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30 years later, is ‘Hoosiers’ the best sports movie of all time?




Released on Nov. 14, 1986, Hoosiers has been - since the day it hit theaters - a classic that can’t be confined to the ‘80s. But is it the best sports movie of all time? 

Readers of the Los Angeles Times say yes, voting it No. 1 in a 2012 poll. (Rocky was their No. 2 pick.) USA Today’s “For The Win” column also named it to the top spot last year (with Field of Dreams taking second place). Time magazine wouldn’t stick its neck out as far, only including Hoosiers among its list of top 25 sports movies

Why the universal appeal? Perhaps it’s because Hoosiers is based on the real story of Milan High School - there is no town of Hickory in the state - and their run to the Indiana state title in 1954. It could be the appeal of Gene Hackman’s character, who finds himself given a chance to redeem past mistakes in the sport he was born to coach. It definitely doesn’t hurt that the musical score by Jerry Goldsmith gives you chills EVERY TIME you hear it.

Some movies just have the “x factor” and Hoosiers is one of them. But before you begin to quote every scene of the movie as gospel, here are five ways the movie differs from actual history, according to’s “Reel Life” series.

1. Milan High School wasn’t a huge underdog in 1954; the team had made it to the semifinals in the 1952-53 season. 

2. Star player Jimmy Chitwood is based on the real life player Bobby Plump, whose name obviously wasn’t as Hollywood-friendly. In the movie, he sits out half the season in grief over his former coach’s death. In reality, Plump played the whole season.

3. Coach Dale (Hackman) didn’t date a teacher at the school; he was married with two children.

4. Milan’s student manager was named Oliver Jones (close enough to “Ollie” in the movie), but he was strictly an on-bench manager and didn’t make any heroic free-throws. 

5. In the final moments of the game, Jimmy Chitwood is told to act as a decoy until he says “I’ll make it.” In reality, Plump was instructed to take the final shot all along. "The final 18 seconds were the only thing factual in the movie about the Milan-Central game," Plump said during a 1987 interview. "From the time the ball was in bounds after the final timeout, the movie was accurate."

[Last modified: Monday, November 14, 2016 1:17pm]


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