Hoosiers has long been pegged as a seminal sports film, and it’s that, but it’s really a story about an egomaniacal man with a history of violence who finds a quiet unassuming spot on the map where he will be anonymous, thus freeing him to give life another shot. It’s all over his face in the moment where the man who gave him his second chance questions his motives early on in the film. “I know what I’m doing,” he responds, showing a confidence that quickly drains from his face as his thoughts turn to a past that has left him shaken and uncertain.
Tucked away behind the scores and team triumphs is a character who is filled with rage, quietly questioning himself at every turn as he pushes forward fueled by guilt and self-actualization. “I never met anybody who wanted to win as badly as I did,” he says at one point, more a confession than a point of pride. It’s one of Gene Hackman’s finest performances.