The Outsiders

The Outsiders (1983)

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Based on the 1967 novel of the same name by S. E. Hinton, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders would launch the careers of the so-called 80s brat pack. But, despite a who’s who of talent on the screen, including Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe and a young Tom Cruise, the movie belongs to Thomas C Howell, Matt Dillon and Ralph Macchio, and the stunning cinematography of Stephen H. Burum.

Francis Ford Coppola’s exquisite journey into the no-mans-land between childhood and adulthood writhes with themes of class struggle, gang culture, brotherly love and confusion – its razor-sharp edge a world away from the dulcet tones of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Stay Gold’ that open the film. The place is Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the date is the early 1960s. Here two gangs, the greasers and the socs, find their allegiances and lives divided by wealth, educational opportunity, and family surname. But that doesn’t stop Ponyboy Curtis (C Thomas Howell) from falling for Cherry Valance (Diane Lane), a soc in all but name. But before you think this is a simple rewrite of West Side Story, Ponyboy’s best friend, Johnny (Ralph Macchio), accidentally kills a soc in self-defence.

Dally (Matt Dillon) gives them cash and tells Johnny and Ponyboy to get out of town, leading the boys to a dangerous abandoned church where love, heroism and tragedy await. The Outsiders is at its strongest when discussing the interface between poverty, racism and opportunity. Here the fault lines that still divide the United States are laid bare as we witness two boys explore the social barriers and the restricted opportunities surrounding them. As they hide in a church, it’s the poetry of Robert Frost and the words of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind that offer solace, the first offering a discussion on the fleeting beauty of youth and the second the nature of chivalry and masculinity. Johnny and Ponyboy are not just friends or gang acquaintances; they are two sides of the same coin and brothers in all but blood.

United States | 1hr 31mins | 1983


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