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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hoosiers focuses on a tiny farming town's small high school basketball team, which against all odds becomes an underdog state champion. They achieve this by learning to play as a team, as taught by a new coach (Gene Hackman) who has a past and obstacles of his own to overcome. Expect lots of emotional intensity, largely of the "who will win?" variety. The movie also deals with alcoholism but features the redemption of two adult leads. There's some swearing, including "s--t" and "Jesus" (as an exclamation). Players get into confrontations during games, including a bench-clearing brawl at the sectional championship. One fight results in a bloody injury that requires stitches. Strong positive messages include not judging a book by its cover, giving people second chances, and the importance of hard work, discipline, and teamwork.
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What's the story?
HOOSIERS is a stirring movie about teamwork, discipline, and second chances that features exciting basketball action and a meticulous re-creation of 1950s Indiana. Hired to coach a small-town high school team, Norm Dale (Gene Hackman) searches for personal redemption in his quest to lead the underdogs of Hickory High School to victory at the state championships. In a memorable scene, Dale gets a lecture from a group of locals on how things are done in Hickory: You need to be a God-fearing man, you must always set a fine example for the boys, and, more importantly, you mustn't mess with the traditional zone defense. With help from assistant coach Shooter (Dennis Hopper), a recovering alcoholic, Dale and his team surprise everyone in Indiana by making it all the way to the state finals.
Is it any good?
Much more than a sports flick, this is a great movie for families to watch and enjoy together. This slice of Americana conforms to the rules of sports movies but manages to transcend the genre. The barest of plots is fleshed out by an electric Gene Hackman, and the renewal of Dennis Hopper's character -- whose emotional wounds are more openly visible than Hackman's -- smartly doubles the redemption factor.
The writing is strong and wonderfully sly. To its credit, Hoosiers gets the details right, starting with the passion that high school basketball elicits. Even the compulsory practice scenes are played with a fervor and realism that is compelling, and the David-vs.-Goliath aspect gives the movie an extra punch. It occasionally succumbs to sports-movie clichés, such as the line "Aren't you the kind who'd rather look for a fight than run away from one?" and there's an obligatory love subplot. But overall this is an outstanding example of a sports movie with positive lessons and lots of heart.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Hoosiers's message. The town initially wants to fire the new coach because he does things differently. Why do so many people fear change? How do you remain open to new possibilities?
This film is a classic underdog tale. Why are such stories so popular? Can you think of any other underdog movies?
How does the team manage to beat such seemingly insurmountable odds? Which qualities do the teammates share?
Families can talk about sports movies. What is appealing about them? Do you ever doubt the outcome? What kinds of feelings do they stir up? How does this one compare to other sports films you've seen?
- In theaters: November 14, 1986
- On DVD or streaming: May 1, 2002
- Cast: Barbara Hershey, Dennis Hopper, Gene Hackman
- Director: David Anspaugh
- Studio: MGM/UA
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Character strengths: Integrity, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic intensity
- Last updated: March 24, 2020
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