We dare you to watch Hoosiers, the 1986 ode to underdogs starring Gene Hackman as Hickory High School basketball coach Norman Dale, and not get chills or shed a tear or two. Why? Start with the stirring score, which earned composer Jerry Goldsmith an Oscar nomination. Then there’s, well, the score: tiny Hickory High 42, mighty South Bend Central 40, in the Indiana state finals, with the greatest shooter in cinematic history, Jimmy Chitwood, sinking the winning bucket at the buzzer. (This year, a Harvard student figured out that, while “ignoring scrimmages and rapid-fire montages,” Chitwood hit 20 of his 23 shots in the film.) Plus, Dennis Hopper steals several scenes as Shooter, the town drunk turned assistant Hickory High coach. (“We’re gonna run the picket fence at ‘em … Now, boys, don’t get caught watchin’ the paint dry!”) The role got him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. So before next year’s NCAA basketball tournament, we suggest you do yourself a favor: fire up Hoosiers, even if for the 300th time. You’ll be thirsting for March Madness to begin.
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