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  • Writer's pictureRonny Duncan Studios

Hoosiers (1986)

Plot Summary: In Hickory, a small, rural community in Indiana, Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) is brought to the local High School in need of a new basketball coach. It is soon obvious that Dale has a checkered past and is seeking redemption and "another chance." Dale faces an overzealous town, a snide fellow teacher, Myra Fleener (Barbara Hershey), and the decision by the best player in school, Jimmy, to not play. Dale employs a hard-boiled approach to instill fundamentals and teamwork in the young players. Yet, his methods irritate the town and a showdown looms. Will he win over Jimmy, the town, Myra, and the team, and achieve ultimate redemption?


  • David Anspaugh, Director

  • Angelo Pizzo, Writer

  • Jerry Goldstein, Composer

  • Gene Hackman as Norman Dale

  • Barbara Hershey as Myra Fleener

  • Dennis Hopper as Shooter Flatch

  • Sheb Wooley as Cletus Summers

  • Maris Valainis as Jimmy Chitwood

  • David Neidorf as Everett Flatch

  • Brad Long as Buddy Walker

  • Steve Hollar as Rade Butcher

  • Brad Boyle as Whit Butcher

  • Wade Schenck as Ollie McLellan

  • Kent Poole as Merle Webb

  • Scott Summers as Strap Purl

  • Fern Persons as Opal Fleener

  • Chelcie Ross as George Walker


  • Hoosiers has been named by many publications as the best or one of the best sports movies ever made.

  • Hoosiers holds a 91% on RT, and a 76% on Metacritic.

  • Hoosiers was nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Hopper) and Original Score (Goldstein).

  • Hoosiers was ranked number 13 by the American Film Institute on its 100 Years... 100 Cheers list of most inspirational films.

  • The film was the choice of the readers of USA Today as the best sports movie of all time.

  • In 2001, Hoosiers was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress due in part to an especially large number of nominations from Indiana citizens.

  • In June 2008, AFI revealed its "Ten Top Ten" — the best ten films in ten classic American film genres — after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Hoosiers was acknowledged as the fourth best film in the sports genre. (top 3 were Raging Bull, Rocky, and The Pride of the Yankees)

  • In 2015, MGM partnered with the Indiana Pacers to create Hickory uniforms inspired by the film. The Pacers first wore the tribute uniforms during select games in the 2015–16 NBA regular season in honor of the film's 30th anniversary.

Did You Know:

  • The 1954 state championship game, which inspired the movie's final game, was played between the Milan Indians and the Muncie Central Bearcats. Milan won 32-30.

  • For the scene where Dennis Hopper stumbles onto the court drunk during the sectional game, Hopper wanted a 10-second notice before the director called action. He spun around for 10 seconds, allowing him to stagger onto the court and appear drunk. He remembered James Dean in Giant (1956) asking George Stevens for 30 seconds so he could spin around to better feel the inebriation.

  • In the original script, Shooter leaves rehab to attend the state championship game. Dennis Hopper, who had just gotten sober, thought this plot point was detrimental to the story. Said director David Anspaugh, "We sat down over coffee, and [Hopper] said, 'Guys, I wish I had brought this up earlier. I knew there was something that bothered me about this scene. It doesn't work. It can't happen. It would suggest Shooter didn't take his sobriety seriously. And I know from experience that Shooter made a real commitment, and there's no way he would leave that hospital.' And Angelo and I had been living with that scene in our heads for years. And we really argued against [cutting] it. And Dennis said, 'No, trust me.' And we trusted him, and he was absolutely right."

  • Harry Dean Stanton turned down the role of Shooter. In 2013 he expressed regret over saying no to the film, and couldn't remember his reasons for declining it.

  • While delighted with his Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, Dennis Hopper privately admitted to friends and colleagues that he felt the Academy nominated him for the wrong film. He thought he should have been nominated for his performance in Blue Velvet (1986).

  • The scene with Jimmy and Coach Dale talking while Jimmy shot baskets was filmed in one take. Maris Valainis said that he "wasn't even listening to him. I was just concentrating on making them, and I made one, and they kept going in."

  • In the locker room before the final game, on the blackboard are the last names of the players on the opposing team. These are the real last names of the actors who make up the Hickory team.

  • Maris Valainis was told that if he missed the movie's last basket on his first attempt, the fans would still rush the floor in celebration, and he would get another try later. Luckily, when cameras rolled, he made the shot on his first attempt, even though he had missed it repeatedly during rehearsals.

  • Said director David Anspaugh, "[Before filming began] I was so excited to have Gene Hackman. He was the coolest guy to hang out with. He was funny and irreverent and [told] great stories and all that. And then, first day of shooting, I didn't recognize [him]. He became an entirely different person. And he just made it hell on Earth for me every day. ... He was everything negative. He wanted off the movie."

  • Gene Hackman and David Anspaugh clashed throughout most of the production. "Gene had me on the verge of a nervous breakdown," Anspaugh told Vulture. "He gave me my first anxiety attack: One morning I woke up and I couldn't walk; the room was spinning. I thought every day on the film was going to be my last because Gene's agent was trying to get me fired." According to Anspaugh, the only thing that saved his job was the dailies. "The producers said, 'Look, David's not getting fired,'" the director recalled. "And we showed a half-hour of dailies to Gene's agent, and he saw that what we were making was actually pretty good."

  • Writer/producer Angelo Pizzo described how Gene Hackman caused problems during filming: "When he arrived, he was in a generally foul mood. We called him the black cloud. He started complaining about everything. There were some blowups on the set, some throwing of jackets and near-fistfights. There was all sorts of drama on the set. Then Dennis Hopper arrived three weeks into shooting, and he settled Gene down. I think Gene decided to just suck it up and finish it and get out of there." According to Pizzo, on the last day of filming, Hackman said, "I just want you to be prepared for the fact that this movie might get on a few screens here in Indiana, but then it will end up in the dustbin of films that never made it, and the only people who will remember it are you two. And I hope I forget it when my plane lands in Los Angeles." Commented Pizzo, "Gene had a lot more experience in filmmaking than we did, so we thought his assessment was probably accurate."

  • During a happy montage of Hickory winning a string of games, Dale was shown saying something to Shooter on the bench that made Shooter laugh. It wasn't until years later that David Anspaugh learned what Dennis Hopper was laughing at: Gene Hackman had told him, "Hopper, I hope you've invested well, because you and I are never gonna work after this movie. This is a career-ending film for both of us."

  • Gene Hackman, who during filming had predicted the movie would be a flop, insisted on viewing a rough cut of the film before going in to re-record some of his audio. "Angelo and I knew that if he didn't like the [rough cut], he wouldn't show up at the studio to re-record his dialog," David Anspaugh said. "But he showed up. He walked into the room, took his glasses off, looked me in the eyes, and said, 'How the hell did you do that?'"

  • David Anspaugh and Angelo Pizzo wanted to release their 2-hour-48-minute version of the movie. The studio insisted that they cut it down to 114 minutes. Among the many scenes cut was Buddy asking to return to the team and scenes that developed Norman and Myra's budding romance more. Anspaugh said "the audience really got cheated and robbed" over the cuts.

  • The actor playing Ollie once left the set to watch his high school basketball team play. He was a senior on the team when he got the role and was feeling homesick, so he decided to go watch them. The crew had to contact his mother to get him to return.

  • An actual Milan Indian guard, Ray Craft, was in the movie. Craft greeted the Huskers when they got to the state finals, and he also told Coach Dale it was time to take the court before the state finals.

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: A David and Goliath story that could only be told through the magic of playoff basketball.

Best Performance: Jerry Goldsmith (Composer)

Best Secondary Performance: Gene Hackman (Norm)

Most Charismatic Award: Dennis Hopper (Shooter)

Best Scene:

  • Norman Dale Arrives

  • First Practice

  • Norm Visits Jimmy

  • Welcome to Indiana Basketball

  • Shooter Joins the Team

  • Referendum Meeting

  • The Picket Fence

  • Divisional Finals

  • Everett and Shooter Reconnect

  • Butler Fieldhouse

  • Pregame Speech

  • State Championship

Favorite Scene: Pregame Speech(es)

Most Indelible Moment: Jimmy Wins the Game

In Memorium:

  • Peter Bowles, 85, English actor (Rumpole of the Bailey, To the Manor Born, The Bounder, Agatha Christie’s Poirot; In Love and War, For the love of Benji; Off the Rails with Kelly Preston).

  • Robert Vincent O’Neil, 91, American screenwriter, film director, and producer (Wonder Women, Angel, Avenging Angel)

  • Emilio Delgado, 81, American actor (Sesame Street, I Will Fight No More Forever, A Case of You)

  • John Korty, 85, American film director and animator (The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?, Oliver's Story, Twice Upon A Time, The Candidate, Sesame Street, and The Electric Company).

  • Akira Takarada, 87, Japanese actor (Godzilla, Life of an Expert Swordsman, A-Ge-Man: Tales of a Golden Geisha). Dubbed a lot of American films in Japanese, such as Aladdin as Jafar.

  • Conrad Janis, 94, American musician and actor (Mork & Mindy, Margie, That Hagen Girl, Happy Days, and Frasier).

  • Mitchell Ryan, 88, American actor (Dark Shadows, Dharma & Greg, Lethal Weapon, Midway, and Magnum Force).

  • Brent Renaud, 50, American photojournalist, writer (The New York Times), and filmmaker (Warrior Champions: From Baghdad to Beijing).

  • Ralph Riach, 86, Scottish actor (Hamish Macbeth, Lost Empires, Braveheart).

  • William Hurt, 71, American actor (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Broadcast News, The Incredible Hulk, Body Heat, the Big Chill, and Captain America: Civil War), Oscar winner (1986).

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Preacher Purl: And David put his hand in the bag and took out a stone and slung it. And it struck the Philistine on the head and he fell to the ground. Amen.

Coach Norman Dale: What's gotten into you?

Strap Purl: The Lord! I can feel His strength!

Coach Norman Dale: Well... keep His strength in the dribble alright?

Coach Norman Dale: If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don't care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we're gonna be winners.

Coach Norman Dale: Stick with your man. Think of him as chewing gum. By the end of the game, I want you to know what flavor he is.

Coach Norman Dale: My practices aren't designed for your enjoyment.

Coach Norman Dale: Ten feet. I think you'll find it's the exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory.

Coach Norman Dale: I've seen you guys can shoot but there's more to the game than shooting. There's fundamentals and defense.

George: Look, mister, there's... two kinds of dumb, uh... guy that gets naked and runs out in the snow and barks at the moon, and, uh, guy who does the same thing in my living room. First one don't matter, the second one you're kinda forced to deal with.

The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 7.5

Impact/Significance: 5.75

Novelty: 9

Classic-ness: 8.5

Rewatchability: 9.25

Audience Score: 8.35 (79% Google, 88% RT)

Total: 48.35

Remaining Questions:

  • What happens the following season for Coach Dale?

  • Why did we need Barbara Hershey at all in this movie?

  • If there is 0:55 left and you have a 3 point lead, why would you go for three quick possessions since this is before the advent of the shot clock?

  • We see Strap apologize to get back on the team, but how did Buddy get back on the team? One game he's gone, and the next he's back.

  • Is this the best sports movie ever made?

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