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The Outsiders (film)

The Outsiders is a 1983 American coming-of-age drama film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, an adaptation of the 1967 novel of the same name by S. E. Hinton. The film was released on March 25, 1983. 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.[2]

The Outsiders
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrancis Ford Coppola
Produced byGray Frederickson
Fred Roos
Screenplay byKathleen Rowell
Based onThe Outsiders
by S. E. Hinton
Music byCarmine Coppola
CinematographyStephen H. Burum
Edited byAnne Goursaud
Distributed byWarner Bros.
(North America)
Producers Sales Organisation
(current international)
Release date
  • March 25, 1983 (1983-03-25)
Running time
91 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million
Box office$33.7 million

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). Emilio Estevez went on to write and star in That Was Then... This Is Now (1985), the only S. E. Hinton film adaptation not to star Matt Dillon.[3]

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics, most notably the performances, particularly Macchio being singled out for praise, and performed well at the box office, grossing $33.7 million on a $10 million budget.


In the mid-1960s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, greasers are a gang of tough, low-income working-class teens. They include Ponyboy Curtis and his two older brothers, Sodapop and Darrel, as well as Johnny Cade, Dallas Winston, Two-Bit Matthews, and Steve Randle. Their rivalry is with the Socs, a gang of wealthier kids from the other side of town. Two Socs, Bob Sheldon, and Randy Anderson confront Johnny, Ponyboy, and Two-Bit, who are talking to the Socs' girlfriends, Cherry and Marcia, at a drive-in theater. The girls defuse the situation by going home with the Socs. Later that night, Ponyboy and Johnny are attacked in a park by Bob, Randy, and three other Socs. They begin dunking Ponyboy in a fountain attempting to drown him, but Johnny pulls out his switchblade and stabs Bob to death.

On the advice of Dallas, 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, Dallas 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. They go out to get something to eat, then return to find the church on fire with children trapped inside. The Greasers turn into heroes, rescuing the kids from the burning church. It doesn't take long for Ponyboy and Dally to heal up. Johnny, on the other hand, 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 sparked calls from the Socs for "a rumble”. The greasers meet up with Tim Shepard’s gang and arrive at the rumble. The greasers and Socs exchange a few words, and then Dally runs in and punches one. This triggers the beginning, in which the greasers eventually win. After the rumble, Dallas drives an injured Ponyboy to the hospital to visit Johnny. The pair gets pulled over by an officer. He asks them about Ponyboy, in which Dally replies, “The kid fell off his motorcycle.” The officer then gives them an escort to the hospital. They run into Johnny’s hospital room to tell him about the victory, and Johnny is unimpressed by the victory and dies after telling Ponyboy to "stay gold," referring to the Frost poem. Unable to bear Johnny's death, Dallas wanders through the hospital, pretending to shoot a doctor with his unloaded gun, which clicks harmlessly. He then robs a grocery store with the same gun, but he is shot and wounded by the owner as he flees. Pursued by the police, Dallas is eventually surrounded in a park, then shot and killed. 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.


Flea and Nicolas Cage have uncredited cameos as background Socs. Heather Langenkamp 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.[4][5]


Ralph Macchio later stated that during auditions, Coppola “wanted everybody to read for a different role.” [6] 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.”[4] Macchio, however, who auditioned knowing that he wanted the role of Johnny Cade, thinks that his performance as “Johnny,” influenced the development of Daniel LaRusso in his next film, The Karate Kid[4][6] (although Macchio also stated that he felt like an "outsider" during the process, as a New Yorker who didn't know anyone in the group).[7] The casting process led to the debut performances of actors who would be collectively referred to throughout the 80s as part of the Brat Pack: C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez and Tom Cruise.[8] Mickey Rourke, Scott Baio, Dennis Quaid, and Leonardo DiCaprio also auditioned for roles but were not cast.[7]


The house used for filming in the movie, located at 731 Curtis Brothers Lane in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Now a museum featuring props from the movie

The film was shot on location in Tulsa, Oklahoma.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

The pranks that went on during the filming have become legendary, mostly initiated by Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, and Patrick Swayze.[4] The targets were often C. Thomas Howell and Diane Lane.[4] Ralph Macchio was not involved because he was so focused on getting his role right.[4] 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).[4] 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."[4]


Critical responseEdit

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes has a rating of 64% based on 39 reviews. 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."[1] 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."[12]

Authors Janet Hirshenson and Jane Jenkins, in a 2007 book, wrote 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."[13]


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".[14] Francis Ford Coppola was nominated for the Golden Prize at the 13th Moscow International Film Festival.[15]

"The Complete Novel" re-releaseEdit

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".[16]

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 in order 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.[17]

Sequel TV seriesEdit

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.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "The Outsiders (1983)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2019-11-09.
  2. ^ "American Zoetrope: Films". Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  3. ^ "Movies - S.E. Hinton".
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h King, Susan (2018-03-23). "'The Outsiders' Stays Gold at 35: Inside Coppola's Crafty Methods and Stars' Crazy Pranks". Variety. Retrieved 2019-11-09.
  5. ^ "Letters of Note". Letters of Note. Retrieved 2013-03-06.
  6. ^ a b Hiatt, Brian (2019-04-23). "Ralph Macchio on 'Cobra Kai' and the Legend of 'The Karate Kid'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  7. ^ a b Wojciechowski, Michele (2017-04-24). "Ralph Macchio on Being Part of The Outsiders and HBO's The Deuce". Parade. Retrieved 2019-11-09.
  8. ^ Burns, Sean (2019-04-23). "Revisiting 'The Outsiders' After The Immediacy Of Adolescence's Plights Have Passed". WBUR-FM. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  9. ^ "The Outsiders" film, shot in Tulsa, page 1 from
  10. ^ "COMMONWEALTH vs. WILLIAM M. JOYCE (and companion cases)". Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries. Retrieved 2017-08-31.
  11. ^ G. Phillips, Godfather: the intimate Coppola, p. 208
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (1983-03-25). "The Outsiders Movie Review & Film Summary (1983)". Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  13. ^ Janet Hirshenson; Jane Jenkins (November 5, 2007). A Star Is Found: Our Adventures Casting Some of Hollywood's Biggest Movies. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  14. ^ "Young Artist Awards - 1984".
  15. ^ "Francis Ford Coppola Bio". MTV Artists (Beta).
  16. ^ "St. Petersburg Times - Google News Archive Search".
  17. ^ "The Outsiders Blu-ray".

External linksEdit