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The Outsiders (1983) Review

Updated on June 26, 2020

The Outsiders (1983) review

This film spoke to me about a true fact of life - being a kid isn’t easy. There are a lot of social influences pulling you in every direction while you try and figure out who you are. On top of that, you have no choice which side of the tracks you are born on and what social class you will be a part of. It’s all out of your control and you just have to deal with the hand you're dealt or try and transcend it, defying all the odds. I really enjoyed this film and its story about the trials of growing up and trying to meet everyone’s expectations while being true to yourself. It also speaks to how the decisions you make in a moment can change the rest of your life.

The Outsiders (1983) was based on the novel The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. It was written by Kathleen Rowell and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It stars C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez and Tom Cruise. This film takes place in rural Oklahoma in the 1960s. There are two groups in this town. There are the greasers, who are rough and tumble teens from the poor side of the tracks. And there are the socials, the snooty upper class rich kids. The story is about three greaser brothers who live alone after their parents die in a car crash. They are accustomed to a rowdy life with the occasional fight with the socials. Then one day one of the socials is accidently killed during a fight and their world is turned upside down. Will things ever be the same for these boys?

This was truly a great flick! The cast alone was phenomenal - practically every actor in this had long and successful careers. It was wild seeing Tom Cruise in a role like this, a young punk greaser with an attitude and a propensity for violence. It had to be one of his first films. The two real stand out performances in my opinion were Matt Dillon and Ralph Macchio. These characters showed the most growth, accepting that life is about more than greasers and cars.

The way Coppola has mastered establishing mood and theme in his films is exemplary and a treat to watch. They just don’t make movies like this anymore. It felt very raw and unfiltered to me. This was a truly great movie. It kind of felt like Stand By Me meets West Side Story, so if you liked either one of those movies or if you are a fan of any of the huge stars that appear, you should check this movie out.

Cast trivia

  • S.E. Hinton had a cameo as a nurse in the hospital.
  • Helen Slater auditioned for the role of Cherry.
  • This was Rob Lowe's film debut. He had also auditioned for the role of Randy Adderson, though it was not by his choice. Lowe certainly did not want to play a Social in a movie about Greasers. He even considered lowering his performance level for Randy's audition so he would seem like a better fit for the Sodapop role.
  • Anthony Michael Hall read for the part of Ponyboy Curtis.
  • Out of the main cast, all the actors were in their late teens except for Patrick Swayze who was 29 years old, and Ralph Macchio and Leif Garrett who were both twenty when the film was made in 1982.
  • After Matt Dillon auditioned for the part of Dallas, Coppola went up to him and told him "you can go home now". Dillon thought he did not get the part and he called his agent and told him he didn't get it. It turns out Coppola sent him home early because he already knew he was going to cast him as Dallas.
  • Coppola wanted Matt Dillon to spend the night in jail to "understand" the role of Dallas a bit better. Dillon refused, saying "No way Francis, how about you go spend a night in jail?"
  • Sofia Coppola, Francis' daughter, had a cameo as the little girl who asks Dallas for spare change.
  • Sarah Jessica Parker turned down the offer to play Cherry.
  • Brooke Shields turned down the role of Cherry in order to play Dale in Sahara.
  • Mickey Rourke auditioned for the role of Darry, but Coppola felt that he was not the right fit.
  • Heather Langenkamp auditioned for the role of Cherry. She had a role as a girl in the drive-in scene, but it was cut.
  • Nicolas Cage auditioned for the role of either Darry or Dallas. He did some method acting for the part by locking himself in a room for two weeks, drinking beer and staring at a photograph of Charles Bronson, hoping that the physical and mental attitude of playing a thug would rub off on him. Coppola turned him down and told him to audition for the role of two-bit, but Cage was so fed up at this point from all the work he put into his audition, he walked away from the project.
  • Dennis Quaid turned down the role of Dally in order to appear in The Right Stuff.
  • Timothy Hutton was considered for the role of Ponyboy Curtis and Scott Baio was considered for the role of Johnny Cade.

Production trivia

  • The Outsiders had a budget of 10 million dollars and a worldwide gross of 25.6 million dollars.
  • The film was released on May 25, 1983 and was distributed by Warner Bros.
  • The film was shot in Oklahoma.
  • The Outsiders is based on a book that was very popular among junior high and high school students. A classroom in Fresno, CA was responsible for Coppola making this movie. The class voted Coppola as the director they would most like to see direct a film of the book. They sent Coppola a copy of the book and a letter asking him to make the movie.
  • During filming, the actors that played the Socials were given leather-bound scripts and were put up in luxury accommodations, while the Greasers were given battered paperback scripts and had to stay in the ground floor of the hotel, because Coppola wanted to create tension between the two groups.
  • The letter jacket that the social is wearing as he challenges Darrel is the letter jacket from the high school that author S.E. Hinton attended.
  • During the dinner scene where Sodapop runs away, Sodapop is seen with a piece of paper on the table. According to the novel, it is a "Dear John" letter from his girlfriend Sandy, whom he claimed he wished to Marry. Sandy had cheated on Sodapop and gotten pregnant, so she moved to Florida to live with her grandmother.
  • Two-bit's real name is Keith.
  • During filming, Rob Lowe asked S.E. Hinton what happens to Sodapop Curtis. Hinton responded that Sodapop was drafted to Vietnam and died there.
  • S.E. Hinton was a part of every aspect of filming. She stated in several interviews how much she loved the boys that were cast to make up her gang of greasers. Since almost all of them were teenagers and away from home with no adult supervision, she claims that she became a mother figure for them on and off the set, and fondly remembers them calling her "Mom".
  • The film takes place in 1965.
  • It is unlikely that there is any other single motion picture in American film history that featured and introduced more young actors in the early stages of their careers who would later star in leading roles in their own future movies. No less than 7 cast members would go on to become major names - Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane and Emilio Estevez.


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