10 Screenplay Tips From The Greatest Sports Movie Ever – HOOSIERS!


I’ve been feeling bad since I wrote the article last week about the six types of scripts least likely to get you noticed. I got a lot of e-mails from people who were writing those scripts, and boy were they unhappy. I was most affected by those who had written sports movies. I love sports and I love a good sports movie. So my heart goes out to those struggling to get their sports script through a system that just isn’t receptive to the genre. I still believe that the only realistic shot you have of getting your sports spec picked up is to option an interesting true story or write about a compelling sports figure. With the unending number of sports games that have been played throughout time and the number of sports figures that have lived and died on this earth, there are still so many interesting stories that have never been told. With that said, if you’re going to write a sports script, you may as well learn from the best. And Hoosiers is as good as it gets. I’m going to find out what made this script work, as well as pass you a few tips about sports scripts in general. There’s one thing I can’t explain, though. How is it that the writer of this great movie, Angelo Pizzo, has only written TWO PRODUCED MOVIES since???

1) Character over sport! – Easily, one of the biggest mistakes writers make when writing sports movies is focusing on the sport instead of the characters. Remember, audiences don’t care about that final goal, that final shot, or that final touchdown, unless they care about the person making it. You almost want to approach your sports script as a character piece that has sports elements, as opposed to the other way around. Formulate a compelling controversial memorable main character, then feed the sports stuff in there. You see this in Rocky, The Natural, Hoosiers, Bull Durham, and all the best sports movies throughout time. A great main character first!!!

2) Try to give each player on the team small character flaws they must overcome – In a sports movie, it’s essential that each kid have that one clearly defined character flaw that’s holding them back from being the best player they can be. Take the short player in Hoosiers. He doesn’t believe in himself. He thinks of himself as just a practice player. He eventually learns to believe in himself and ends up helping the team win a key game. Every player has to have their own little storyline!

3) You need to give the coach a COACHING FLAW – Same deal. Every sports movie needs that coach who has a flaw that’s preventing him from being the best coach he can be. Gene Hackman’s character refuses to listen to his players. He’s only going to do it HIS WAY. In the last timeout of the championship game, then, we see him overcome this flaw when he allows the kids to run their play instead of his.

4) Every sports movie needs a TEAM PROBLEM – This is some play issue the team can’t seem to get over. Here, it’s the concept of “team.” Don’t dribble the ball up the court and shoot. You HAVE to pass the ball four times before anyone can shoot. This concept is a constant battle throughout the movie, with certain players refusing to go along with it. As a result, it was satisfying when they bought into coach’s game plan and started winning because of it.

5) Write around a sport – If you’re a big sports fan but don’t want to write yet another cliché sports movie about a team or player who overcomes the odds and wins the championship, consider writing about the people surrounding the sport. The reason this works is because it introduces us to a new exciting world we’re unfamiliar with. Cameron Crowe did this famously with sports agent Jerry Maguire. Zallian and Sorkin did it with Moneyball. And more recently, Scott Rothman and Rijav Joseph did it with Draft Day, the number one Black List script, which focused on an NFL general manager during draft day.

6) MIDPOINT SHIFT ALERT – Remember, a midpoint shift is a severe event in the middle of the story that shifts the second half of the movie so it feels different from the first. In most cases, that moment makes things worse for your hero. But here, it actually makes things better. The mid-point shift of Hoosiers is when Jimmy (the star player) announces that he wants to rejoin the team. With Jimmy now on the squad, it’s no longer about becoming a decent team, it’s about winning. It’s about having a legitimate shot at being great!

7) Make the romantic interest a source of conflict – I like when the romantic interest is also one of the main sources of conflict for the main character. You end up killing two birds with one stone. Here, Myra, the vice-principle and main love interest, is the only person in Indiana who hates basketball. Talk about a tough girl to chase if you’re the new basketball coach!

8) Write about the coach – As I watched Hoosiers for the billionth time, I realized something. There are no other truly good basketball movies in sports history (unless you count Air Bud and Love & Basketball). It doesn’t seem to be a sport that lends itself to cinema. I wanted to know how Hoosiers overcame that and not only became the best basketball movie of all time, but the best sports movie of all time. I came to the conclusion that it’s because the main character wasn’t one of the players. It was the coach. This falls in line with my above tip: “Write around the sport.” Concentrating on the coach allows you to tackle problems from the person with the most power over the game. The decisions a coach makes (who to play, who to sit, who to favor, who to discipline, how to train, how to strategize) in addition to the exterior pressures he faces (the way the town wants him to play, the way the manager wants him to play, the way the star player wants to play) typically make him one of the most interesting people to watch. That was definitely the case here.

9) Each game needs to be its own little movie – With each game in your script, you want to create your own little movie with its own specific problem, something the characters will all learn from and, whether they realize it or not, get better from. The first game in Hoosiers, for example, is about the players not listening to the coach. That’s the problem. So what does Coach do? He sits the most egregious player of the bunch, even when the team needs another player on the floor! He’d rather play FOUR players than have someone not listen to him. The problem is solved by the end of the game. The players now realize that it’s the coach’s way or the highway. And highways go on forever in Indiana.

10) Create a compelling goal that works concurrently with the main storyline – If the only question you have for us in your sports movie is, “Will they win the championship?” we’ll get bored. You need other storylines working concurrently with the main one, another goal our main character must achieve. Here, it’s “Getting Jimmy,” the player who many consider to be the best in the state, but who has no interest in playing.

BONUS TIP – Tie your elements together – Where real writing comes into play is when writers learn to tie the elements that make screenplays work together. So in this case, Angelo Pizzo has written in some great conflict between our main character, Coach Dale, and the romantic interest, Myra. He’s also created this great subplot (that I just mentioned) where Coach Dale needs to convince Jimmy to join the team. Individually, both these situations work well, but it’s tying them together that makes them truly powerful. Myra doesn’t like basketball. She believes it’s way more important for Jimmy’s future that he focus on his studies, which is why she doesn’t want him on the team. Therefore, one of the biggest elements of conflict in the movie, Myra, is also the obstacle Coach Dale must get past in order to land Jimmy. That’s great writing!

  • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

    “Hoosiers” greatest sports movie ever?! Ha! There are LOTS of sports movies better than “Hoosiers”: “Happy Gilmore”, “Bull Durham”, “Any Given Sunday”, “The Wrestler”, “The Waterboy”, “Tin Cup,” “Balls of Fury”, “Teen Wolf,” and haven’t even got to “Rocky” and “Raging Bull” yet. Dude, how of step can you possibly be?! “Hoosiers” — ha, not even close the best sports movie of all-time.

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Dont forget field of dreams, for the love of the game, and baseketball.

    • drifting in space

      Also – Remember the Titans, Miracle, Mystery, Alaska, Mighty Ducks (guilty pleasure but it hits on the notes Carson lays out, also, I love hockey).

    • Fistacuffs

      Friday Night Lights!

    • James Inez

      That “Pistol Pete” movie was good when I was a kid. Not sure if I’d think it is still great if I watch it now. And… The Sandlot!!

  • Alex Palmer

    I like the idea of using your “least likely to get noticed” piece, and go through notable exceptions. When you’ve gone through the lot, why not use your “most likely to get noticed” feature as the base for doing a Ten Screenplay Tips for notable failiures in those categories, Matrix Reloaded style?

    • spencerD

      He should do this I do want to see this…….
      When you’ve gone through the lot, why not use your “most likely to get
      noticed” feature as the base for doing a Ten Screenplay Tips for notable failiures in those categories, Matrix Reloaded style? It’s always good to see the failures as well as the one’s that made an impact.

  • Durant Durant

    Carson, is there any chance you review Draft Day in the site? Thanks!

    • Christian Zilko

      He reviewed it in a newsletter a while back

    • Fistacuffs

      He did it in a newsletter I believe.

  • Marlin

    I’m a baseball fan. Being bias, for my favorites I’d go with Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, For the Love of the Game, Major League, The Natural, and don’t forget Eight Men Out. Other unmentioned gems (baseball or otherwise); The Longest Yard, Dodgeball, Bad News Bears. and, WOW, too many to mention. However, baseball bias aside, I do hold Hoosiers high on the list. Reading Carson’s article and thinking about all the sports movies that I love makes me want to write one. To hell with “least likely to get noticed!”

    • drifting in space

      D’oh, how could I forget Major League in my comment above? Blasphemy!

    • James Inez

      The Sandlot.

  • denisniel

    Just to complement to number 8: I remembered a great movie that’s totally around Basketball (because in fact it has nothing to do with basketball, other than the main character being a basketball referee), the one with Billy Crystal “Forget Paris”, where he meets a woman in the French capital while traveling to get his dead father’s body to the US…
    Although it has nothing to do with Basketball, you got some great scenes involving the game, and the whole sports universe surrounding the love story between the two, which works great in that case. Worth checking, it’s a really funny movie with that late 80’s, early 90’s vibe.

  • leitskev

    Excellent points. A thought to add:

    A key aspect to a movie is that it can bring us into unique and interesting worlds we have never visited. Basketball was everything in Indiana in that era, something that was ingrained in its soul, part of its identity. You feel that in this movie. Bull Durham does it well also by bringing us into the bus filled world of the minor league ballplayer.

    If someone has never been to Indiana, after watching this film you come away with a tremendous sense of not only having been there, but even of having grown up there. An incredible accomplishment for a film.

  • martin_basrawy

    Speaking of the type of screenplays that are the least likely to get you noticed… how about one that stars a non-white person?!?
    I know this is a tangent from this Hoosiers article, but I never got around to posting this comment on the original article. So there. :)

    • garrett_h

      I remember reading somewhere on the net that, as a newcomer, not to put a race to your characters unless it affects the story somehow.

      So if you’re writing a period piece like Django or a race-relations piece like Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (or Guess Who?, the Ashton Kutcher/Bernie Mac remake) by all means include race. But if it’s just a straight rom-com, the race won’t matter. Leave it up to casting.

      • martin_basrawy

        yeah that makes sense.
        But so then let’s say that race IS important. Would that relevancy matter? because as long as it’s a non-white lead (say, an indian or Mexican), the chances of getting sold are pretty slim.

        • garrett_h

          Pretty slim, unless you’re Tyler Perry!

          In all seriousness, yeah, you got a point. And it’s a shame. To set up a Mexican-American drama like “A Better Life” (which was terrific), it seems like it has to be one of those inside jobs. You’re the writer-director with connections to producers and a star attached and you take it to the studio yourself. And even then it’s hard. Which really stacks the odds against you if you’re an amateur.

          But I also see so many scripts by amateurs where they list the race of the character and in the grand scheme, it doesn’t really matter what they are. It doesn’t bother me, but I’ve heard readers remark that it “pulls them out of the story” for whatever reason. No need to do that if it’s easily avoidable.

      • TruckDweller

        I’ve always felt this advice was just an industry-wide way of pretending not to be racist. Race effects character, always. No one hesitates to describe characters as rich or poor. The fact that making a non-white male your protagonist limits the sale and audience of your movie is the real reason behind the advice. That’s a world-wide phenomenon, not just United States specific. And it sucks.

        • garrett_h

          Pretending not to be racist may be part of it. But as you state, a non-white non-male protagonist has been perceived to have an affect on how far your movie can go. I’m not sure if anyone has done any in depth study on that, but anecdotal evidence seems to bear it out.

          Then again, domestically speaking, the majority of actors are white. The majority of American’s are white. And they spend more on movies than any other race, with Blacks and Asians bringing up the rear. So it makes sense I guess that most roles go to White’s, for better or worse. Like I said, I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, just the way it is.

          Fortunately, the ever-increasing importance of international box office is starting to change that.

  • Calvin

    Coach Carter (Hoosiers crossed with Stand and Deliver) was another basketball movie that many of these rules apply to, although in this case the coach wasn’t in need of redemption(?) like the coach in Hoosiers.

    Also would you consider the subplot in Hoosiers with Dennis Hopper as the alcoholic that the Gene Hackman made and assistant coach a save the cat type moment? When I think about it there were a lot of characters that I was pulling for to succeed, the coach, his love interest Barbra Hershey, the alcoholic assistant coach, Jimmy the great player who wasn’t playing, the short untalented basketball player, the alcoholic’s son, the town, etc. I guess that goes to giving all your secondary characters a flaw to overcome.

    • AJ

      Most definitely a save the cat type moment. Everyone in town is fed up with the drunk, most of all his son who is also on the team (two characters with flaws evolving around the same problem.).

      The coach also feels shunned by the community, so the drunk is really the only ally he might have because he sees the potential. Cat saved. Then he gets himself thrown out! That is faith. He threw the man into a dramatic pressure cooker of a situation and what happens? He chokes! But his son HELPS HIM by recommending a play! Two flaws getting wrapped up in the same dramatic situation done the way it’s meant to be: A character with a flaw put in a situation that directly tests that flaw.

  • Bifferspice

    no other good basketball films?? white men can’t jump was fantastic!

  • MWire

    I made it to the cutting room floor of HOOSIERS. Three long tedious nights of work as an extra and I don’t show up in a single frame.

    Missed my chance at stardom when they offered me the part of the photographer. He even got a line of dialogue if I remember right but I didn’t want the required burr haircut.

    • Kay Bryen

      God, that’s fascinating as all get-out! Have you been involved in any other productions since? And can you share more on how it was tedious being an extra, because I’ve always felt extras never get the credit they deserve?

      • MWire

        There’s an old saying ‘One of the most exciting days of your life is your first day on a movie set. One of the most boring is the second day.’

        An extra is just one step above a prop or scenery. So we were all dressed, coiffed and plopped into the stands for the big final basketball scene. Then all the complicated business of shooting a movie commenced. And most of that business isn’t filming. Rehearsing, blocking, sound, lights.

        Question: Why doesn’t the Director of Photography ever smoke?
        Answer: Because it takes him 3 hours to light anything.

        Keep in mind that we had ten actors on the court, swirling around like a ballet and it all had to look good on film. Takes a lot of practice to get that right. And the worst of it, the last scene on the last day, 2AM on a school night, the director insisted that the final basket had to be a swish. Nothing but net. You can imagine how long that took.

        A one time, difficult experience but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

        • Jonathan Soens

          Whenever I see somebody sink a certain shot in a basketball movie (or just a basketball scene in a movie/show that isn’t really a sports project), I always wonder about how many takes it took to finally get it to fall like they wanted.

        • Thomas Cleaver

          There’s an old saying ‘One of the most exciting days of your life is
          your first day on a movie set. One of the most boring is the second

          I’ve always heard (and believed) that it’s “The most exciting day of your life is the first minute on a movie set. The most boring day of your life is the second minute.”

        • Confused

          What are you talking about, “extra is one step above prop or scenery”? First of all, props and scenery people are HIRED, and they work on contract.

          Second of all, extras are at the bottom of the food chain in the movie industry, and possibly even all of occupations of the world.

          It’s not a career; it’s a single gig that you do for the set amount of money for that day. They might as well get a homeless person from the street, give him $50 and there’s an extra. Absolutely no difference whether you go called in from NowCasting (or any other website) or picked up on the set.

          It was funny reading your post though. You also probably tell all your friends that you’re ‘an actor’ now.

  • grendl

    My favorite sports movies are “Bull Durham”, “Bad News Bears”, “Rocky”, “Jerry Maguire” and that’s about it. None of them depended on the protagonist winning with a homerun, or touch down catch. Well “Jerry Maguire had that, but it was more about Cuba Gooding not being hurt, and Jerry realizing the win meant nothing without Dorothy Boyd.

    “Hoosiers” didn’t wow me as a script or movie. It seemed cliche, boring in stretches, and the crew cut team looks so similar it was a bit like the prison colony in “Aliens 3″. I couldn’t tell who anyone was and the fact that they were so blandly drawn, I didn’t care when I did. It was so hokey too, and sanctimonious. and humorless.

    “Bull Durham” is the gold standard. I am in awe of Ron Shelton’s script, and the execution of it. Every scene is entertaining, the characters have so much depth, even Nuke who shows growth over the course of the film, turning the tables on Annie and Crash and pulling their leg at the end. “Fear and ignorance.-No not fear and ignorance, you Hayseed” “Nuke, good luck- you too, Meat”. “Annie people can’t see out of their eyelids”

    And Crash comes to the conclusion that not making it back to the show isn’t the end of his life. He accepts his limitations as a good ball player, just not as gifted as Nuke.

    ” She may get woolly. Women do get woolly- No one gets Woolly. People get WEARY “.

    I think “Bull Durham” should be used if they ever give a standardized test to wannabe screenwriters. Which script is better ” Bull Durham” or “Major League”. Anyone who chooses the movie with Charlie Sheen should be escorted to the California border and barred from ever returning. Because “Major League” sucks balls.

    “Bad News Bears”, the first and only one with Walter Matthau is also fantastically written and executed as a film. Morris Buttermakers journey from apathetic alcoholic shlub, to his awakening as a competitor, to his realization that being an asshole like Vic Morrow wasn’t the best lesson to a bunch of young boys and finally playing the scrubs ( like Hackman letting his team pick their play ) was brilliant.

    It’s not whether you win or lose it’s how you play the game. That’s a great lesson, and one that seems lost in today’s winning is everything world. “Rocky” didn’t need to win in that first movie, not the championship belt at least. He found someone to love, like Crash Davis, like Jerry Maguire.

    I think that’s a better message to send an audience when all is said and done, because it’s a message that’s transferable to their own lives, and they don’t have to be in professional sports to appreciate it. A story has to be relevant to an audience to carry real weight, and leave them truly satisfied. A winning homerun fabricated by some screenwriter means nothing. “The Scout” had Brendan Frasier pitching a no hitter in game seven of the World Series for the Yankees. Really believable. Actually empty headed crap. And I always thought “The Natural” was overly sentimental and contrived as well. So Robert Redford just hit a homerun. Big deal. I wish Steve Bartman appeared in one of those movies.

    Oh, and “Bull Durham” and “Bad News Bears” knew how to advance plot with the baseball games. Something happens during the scene to shift the momentum of the team, like a cursed baseball mitt, wondering what to buy Millie and Jimmy for a wedding present, and Crash calling the umpire a word you’re not supposed to call umpires. After that things fall apart and lead to Annie and Nuke possibly having sex again because the winning streak has ended.

    The loss meant something in the personal lives of the characters. And in “Bad News Bears” the win before the World Series with the Yankees, Kelly Leak is stealing all the catches from his fellow outfielders, and even one infielder leading to dissent on the team and showing Buttermaker to be the monster that Vic Morrow is, a win at all costs asshole.

    We need a “Bull Durham” day here. Or “Jerry Maguire”. Those are two of the best scripts in the last thirty years.

  • Linkthis83

    I want Poe_Serling to dress in my place, Carson. He deserves it. I know you are probably going to call me ridiculous and tell me how grendl is one of the top offensive posters on the globe. You will also probably tell me that Serling is already an All-American and a Captain and that I should try to be more like him. Well Carson, I believe I am.

    Link lays his jersey on Carson’s desk. Out in the virtual hallway, a long line of internet posters wait to do the same.

    • Poe_Serling

      Hey Linkthis83-

      Thanks for the kind words and support. To be honest, I’ve never asked Carson to review any of my scripts or paid him for script notes. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I just enjoy visiting the SS site to gleam some useful nuggets of info from C’s articles and to chitchat about scripts/films with other knowledgeable cinephiles.

      So, Link, put that jersey back on, keep fighting for one of those AF slots, and get ready to tip-off with a ten-foot tall grendl. ;-)

      • Linkthis83

        Honestly Poe, I couldn’t believe nobody had mentioned Rudy yet. And when I was thinking of ways to sneak it in, I thought it would be fun and clever to do it this way while paying you some respect. I apologize for not asking permission to use your likeness first. LOL.

        • Poe_Serling

          Zip… your clever nod to the film Rudy went right over my head. ;-)

          Unfortunately, I’ve never took the time to watch Rudy… even though quite a few people have told me it’s a winner.

          • Linkthis83

            I would also encourage you to watch it. It’s also based on a true story.

          • GoIrish

            If I knew the onomatopoeia for a record player screeching, I would be doing it right now (errrhhh??). Admittedly, I’m a little biased, but if you’re not fighting ‘em back by the end of that movie, I’ll buy you a drink at the next Scriptshadow reunion.
            The drinks at those things are free…I know, Gerry. I was being ironical.
            (yeah, I don’t know how a Good Will Hunting reference made its way in here either).

      • garrett_h

        It’s funny. Some of the most active and insightful commenters disappeared once they got (or didn’t get) their chance in the AF spotlight. Guess it’s obvious why they were participating. Glad you’re not one of those!

        (at least, not yet!)

    • grendl

  • Christian Zilko

    Another example of how sports specs can still sell is last year’s Trouble With The Curve. Anyone who saw it knows it was boring and predictable, but an amateur wrote it on spec. Obviously it was only made because of Clint Eastwood, but Randy Brown showed us a slightly different angle of baseball and wrote a character that apparently Eastwood found interesting. There is still hope!

  • Poe_Serling

    “There are no other truly good basketball movie…”

    This is going to put a major dent in my tough guy image, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the Robby Benson basketball flick One on One (1977).

    “Henry Steele is a basketball phenom at his small town high school, but when he matriculates to a big city university on a scholarship, soon realizes that he has few skills outside the sport.”

    When I was growing up, this film was always playing on the tube… the ending where Benson ‘sticks’ it his coach is still a classic in my book.

    ***Plus, Robby Benson was sorta the Justin Bieber of the ’70s. ;-)

    • Jonathan Soens

      That statement about there being no other good basketball movies caught my eye too.

      Maybe I’ll have to re-watch some of them to see if they’re worse than I remember, but I recall liking some of them quite a bit.

      I remember loving “Blue Chips,” with Nick Nolte as a college coach whose program is sinking into murky depths with corrupt recruiting practices.

      I rather enjoyed “He Got Game” too, although I suspect that one hasn’t aged well (what with a lot of Spike Lee’s stylistic choices that just seem silly to me now, not to mention questionably casting an NBA player as the co-lead because I guess the basketball scenes needed to work more than the acting needed to work).

      • leitskev

        I was going to suggest Blue Chips too. It’s not a big budget film, but it’s on TV still a lot, so it must have an audience.

      • Jerry Salvaderi

        I watched He Got Game again on HBO last week and it still holds up. My biggest beef was the whole subplot between Denzel and the hooker. The scenes did nothing for the plot, only minimally fleshed out Denzel’s character by adding another dimension to him, and still somehow seemed to command 30 minutes of screen time.

        Ray Allen’s acting was wooden to be sure, but to me it still worked. The only scene I cringed at was the first time Denzel walks into the apartment Jesus shares with his little sister. Ray Allen clunks his way through that scene.

      • garrett_h

        My bro and our friends would watch Blue Chips all the damn time in Jr. High and H.S., back when we all thought we were going to the NBA. Still an awesome movie IMO. He Got Game too.

        I also liked Coach Carter and Glory Road. They were somewhat cliche, but still entertaining to me.

        It’s funny you mention the terrible acting by NBA star Ray Allen in He Got Game. Blue Chips had some real NBA/College players in it. Shaq stole the show, and Penny Hardaway was convincing as well. Bobby Hurley and Calbert Cheaney were on the court but they did well in their b-ball scenes. Few other players/coaches were in it too. That’s one of the things I liked most about it.

        Maybe Spike saw that and thought he could pull the same thing off. He had a bunch of real life players and coaches in HGG, but they were all pretty bad actors to me. Even on the court.

        • Jonathan Soens

          Well, I’d have to re-watch to be sure, but I suspect those players in Blue Chips weren’t particularly good actors. They were used in a way that played better, though, because they were mostly playing unemotional phony kids.

          It’s one thing to take someone who can’t really act and ask them to play a kind of cold, wooden, unemotional kid taking part in the phony recruiting process (hearing pitches, receiving praise, while they coldly wait to hear how much cash the school will give them, and what kind of car they’ll give their mom and what kind of tractor they’ll give their dad).

          It’s another thing to ask someone who can’t act to have to face off against an actor like Denzel Washington in emotional scenes about a kid confronting his abusive father for stealing his childhood and killing his mother.

          Like I said, I still liked it and thought it was a good movie. I just suspect it’d be tougher to watch all these years later now that I’m arguably more critical and less forgiving about certain aspects of films.

    • Marlin

      Wow, thanks for the reminder. I forget all about One on One. Thinking back, I remember it making a somewhat small impact on me. Although Robbie Benson seemed like a pouty little bitch to me, for some reason the movie stuck in my head for a long time after seeing it.

  • Kay Bryen

    Could one of the reasons sports movies are Box Office kryptonite be the fact that they lose two of their four quadrants even before hitting “FADE IN”? I’m referring of course to the female audience. Even a Spurs girl like me who’s crazy about soccer, couldn’t sit through “GOAL!”

    I used to think it’s because I have zero interest in American sports, but Moneyball almost made me give a damn about baseball. Almost.

    The cop-out compromise would be to make it a rom-com or thriller with sport playing only a supporting role (there’s reason ‘love’ comes first in *Love and Basketball*.

    • drifting in space

      Ah, yes. I’m reminded of Fever Pitch and 17 Again. I actually liked both of these movies, with sports playing the supporting role. There are many others but these came to mind immediately after reading your post.

    • Fistacuffs

      Have you seen Bull Durham? Another great baseball movie.

    • MaliboJackk

      Forget sports.
      You need to tell us about your “paranormal encounters”.

      • Poe_Serling

        lol. Yeah, forget the TV pilot review tomorrow… Carson needs to clear that Wednesday slot and put in Ghost Adventures with Kay.

        • drifting in space

          I’m all for this, especially following up after The Conjuring this weekend.

  • http://www.twitter.com/esporter Evan Porter

    What, no love for Mighty Ducks? C’mon.

    • FilmingEJ

      Heh, it’s not flawless, but it’s one solid piece of entertainment. Plus, Estevez’s haircut has always baffled me.

  • TruckDweller

    I bet you could apply these rules to any movie where diverse characters must come together under one person to accomplish a goal. I wish I had time to analyze that, but I’m betting astronaut movies, some business movies and even disaster movies follow these principles. There’s probably a greater over arching name for these type of films but I can’t think of it off the top of my head. Anyway, back to work.

    Great analysis of a great film, Carson!

  • craktactor

    One film not mentioned here but deserves much kudos is Goon. It hits every element Carson has pointed out for Hoosiers. It is, for a hockey fan such as I, brilliant. On many levels.

    Though it didn’t do well at the BO, aside from doing really well in Canada (which was expected), it is one of those low-budget Indie gems that deserves more than it’s gotten. It’s on Netflix. Watch it. You will NOT be disappointed.

  • ThomasBrownen

    I love that Air Bud got a shout out from Carson. Talk about high concept. Next up: Air Sharknado.

  • D.C. Purk

    My favorite sports movie is Moneyball. Fantastic Steve Zaillian/Aaron Sorkin script, beautiful direction, and wonderful acting all around. It takes the underdog sports premise and adds a very intriguing perspective: using math to build a baseball team, and the idea that reliable nobodies getting on base is more important than overpaid celebrities trying for home runs. Plus it’s a true story. Can’t beat that.

  • Jerry Salvaderi

    Another great example for #5 is He Got Game.

    You are oddly right about the dearth of great basketball movies, although nostalgia compels me to mention Space Jam.

    The best basketball “movie” I’ve ever seen was a documentary, HOOP DREAMS. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

  • leitskev

    You shouldn’t really compare Bull with Major League. They’re such completely different animals. If you accept Major for what it’s meant to be, just a popcorn comedy, it’s a fun movie. It’s silly but that’s all it’s intended to be.

    No one’s mentioned it, but I actually think The Fighter is a really solid film, and the original script was also very good.

    • grendl

      Honestly I don’t know how someone who appreciates the writing and execution of “Bull Durham”can see “Major League” as anything but the lame, pandering piece of crap it is.

      I don’t have the ability to enjoy both. And I’m not entirely certain the ability to shut off the part of the brain which Bull Durham caters to in order to enjoy “Major League” is a great trait to have.

      I mean I suppose it’s good in that you can enjoy a wider range of movies. But from a discerning standpoint, I find it problematic.

      I don’t like movies which just aspire to silliness I guess. Unless its Marx or Zucker Brothers, or Mel Brooks but even he doesn’t get a free pass.

      Robin Hood Men in Tights compared to Young Frankenstein? There is no comparison. Good is good. Crap is crap.

      • leitskev

        It’s not necessary to shut off any part of one’s brain. It’s merely going in with the right attitude. Plenty of people have enjoyed the Three Stooges over the years. Count me as one. Major League requires a similar appreciation. There’s nothing problematic with enjoying both the Three Stooges and Citizen Kane. There’s nothing problematic…or threatening…about enjoying Major League and Bull Durham.

        I’ve seen several Hitchcock movies, and I am basically a fan. But I had never seen Vertigo until recently. And WTF…it’s garbage. That’s a bit strongly stated, but it’s not a good film. The first half of the film draaaaaaaaags. And no, I am not one of those people that requires bombs and other noise induced adrenalin. It draaaags because nothing remotely interesting happens. I mean the mystery with the woman is interesting, but the film stretches a penny into a dollar.

        The second half suddenly picks up, but it’s so convoluted and contrived for the life of me I don’t understand how any logic wielding human is not offended.

        But…that’s the movie game! Very subjective.

        • grendl

          I think you have to go into “Vertigo” with the right attitude.

          I don’t believe you did. Maybe you need to change your attitude and not expect so much.

          See how that works?

  • Writer451

    David Breitman’s website has a funny article titled “How to Make a Formulaic Sports Movie.” It’s a fun read.

  • Linkthis83

    Hmmm….this is an interesting scene. I wonder if it has any implied meaning.

    • Poe_Serling

      lol. There’s no hidden subtext in that message from grendl.

      • Linkthis83

        None that I could find. Unless the rancor represents Notre Dame football and the guard represents Rudy. lol.

        • Poe_Serling

          ” Unless the rancor represents Notre Dame football and the guard represents Rudy.”

          Haha – not even close. ;-)

          • Linkthis83

            I’m pretty sure that’s what he was going for. There’s no way it represents what he would do to me if we both stepped into a ring. That’s too obvious. Grendl doesn’t like obvious. ;)

          • grendl

            It’s actually a reference to Carson the Hutt and Miss Scriptshadow, atop the Rancor’s den.

            They do so enjoy bloodsport.

  • Carson D

    “There are no other truly good basketball movies in sports history”

    You better not be dissing my Space Jam.

  • Fanny Spanker

    Hoosiers is a great film for sure; but would it get made today? Who knows; and if it did it would most likely suck. Probably have an alien invading basketball team (keep the geeks happy). Didn’t read the article as I’m not a fan of articles discussing ‘tips’ and such, but if it helps people that’s a good thing (do we really need another sports film – we’re into biopic sports flicks now: thinking Lance Armstrong who has two in development: LOVE YA LANCE!!!) –

    Hate to be a stickler, but this article starts out with a basic grammatical error: ‘I’ve been feeling bad since…’ It’s BADLY. A common error.

    • drifting in space

      Hoosiers would only get made today if it was a team of scrappy robots vs. a cast of superheroes with a little kid ghost as the referee. In the future. Ryan Reynolds could star.

      • Linkthis83

        Don’t forget that you need Adam Sandler yelling “That’s a technical foul!”

        (Eight Crazy Nights anyone?)

  • Kosta K

    VARSITY BLUES taught me everything I know about football, speeches and whip cream bikinis.

    • John B


  • John B

    Hoosiers is the only good basketball movie ever? Really? Really? Really, Carson? Apparently someone has never seen Space Jam!

  • Bfied

    I don’t know what it is, but for me personally, sport movies are incredibly difficult to enjoy… and this is coming from someone who’s OBSESSED with sports and who’s own writing-kryptonite is ESPN…

    Love sports, love movies even more, but for some reason the two just don’t blend for me.

    • Jonathan Soens

      Yeah, it gets tough. Being a sports nut sometimes works against your ability to enjoy it because you’ll pick up on everything the writer got wrong.

      It’s why I thought that recent hot script dealing with the NFL Draft was kind of terrible, because it got so, so many things wrong about how the draft works (and what kinds of trades would be possible to pull off) and how the story would have been perceived if it played out that way in real life.

      • drifting in space

        This is why I absolutely HATE HATE HATE Goon and yet somehow it scores 82% on RT. Hockey is my favorite sport and they basically shit all over the image of it.

        • craktactor

          Have you ever played hockey on a semi-pro or professional level? Goon comes closer to anything I’ve ever seen to this juncture. And it was a love letter to the game through JayBaruchel. Too bad you didn’t get that. But your opinion is noted.

  • angrygizmo

    While I liked the list of 6 types of screenplays to avoid, I think the sports category needs to exclude baseball. There are just too many successful fictional baseball movies:

    Bull Durham, The Natural, For Love of the Game, Field of Dreams, Bad News Bears, The Sandlot, Major League, A League of their Own, Trouble with the Curve, Fever Pitch, Angels in the Outfield, Mr. Baseball.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    Forget Paris has basketball in it.

    • Jonathan Soens

      Just caught part of this on HBO (or something) recently. And the basketball stuff worked pretty well, I thought. While we’ve all seen bad sports movies that were undermined by casting an actor who isn’t believable as an athlete, it was funny because Crystal is believable as a ref.

      Writing about a ref/umpire/official is actually kind of a sneaky way in to deal with the sports world.

      I’d love to see a movie about an NFL ref.

      • Jerry Salvaderi

        How about a comedy about a replacement NFL ref?

  • andyjaxfl

    I wouldn’t say Major League is complete garbage. Sure, it is ripe with cliches but it’s still enjoyable because of the cast. And who can honestly say they expected Jake Taylor to bunt at the end?

    Having said that though, I 100% agree with you about Bull Durham. Best sports movie ever. Have you ever listened to Ron Shelton’s DVD commentary? If not, it’s worth listening to on a boring Saturday afternoon. He explains almost every story decision he made and the efforts he went through to make it unlike any sports movie ever made to that point.

  • Writer451

    I’m not sure why sports and movies are difficult to mix, but I suspect the answer lies somewhere within an analysis of professional wrestling; it purports to be spontaneous and unpredictable like sports, but it’s scripted like a movie. With sports you don’t have to suspend your disbelief to enjoy it… unless you’re a Detroit Lions fan. haha!

  • Jonathan Soens

    I think an interesting trick for Suggestion #1 (emphasizing characters over the sport) is that you can kind of accomplish paying proper respect to the sport by just having a character be the one who places the sport on a pedestal. The movie itself doesn’t have to be a love letter to the sport, but you can still have a character kind of write their own love letter to the sport within the movie.

    Case in point: I’ve had a number of baseball-loving friends come to me and kind of sheepishly recommend “For Love of the Game” to me, saying they were surprised how much they liked it. Now, as a movie, it really strays away from the sport quite a bit. It’s more of a story about the romance/pursuit between a ballplayer and the single mother he falls for. The story has a lot of things going on outside of baseball (and in fact it kind of makes the game a sort of a villain, because it’s the game that is keeping the ballplayer from being able to join the woman in building a new life together).

    But what sucks the sports fans in is that the character places the game on a pedestal. So while it’s not a movie about the majesty of the sport, it still pays its respect to the people who see it that way because it features a character who sees the game that way.

  • Midnight Luck

    IMDB is now saying JJ is NOT leaving Star Wars 7……

  • carsonreeves1

    if you’re going to write a fictional sports movie, i agree that the way to go is either baseball or boxing.

  • GoIrish

    I seem to recall being a fan of the Fish that Saved Pittsburgh when I was younger (but haven’t seen it in probably 25 years). I also thought Rebound: The Legend of Earl “The Goat” Manigault was pretty good, but that might appeal more to basketball fans than a general audience.

    I think one of the issues with basketball movies is the height of the players. A lot of the movies focusing on the professional level don’t feel authentic because the players aren’t as tall as an NBA player. Perhaps that’s one reason why Hoosiers is more successful – high school players don’t need to be tall.

    As far as non-basketball movies, my nieghbor growing up was a huge fan of Amazing Grace and Chuck (with NBA star Alex English). The story focused on a little league player quitting his team in protest of nuclear weapons (I ask you, is there a more compelling goal for a script than global nuclear disarmament?). I remember thinking at the time that my neighbor had questionable taste in movies, and judging by the 29% score on RT, I don’t think I was far off.

  • Robin the Boy Wonder

    Greatest sports movie my ass!

    Clearly, Carson hasn’t seen Dr. J in “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.”


  • klmn

    Not even close, my friend. The greatest sports movie ever is Enter The Dragon. Bruce Lee enters a martial arts tournament and kicks everyone’s ass and finishes it off by killing the sponsor of the competition! Now that’s cool.

    For Hoosiers to be that good, the Hoosiers would have to kill the president of the NCAA. Now I’d pay money to see that.

    • Marlin

      Better yet the whole NCAA mafia!

  • Cfrancis1

    Holy freakin’ cow. Vertigo is one of my favorite movies of all time. I think the first half is really intriguing and strange. I know it breaks a lot of screenwriting rules but I still think it’s a a tragic, haunting and beautiful movie.

    • leitskev

      Hey, Francis, my remarks were not directed at anyone, hope you didn’t take offense. I began being intrigued by the reincarnation angle. But like I said, they stretched a penny into a dollar. An example is that scene where he follows her in the car to the department store. What was the G-d damned point of dragging that out? I think the idea was to create a sense of the world pressing in on him, but it doesn’t come off. There’s no tension, risk or danger, so it becomes a pointless drive through the city.

      Yes, the story becomes dark and tragic…but convoluted. I found it impossible to buy into the plot. It was like some crazy uncle at dinner telling a story that no one believes and everyone is trying to be polite.

  • sheebshag

    The greatest basketball movie ever is Hoop Dreams.

  • rl1800

    Slap Shot. When the Hanson brothers finally take the ice — God was that funny. “Jesus, what did the old man trade for these assholes, a used puck bag?”

  • leitskev

    That’s possible, since I went in knowing where the film ranks. But after I watched the film, I looked it up and found that critics at the time the film came out said pretty much the same thing.

    I went into Citizen Kane knowing the high regard for the film…and my expectations were more than met. The power of that story blew me away.

    But I won’t be watching Vetigo again. I’d rather go for a root canal. I think the people that like that film are film school teachers looking for certain very technical things. They’re so absorbed in it that the can’t see the overall picture, which is one of a lousy story.

    (I did not give you the down arrow.)

  • drifting in space

    No, I haven’t played on a professional level. You’ve got me there.

    However, if it was his love letter to the game, it’s a theme professional hockey is trying to avoid. Hockey has very little to do with the goon role anymore.

    It also wasn’t close to Slap Shot, so admittedly, I checked out pretty early.

  • Thomas Cleaver

    Just curious if you’ve ever watched “Downhill Racer,” my nominee for Best Sports Movie Ever. Redford’s character was so out-of-the-ordinary back then, and to watch it today you are watching the prototype of the Standard Issue Sports Hero Asshole we all know and don’t love today, despite their near-universal ubiquity. I’m always amazed that Redford, coming off the success of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” would answer every one who said “what do you want to do now?” by slapping this screenplay down on the desk with a strong “This!” It’s one of those movies that only gets better with time, like a fine wine. Oh, it also has Gene Hackman in one of his first roles, playing a coach also, but not quite the same kind. Bet you can’t even recognize Dabney Coleman in it.

  • klmn

    Have you seen Little Fauss and Big Halsy? Redford also plays a sports hero asshole in that one. It may be hard to find this one, as there is a story that Redford used his influence to block DVD sales.

    Make sure you get the original edit, as Lauren Hutton makes the best entrance ever in a movie. Those who have seen it will know what I’m talking about.

  • fragglewriter

    I haven’t seen Hoosiers but I will watch it before I finish writing my sports movie LOL