Ponyboy and Johnny hang out in the park.
The Outsiders is Francis Ford Coppola’s screen adaption of S. E. Hinton’s popular novel about troubled teenagers growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the mid-sixties. The film revolves around the conflicts of the two groups in town, the “greasers”, poor kids from dysfunctional families with limited prospects, and the “socs” (pronounced with a soft “C” as in society), affluent kids from the nice part of town who want to control things and keep the “greasers” in line. The story is told from the perspective of two young greasers, Ponyboy Curtis (C. Thomas Howell) and Johnny Cade (Ralph Macchio). As the film opens, you see them hanging out with Dallas Winston (Matt Dillon), who epitomizes the delinquent and anti-establishment attitudes of the greasers. At the local drive in, Johnny and Ponyboy accidentally hook up with Cherry (Diane Lane) and Marcia (Michelle Meyrink), two young soc girls who have left their dates because they have been drinking and are being abusive. Dallas tries to move in on the girls, but they tell him to get lost, and end up leaving the drive-in with Ponyboy and Johnny who they recognize from school. This brief liaison results in trouble later for the two boys, when a car full of socs track them down later in a park for “messing with their women.” Outnumbered and overpowered by the socs, Ponyboy is grabbed, beaten, and dunked in a wading pond by them while Johnny is knocked down to the ground. But Johnny has a switchblade and stabs one of the socs which causes them to run away.
Johnny attacks the “socs”, who are drowning Ponyboy, with a switchblade.
When Ponyboy and Johnny recover from the struggle, they realize that the guy Johnny stabbed is dead, and that the authorities are going to be coming after them. Figuring that their only choice is to run away, they contact Dallas at a honky-tonk joint in town, and he tells them about an abandoned church in the next town where they can hide, and gives them some money. The boys are successful in finding the hideout, and prepare for a long stay. During this time, they change their appearance, spend time reading Gone With the Wind, and for the first time really reflect on their lives and things like the simple beauty of a sunrise. Dallas comes to check on them after a week, and they tell him that they no longer want to hide out, but instead go back and face the authorities. On the way back, they drive by an orphanage which is on fire and discover that a number of kids are trapped inside. Although Dallas warns them to stay away, Ponyboy jumps out of the car and runs to save the kids. Soon all three of them are behaving like heroes, saving many lives, until overcome by the smoke and falling debris. The remainder of the film shows how the boys come to grip with their futile situations, face down the “socs” in the inevitable rumble, and deal with the tragedies that life as a “greaser” entails.
Dallas visits Johnny at the abandoned church where they are hiding out.
The Outsiders is interesting as a film for the casting alone, as the “greaser” cast list is a who’s who of future film stars appearing in their first screen roles. In addition to Dillon, Howell, and Macchio, you see Patrick Swayze and Rob Lowe as Ponyboy’s older brothers, and Emilio Estevez and Tom Cruise as two of their buddies. The film has a dark visual look, as Francis Ford Coppola tries to make a West Side Story out of the material, but the story has neither the romantic angle or musical score required to do this. Greater realism could have been achieved with more of a melodramatic treatment and less of an arts film look and feel. Musically the film would have been better served to use some real “greaser” music of the sixties instead of the Carmine Coppola score and song by Stevie Wonder. Matt Dillon gives a very believable performance as the rebel Dallas Winston, and C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio deliver a wide variety of emotions in their first major roles. It’s too bad that the other stars-to-be have almost cameo role appearances, so you hardly get to understand their characterizations, although Emilio Estevez does deliver some funny lines as the wise-cracking Two-Bit Matthews.
Ponyboy kicks in the door of the burning orphanage to help rescue the stranded children.
The “greasers” are pumped up before the rumble with the “socs.”
C. Thomas Howell wears white chucks, Ralph Macchio wears black high tops, and Emilio Estevez wears black low cuts throughout the film. The chucks are part of their “greaser” look which includes muscle t-shirts, levi jeans and jackets, and pompador greased back hair. You also see Rob Lowe and some of the other greasers wearing chucks for the rumble scene toward the end of the film. The best chucks scene is just prior to the start of the rumble where the greasers are getting themselves psyched up for their confrontation with the “socs”.
The only one who sees Ponyboy and Johnny enter the abandoned church is a rabbit.