One of the saddest things about our times is that heroism and stardom have become so intertwined that we often can't tell them apart. In Hero, Bernie LaPlante is a small-time Chicago thief and hustler. He's a devious, obnoxious, and sour man. The only bright spot in his life is the love of his son who lives with his estranged wife.

One stormy night, a commercial jetliner crashes into a bridge right in front of Bernie's car. Although hesitant to ruin his expensive shoes, Bernie manages to open the door to the airliner, allowing 54 passengers to escape. He then goes into the burning plane and helps several people who are trapped there. One of the persons he reluctantly rescues is Gale Gayley, an award-winning television reporter. Bernie leaves the scene of the disaster and tells his story to John Bubber, a homeless man.

Gale's later account on TV of "The Angel of Flight 104" fuels the public's love affair with the missing hero. When the TV station offers $1 million to anyone who can prove he is the brave man, Bubber seizes the moment and steps forward. Bernie, meanwhile, has been detained in prison. He vows to set the record straight.

The thought-provoking screenplay for Hero was written by David Webb Peoples. The film compels us to consider the dangers of hero worship and the ways in which we expect those we so honor to be more than human. The film also points out that heroism is a complicated matter — often selfishness rather than selflessness lies behind acts of valor. Finally, the characters, played by Dustin Hoffman, Geena Davis, and Andy Garcia, help us see that those closest to us may be the most heroic of all as they provide clumsy proof of the value of love, care, sacrifice, and courage.