genders. There is something for everyone here. Best of all, it is family viewing at its best. Everyone can enjoy this gem of a film without the mandatory cursing and sexually explicit scenes that seem to be in every film today. If this is not a 5-star film, then I do not know what is! Kone
How true-to-life is this immensely popular film? In an article written for ESPN Page 2, Jeff Merron notes a number of differences between the "real" story about a small Indiana high school which wins the state championship and the "reel" story which appears in the film directed by David Anspaugh, with Gene Hackman starring in a script written by Alvin Sargent. (The entire article can be accessed by visiting [...]) The significant differences noted by Merron include these:
"In real life, Milan High School didn't come out of nowhere. The Indians had made the state semifinals the previous season. In reel life: The team that wins the championship is Hickory High. In real life: The team that won the championship is Milan High. There is no town of Hickory in Indiana. In reel life: Hickory wins the title in 1952. In real life: Milan won the title in 1954. In reel life: The previous coach dies, which is a crucial part of the plot -- the team's star player, Jimmy, doesn't play part of the season because he's so upset. In real life: The previous coach, Herman "Snort" Grinstead, who Bobby Plump (the real-life hero) said in an ESPN chat was "the most popular coach in Milan's history," was fired for ordering new uniforms against the superintendent's orders.
"In reel life: Coach Dale alienates just about everyone with his independence, and there is a town referendum on whether the school should keep Dale on as coach. In real life: Marvin Wood did face an uphill struggle, because he replaced Snort and changed both his offense and defense. But by the time the Milan Indians were playing their championship season, he had won the town over. In reel life: The assistant coach, "Shooter," (played by Dennis Hopper in an Oscar-nomination performance), is the town drunk and the father of one of the players. In real life: There was no assistant coach."
These may be among the most significant differences between "real" and "reel" but invariably, certain liberties must be taken with historical material to increase and enhance the dramatic impact of a film based on (but not limited to) that material. In this instance, Anspaugh, screenwriters Pizzo and Sargent, Hackman, and their associates have a story to tell and they tell it very, very well. As always, Hackman is first-rate, as are Barbara Hershey in her role as the obligatory love interest (Myra Fleener) and Hopper as Shooter, a name so appropriate to the character that nothing more need be said. Yes, this is a "feel good" film among several (e.g. Rudy on which Anspaugh and Pizzo also collaborated later) which have been immensely popular. However, the film has crisp direction, an excellent cast, and a story line close enough to what really did happen in 1954. FYI, here are a few brief passages from the official Web site of Milan, Indiana:
"Milan, Indiana, a quiet rural town in the southeastern part of the state, was the scene of one of the greatest basketball stories in history. The rise of the 1954 Milan basketball team actually started the preceding year. In 1953, the team went all the way to the final four only to be beaten in the semi-finals. Then the 1954 season arrived.
"In a high school of 162 total students, 73 were boys. A young Marvin Wood was returning for his second year as coach, along with Marc Combs and Clarence Kelly. The core of the 1953 team also returned. From this came the David vs. Goliath championship story.
"Although their accomplishments seem to have grown to almost mythical proportions as the story of the greatest underdog in sports' history throughout the years, there was a real team who lived a dream that came to life. Under the leadership of twenty-six year old coach Marvin Wood, the Indians began their rise to the top of the 751 teams entered in that year's tournament, with a record of 19-2. The mighty men of Milan then cruised through the state tournament relatively untested, until the final game against Muncie Central. The Indians were paced in scoring throughout the game by senior Ray Craft. However, Coach Wood's delay tactic game plan would place the ball in the trusty hands of another senior, Bobby Plump.
"Bobby Gene Plump, who at-the-buzzer hit the shot that gave tiny Milan High School the 1954 state basketball championship over the Muncie Central Bearcats. Called `the most famous shot in Indiana hoops history,' the real-life event became the basis for the fictionalized movie, Hoosiers. Milan beat Giant Muncie Central 32-30 in the final seconds of the game."
Although Hoosiers may differ somewhat from what really happened in 1954, so what? Both the film's story and the Milan team's season affirm the same values which now seem so rare 50 years after Bobby Gene Plump's winning shot.
Question: Why are no SPECIAL (rather than cheesy) Features provided with the DVD version? That is disgraceful!
on November 4, 2003
I grew up in Indiana and am well-acquainted with the true story behind the 1954 State Championship from Milan. I've actually met a couple of the players from that team, one of whom plays a referee in the final game of this film.
The image that forever stays with me from this movie is that of Ollie, the unlikely hero being carried off the floor by his teammates, his fists pumping the air. To me there is no better image in the entire film than that. It epitomizes the message behind this movie and others like Rudy and Breaking Away, both of which, coincidentally, take place in Indiana and, like Hoosiers, are based on true stories. The message is that you can reach the unreachable.
How's that for sentimentality? Some have complained that the film is too sentimental, but in basketball-crazy Indiana, home to six of the ten biggest high school gyms in the nation (ours seated 8,200), the story behind Hoosiers was legendary. And that, naturally, is a big reason why this movie inspires me. Oh, yeah, and Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper do a good job.
My only disappointment is that there are no notable features on the DVD. Of course, it was made in 1986, before a director had to consider how to make a movie and a movie about the movie.