Based on the popular 1967 book written by fifteen-year-old author, S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders offered a story of a group of rebel teens raised on the wrong side of tracks who butt heads with a rival (and much more affluent) group, in a moving coming-of-age story. And much to the delight of young girls everywhere, a cast of virtually every rising teen idol imaginable was assembled to melt their hearts and jerk the tears from their pretty faces.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and released in 1983, the film was reset in Tulsa, Oklahoma (and filmed on location there,) circa 1950-something, conjuring up memories of such classics as Rebel Without a Cause. On one side of the spectrum are the “Soc’s,” who dress in expensive clothing and drive polished Mustangs, and the more unkempt Greasers (based on their heavily-pomade-laden hair,) who prefer their rolled-up tee shirts and faded Levis look. The narrator of the story, a lad named Ponyboy, lives with his older (and somewhat greasier) brothers, Sodapop and Darry, following a tragic car accident that claimed the lives of their parents. Their adult-less home becomes Greaser headquarters for the entire clan of misfits.
Normally the two groups of teens stay away from each other, but a line is crossed when Ponyboy earns the affection of Cherry, one of the Soc’s girls. Soon, Ponyboy and his buddy, Johnny, are ambushed by a pair of the affluent bullies in a local park. As they are attempting to drown Ponyboy, Johnny comes to the rescue, stabbing one of the youths. As a result, the two boys are forced to go into hiding in an abandoned church, where they dye their hair, share their angst and chain-smoke the hours away. At some point, they leave their dwelling, only to return and find it in flames – with a bunch of kids trapped inside. The two heroically save the little tykes, but Johnny is badly burned as a result and hospitalized. Meanwhile, trouble is brewing among both groups of teens, one that is soon to culminate into an old fashioned rumble. The Greasers have the edge, however, as they are fighting this one for Johnny.
The cast of The Outsiders was seemingly pulled straight from Teen Beat magazine. With a lineup that included Tom Cruise, Emilio Esteves, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, and even a “blast from the past” heartthrob, Leif Garrett, there was eye-candy aplenty for the herds of teenage girls that flooded the theaters. Tom Waits would also make an appearance, along with the author of the book the film was based upon. And to lend an authenticity to the rivalry in the film, Coppola reportedly sequestered both sets of actors into their own groups off the set – with the affluent side given luxurious accommodations and scripts bound in leather, and the misfits given cheap rooms and shabby scripts.
With beautiful cinematography and a stellar musical score, including the title track “Stay Gold” performed by Stevie Wonder, The Outsiders offered a moving tale of rich vs. poor and a message of staying true to who you are – all of which managed to create a fondly remembered coming-of-age fable that remains popular to this day. A short-lived television series was broadcast in 1990 and the film was re-released in 2005, with 22-minutes of additional footage to bring the film more in line with the plot of the novel. And while all of the stars are now well into adulthood, there are a heck of a lot of former teenage girls who fondly recall the film that hosted the finest collection of heartthrobs ever assembled.
If you have fond memories of this film, maybe even shed a few tears while watching it, we’d love to hear your memories of this beloved movie in our comments section.