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.
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. Emilio Estevez went on to be in That Was Then… This Is Now, the only S. E. Hinton film adaptation not to star Matt Dillon.
The movie received mostly positive reviews from critics, and performed well at the box office, grossing $33 million on a $10 million budget.
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 the fact that murderers in Oklahoma will be executed in the electric chair, Ponyboy and Johnny flee on a cargo train, and hide out in an abandoned church in Windrixville. Both boys cut their hair and Ponyboy bleaches his with peroxide in order to change their appearances. To pass the 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 as they rescue 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 has sparked calls from the Socs for “a rumble,” which the Greasers win. Dallas drives Ponyboy to the hospital to visit Johnny. 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 surrounded in a park and shot to death. 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 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