The Outsiders is a 1983 American coming-of-age drama film directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The film is an adaptation of the 1967 novel of the same name by S. E. Hinton and was released on March 25, 1983 in the United States. Jo Ellen Misakian, a librarian at Lone Star Elementary School in Fresno, California, and her students were responsible for inspiring Coppola to make the film.
The film is noted for its cast of up-and-coming stars, including C. Thomas Howell (who garnered a Young Artist Award), Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, and Diane Lane. The film helped spark the Brat Pack genre of the 1980s. Both Lane and Dillon went on to appear in Coppola's related film Rumble Fish; Dillon and Estevez also starred in Tex (1982). Estevez went on to write and star in That Was Then... This Is Now (1985), the only Hinton film adaptation not to star Dillon.
The film received mostly positive reviews from critics, most notably the performances, particularly Macchio being singled out for praise, though audiences gave a negative reception to its runtime. The film performed well at the box office, grossing $33.7 million on a $10.0 million budget.
In the mid-1960s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, greasers are a gang of tough, low-income working-class teens. They include Ponyboy Curtis (C. Thomas Howell) and his two older brothers, Darrel "Darry" Curtis (Patrick Swayze) and Sodapop "Soda" Curtis, (Rob Lowe), as well as Johnny Cade (Ralph Macchio), Dallas "Dally" Winston (Matt Dillon), Keith "Two-Bit" Matthews (Emilio Estevez), and Steve Randle (Tom Cruise). Their rivals are the Socs (pronounced "SO-shiz" /ˈsoʊʃɪz/, short for Socials), a gang of wealthier kids from the other side of town. As Ponyboy is walking home one day, a group of Socs in a car start following him. They get out of the car and jump Ponyboy. One of the Socs pulls a switchblade out and leave a small cut on the right side of Ponyboy's neck. Ponyboy is then rescued by the Greasers.
The next night, Ponyboy, Johnny, Dally, and unknown to them, Two-Bit, go to a drive-in theater, where Dally hits on Sherri "Cherry" Valance (Diane Lane). Cherry tells Dally to get lost. Soon, she meets Ponyboy, who was sitting behind the girls with Johnny and Dally. Ponyboy knows who Cherry is because she goes to the same school as him and is a cheerleader. After Johnny stops Dally from hitting on Cherry, Marcia lets him and Ponyboy sit with them. Two-Bit appears and flirts with Marcia. As Ponyboy and Cherry are getting popcorn and soda, Ponyboy explains to her that Johnny got beat up by a Soc a couple months ago and that the Soc had rings. Later on, two Socs, Bob Sheldon (Leif Garrett) and Randy Anderson (Darren Dalton), confront Ponyboy, Johnny, and Two-Bit, who are talking to Bob's girlfriend, which turns out to be Cherry and Randy's girlfriend, which turns out to be Marcia. The girls defuse the situation by going home with the Socs.
A little while later, Ponyboy and Johnny then talk in a lot, and fall asleep. After they wake up, Ponyboy comes home and Darrel loses his temper and shoves him, causing Ponyboy to run away. Ponyboy and Johnny take a walk through the park to calm down, but soon after meet Bob, Randy, and three other Socs, all drunk. They once again confront them about talking to their girlfriends. After Bob says that Greasers are white trash with long, greasy hair and Ponyboy says that Socs are white trash with mustangs and madras, the Socs chase, then attack the two boys. They begin dunking Ponyboy in a fountain attempting to drown him, but Johnny pulls out his switchblade and fatally stabs Bob, which causes Randy and the others to run off.
On the advice of Dally, and knowing that murder in Oklahoma is punishable by death, Ponyboy and Johnny flee on a cargo train, and hide out in an abandoned church in Windrixville. To change their appearances, both boys cut their hair while Ponyboy bleaches his with peroxide. To pass time, the boys play poker and Ponyboy reads Gone with the Wind and quotes the Robert Frost poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay". After a few days, Dally arrives with news that Cherry has offered to support the boys in court, that he told the police that Johnny and Pony were in Texas, and gives Pony a note from Sodapop, saying that Darrel is sorry and asking them to come home. They go out to get something to eat, then return to find the church on fire with children trapped inside. The Greasers rescue the kids from the burning church, but Johnny and Dally are injured in the process. Dally heals quickly, but Johnny ends up with a broken back and severe burns. The boys are praised for their heroism, but Johnny is charged with manslaughter for killing Bob, while Ponyboy may be sent to a boys' home.
Bob's death sparks calls from the Socs for "a rumble". On the day of the rumble, Randy talks to Ponyboy in his car at Tasty Frazee and explains he has no interest in participating in the rumble. However, he said that he never expected a Greaser to do such a heroic thing like saving a bunch of children from a burning church. Later on, Ponyboy and Two-Bit visit Dally in his room and Dally cuts himself in anger, saying they have to win the rumble for Johnny.
Later that night, the Greasers meet up with Tim Shepard's gang and arrive at the rumble site. The Greasers and Socs exchange a few words, and then Dally arrives just before the rumble begins, which the Greasers eventually win. After the rumble, Dally drives an injured Ponyboy to the hospital to visit Johnny. When he is stopped for speeding by a police officer, Dally tells him that Ponyboy "fell off his motorcycle", and the officer provides them with an escort. They enter Johnny's hospital room to tell him about the Greasers' victory in the rumble, but Johnny is unimpressed with the win and dies after telling Ponyboy to "stay gold", referring to the Frost poem.
Unable to bear Johnny's death, Dally wanders through the hospital, pretending to shoot a doctor with his empty gun. He then robs a grocery store, but he is shot and wounded by the owner as he flees. Pursued by the police, Dally is eventually surrounded in a park and then commits suicide by cop by pointing his empty gun at the officers, causing them to shoot him dead.
Ponyboy is eventually cleared of wrongdoing in Bob's death and allowed to stay with his brothers. Turning the pages of Johnny's copy of Gone with the Wind, Ponyboy finds a letter from Johnny saying that saving the children was worth sacrificing his own life. The story ends with Ponyboy writing a school report about his experiences.
- C. Thomas Howell as Ponyboy Curtis
- Matt Dillon as Dallas "Dally" Winston
- Ralph Macchio as Johnny Cade
- Patrick Swayze as Darrel "Darry" Curtis
- Rob Lowe as Sodapop Curtis
- Emilio Estevez as Keith "Two-Bit" Matthews
- Tom Cruise as Steve Randle
- Glenn Withrow as Tim Shepard
- Diane Lane as Sherri "Cherry" Valance
- Leif Garrett as Robert "Bob" Sheldon
- Darren Dalton as Randy Anderson
- Michelle Meyrink as Marcia
- Tom Waits as Buck Merrill
- William Smith as Store Clerk
Additionally, Nicolas Cage, Flea and Melanie Griffith have uncredited cameos as background Socs. Heather Langenkamp, prior to her breakout role as Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street, was cast to play Evie, Steve's girlfriend, but her scenes were cut from the final film. Television writer and showrunner Trey Callaway also has an uncredited speaking role as "Soc in Concession Stand."
Francis Ford Coppola had not intended to make a film about teen angst until Jo Ellen Misakian, a school librarian from Lone Star Elementary School in Fresno, California, wrote to him on behalf of her seventh and eighth grade students about adapting The Outsiders.
The casting process led to the debut or star-making performances of actors who would be collectively referred to throughout the 80s as the Brat Pack: C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez and Tom Cruise. Mickey Rourke, Scott Baio, Dennis Quaid also auditioned for roles but were not cast. Producer Fred Roos, a frequent collaborator with Coppola, was partially responsible for the film's casting. In particular, he scouted Patrick Swayze based on his performance in the roller skating movie Skatetown, U.S.A. (1979).
Ralph Macchio stated that during auditions, Coppola "wanted everybody to read for a different role." He said that Coppola had all of the actors "in one room watching each other audition...It’s brutal because you’re becoming self-conscious of any choices because you’re watching reactions based on other actors and watching the filmmakers and how they respond because you’re all trying to get the job. For Francis, it was about mixing and matching the ensemble, saying 'Dennis Quaid, you read this, and Rob Lowe, you read that.'" As a New Yorker who didn't know any of the other actors auditioning, Macchio also stated that he felt like an outsider during the process.
The film was shot on location in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Filming took place from March 29 to May 15, 1982. A newspaper, used to show a story about the three greasers saving the kids in The Outsiders, includes a real story from 1982 regarding the death of a man hit by a train in Boston. Coppola's craving for realism almost led to disaster during the church-burning scene. He pressed for "more fire", and the small, controlled blaze accidentally triggered a much larger, uncontrolled fire, which a downpour doused.
A total of two hours and 13 minutes of footage were shot before editing, where it was brought down to 91 minutes on the theatrical cut, and 114 minutes on 'The Complete Novel' re-release.
The pranks that went on during the filming have become legendary, mostly initiated by Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, and Patrick Swayze. The targets were often C. Thomas Howell and Diane Lane. Ralph Macchio was not involved because he was so focused on getting his role right. The author of the original novel, S.E. Hinton, was involved during the filming as she and Coppola wrote the screenplay together (and appeared as the nurse at the end of the film). She also later stated that she served as an informal "den mother" to many of the actors, as she was "close to all of them."
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes has a rating of 63% based on 40 reviews, with an average score of 6.06/10. The site's consensus reads, "The cracks continue to show in Coppola's directorial style, but The Outsiders remains a blustery, weird, and fun adaptation of the classic novel." Roger Ebert awarded the film two and a half out of four stars, citing problems with Coppola's vision, "the characters wind up like pictures, framed and hanging on the screen." Metacritic gave the film a score of 41, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
The film's casting directors Janet Hirshenson and Jane Jenkins, wrote in a 2007 book that the film's realistic portrayal of poor teenagers "created a new kind of filmmaking, especially about teenagers — a more naturalistic look at how young people talk, act, and experience the world. This movie was one of the few Hollywood offerings to deal realistically with kids from the wrong side of the tracks, and to portray honestly children whose parents had abused, neglected, or otherwise failed them."
Stéphane Delorme, in his book on Coppola, wrote : "The Outsiders is a wonder. And wonder is also the subject of the film. 'Stay Gold', says the song over the title credits. (...) The artificiality of the rural setting, which is as fake as in The Night of the Hunter, places us in the distant, mythical past. It takes only dye to turn these blond heads into golden heads, and thus to go from nostalgia for one's youth in the 1960s to a general regret for a golden age."
The Outsiders was nominated for four Young Artist Awards, given annually since 1978 by the Young Artist Foundation. C. Thomas Howell won for "Best Young Motion Picture Actor in a Feature Film". Diane Lane was nominated for "Best Young Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture". The film was nominated for "Best Family Feature Motion Picture". Francis Ford Coppola was nominated for the Golden Prize at the 13th Moscow International Film Festival.
"The Complete Novel" re-release
In September 2005, Coppola re-released the film on DVD, including 22 minutes of additional footage and new music, as a 2-disc set called The Outsiders: The Complete Novel. Coppola re-inserted some deleted scenes to make the film more faithful to the book. At the beginning of the film, he added scenes where Ponyboy gets stalked and jumped, the gang talks about going to the movies, Sodapop and Ponyboy talking in their room and Dally, Pony and Johnny bum around before going to the movies. In the end, Coppola added the scenes taking place in court, Mr. Syme talking to Ponyboy, and Sodapop, Ponyboy and Darry in the park. Also, much of the original score was replaced with music popular in the 1960s as well as new music composed by Michael Seifert and Dave Padrutt. The film was re-rated by the MPAA as PG-13 for "violence, teen drinking and smoking, and some sexual references".
Disc 2 of the DVD includes some special features, featuring behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast & crew, readings from the novel, additional deleted scenes, the original theatrical trailer, and an NBC News Today segment from 1983 talking about how The Outsiders has inspired teenagers across the world.
The director also removed three scenes that were in the theatrical version to improve pacing. Those scenes being: Ponyboy and Johnny looking at their reflections in the lake and talking about their hair, attempting to catch a rabbit, and playing poker. They can be found on the second disc as additional scenes along with other deleted scenes that were filmed but not put into the movie. In addition, Swayze, Macchio, Lane, and Howell gathered at Coppola's estate to watch the re-release, and their commentary is included on the DVD. Dillon and Lowe provided separate commentary.
A Blu-ray edition of The Outsiders: The Complete Novel was released in Region 1 on June 3, 2014.
The Outsiders: The Television Series
A television series based on the characters of the novel and film aired in 1990. It consists of a different cast playing the same characters. It picks up right after the events of the film's ending but lasted only one season.
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